There are many things within this world that can cause controversy in minority communities. One less discussed in mainstream society, but of significant interest to the Autistic community is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Nothing sets Autistic Rights activists ready to march into battle quite like the normative violence of behaviourism.
So, what is ABA?
ABA is based on a school of psychological thought known as behaviourism. Behaviourism itself being a social science that uses observable behaviour to investigate psychological values of an organism. Behaviourism is in a lot of things that we interact with. In fact, if you own a dog, you have probably already encountered it.
ABA, then, is an applied version of this science. It uses functional analysis of an individuals behaviour to identify the function of a given behaviour with the intention of identifying target behaviours to be extinguished or reinforced.
This is done through the use of positive reinforcement (for example, rewarding a behaviour) and aversive techniques ranging from planned ignoring to the use of electric shocks. The aim of these techniques is to make an individual conform to societies normative standards of behaviour, which is why it’s relevant to Autistic individuals.
Many people state that Lovaas created it after his work on The Feminine Boy Project (Gay Conversion Therapy), which utilises the same techniques. Technically, this is true, although it would be more accurate to say that Lovaas took a technique that already existed and made it much more sadistic. Behavioural Analysis was, in fact, seen as early as 1947 within the context of animal behaviourism in Arkansas.
Lovaas was famously known for stating that Autistic people looked like humans, but were more akin to something sub-human that needed to be constructed into an acceptable form. It is unsurprising then that much of his work on ABA was informed by the sadistic practice of Gay Conversion Therapy.
Back to the point
History aside, ABA is a harmful practice, and it’s particularly offensive when we consider its use among neurodivergent people.
Our current society is built from the bottom up. The economic policies and cultural practices in many parts of the world are built on a foundation of colonialism. This has led to a prominent neoliberal attitude that individuals should be self-reliant producers of profit that adhere to certain standards of behaviour. These standards can be considered the basis of normativity, although more specifically we need to talk about neuronormativity.
What is so dangerous about neuronormativity is that it requires us to embody our neurology and experience of the world in very specific ways. Any deviation from a perception of ‘normality’ is seen as abberant and in need of correction. It has significant links to other forms of oppression, such as white supremacy and queerphobia.
How does this relate to ABA?
The purpose of ABA is to assimilate an individual into these neuronormative performances of behaviour. It does not take regard to whether this performance is comfortable for the individual, and it takes little account of the damage that the process of forced assimilation can have on a person.
Autistic people are monotropic. We have minds that prefer singular, hyperfocused attention tunnels. Our cognitive resources preferentially assign themselves to one thing at a time, building inertia that can make rapid transition between points of focus a traumatic experience.
This presents an issue when we consider that a neuronormative approach to the world is designed for a polytropic mind that can assign its cognitive resources across multiple streams of focus simultaneously without building too much inertia. ABA encourages Autistic people to live polytropically.
Why is this a problem?
Autistic people who are forced to behave and live polytropically are at risk of a phenomenon called monotropic split. This is caused because a monotropic mind can not regulate its attentional resources across multiple streams. Monotropic split can ultimately lead to a range of mental health concerns and even suicidality.
ABA creates this issue for many of the Autistic people who go through it.
This is why I view ABA as a tool of normative violence. It is an aggressive tool of forced assimilation that does not care for the harm it does. Many ABA practitioners will claim that ABA is no longer harmful, but while its goals remain to force conformity, it will create this issue of monotropic split.
In order to create happy and healthy Autistic people, we need to support them to be as independent as possible in the world while living in a way that is comfortable for them. This means allowing Autistic people to be interest-led, and to regulate their senses and emotions naturally rather than hide their struggles for the comfort of others.
I am not a fool. ABA won’t be ended overnight. It is a billion dollar industry that uses lobbying and misinformation to maintain its hold over stakeholders. In the short run, we have to focus on harm reduction efforts, which can range from supporting survivors to sewing the seeds of dissent amongst its practitioners.
