“Your child is not autistic, they’re so” insert dramatic pause “normal!” a phrase I hear on a regular occurrence, even from people in authority that should know better. And yes it riles me to the bone. For a start we are all normal, be it a mental or physical disability and secondly not every person who is autistic carry the same traits, yes they perceive the world differently and have something that is commonly referred to as a meltdown but here’s the crux, if the person who is autistic is in the mid to low range within the autistic spectrum then they are helped with the environment around them, there is a support system there from school into adulthood, they have help at every turn (once you have travelled the long and perilous road of being diagnosed) but my child is high functioning autistic, to everyone including teachers they are not autistic, they are however “a naughty child” or “an emotional child” or “a stubborn child” but never autistic and this is where the system fails them, and this is where it becomes dangerous!
My child is a bona-fide people pleaser because of their autism. They don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s upset.
Me “How’s your day been at school”
Child “Brilliant, it was really good”
Me “Are you sure about that?”
Child crys “They (school) told you what happened didn’t they”
I nod my head and start the very lengthy process of trying to make my child open up about their day to help them, this can be a daily occurrence.
Now the outside world see’s this as lying, what is actually happening is my child doesn’t want to upset me by telling me they had a bad day, but authorities win and label the child as a lier so when they do have the courage and try to tell the truth, even though it will upset someone they are still classed as lying….. Can you see the viscous circle which has started? This will of course turn into the start of the ripple effect.
An autistic child is bullied at school and the bully realises that, one the “victim” is not running off and telling someone and two that the person isn’t actually scared of them but will in fact do anything asked to keep them happy, in other words the bully has just learnt how to manipulate someone into doing anything they wish, from, you can’t be friends with that person too, be nasty to your parents and right up too, walk out in front of that moving car. Now, the child knows all that they are being asked to do is wrong and in some cases dangerous and life threatening, but because autistic people can have a very one track and extremely focused mind all the arguments within their head are overwritten because they feel such a strong need to make that person happy hence the ripple effect.
If a child is high functioning i.e they can hold a conversation with you, they can hold eye contact with you, then they have no support, the schools will only be concerned if academically they fall behind too far, being half a year to a full year behind your peers is not that much of a concern to them, any further than a year and let’s face it, it doesn’t look good on the ofsted report come the end of year 6 sats exams, but that doesn’t mean they will address the autistic side, they will just try and boost them academically.
Being high functioning autistic puts that person in a very dangerous situation every single day of their life, they are an extremely vulnerable person more vulnerable than low functioning and yet, they have no support from anyone, no support from teachers, no support from adult services, they will always be classed as an under achiever, someone who never quite managed their full potential and their full potential would shock everyone if they were just given the support they needed from the beginning at school rather then being brushed under the carpet because they are deemed lazy, moody, awkward and dare I say it stupid!