This week, a family of four (and their dog) was killed by the father in a murder suicide. Despite the fact that the family had marital problems (according to at least one news source), everyone is jumping on the bandwagon that the father did this because his two children were Autistic.
Let me be clear – no one knows why this father did this. Could be because his children were Autistic. Could be because apparently his wife was thinking of leaving him. Could be because he was just an arsehole. Who the hell knows?
In one article I read today, I saw this quote…
Autism Awareness Australia CEO Nicole Rogerson said thousands of parents around the country shared similar experiences as the family. “This horrible event, at least, highlights the significant difficulty many families who parent kids at the severe end of the spectrum go through,” she said.
This quote is similar to quotes always put at the end of such articles – such quotes that always state that Autistic children, especially the low functioning ones, are such a burden that well, gosh darn it, it’s a wonder more parents aren’t murdering their own children.
Plenty of people are writing about how wrong it is to murder your children, regardless of their diagnosis. What I want to visit here is this trend towards such quotes singling out “low functioning Autistics”, or as Nicole here put it “kids at the severe end of the spectrum”.
I assume we all know what type of child Nicole is pointing towards. Can’t speak, not toilet trained, low intelligence, other medical or developmental issues.
Let’s forget for a moment that most children grow out of most of these issues given the right supports and accommodations. I am quite often told I am high functioning, but I smeared my shit as a toddler and was late to the toilet training party. I had issues with speech as a child. Autistic children are still children. They will learn and develop and grow up, just like children who are not Autistic do. Developmental delays are delays, not brick walls in your child’s path (unless you make them so).
As a mother I get it. I really do. And I’m going to admit something here, in public, once and only once. I actually have what the general Autism Mom* would classify as a “low functioning” Autistic child. I also have what the general Autism Mom* would classify as a “high functioning” Autistic child.
And when it comes to the day to day looking after of said children, my high functioning child is MUCH more “difficult” to deal with than my low functioning child.
Sure, my low functioning child has had all the issues associated with being “low functioning” (no, it’s not your business how this manifests for him). However my low functioning child is happy. My high functioning child however is a massive mess of nerves and quite often suicidal because of it. He might be coding programmes on Visual Basic to help his little brother learn his times tables, but he doesn’t cope so well with day to day life. When we are called to the school, they are calling about our high functioning child. It is our high functioning child who is spending all his time in the support centre while our low functioning child is in the mainstream classroom.
These arbitrary functioning labels do not help anyone, so STOP FUCKING USING THEM!!! All you do is create an “us vs. them” culture that helps no one. You can’t judge how a person is doing based on their ability to shit on the toilet. If a person needs help and accommodations, then they need help and accommodations, and screw these little boxes that society wants to put us in.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – the “spectrum” is NOT linear!!! It’s a colour wheel. There are no ends. There is no this end or that end. There is just Autism.
* The term “Autism Mom” is used to describe a non Autistic mother of a child with Autism. “Autistic Mom” is used to describe a mother who herself has Autism. Autism Mom’s who describe themselves as such, are being highly offensive, so if you do that, then stop please.
** Yes, I’m Australian, but I used Mom instead of Mum because my readership is not all Australian, and this trend to describe oneself as an Autism Mom started off as an American thing. In my mind, I use this pronounciation, so I also use this spelling sometimes. It depends on my mood.
*** For the record, my husband and I discussed whether or not to publish this blog post. We value our children’s privacy highly however at the same time, my parenting journey is also my journey, and sometimes advocacy needs some examples. So no, my kids Autistic qualities are not up for public discussion. I won’t be answering questions about toileting, or how far behind my child is at school etc etc. I don’t like telling people that one kid is high functioning and one kid is low functioning. I don’t like telling people that one kid is easier to deal with. I’ve done so, because I know my kids will understand once they are old enough. I’ve done so, because if I can change a few minds, who might go on to change a few more minds, then maybe, one day, we can finally get past this whole “functioning” bullshit, which hurts both my kids!!! These labels hurt my kids when it’s assumed that because of their functioning label, they can do A, B or C, or that they can’t do A, B or C. These labels hurt all our kids. And they hurt Autistic adults too!!!
Besides, I’m teaching my kids not to be ashamed of who they are. So the issue of whether or not I should have written this post – that isn’t up for discussion either.