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Labels and excuses…

June 11, 2015

There are many, many people with a condition called autism. This manifests itself in many ways, ranging in severity from mild developmental issues to a total inability to communicate verbally and process what we may characterise as everyday situations/transactions. However, people who are actually autistic, as in suffer from a range of symptoms on the autistic spectrum, are given a bad name by certain people who would seek to hijack autism and use it as an excuse for their children’s behaviours. This is very sad, this is damaging to the plight of thousands of autistic people who are striving to have a voice, to get society to take their condition seriously.

Sadly, what was just bad or naughty behaviour is now, conveniently called autism in some sectors. This not only results in very lazy parenting but in the public having the perception that autism equals bad or disruptive behaviour. Let me illustrate my point by giving you three examples I have happened across over the last month or so.

A busy train station, the lift opens, it is full, there is no room. A woman with her child – the child wants to get in. The mother tells the child there isn’t space. The child stamps his feet and shouts. A woman who is about to begin her elevator journey gets out to make room for the mother and child. The mother says,

“Oh thanks, he’s autistic.”

It seems that with simple sentence the mother is playing a trump card, thereby explaining and justifying her child’s outburst. Of course, the child could indeed be autistic, but if he isn’t, he is just being… well, naughty.

For the next example I’ll take you to a cafe, actually, to tables and chairs outside the cafe. Now, because the cafe is celebrating its tenth anniversary there are helium-filled balloons tied to chairs, tables etc. A woman comes along, her child wants a balloon. The child (whose sex is unknown) won’t take no for an answer, he or she really goes to town. The mother goes to a neighbouring table and unties a balloon and presents it to her offspring.

“Autism… nothing I can do!” she says to the couple whose table harboured the balloon.

Finally to a supermarket where we have a classic situation. The child wants sweets, in this case chocolate. The mother denies him. The child has a tantrum of biblical proportions. Finally she gives up, looking around with embarrassment she says,

“He’s got a bit of autism!”

So, when does bad behaviour spill into autism? When do some people decide, “Right, now he’s shouting really loudly I better call it autistic just so I feel better and don’t look so bad when I give in.”

I am willing to concede that all of the above examples could have been true. The three children could have had autism. Equally they may not have done. If they haven’t, at what point does a parent diagnose it? and, does the child have autism at home? has the parent convinced herself that her child has autism in order to explain away certain behaviours, or in order that she does not have to tackle certain situations. The point is, all children misbehave in private and in public, people understand that, they can largely empathise with the long-suffering parent. But, is it fair or morally right to pretend a child has a disability in order to ward of social stigma?

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on mgwebbuddy.

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