Whoever invented the “sticks and stones” parable was a liar. Words hurt, especially from parents who talk about autism like a burden. Words can lead to physical hurt. So, choose your words wisely. Autistic lives depend on it.
CN: physical and psychological abuse, discrimination, mention of filicide
Traumatic childhood memories
When I was 7 or 8, my mother “played with me” by catching me between her knees and tickling me.
I don’t remember how long the “game” lasted, but I recall pleading and crying, asking her to stop, my body throbbing with terror. To this day, I cannot think of these memories without reliving that anguish.
I would bite my mother. Desperate for safety from her assaults, I would bite her.
And, in response, she beat me to a pulp.
No one questioned whether my mother’s reaction was justified. It was clearly more than justified — it was her right and duty to teach me.
No one ever considered that I was defending myself against real pain, that, before biting, I had tried to communicate in an “appropriate” way, but I wasn’t heard.
I learned three things that day: I was alone, I could trust no one, and I needed to prevent anyone from thinking it was ever okay to “play” with me again.
That was the day my heart broke.
The past repeats itself
Yesterday, I posted the new My Atypical Brain event: The Day of Mourning for Autistic Filicide Victims. And a mother wrote me this:
“Regarding filicide . . . I have a friend on Facebook who, in order to avoid her son biting her, took out his teeth . . . you don’t know what anguish I had . . . I had him living in a very deplorable situation . . . until I started talking to her, but her situation is extremely difficult.”
I empathize with the child
I write this with tears running down my face and my heart in a thousand pieces…again.
I think of the mothers who use the “bites” of their autistic children to justify their “I HATE AUTISM” speech.
I think of this woman’s child and the daily struggles that motivate them to defend themselves with their teeth. I feel their pain as if it were my own.
I think of ALL autistics whose metaphorical teeth have been pulled out — how they’ve lost their rights to say no, their rights to self-defense.
I think of all the comments in groups where autistic people are assaulted for requesting non-autistics stop saying they hate autism.
My duty to the next generation
I don’t mean to offend the parents. But the lives of hundreds of autistic people are in danger if I don’t explain this to them:
Every autistic death you see today is the dire consequence of every “I HATE AUTISM” you’ve ever spoken, heard, or neglected to call out.
I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.
Words have consequences
When you promote or tolerate messages that frame autism as a threat and/or burden, you are not helping us at all. Not only are you failing to help, you are also contributing to society’s negative attitudes towards autistic people — negative attitudes that hurt your child and may result in the death of an autistic person.
Voicing such attitudes is cruel and unnecessary.
Just as feminicide results from the maltreatment and micro discrimination of male chauvinism, the killing of autistic people by their own caregivers results from the cruelty of misaustimia (hatred of autism).
Choose your words carefully
I request that you read carefully how some parents frame autism… as a burden, as aggressive…
Such perspectives are voiced daily in the groups.
The difference is that some parents impart psychological violence and others impart physical violence.
But parents mean well!
This is the part where the mothers are offended and tell me I’m generalizing, that I cannot compare those who exercise psychological violence with those who murder.
Let me tell you how I see it:
Behind every mother/father/caregiver who kills their autistic child… there are hundreds of voices impacting the beliefs that justified this murder. Those voices are complicit, involuntary or not.
Behind every situation that has led to death, first, there were thousands of parents/caregivers just thinking about ending their child’s life.
Many times, these caregivers are desperate, and no one is supporting them or teaching them they have a RIGHT to support.
Those people just need a little push. Please don’t be the one who gives it to them.
- When Parents Say “I HATE AUTISM” Their Words Affect Autistic Lives - June 3, 2020
- For Non-Autistics: How to Survive COVID19 in a World Not Made for Your Neurology - April 21, 2020
- #CoronaVirus: All the Dead are Victims of Ableism - March 29, 2020