Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
People are generally hard-wired to be creatures of the pack / herd / tribe / team / troupe / group / society / family / congregation / community to a greater or lesser degree. I am not on the autistic spectrum but I find intense interaction with people exhausting. I’ve always been like that and I’m very lucky to have people in my life who accept this about me. I’ve tried to bring up my son to be comfortable in his own skin which is just as well because society at large has, at best, a very uncomfortable relationship with people on the autistic spectrum. Autistic people have different ways of thinking and of processing information - it is very hard to ‘fit in’ if you are that different.
I do not want to write here about relationships between people or group dynamics though, (Is there not a need for outsiders to give any group its identity?) it is about exclusion.
I would have said it dos’ent bother me too much how much value society puts on me before things ‘kicked off’ but the reality was very different. Society was valuing me just fine as far as I was concerned and I had no idea what it was to feel unwanted or even worse when you are a parent, to be parent to a child you love that society places no value on. When things started to go wrong, the blinkers came off.
Blame, sometimes spoken and sometimes unspoken, was often used as a way to tell me that we were unwanted. It was creatively deployed and universal services, school and doctor’s practice, were by far the worst. This mirrors what many other parents of autistic children say – many have shocking stories about meetings in a succession of head teacher's offices where they are made to feel as though their children are valueless and should be someone else’s problem in the event that parent's are not 'up-to' the job of making them more 'normal'. The child is often listening in - imagine how it must feel to be talked about like this within hearing?
The worst moment for me came not in school but in a meeting in our GP’s surgery when she said matter of factly: ‘’He has no healthcare because he is effectively homeless. Healthcare for homeless people dos'ent really exist *’. She did'ent feel the need to apologise although she had been his doctor for over fifteen years and his only difficulties were around unmet health needs. Outcasts including the homeless and the disabled should not expect to have rights and it seemed to be acceptable for his doctor to wash her hands of him because he was so flawed that he was not deserving of universal services that were available to society at large.
I did realise something else too about exclusion, although it took a while - there are many good people who care about the ‘unwanted’. Some have experience of being an outsider of one kind or another and work to support others who are excluded, and others are motivated to help those than society places little value on.
Many of the people motivated to help those society places little value on helped my son when he eventually entered the care system. They worked with him to build him up, insofar as they could. They did’ent always get it right but overall they made a positive difference to him. They had their own challenges. I’m so humbled by and grateful to these people. I am very critical of lots of things about the Care system, particularly as it impacted me as a parent and as an advocate for my son but the bottom line is, this system and the people who work within it, picked him up and built him up when no other service could or would.