This Halloween, many children will try to wear scary costumes like ghosts, goblins, or scarecrows. However, not even those bloody-faced Reaper costumes come close to the truly scary reality of the unintentional abuse of autistic people. Teachers, parents, and other people may mean well, but because most people have a poor understanding of autism, they look at the person through a neurotypical viewpoint, and they act on the assumption that the person is also looking at the world through a neurotypical viewpoint. I am talking about actions such as…
Forced eye contact
There is a reason why autistic children (and adults) often don’t make eye contact. To most people, eye contact is normal, and not making eye contact may be taken as a sign that the person is hiding something. However, to the autistic, making eye contact is uncomfortable. I always found it odd that, while most animals consider eye contact to be an act, most humans consider NOT making eye contact to be an act of aggression. So naturally, neurotypicals will assume that an autistic person not making eye contact is just being an asshole. People will incessantly demand an autistic person to make eye contact, with seemingly little or no regard to how the other party is affected.
Making us “experience the world.”
Your brain probably filters out a lot of excess sensory information that mine doesn’t. I feel everything, see everything, hear everything, and smell everything. This is why, in schools, you may see headphones on autistic children. This is basically what the world sounds like to an autistic person:
The headphones help to block out noise that may otherwise bother them. To the layman, this seems like a superpower: your sensory system is keen. However, it tends to be a burden more than a blessing, especially when people are constantly trying to force you outside your comfort zone. Some autistic people, such as myself, enjoy traveling. Others, however, prefer to stay in the same place. It’s a matter of knowing your comfort zone, the one others are trying to push you out of because they think you need to be more “well-rounded.”
Touching without consent.
I think this is almost self-explanatory. Remember that bit in the last entry about how sensitive to stimuli autistic people are? About how we smell, hear, and see everything? Oh, and we feel everything, too. This is why parents might have a hard time getting their children into clothes. I often wear loose, baggy T-shirts about one or two sizes too large for me, and depending on the weather, I wear either athletic shorts or Yoga pants. This is because my skin is extra-sensitive, so I can’t wear tight clothing or stiff fabric. This is also the same reason why autistic people usually don’t like being touched. However, our society is rather touch-happy; friends will often give fist bumps or high fives, and couples like to hold hands. Before touching someone who you know is autistic (even if it’s just a high-five or punch of the shoulder) ask the person.
Luckily, this doesn’t seem to happen too often, but it does occur, so I have to include it. I’m talking about things like teachers giving autistic students easier work so they don’t “strain their little autistic brains.” Something of this nature happened to a friend of mine a few years ago. I attended a program for students with psychological “disabilities” (mainly autism) teaching them successful career, college, and home management skills. One of my classmates was only in the program because his grandfather was a businessman who could pay for it. Usually, the school district pays for students to attend this program. However, in the case of my friend, his school district refused to pay for him to attend this program, instead trying to convince him to do something else, like pottery. Luckily, his grandfather had the money to pay the expenses.
Trying to “punish the autism” out of them.
Most of the pictures that I use for this blog are from other sources, but the picture above is my own. The worse thing you can do to an autistic child is try to “punish the autism” out of them by taking away a toy, yelling at them, or spanking them whenever they display “autistic” behavior. Not only does this not work, but you end up with a child who thinks that something is wrong with them. You are permanently damaging your child when you punish them for being autistic.
All of these actions might come from the right place, but the fact is that they are forms of abuse. Anyway, I hope you are enjoying your Halloween more than this cat: