Autism in the Military Next?

| May 3, 2024


The Good Idea Fairy is Alive and Well

People with autism navigate roadblocks to serving in the military

Applicants and military members push for review of eligibility standards.
By John Donvan, Marjorie McAfee, Katy Sheward, Justin Green, and Aria Young

For people on the autism spectrum, finding their place in the American military can be an arduous process. The U.S. Department of Defense considers having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to be a “disqualifying condition” to join the military. Many candidates are turned away because of their diagnosis.

“I, more or less, had my dream taken away from me,” said Tory Ridgeway, a third-year student with autism at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University studying aerospace engineering.

Ridgeway, son of a Navy aviation engineer, received a Navy-ROTC scholarship at 18 years old, in exchange for his service in the Navy after graduation. A Navy-approved doctor found his autism to be “mild” and “fully controlled.”

However, a month after his acceptance, Ridgeway was told that his ROTC scholarship was on hold, in part due to his autism.

“It didn’t feel like I lost funding for college,” Ridgeway said. “It felt like I had lost a part of myself and who I was.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
“National security problems are some of the hardest problems we have in this country,” said Cortney Weinbaum, Sr., national security researcher at RAND Corporation. “It makes no sense to not want all brain types working on it.”

ABC News

Mr. Weinbaum neglects to mention how integrating troops on the autistic spectrum into military units will enhance combat effectiveness while not impacting training, all the while maintaining good order and discipline. Then again those with Gender Dysphoria are welcome without any concerns about those minor issues. Any resemblance to Project 100,000 in not up for discussion.

Category: Big Pentagon, The Stupid is Strong

29 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Anonymous

Watch, austism will be allowed to “look like America” but smart people will be excluded as “too privileged”…

th-6
Last edited 1 month ago by Anonymous
2banana

This won’t get anyone killed in an actual war…

Anonymous

Not too many, at least… /sarc

SFC D

I got a kid in my platoon in 2010, just couldn’t do a damn thing right or follow directions. Finally got a command referral for a mental health evaluation. Turned out to be raging Asperger’s. Kid never should’ve made it past the recruiter, yet he got shoveled through the pipeline.

Roh-Dog

[The] Kid never should’ve made it past the recruiter

How dare you imply a 79Remora do improper things!

USAREC is above reproach…, at least that’s what they insisted.

Those trash ‘human beings’ make CID look like angels. (below)

Bluest-Falcon
SFC D

Recruiter should’ve stopped him, MEPS should’ve stopped him, BCT should’ve stopped him, AIT should’ve stopped him, everybody just passed him on through because putting his ass back on the street would be a “Command Failure”.

A Proud Infidel®™

That might have resulted in something horrible, like interfering with a Recruiter making quota for the month!

RCAF-CHAIRBORNE

We had this one REALLY weird guy in the Air Maintenance Unit I was in.
He definitely had a major touch of the ’tism. He was obsessed with Magic and Pokeman cards.
Wisely, they put him in the ALSE shop where he didn’t have to interact with many people and he was pretty good at his job.
He was great at following written instructions. Hopeless at verbal instructions.

5JC

We have always had autistics in the military. Before it was a recognized condition and then afterwards when it isn’t diagnosed. The only time I dealt with one that I knew for certain was an enlisted band member who tried to go commissioned.

I have no idea how he graduated basic training but while he was in the band he had a great routine and simply played his instrument, which he was quite good at by all accounts. At this time he was diagnosed. He should have stayed where he was.

Instead he got out and tried to go commissioned ROTC in college. I guessed the PMS at his school was able to hide the diagnosis but until I got into recruiting I wasn’t sure how.

ROTC Officers go through a little 40 day camp that is mostly peer led and he was a catastrophe. He had to constantly be reminded to shower and shave. This made him no friends. He mostly mumbled when he talked and had no idea how to plan independently without being walked through things. He wasn’t stupid either, his brain just didn’t work that way. On the infantry assault course he had a full on come apart and shut down. I found out about the Autism and went ahead put him up for a medical board which was a little heart breaking because I thought his heart was in the right place to serve. His evaluations to that point had been uniformly poor and he kept getting negative spot reports for stupid stuff.