We can not and will not stop speaking out against it. Slowly but surely, we can shift the power imbalance. However, we have to recognise that while the foundation of colonialism exists, practices like ABA will remain an issue for those who do not adhere to the cult of normality.
Challenging behaviour. It’s a term we have likely all heard. It projects images of violent children, unruly and disruptive to the children who behave in the way expected of them. However, this particular term has been used to frame Autistic experience as an abberation of human expression and justified the use of abusive interventions and use of restrictive practice.
When we consider scales that measure challenging behaviour, you might be surprised to learn that many of the behaviours they target are normal Autistic behaviours. It seems as though merely existing in a way natural to ourselves has been positioned as challenging in its own right. They’re not entirely wrong, of course; Autistic culture is a counterculture, one that stands in opposition to the multi-million dollar behaviour industry that exploits the fear of vulnerable parents.
The issue is that interventions such as ABA and PBS do not effectively target the behaviours one might assume. They target Autistic existence, seeking to normalise and assimilate us into a neuronormative society. It’s unlikely they will reduce violence or aggression, but it is very likely that they will leave the victim with an unhealthy relationship with themselves.
Here is a Tweet thread from Ann Memmott, PgC MA
In my opinion, the existence of such therapies play a role in the staggeringly high suicide rate amongst Autistic people (see this PDF from the Royal College of Psychiatrists). We are teaching Autistic people that who they are is wrong, that they need correcting. We refer to Autistic behaviour as aberrant behaviour.
In this way, the autism industrial complex has turned our existence into a profit margin, with our wellbeing as an acceptable loss in the fight for bigger bonuses. We have created an industry that sacrifices Autistic people for cash rewards. They don’t care for our humanity.
When behaviourists feel uncomfortable with us speaking out against them, it’s a good thing. To not feel uncomfortable would be an inhumane act. We want them to realise the pain they have been complicit in. They have taken our natural state and wielded it as a tool to remove our agency.
Autistic people deserve to exist as they are.
We are not abberations of normality. We are not a product. Our bodyminds are not consumable. We do not exist to be moulded to the will of others in the name of profit. I do not desire assimilation anymore than than a plant desires herbicide. I have never wanted to be “indistinguishable from my peers”. I have a right to be more than an invisible component in a faceless machine.
When ABA supporters seek to silence Autistic voices, they seek to uphold the imbalance of power in a violently oppressive society.
TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains detailed discussion of harmful “cures”. It also mentions ABA, MMS, Chelation, and has in depth discussion around normative society and the murder of Autistic people.
For as long as I have been an advocate, many of my fellow Autistics have spoken out against cure culture. From Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) to Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), there are myriad “treatments” that claim to purge the autism from autistic people. I could speak at length about the direct harm that these quack interventions inflict, but there is a deeper level of conversation to be had.
We are engaged, at present, in a culture war. On the one hand, we have Autistic culture which teaches us to be neurologically queer in every sense of the words. Be ourselves, connect with the self and express it in a way that honors our neurocognitice style. On the other hand, is cure culture.
Cure culture teaches us that who we are is broken, deficient, unrelentingly burdensome. Curists would have you believe that our lives are empty, broken, that we are trapped in a living death. Alive but somehow non-existent. The discourse around autism “cures” is dominated by non-autistic people who believe they are performing acts of mercy by pouring bleach solutions down our throats, and chelation drugs into our veins.
All of these things are a form of violence against a minority group that simply wants to live in peace. A minority group that intersects with many other oppressed demographics.
This is why Autistics get angry, this is why our lives revolve around our Autistic identity. Not only do we have to be Autistic in a world that desires normativity, we have to justify why we shouldn’t be tortured and murdered by people that are often (incorrectly) described as “well-meaning”. We constantly have to justify our existence. We are begging to be allowed to live while the world at large seeks to destroy us.
