There’s a saying that if you’ve met an autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. It’s a way to explain the heterogeneity of the condition: no two autistic people necessarily are alike in their autisticness. Hell, sometimes no one autistic person necessarily is like themselves in their autisticness from one day to the next.

Being autistic is tricksy like that.

Then there’s someone like author Dina Nayeri, whose piece for Time on police interrogations and what’s known as the Reid Technique shows she’s clearly never has heard this saying.

On display here is much that’s wrong in our justice system: In America, interrogators can claim to have evidence they don’t have; they can offer phantom leniency, even present fake evidence—made-up charts and scans and lie detector tests. Interrogators can make the suspect believe that confessing is their best option. To an autistic person such as Ledford, for whom only the literal exists, fake evidence in the hands of a police investigator is unfathomable. Without explicit training, anyone on the autism spectrum would similarly break.

Emphasis added. What’s surely unfathomable here, although sadly unsurprising, is that anyone in 2023 could write a sentence like that with a straight face, and an editor let it pass unquestioned.

There’s an early sign here that Nayeri might be using autism as an attention-grabber.

Ledford is autistic. He has been diagnosed by a University of Virginia Clinical and Forensic Psychologist as being “in the autistic spectrum or [having] a severe nonverbal learning disorder.”

Look at those two sentences: one is a flat, no-nonsense declarative, the other nonetheless immediately confessed that he might not be autistic after all. These are the sentences that had me on alert for the rest of the piece.

Autism isn’t there for you to use as an exciting hook, but even if it were it also isn’t there to be used to paint all autistics monolithically. Nayeri elsewhere claims autism in her family and even possibly in herself but her writing for Time doesn’t appear to reflect any real understanding of it.

The sad thing here is that police abuses are real and the Reid Technique is both a sham and a shame, but when a writer gets wrong things that I actually know something about, it makes it more difficult for me trust anything else they say.