“One day they even tied his hands with a thin rope.”
This young mother shared these horrendous incidences with me, crying bitterly.
It took all my courage to stop my own tears and give her space to vent.
She talked about these and other harrowing teaching experiences with her 5 year old son.
This happened at a well known Therapy Center.
On questioning, the mother was told that this would not have happened if she were strict with her own child.
Apparently, she was too lenient with him. This resulted in behavior issues and vocal self stimulatory behaviors which would not be ‘allowed’ at the center.
What is our understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders?
After so many decades, why do we still feel that autistic individuals deliberately misbehave?
No, autism is not just a ‘behavioral’ issue.
It stems from the differences in neural connectivity in the brain.
Check out this scholarly article about functional connectivity in the brain.
This is what it looks like.
Credit: Dr Steven Gutstein, RDIConnect.
When in doubt, get answers from autistic individuals themselves.
Do you want to know what they go through?
1. I have a lot restless creative energy and desire to do many things. Because of the way my brain works, I cannot do them, or do as much as I want. This built up energy turns into feeling trapped inside. My body and brain don’t connect all the time. Making movement and speaking not always possible. I’m limited to what I can realistically do. This causes so much frustration having as many interests as I do. I want to go to the ballet and I want to sing and write books and make friends. Create a business and make things better for others.
– Lexington Sherbin
2. We cry, we scream, we hit out and break things. But still, we don’t want you to give up on us. Please, keep battling alongside us.
– Naoki Higashida
3. Avoiding eye contact is one of the things I find myself automatically doing to minimize the quantity of incoming sensory information.
– Judy Endow
4. (About meltdowns) I feel trapped. I have a weird tension in my head or my arms I want to get out. Everything around me suddenly feels extremely real like I’ve just come out of the water, I feel all sorts of emotions all at once and I want to run away from them all. I lose sight of what is socially appropriate and start to say things I either don’t mean or something I’ve wanted to say deep down. Whenever that happens I end up hurting someone or confusing everyone.
5. Every day, I am reminded that I’m autistic. I’ve learned to live with the trials that come as a result. However, it doesn’t change the fact that I can’t always get the subtle intonations in a voice, or the meaning behind them. It doesn’t change the fact that going out in public feels like an attack, like my very sense of self is coming under fire. The sounds, lights, textures, flavors, scents, and vibes of the world around me act as psychic attacks on my brain, driving me further and further away from control. Eventually I forget that I am human, that I exist, that I have choice, and that I am capable of thinking. It terrifies me beyond belief. It’s almost impossible to escape by then. I become a caged animal, cornered and trapped by the world around me. The fight-or-flight becomes all that matters.
-Noah Blevins, Quora
Not every professional is like the professional mentioned in the first paragraph.
I interact with wonderfully respectful professional colleagues who are respectful with autistic individuals.
That should be the norm.
It’s our collective responsibility to ensure that all children are treated with respect and dignity.
For Professionals who resort to force and restrain students on the spectrum- please reflect on why you chose to work with autistic individuals.
You wanted to make a difference- or else you could have chosen any other lucrative career.
Trust me, there are better, humane, respectful ways of dealing with students with special needs.
Being a mother of an adult on the spectrum, my heart breaks every time I hear these horror stories.
Please educate yourself.
I extend an open invitation for you to visit SAI Connections.
I’m happy to help in any way I can.
For every Struggling Parent out there:
Please educate and empower yourself.
Understand what your child goes through.
Support and speak up for your child.
If you don’t, who will?
Kamini Lakhani is the founder and director of SAI Connections. She has been providing services in the field of autism for more than 20 years and is the authorized director of Professional Training for RDI in India and the Middle East. She is also the mother of a young adult with autism.