An autistic person walks into a classroom. They are there to start a course and are already slightly nervous. The course consists of two components, X and Y. With a 15 minute break in between. X interests them very much, in fact it’s their special interest. Not only do they have no interest in Y, they are actually terrified of it. They have emailed the course director and told them of this fact. And are told that it is no problem whatsoever to skip the Y part. In fact, the email goes on, X is on first so they can simply go home after. They are not offered a refund of half of the course fees, but that’s ok as they have not asked for one.
They have arrived at the classroom ten minutes early. The course coordinator tells them to sit where they like. She is aware that they are autistic and has been cc’ed in the email about them leaving at break time in order to skip Y.
Just as the course is about to begin, they discover that, actually, Y is on first, not X as they have been told. The classroom is full at this stage and they have to stand up, in full view of everyone, and dying of embarrassment, to leave. Which they do , and promptly burst into tears and cry all the way home. Because they can only go home, they cannot bear to go back to that room after the break, to finally study X. They just can’t.
An advocate goes back to the classroom during the break, while they hide outside in the stairwell. The advocate explains what happened. And is told they will have to contact Head Office if they want to go further. The advocate, who is also autistic and struggles with phone calls, writes a very polite email explaining the situation. And enquiries as to whether they might get a refund, which they understand is not usually given, considering the unusual nature of what occurred.
They get back a reply saying that neither those at Head Office nor at the course “had been made aware” that such a sudden change in schedule would be such a big issue. They do not mention the refund, not even to say it won’t be given.
This is victim blaming. The onus should not be on an autistic person to make people aware of how every single eventuality will effect them. Especially in this case, where it was not something they would ever have predicted. This is highly unprofessional and simply not acceptable. And yet this is what happened to an autistic person today.
And similar happens to other autistics every day. Our needs are overlooked. Even simple accommodations like advance notice of timetable changes do not happen. Even someone relatively uneducated about autism should know in this day and age that we do not like sudden changes. That we need advance notice of these changes. That we may react badly if our needs are not met, if we are overlooked and not accommodated.
Needless to say, the advocate replied with a slightly stronger worded email. It will be interesting to see the response.