I learnt of Autism and Oughtism following her inclusion in the most recent Down Under Feminists Carnival. The blog is a beautifully written and interesting account by an ex-university lecturer of life with two young sons, one neurotypical and one with autism.
Sanctimony in motherhood grates on me at the best of times but if you need any convincing that sanctimony is really not helpful then I suggest reading this thoughtful piece on Autism and Oughtism about her use of television as an aid for her son with autism. Interestingly, while my daughter is neurotypical she is quite highly strung and I have sometimes used television on play dates as a method for giving her time ‘alone’ to recharge in a way that won’t be too antisocial for her friends, so I get the restorative numbing possibilities of TV.
Also, you should read this post, which has me feeling exasperated with the world. Can we not learn to understand and accept, at the very fucking least, the different ways people with autism might have for exhibiting joy? Must we scare little kids with autism out of showing pleasure so they can better fit in with the rest of us?
The most upsetting attempt to curtail this socially undesirable behaviour happened at an ABA play-group for autistic preschoolers. ABA continues to be a controversial technique for dealing with autistic children, though it is gaining increasing mainstream acceptance. I found the ABA preschool group very useful in many ways, in particular it introduced me to other parents going through the same issues, it helped me better understand autism generally, and it gave me some useful methods for encouraging my son to interact with other people and his world. But their one main teaching that I could never feel OK about, was the efforts to completely stamp out my son’s stimming:
Once my son had relaxed enough to enjoy the group – he went from constant tantrums there to eventually actively enjoying the activities – he was happy enough to start stimming. For example, he would be listening to a book being read to everyone and he would start doing his happy dance in his chair. At the time I was so relieved to see him enjoying himself, and thought the ABA therapists there would be accepting of this typically autistic behaviour. Instead they would touch and hold him until he stopped stimming, and tell me to do the same. I was quite heart-broken and upset when it became clear what they intended to do each time, because he didn’t like being touched, and it distracted from what had made him happy, so it would either make him sad or even lead to a meltdown. It felt like he was being punished for being happy.
P.S. I will admit that I know less than nothing about ABA therapies so by selectively quoting above from that post I am not trying to mount any particular arguments against therapy, just that the goals of ‘fitting in’ might not be quite so critical for a child if we could make a little more effort as a community to embrace disability and difference.
P.P.S. If you’re looking for more feminist blogs about parenting children with disabilities then check here.