His argument at the board was that he should be allowed to serve because he had a disability and it wasn’t his fault. That may have been true about having a disability but the military is exempt from the ADA. From a data sample of “one” I would say that bringing in various types of autism has the potential to insert mission failure at a critical moment.

Anonymous

Ah, Advance Camp… you had to be a 19-year-old suburbanite full o’ beans party boy to do well. Kid got run over.

On the other way, if you were older or a veteran, you got graded-down too. Be strictly the expected norm or it’s bad.

I was older, had lived overseas and in graduate school. Got Outstandings and Excellents on the combat evaluations, but yelled at and called garbage in garrison. (Low-crawled over the block on the Log Walk Rope Drop because I wouldn’t fall off the shaky obstacle, break something and not get to the other side, despite an LTC telling me to be unsafe– got to do 150 elevated pushups off a rock after completing the obstacle, no points for ballz.) NCOs with Bronze Stars w/ “V” from Gulf War I got crap evals too– we were all at bottom of the OML below the goofballs who didn’t try. Went on CTLT playing “3rd Lt” in Korea with a cadet who rated highly– he broke down crying upon leaving the structured setting of camp when went out exploring.

Nothing like being told you’re a loser with “no military aptitude” by a CPT who can’t tell his SFC NCO is bangin’ a female cadet in your squad of his cadet platoon, too.

5JC

As prior service myself I didn’t hold the ruler anywhere different. It really wasn’t that hard and if you had advantages from being prior service that was all well and good with me. My NCO TAC was one of the best NCO’s I ever worked with. If I said his name you would likely recognize it, so I won’t, but he was that good. He despised our LT TAC who was pre-BOLC and pretty much an idiot.

The day after the infantry assault course our Asperger’s guy showed up in the same uniform that he had run it in, caked in mud. I almost had a come apart myself. He had to go. More interesting was that nobody in his squad even tried to defend him. They knew he wasn’t ever going to make it.

Anonymous

Thank you. I wish you were our TAC there– me, the veterans and other people in my graduate program, vets or not, doing ROTC could’ve used that.

Cadre back at home university took older folk aside, warned us “Quiet, effective leadership will get you graded-down at Camp.” and to act like loud, grabby idiots instead. That was a thing then. A guy a year ahead of me in school (SGT, combat arms, decorated in Gulf War I, experienced leader otherwise) hit that too– got RFD and a CSS branch because of it, pretty disillusioned.

Don’t know what the heck anything “college” at the time had to do with being that way, but it did. I understand “potential” of personality “blossom”-ing in college at that age was the end-all, be-all (I did ask, not that it made sense) and any experience, responsibility or just not being a selfish jackass reduced that. (Not only did I waste my life getting up off my ass to be a resposible, contributing grown up, but I was a bad person for doing it too.) Not “sink or swim” my parents said, I know that.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anonymous
Sailorcurt

In his defense, 40+ years ago when I joined, I’d never heard of “Autism” (and I’d wager most other people hadn’t either) and he’d have probably been able to serve with no problem.

We had terms for people like that, but it wasn’t “on the autism spectrum” they were “a little off”, “a few fries short of a Happy Meal” or, when being polite, “eccentric”.

Wasn’t a disqualifying factor and I had quite a few people who were a little off work for me in the Navy, one in particular comes to mind who, in hindsight, was clearly very autistic. He couldn’t handle life at sea in such close quarters and ended up getting a medical (psychological) discharge after a credible suicide threat.

I can see severely autistic people being disqualified because they simply don’t have the social skills and abilities to function as part of a team dynamic, and in the most extreme cases like the one above, the close quarters required could harm them. But just being “on the spectrum” shouldn’t automatically be disqualifying in my opinion.

