Previously, I wrote a story about autism and dealing with the medical profession, and that got me thinking about signs I have seen in medical centres and hospitals and how there is no excuse for abuse and zero tolerance to abuse of ambulance paramedics.

Just recently, I had to take my father to hospital, and I found the triage area a sensory hell, a few patients with vomit bags, noisy kids, a television blaring, not to mention people talking animatedly amongst themselves. Fortunately, I was only there for a very short time, and I was able to explain to the triage clerk that I'm autistic and found the area was doing my head in and didn't want to wait around. She understood.

While I agree that there is no excuse for abuse of people who dedicate their lives to saving the lives of others, what I say is important is for understanding on both sides. The ambulance crew that has arrived five minutes later than you anticipated may have been stuck in a traffic jam and people might have been slower to allow it space. Rather than abusing the crew, thank them for coming, but they should also explain that they were late for a reason.

But let's turn to cases that could turn violent but where violence is not directed intentionally at such people. Namely, when dealing with autistic people. I am autistic but I am also a survivor of abuse, and as a result I am only comfortable with dealing with certain types of medical people. Part of this stems from something that I experienced when I was younger with a certain doctor. When asked why I didn't like that doctor, at the time, I couldn't explain it, but as an adult, I have found the best analogy, for my first experience, was, I knew somebody who used to drive this particular car who complained that there was a terrible noise coming when the car went over a speed bump at times. The owner of the car took it for a drive and couldn't get it to do this, they took it to the dealer who tested it and couldn't find a problem, and then, one day, they had to meet the owner had to meet this other person to swap cars and the owner found a gap in traffic and drove quickly in and over a speed bump. They then said, I've found the cause of the terrible noise. It happens when you hit a speed bump too hard! This doctor had done an exam that hurt and I couldn't explain that I didn't have an initial pain, but the way he was doing the exam was hurting.

I experienced a meltdown when my mother forced me to deal with this same doctor years later and this same doctor showed a lack of tact. Namely, I had a case of adolescent acne (as well as asthma) and this doctor, upon hearing that I was on certain medication, suggested some form of soap. My mother claimed he was trying to help, but he was tactless in that rather than jumping in with something, should have, to put the horse before the cart, asked if I was being tormented about having acne first! Then, once an affirmative answer was established, said, Okay, would you like to try something else that might be able to help clear it up a bit? To be told about it like that was almost like being tormented in the schoolyard but at the doctor!

Above all, unless it is physically impossible for an autistic person to deal with their preferred doctor, a way of avoiding meltdowns is communication and avoiding being tactless. The thing, if they are not usually a person you deal with, to also do is wait for the autistic person to let you into their world, don't force yourself into it. Another suggestion I make to the medical profession is, if you are in a hospital situation, and you know you have an autistic patient, and they cannot have their preferred gender of doctor and you are not of their preferred gender is this, Allow them to have a support person of their preferred gender with them AND bring a person of their preferred gender with you into the room. Then, allow the person of that gender to speak first, and if the person if their preferred gender is asked by the patient to hold their hand, as long as it doesn't interfere with your ability to do your job grant this request, do not deny it or ridicule them. But, above all, if the patient has requested a person of a particular gender and it is possible to provide them, do so, do not override the patient's wishes, and if it is not possible, ask them first. I had the experience of it, in a mental health setting, where I asked for a female therapist (I was abused by males) and they overrode me and sent a male. Rather than being understanding or apologetic, they were arrogant. I declined their services.

Supporting causes opposing violence is correct, but always remember that it is a two-way street and we are not saying that the world owes us for being autistic, what it does, owe us is understanding, and it is that they we will keep speaking up for. We do not want a cure, the only cure we want is for ignorance.




Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.

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Peter Wynn

Peter Wynn

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.

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