|Our autistic son at a younger age expressing |
"Oh No She Didn't!" Without Speaking © Kerima Çevik The Autism Wars
"In my early 30s, I worked with children with autism for my Master of Social Work degree. I was assigned to work one-on-one with a 7-year-old girl who brought the violence and pain. Like a thug out of a Martin Scorsese flick, she held a pair of scissors up to my neck then attacked me with a tambourine. She'd ask for hugs then head-butt me. I terminated our relationship after she picked up a bean bag, tossed it back and forth, looked me square in the eyes and hissed, "Finally, I get to bash you now."
"Between processing transference and countertransference issues with lil' Joe Pesci and years attending Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings where I learned if it's not one thing it's your mother, I came to realize it's not the children that I hate. My feelings were merely a symptom of growing up too soon."
I can't imagine the trauma this child went through to end up assigned a social worker and feeling she must defend herself from the social worker candidate meant to help her.
|Children should not be put at risk to add snarky bits to writing|
Promoting the trope of autistic children who are in a perpetual state of raging violence for entertainment is bad enough. But including the word thug to describe a 7 year old girl whose maximum body weight might be roughly 50 lbs, then making comparisons with violent characters in mafia movies is not just unacceptable it is dangerous. (I hope, I truly hope, that she did not select the word "thug" to imply this child's race. Because if she did I will be finding a way to file a legal complaint.) If the author is an indicator of social worker standards here our society is doomed. There is no ethical compass here. Her young client, for whom she needed to provide assessment and generate therapeutic and support resources has been compromised and made a cautionary warning of why someone would hate children in general, and autistic children in particular. I am the mother of a nonspeaking autistic son who is already targeted enough without large magazines like GH allowing material like this to make him an even larger bullying and hate crime target. This is unacceptable and disrespectful to an entire community, to the social work professionals who don't disclose their "adventures" with caseload clients for their own gain, and to the autistic girl who is probably in her teens now and perfectly capable of reading this and putting two and two together.
I won't be asking GH to take it down. I am instead asking all of you not to share that Good Housekeeping article on social media. Do not allow it to gain hits or become a topic of debate anywhere. This author shouldn't get to gain notoriety to make things worse for others by using our anger at her lack of professional ethics and her vicarious slap at our loved ones. I don't want to see her interviewed because we made her relevant. What I would like to see is an avalanche of open letters to Good Housekeeping about how they screen and edit their articles and ask that they don't approve articles that promote dangerous stereotypes of autistic children that can instigate further harm against them.
I am always sad when I see people given the privilege of a huge platform squander it on snarky, inane, writing that could have been helpful to so many by getting to the point with stronger rhetoric; she was the child of a substance abusing parent and she apparently was trying to address how ending up a child parenting an alcoholic adult and having to become the defacto mother of her younger sister dimmed her interest in parenting as she kept seeking ways to recover a childhood she felt she was deprived of. Why she needed to invoke the trope of the "evil autie child" God only knows. I'm trying to maintain my composure because I don't want to be her. She is part of a greater problem I've been writing about for a very long time. Someone who takes a person at their worst moments and skewers that person for the pleasure of a wider digital audience. We must find a way to address the problem itself and end it, rather than try countering every irresponsible opportunistic human jumping on the autistic child bashing bandwagon. And yes, those people have to recognize that careless words on a page can lead to harm for disabled children.
I love my autistic son, all his curves and edges, all his perfect imperfections as John Legend sings. I'm sick as hell of random people who are supposed to have the professional training to know better dissing those who share his neurology. It needs to stop. Now. It is up to our community to speak up but target those who decide what content is published. Digital Exhibitionists will always look for a virtual public park to stand in with their hands on their coats waiting for a good audience to flash.
Let's stop being part of the knee jerk process that gives them this power.
Resources and additional reading for parents and educators:
"I Was One of The Scary Kids"
A Checklist for Identifying Sources of Aggression
THE “HELP! THIS AUTISTIC KID IS AGGRESSIVE!” TEXT VERSION
ASAN Statement Refuting Media Claims Linking Autism and Violence
Autistic Academic on Media Misinformation and Negative Autism Tropes