It sucks to think about how many people were involved in making this BBC news segment, without seeing that it’s fucked up:
There’s an organized, well-funded conspiracy to poison everybody’s impression of me. True story: I searched for “Asperger syndrome” on OkCupid and the only result was a profile talking about how social media is turning everyone into fat nerds with Asperger syndrome. I went to the dentist last week, and the dentist was clearly impressed that I wasn’t acting like the people in the video…whose behavior seemed reasonable to me. At least the autistic ones.
“I’m scared of my own autistic child” – BBC News. That’s the video title, but it’s like the theme for an episode of Maury in the 1990s:
It’s important for everyone to understand that these are Bad Kids, or we haven’t achieved important Autism Awareness goals.
I’ll now proceed to hate on this segment in detail, as a late-diagnosed adult who’s “nothing like those kids” and therefore disqualified from disagreeing with these literal Autism Warriors.
It’s already amazing in the first 15 seconds. The mom asks her son about some irrelevant food thing, and he responds, with some distress, “Stop that noise!” Then they play a sequence that terrifies the viewer with visions of neighborhoods with autistic ogre children living inside more houses than anyone ever knew. They could’ve, like, explained how one of the crappiest things about autism is that normal people ruin your life with sounds they don’t care about or notice all the fucking time. “Stop that noise!”, said with evident distress and urgency, and they just sit there and ignore it because autistic kids are just a pain in the ass like that! We don’t learn anything about the noise that’s bothering him, or whether it’s something they could’ve stopped. It seems like nobody tried to figure it out. Maybe it’s something the TV crew was doing and he was too retarded to know that his physical discomfort counts for nothing compared to producing anti-autism propaganda?
It’s completely fucked up that apparently normal people don’t even see what I’m talking about.
Then we learn about the injuries a boy inflicted on his mom, without learning anything about the events leading up to it. We just saw, less than 30 seconds ago, a room of adults (and an implied team of producers) ignore a “non-communicative” child asking for help, evidently annoyed at being interrupted while they behave in a totally bizarre way. Why did the situation escalate to the point of violence? Because of this blindness, it’s unreasonable not to challenge the parents on the unpredictability of outbursts. “He just kept getting more and more annoying and then he started hitting me. I don’t know what happened.” Right…
Around 1:15, she’s trying to talk about him like he’s not there, and he keeps saying “Mom? Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse meeeee.” Grown adults have temper tantrums at customer support workers all the time when they get sick of talking to a wall. They simply don’t have to explain how bad he is to television while he’s in the room and wants something.
Around 1:55, they’re filming the boy as he hears his mom talk about her feelings of disbelief/traumatic dissociation when he hits her. Right at that moment, he hits his ear. It was just as much communicative body language as if he’d flinched.
Around 3:15, not to worry! Only half of autistic children are aggressive towards their parents and families. Alright, but how many non-autistic children are aggressive towards their parents and families? Don’t normal people just teach their kids emotional self-regulation skills or something? If the parents can’t do it, sure, the state should do it. It’s bad if nobody’s doing it. But it sounds more ominous to talk about a “shortage of services” than it does to be specific about what’s lacking: someone with the ability to teach self-soothing.
Around 3:30, he seems to have something in his eye, or there’s bright light bothering him. He tries to cover his face with a plate, which his mom pries away from him. Then he uses his hands to cover his eyes, instead. Again there’s no context for what’s bothering him. He’s just being a difficult, violent ogre, despite making it pretty obvious that his parents might try closing the blinds and generally making the situation more chill. Y’know…supporting him with his severe sensory processing disorder. They need the government to come and tell them that, and BBC has the scoop.
It gives me a Twilight Zone feeling to think that the social blindness is equally bad in both directions. The stuff I’m commenting on is REALLY obvious just looking at the kids, and it’s disconcerting that so many adults were involved in this and nobody empathized with the child AT ALL.
Around 6:25, they walk inside and he explains what he’d like to do now that he’s home. He freaks out a little when it becomes clear she’s going to keep talking to this strange man and being unresponsive. He’s very insistently explaining what he needs to calm himself down. There’s no reason she couldn’t set up the TV for him or whatever and then do the interview. How long had they been driving around or whatever outside the house before getting back? He probably thought it’d be over once he got home. Again the complete lack of interest in understanding where he’s coming from.
Neither of the children consented to be part of a BBC segment vilifying them, so it’s reasonable for them to expect their needs to take priority in their own homes.
If this is what it’s like having neurotypical parents, I’m so grateful I didn’t have to deal with it. Neurotypical families must be, like, emotional wastelands.
The audience definitely isn’t supposed to think about what it’s like, as an emotional experience, to be met with such hostility whenever you express your needs or get upset. That kid’s life is that he lives in a jail cell built by his dad. It was easier to build than listening skills, it seems.
So much of perception is top-down, which is why this stuff is so insidious. It’s self-reinforcing. If you’re trained not to expect personhood from autistic people, you won’t see it if it’s right in front of you.
All of this seems like a failure of such basic emotional capacities to me. I thought everybody covered their eyes when the light is too bright and you don’t have to be the Autism Whisperer to understand that? I thought normal people also go crazy when their cries for help are denied with hostility? There are people who react with more understanding when their pets are upset. They have these capacities; they’re just not being applied in the case of autistic people.
Note that Simon and Sascha are related:
I’ve started reading this book, and it’s great.