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Autism Behind Bars

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Flickr user Michael LoRusso / Cropped and reused under CC license: https://bit.ly/2Ehdqjd
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San Quentin State Prison sign

Autism is extremely hard to diagnose, because it can’t be tested for blood or genes. It’s a behavioral disorder. Often a parent or teacher has to notice the signs and request that a child is tested. Many people are living their lives without realizing they have autism. This includes people in prison.

Incarcerated reporter Kelton O’Connor tells the story of a fellow inmate who has been living with autism for years — without knowing it. It took him coming to San Quentin prison to get diagnosed.

 

"It first came to my attention that I might be autistic when I was arrested at the age of 23. In jail, my court appointed attorney told me: 'Joe, we want to test you for Asperger's.' And I said 'What is that?' because I thought he said 'asparagus.' He said 'it's a type of high functioning autism. I was shocked."