(TW’s: ABA, abuse, bullying, bad representation)
It’s a lovely Northeast winter morning with snow falling so heavily I can’t even see my paw in front of my face. XD So I sign on to Twitter and I find Autism Speaks-for-itself and Caudwell Children once again dodging challenges from autists and contradicting their own mission statements.
But I’ve come to realize recently that I’ve got to do more with this blog than try to discredit individuals, since that hardly seems like the superheroic thing to do. I will say, however, that a member of the Autism Speaks-for-itself royal family tweeted the following: “Autism more a medical condition than personality disorder”.
So I pounced on her as politely as I could manage. And now, permit me to rebut.
Even though autism is still listed in the DSM-V, it is described therein as a “complex developmental disorder”, NOT a “medical condition” or “personality disorder.” Mind you, plenty of other autists still prefer the term “condition” to “disorder”, whereas I of course prefer the term “superpower”. Some more close-minded people *ahemaherm* might consider it a medical or personality disorder because they see how an autist behaves, and think that it’s because of the autism that they behave that way.
Unfortunately, they’ve got it all wrong.
Maybe the behavior can be traced to autism. Is it caused by the autism? I heavily doubt it.
See, here’s where it starts. The point’s been beaten to death, back to life, and to death again that autistic people process things differently, that their senses are heightened, and that the autistic brain reacts differently to sensations than the neurotypical. The child, who is still experiencing many things in the world for the first time, finds this incredibly distressing. In a lot of instances, they experience sensory overload, melt down, act out, and get glared at by people around them. Their parents, embarrassed to death, make matters worse by sweeping them away and snapping at them, maybe even (God forbid) hitting them.
Does this help? Nope.
School is even worse. They’re expected to act a certain way; other little brats expect them to react a certain way; and when they don’t, on comes the bullying. The teachers rarely help, not wanting the responsibility of intervening between the autistic kid and the bullies, instead further reprimanding the former and thereby encouraging the latter. How many autistic children — even adults — have had their obituaries appear on the front page of the New York Times saying that they committed a mass murder and subsequent suicide because they were autistic.
One more time for the people in the back:
AUTISM IS NOT THE CAUSE OF A PERSON’S ADVERSE BEHAVIOR.
The upshot of this is external factors. Loud, excessive noise. Unwelcome touch. Bright lights and/or colors. Strong, pungent smells. Pressure. Demands from everybody you meet to “act normal” or be “less autistic.” Doesn’t work like that.
So how, you ask, does it work?
It works like this. Don’t start early on creating a hellish environment for an autistic kid. If they’re showing signs of an overload or a meltdown, don’t make matters worse by forcing them to live through it; just let them find their happy place. While they’re there, expose them to something that you know interests them. Not only will it calm them down, but it will give them focus, focus enough to carry it through to something that can have a huge positive impact on the world.
Can’t you just imagine how many mass shootings never would have occurred if the shooter had never been bullied in the first place? If their peers — and parents — had just accepted them as they were instead of trying to force them to live in everyone else’s world, not letting them retreat to their own when it got to be too much?
If you just allowed an autist to exist in peace and not treat them like the scourge of the earth, chances are they wouldn’t develop intersecting conditions like PTSD, BPD or ASPD.
And if the likes of Caudwell Children and Autism Speaks-for-itself didn’t push the “disorder” narrative and misrepresent autism as a raging, destructive natural disaster that threatens to wipe out the world’s entire ecosystem, then people wouldn’t treat it as such and try to force us autists to “act normal” or be “less autistic”, thereby causing us to display worrisome behaviors.
Fixing autism is not the answer. Accepting it as a natural difference, not a disaster, is.