President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

In my defense, this was never a “thing” when I was in school, college, or the Army.
It was only long after all of the above, hearing/reading about some of the symptoms of ADHD, I realized that I had a raging case of ADHD in grade school.
I’d get my school work done at my desk, then go wandering around, probably irritating other people still working. Thank God that there were no diagnoses or drugs back then, otherwise I would be a Ritilan druggie now.
But….somehow I managed to survive all of that, to become a still semi-productive member of society today.
(although I still find my attention straying from work that I’m supposed to be doing….like right now)

“It was only long after all of the above, hearing/reading about some of the symptoms of ADHD, I realized that I had a raging case of ADHD in grade school.”

Yup. I probably would’ve been pumped full of ritalin in a different decade.

Milo Mindbender

Been there done that, fortunately parental intervention forced the school to admit they didn’t have medical degrees and when I was in elementary school the dead sea tablets were called current events. I learned to focus, and struggle still with social awkwardness, but have completed over 40 years of service. Mostly by just keeping my mouth shut more than my counterparts.

My best friend (since the 2nd grade) is clearly ADHD. Much like you, when we were growing up, we’d never heard of it. He was just “high strung”, “very energetic” etc.

And, like you, he managed to survive and thrive through an 8 year A/F stint, married for almost 40 years with four good kids now happily making him grandkids. Still has trouble staying focused on a task until complete and tends to have many projects in various stages of incomplete at any given time (some projects stay that way for years), but he has managed to be a productive, self-reliant member of society and raise a good family without being steeped in mood altering drugs his whole life.

Personally, I think we overdo the whole mental diagnosis thing. If someone is able to be successful and reasonably happy in life despite their personality being somewhat outside the norm, why do we have to declare there’s something wrong with them and try to “fix” them through drugs or voodoo (psychotherapy)?

Why can’t we just let them be them in all their eccentric glory?

Has it occurred to anyone that most if not all of the “geniuses” of the past were “a bit off” as compared to the norm? How many potential Einsteins, Teslas, Edisons or Galileos have we drugged into “normalcy” in some arrogant desire to cram everyone into the same square hole?

Some human beings just cannot be happy unless they’re telling other people how they should be living their lives…by force if necessary.

Green Thumb

It is already there.

RCAF-CHAIRBORNE

Always has been.
The odd ducks tend to gravitate towards the military.
Who else would choose that life?

Anonymous

Covered by ol’ Bill Murray in Stripes:

Last edited 1 month ago by Anonymous
Prior Service

This explains a whole lot about who I’ve dealt with over the last 35 years….

Anonymous

I hear ya… a bunch of dudes in the bureaucracy (subclinical/undiagnosed).

jhstoney673

Let’s be honest, if you believe in the “spectrum” line of thought, probably half of the military, at least, has always when on the spectrum and some of the best performers are definitely on the spectrum…

Anyone ever meet a Forest Gump?

Anonymous

Guy in my unit in Germany got way lucky on his ASVAB to score the minimum GT score of 85 for his MOS (at the +/-6 margin of error, that’d be a 79 IQ). Squared-away, physically fit, motivated, etc.– just low capacity for things, stuff would fall off his plate (duty and important sh*t he put first, of course, but the cut line for forgotten items could be kinda high).

I’d go to war with him (and did deploy to Saudi Arabia in ’97 doing real-world ops with him, too) but doing USR or some S1 bureaucracy would not be his thing.

Last edited 1 month ago by Anonymous
Sapper3307

TASK FORCE- LARS

9112d38eeb
Dennis - not chevy

Let’s not paint with too wide a brush. I believe it was Sir Antony Beevor who wrote about Montgomery showing up on the autism spectrum. Of course, he wrote Asperger’s syndrome; but, Asperger’s is on the list of words we cannot say. I would have put it differently than Beevor, I would have said Montgomery was the Sheldon Cooper of His Majesty’s Army.

Anna Puma

The military is already broken so they are going for an extra special helping of breaking. Fart-knockers and nickel-humpers.

Tallywhagger

Just imagine Little Greta as a recruit? She might even make Bradley Manning look more manly than David Hogg.

(nah, masculinity and David Hogg are like oil vs water).

NHSparky

Whaddya mean next?
Take a trip to NNPTC in Charleston sometime.