And yes, my Autistic self is defined by that which they seek to remove. Remove the autism, and you remove the person. Autism doesn’t even exist, only the Autistic-self exists. I am Autistic, not a person with a fucking carry-on bag where I store my quirks.
Do you want to know why pretty much every Autistic person you meet is at some level of burnout? It’s because we are dealing with this bullshit every second, of every minute. Every hour, of every day. By their nature, our lives require us to educate people on why we should be allowed to carry on existing. Have you tried to every account while teaching literally everyone you meet why being Autistic is not something to be grieved and/or corrected? It’s exhausting.
This is the culture war that we are fighting. We have no choice but to join the frontlines. We have to raise our voices above those who would speak over us.
After all, isn’t the whole point to leave a better world for our progeny?
For as long as I have been part of the online Autistic community, we have spoken out against and educated on the topic of the harms of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA). While I could discuss the real world trauma and attitudes that proceed and preceed ABA respectively, today I’d like to take a more philosophical approach (I know, surprising right?).
It seems to me as though the existence and practice of ABA comes down to essentialism, or in more accessible terms; it comes down to the belief that people belong to specific categories with specific traits. This essentialism than has a provincialist spin put on it where by those with a predominant neurocognitive style widely apply their experiences as the “correct” experiences.
This allows for a discourse in which the Autistic person is then subject to “behavioural intervention” for “their own good”. However, the problem with behaviourism on the whole is that (and stick with me on this) Autistic behaviour is not mindless.
Behaviourists focus almost exclusively on outward expression of the self, with little to know regard for how the self experiences its world internally.
The problem with being you, is that you can only be you, you cannot experience another’s inner world, you cannot even prove another person is a sentient being. This is the entire basis of a school of thought known as solipsism. So given this solipsistic conundrum, how might one determine the inner experience of the other self, and how that defines their behaviour?
You allow them to tell you.
The problem is that the neurologically queer are seen as lacking in capacity to speak on their experiences. Remi Yergeau calls this “demi-rhetoricity” in their book Authoring Autism“. This demi-rhetoricity exists because Autistics are considered paradoxically to be either too Autistic to be able to speak on their experiences, or not Autistic enough.
So now we live in world where Autistics are subjected to behavioural interventions wherein they are invalidated and traumatised despite their outcries to stop.
A popular claim of ABA is to discuss it’s so-called evidence base. The problem with this evidence base is that pesky essentialism/provincialism problem I mentioned earlier. I’m sure a lot of Autistic people have been converted by this intervention (after all, it was literally pioneered by good ol’ Lovaas, the father of conversion therapy), but what is actually being achieved?
Yes, the Autistic person may behave in a more neurotypical manner, but fundentally they are still Autistic. The only salient difference is that now they have been tortured into hiding that which defines their experience. To quote/paraphrase Nick Walker “you can’t unqueer a queer mind, you can only make it multiply queer”.
The real world application of this snippet of neuroqueer theory is this; you can’t turn an Autistic person into a non-Autistic person, you can only force them to behave like a neurotypical, leaving you with a traumatised Autistic.
What happens when people are traumatised from a young age? Addiction, psychosis, depression, anxiety, suicidality (by the way, Autistics are much more likely to die by suicide than the general population, I wonder why that is?). The never ending list of trauma-induced outcomes is pretty endless.
We have a fundamental problem in that trying to stop ABA from being inflicted upon us is like trying to stop a cult that has become mainstream religion. Those out there proselytising will not give a second thought to inflicting violence and aggression on the dissenters. After all, how dare the neuroqueer masses voice opinions that contradict the beliefs of the neurologically typical?
As a final thought, you may currently be experiencing a great deal of pressure to enter your child into an ABA program. I promise you they will be much happier if you forego the 40 hours a week of intensive torture, and instead listen to those of us who share in the strengths and struggles of your child. We may seem different now thar we are adults, but you would be surprised how much we had in common with your child prior to adulthood.
