If I needed another reason to dislike the Coalition, I saw it, today. One of its senators, who has an autistic son, used a term that many of us find offensive and attacked us for being critical of ABA.
The term she used was Asperger’s Syndrome. She said that many of us autistic self-advocates would have been referred to as having Asperger’s under the old criteria. She made no attempt to explain why we found Asperger’s Syndrome offensive and nor did she say that she understood it. She said that we were people who had degrees who thought we were experts.
For those of you who are new to my stories, the term Asperger’s Syndrome has been used by some in supremacist terms (like how an Australian member of a white supremacist movement, who was imprisoned, was found to have a Javanese great-grandmother and when this was pointed out to someone else, he said, “Oh, it was “only an eighth,” and that passed muster with the racists). Also, it has emerged that Hans Asperger, after whom the condition was named, was a eugenicist and Nazi sympathiser.
The fact of the matter is, autism is not linear. It’s not like, using a more benign case of above, to take two people, Jeff Fatt (former Wiggle) and my optometrist when I lived elsewhere. Jeff Fatt’s great-great-grandmother was English and his other forebears were Chinese, while my former optometrist was mostly Irish, but had a Chinese great-great-grandfather. So we can say that Jeff Fatt is 15/16ths Chinese and my former optometrist is 1/16th Chinese. Autism is more like a pie chart. So someone who is verbal may be mute in some circumstances.
What this politician also failed to understand is that, to give a different example, Albert Einstein didn’t walk properly until he was three and didn’t talk properly until he was five. I started to talk when I was ten months old (I didn’t crawl until I was ten months old and I didn’t walk until I was fourteen and half months old, my neurotypical brother, however, was crawling before he was six months old and walking at nine months). I remember the class bully, when I happened to mention that I started solid food at seven weeks told me I was stupid and lying because his niece started Farex at four months. Well, Hello, every baby is different. Just because your niece started on Farex at four months doesn’t mean to say that every baby starts at four months. Some start early, some start later.
Early intervention, such as ABA, can demand that a child as young as three attends 40 hours a week intensive therapy! Now, when I was at kindergarten, three days a week, a typical day was, unstructured play, followed by fruit time (morning tea), a story, indoor unstructured play, lunch time, a sleep and going home time. It wasn’t eight hours a day of, “Do this!” and being given food as a reward or having things withheld until compliance was achieved.
In some cases, kids will achieve certain milestones when they’re ready to, not when somebody thinks they should. And when they catch up, they catch up. Early intervention can be desirable for some things, but to have a three year old kid in therapy for 40 hours a week, where they are taught to mask and comply, is shocking!