This is an amazing example of reframing – looking at things from a different perspective that doesn’t automatically assume negative causes such as seeking attention or mental issues. For an Autistic person, this can literally be life saving.
Imagine that, as a young child, your needs were labeled as ‘attention seeking’, ‘inappropriate’, or ‘psychotic’. Your need for love? ‘Psychotic and inappropriate’. You cry because you got hurt? ‘Attention seeking’. You need a nap because you are exhausted? The other people aren’t and that is ‘inappropriate’. You would grow up believing you should not take care of yourself because it is selfish and inappropriate. You will not seek appropriate love and boundaries. You will not seek medical help for illness or injury or mental health problems. You will feel you do not deserve these things and your feelings about your worth will plummet. As life goes on, a lack of self care and care for illness/injury will lead to physical pain that becomes constant. A lack of love, support, and mental health care will lead to depression and anxiety spiraling out of control. Life will continue to drown you until, out of sheer desperation, you try to take your own life because you literally cannot hurt anymore. This is reality for so many Autistics who are judged harshly for being ‘not normal’ and who are forced into therapies to make them like everyone else. It ignores their needs entirely, labeling them as inappropriate or wrong. In my mind, this is not much different from conversion therapy. You use psychological means to try to make a gay person straight. You use similar means to make an Autistic neurotypical, sending the message they are not good as they truly are. We know how how harmful gay conversion therapy is and it’s outlawed in many states. The APA has spoken against it. Yet ABA and other therapies doing the same to Autistic children are not only allowed they are touted for how well they ‘work’. Yet, just as with conversion therapy, adulthood proves it doesn’t. Psychological illness is astronomical in Autistic adults. We have the highest suicide rates. We have a life expectancy of only 55 years. The behaviors that were ‘extinguished’? They are back. They were never gone. They were masked, hidden.
The issue here isn’t Autistic people. It’s the parents and doctors who want a ‘normal’ child, no matter the cost long term. They view Autism as a disease, a problem, just as homosexuality was viewed. It is an integral part of who they are; they are born Autistic and no amount of therapy will ever change that.
What needs to happen is acceptance. Acceptance of who they are, who they will become, and respect for their needs and differences and abilities. Until this happens, we will continue to suffer and die at alarming rates.