You’d be surprised how much we still have in common now.
Why do interventions such as Applied Behavioural Analysis and Positive Behavioural Support exist? Why is it that our world uses neurotypicality as the standard from which neuronormativity is drawn?
Fundamentally, I believe that it comes down to the double empathy problem. Autistic people have a different style of communications to those with a predominant neurocognitive style in their culture. This creates a breakdown in communication, and due to the power imbalance in neuronormative culture, neurotypicality is considered superior, we are so often labelled as “disordered” or as having “deficits”.
But why is this happening? Where does this neuronormativity arise from?
I believe that to understand neuronormativity, we must first understand Solipsism. Solipsism is the belief that only the self and its experiences exist. A solipsist would believe that their experiences are the only experiences, essentially reducing others and their experiences to sub-human automations.
This is where I believe that neuronormativity arises from. A kind of strange solipsism.
In my opinion, while neurotypicals have been using ideas such as theory of mind to accuse Autistics of lacking the ability to know another’s mind, neurotypicals have been so unaware of the existence of neurodivergent experience that they will inflict pain on us to “help” us conform to their standards.
To put it another way, do most neurotypicals believe not only that their experience of the world is the “right” experience, but also the only experience of the world?
This means that when neurotypicals witness Autistic communication, they experience a kind of cognitive dissonance that results in their lashing out in the form of behavioural interventions, because they fully believe that the only way to exist is by the weird neuronormative standards that are enforced upon society.
What even is neurotypical?
That changes depending on the cultural environments, but in this sense it can be considered the predominant neurocognitive style in a given culture (Walker, 2021).
Neurotypicalilty is essentially a performance. It is a style of existing.
This effect has created a power imbalance wherein regardless of the number of neurotypicals in the room, they are still considered the gold-standard.
To me, it doesn’t seem like Autistic people are the ones needing an intervention.
This article was co-authored between David Gray-Hammond and Tanya Adkin
Trigger Warning:Some of the research quoted in this article contains person-first language or references to aspergers. While the authors do not agree with the use of such language, we must access the research and statistics available to us.We are also aware that some of the research cites Simon Baron-Cohen, unfortunately it is almost impossible to avoid him when writing this kind of article.There are also detailed discussions of various traumatic experiences including mentions of suicide, addiction, and mental health issues.
This website houses extensive writing on the topic of Autistic people and addiction, poor mental health, and suicidality, but we are yet to answer one very important question; how do autistic people end up suffering? The truth is that it requires falling dominoes of extensive systemic failure and trauma. In this series of articles, we hope to explore some of the reasons behind the development of poor outcomes in the Autistic population. The reasons listed in this article are non-exhaustive, and we would like to highlight that Autistic people are failed repeatedly throughout their lives.
This is alarmingly evident in the suicide rate for Autistic people. In a large-scale clinical study of newly diagnosed adults, 66% self-reported reported that they had experienced suicidal ideation. This is significantly higher than suicide rates among the general population of the UK (17%) and those experiencing psychosis (59%); 35% of those involved in the study had planned or attempted suicide (Cassidy, S. et al; 2014).
Trauma is a significant predictor of poor outcomes in all people, regardless of neurotype. Since the 1900’s research has indicated that there is a strong link between psychological stress in childhood and adult behaviour (Zarse, E. M. et al; 2019). What we can infer from this, is that childhood trauma plays a role in the development of poor mental health and addiction in adults. The question that arises from that statement is; what constitutes trauma for an Autistic person?
There is an consistent theme in the Autistic community that there is no such thing as an untraumatised Autistic. Kieran Rose (2021) has discussed previously how the diagnostic criteria is based on trauma behaviours, rather than Autistic experience. David Gray-Hammond (2020) has also discussed how current diagnostic criteria is based on Autistic people in distress, and as we move towards a world where Autistic people are better supported and accommodated, the criteria will need to change.
There are strong well evidenced links between autism and PTSD, and links between PTSD and addiction, yet for some reason no one seems to connect the dots. There is also significant evidence of a connection between autism and poor mental health and wellbeing, and connections between poor mental health and addiction. Again, no one seems interested in exploring that intersection.
So, what constitutes trauma in Autistic people?
First, we need to consider sensory trauma. Autistic people are subject to sensory trauma on a daily basis, it is not something that can be avoided in todays society, rather we are literally traumatised by living in a neurotypical world (Fulton, R. et al; 2020). Bearing in mind our sensory differences, this is something that is happening to us from birth.
We are experiencing trauma from birth. Some argue that this could possibly be from prior to birth.
We also experience significant sensory invalidation. Think about the number of times a child has said something is too loud, too hot, too busy; the amount of times that has been met with “don’t be silly”, “there’s nothing to be scared of”.
“Society invalidates the Autistic state of being, daily, hourly, minute by minute – every time one of those scenarios, plus a million more occur.”
Autistic people are also at risk of ‘Mate Crime’. Mate crime is a partcular subset of hate crime where vulnerable individuals are targeted by people posing as friends in order to take advantage of and abuse the individual (Pearson, A. and Forster, S.; 2019). Dr. Chloe Farahar and David Gray-Hammond (2021) had a livestream discussion about Autistic people and crime that included discussion of mate crime, the recording can be found here.
“In a 2015 survey, 80% of autistic people reported that they had been taken advantage of by someone they considered to be a friend. This was a colossal leap from the already significant 48% which had been previously recorded and it illustrated a problematic truth: Autistic people make easy targets.”
Unfortunately, mate crime is not just an experience of Autistic adults (Parry, H.; 2015).
A significant concern for Autistic people is bullying. Bullying can happen to anyone, but it is well known that it happens to Autistic people at a much higher rate.
“I really didn’t understand why kids chased me on the playground. All I know is that when they saw me, and they saw me talking to myself and rubbing my hands together and stimming, that I was all of a sudden “marked.””
Physical violence and hateful slurs from peers is a common experience for Autistic people of all ages. Society itself does not cope well with the existence of diversity. It starts young, but only increases in frequency and severity as we grow up, it can turn into things such as financial and sexual exploitation.
Of course, we can not discuss Autistic trauma without reference to behaviourism. For decades, “therapies” such as ABA and PBS have traumatised Autistic people. In fact, in the UK, SEND support is designed around making an Autistic person behave in a neurotypical manner. Considering this, is it any surprise that Autistic people walk away from these experiences with a great deal of trauma (Adkin, T.; 2021). We are literally being taught that who we are is wrong, and that our needs and wants don’t matter.
Often Autistic communication is invalidated because we do not communicate in the same way as non-autistic people. Many of us are non-speaking, communicating through AAC and similar. Many of us also have co-occurring conditions that make spoken communication a challenge. Autistic people communicate differently, we know this because it’s medically defined as a social communication “disorder”. What constitutes a disorder is defined by the medical model of disability and autism research. Difference is always assumed to be less, this is reflected in the systemic ableism and the insistence that different communication is some how less valid.
Many people have thought that they knew me, but see me in light of my mute mouth and wrongly understood that I think and feel nothing. People are too blind to see the person that I am behind my happy smile. I feel that I am loving and kind and also know that I am empathetic and thoughtful, with feelings that can overwhelm my mind and then they cause me to act like an utter fool.
We may not know how to communicate what is happening to us, we may have tried to communicate but it is misunderstood by the people around us, we may have experienced so much communication invalidation that we just stop trying. This can be particularly true of people who do not communicate using mouth words, especially because society has perpetuated a myth that non-speaking means non-thinking. What ever way you look at it, Autistic communication is considered less valid. Often, being Autistic can be used as a reason to cast us out.
All of this means that many Autistic people will isolate themselves from the world, and that isolation starts from a young age. Mazurek, M. O. (2014) stated that greater quantity and quality of friendships were associated with decreased loneliness in Autistic adults. Here’s the problem, Autistic people are in the minority. We do not have access to community as children, especially if we are pushed through a mainstream institution. Even if there are other Autistic people in that class, we do not know what it means to be Autistic.
The double empathy problem tells us that we have better interactions and quality of relationships with other Autistic people as opposed to neurotypicals. Autistic and non-autistic people exist in two different social contexts (Milton, D.; 2012).
“…double empathy problem’ refers to a breach in the ‘natural attitude’ (Garfinkel 1967) that occurs between people of different dispositional outlooks and personal conceptual understandings when attempts are made to communicate meaning”
Milton, D. (2012)
This disjuncture between Autistic and non-autistic communication can be traumatic for the Autistic person (Milton, D.; 2012).
Finally, we need to talk about restraint and seclusion. There are many different forms of restraint and seclusion, but each one of them teaches us from a young age that we do not have autonomy. It teaches us that our communication is not valid, that when we react to situations that we find overwhelming or distressing, we get punished.
An ABA practitioner physically holding our hands still, is a form of restraint.
But restraint has a darker side. As an example, we might look at the case of Max Benson, a 13 year old Autistic child who died as a result of being restrained for over two hours (Vance, T.; 2019). This isn’t just a problem in the USA though, it is happening in the UK also. A 12 year old Autistic child was restrained and handcuffed by police on his first day of secondary school, he was 5ft tall, and multiple police officers and staff used force to restrain him (Halle, M. and Cardy, P.; 2021). I think it is clear why this is traumatic for Autistic people.
Every school in the UK has a restraint policy. Sold as being for “everyone’s safety” while in fact it remains state sanctioned abuse. We have toddlers being restrained into preschool, into environments that cause them sensory trauma. Parents are told “they’re fine once they’re in” by people who have no understanding of masking. If you’re too big to be physically restrained, they use chemical restraint.
David Gray-Hammond (2020) writes of his experience as an undiagnosed Autistic person in a psychiatric ward. He discusses how, due to being a large man, staff chose to chemically restrain him with a heavy regime of antipsychotics and sedatives, rather than address the issues that were causing him distress.
It’s not just adults that are victims of chemical restraint, children under the age of 10 years old have been prescribed antipsychotic medications because it is cheaper and more convenient than meeting their needs.
Seclusion is a problem because it uses isolation as a form of coercion. Children and adults who do not conform to societies neuronormative ideals are secluded for long periods in isolation, seemingly as a punishment for not being “normal”. It’s inordinately unethical, and yet ethics don’t seem to apply when the victim is neurodivergent.
What does all this lead to?
Truthfully, it leads to suffering. Dr. Nick Walker put it best during her session with Aucademy.
The next piece in this series will explore the systemic failings in identification and lack of accessibility.
As a late identified Autistic/ADHD adult, a parent to two children with multiple neurodivergence, and a professional working within the voluntary sector from a young age, I have unique insight from all perspectives.
I have worked within the voluntary sector, starting within the disabled children’sservice, progressing on to mental health, healthcare funding, youth services, domestic abuse, and much more.
For the last six years, I have developed a specific interest both personally and professionally in special educational needs and disabilities, particularly around neurodivergence and the challenges faced by families when trying to access support.
I am dedicating to educating in neurodivergent experience in order to help families thrive by providing insight, reframing, and perspective in an accessible and personable way.
With experience, passion, and an individualised approach in close collaboration withfamilies, I help them work towards holisticchild and family-centered solution
Adkin, T. (2021) Behaviourism damages Autistic children. tanyaadkin.co.uk
Cassidy, S., Bradley, P., Robinson, J., Allison, C., McHugh, M., & Baron-Cohen, S. (2014). Suicidal ideation and suicide plans or attempts in adults with Asperger’s syndrome attending a specialist diagnostic clinic: a clinical cohort study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 1(2), 142-147.
Farahar, C. and Gray-Hammond, D. (2021) Autistic people and crime. Aucademy. YouTube.
Fulton, R., Reardon, E., Kate, R., & Jones, R. (2020). Sensory Trauma: Autism, Sensory Difference and the Daily Experience of Fear. Autism Wellbeing CIC.
Garfinkel, H. (1967). Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs.
Gray-Hammond, D. (2020) Autism and the future of diagnostic criteria. emergentdivergence.com
Gray-Hammond, D. (2020) My experience of restraint in a psychiatric hospital: This is not a love story. International Coalition Against Restraint and Seclusion. NeuroClastic. Neuroclastic.com
Halle, M. and Cardy, P (2021) ‘Overreaction’: Autistic son handcuffed by police on first day of term at Notts academy. Nottingham Post
Hernandez, P. (2021) Who am i? nottootrapped.wordpress.com
Milton, D. E. (2012). On the ontological status of autism: the ‘double empathy problem’. Disability & Society, 27(6), 883-887.
Parry, H. (2015). Shocking rise of «mate crime»: How children with autism or Asperger’s are being bullied, abused and robbed by so-called friends.
Pearson, A., & Forster, S. (2019). Lived Experience of Friendship and Mate Crime in Autistic Adults.
Rose, K. (2018) An Autistic Invalidation. theautisticadvocate.com
Sinclair, J. (2020) Autism exploitation: How to spot it and how to make it stop. autisticandunapologetic.com
Vance, T. (2019) #ShineOnMax Community-wide Candlelight Vigil for Max Benson, Sunday November 17. International Coalition Against Restraint and Seclusion. NeuroClastic. Neuroclastic.com
Walker, N., Farahar, C., Thompson, H. (2021) What is neurodiversity & why’s it important? Nick Walker with Chloe & Harry: Aucademy in discussion. Aucademy. YouTube.
Wise, M. (2019) The long term impact of bullying. Neuroclastic. Neuroclastic.com
Zarse, E. M., Neff, M. R., Yoder, R., Hulvershorn, L., Chambers, J. E., & Chambers, R. A. (2019). The adverse childhood experiences questionnaire: two decades of research on childhood trauma as a primary cause of adult mental illness, addiction, and medical diseases. Cogent Medicine, 6(1), 1581447.
It’s April, so you know it’s about to get real bloody frustrating trying to be heard over the like of Autism Speaks and other problematic groups claiming to represent “people with autism”.
When it comes to the notorious Autism Speaks there is one thing in particular that we should facing up to. Cure culture.
Cure culture is the ultimate way to show autistic people that you do not accept them for who they are. It starts with better known interventions, such as ABA, and spreads all the way to dangerous quack cures such as Miracle Mineral Solution/Chlorine Dioxide abuse.
Why does society want to cure us? Because it values the status quo over the beauty of human diversity. Unless your quirkiness somehow makes you economically valuable, the world seeks to stamp it out. It’s the ultimate way that capitalistic society harms autistic people. Some people will literally murder autistic people rather than embrace our neurodiversity.
Let me lay it out for you. There is no cure for autism. Taking autism out of the person is like taking the engine out of a car. The car no longer functions as a car. Being autistic is our physical wiring, without it, we would not be who we are.
This is what upsets me so much when I see parents and carers seeking to “cure” their autistic children and loved ones. Yes, we face daily struggles, but how much do you have to resent your child in order to want to change them into a completely different person?
That’s what it comes down to. Resentment. The world resents us for existing. It resents us because we demand equal rights, and the world has to put in work to meet those demands. The old rules of “more rights for me, does not mean less for you” has never rung more true.
If I could stamp out one thing this April, it would be cure culture.
This April, please listen to and amplify #ActuallyAutistic voices. Be an ally to the autistic community.
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