Today’s guest author asked to remain anonymous. They are a disability and human rights advocate who is producing a film about disability experiences in various institutions.
Often it can be hard to remember things related to trauma (probably because the data is stored ‘in the back of the mind’ in the cerebellum rather than the prefrontal cortex). My earliest memory of abuse/neglect was as a toddler and I was left outside or locked in a room by myself sometimes for hours. Other times I was punched, kicked, shoved, spanked for no apparent reason. At age 7, I was left on a deck on a lake, unable to swim for a few hours. Without a shirt, I ended up incurring 2nd-degree burns.
The school years were difficult for me. I received “help” with reading which involved telling me not to color with red. Math was my weakest subject, and I needed help but got very little. My speech teacher was not helpful. Other support staff did not think that I had a problem or needed help. In middle school I was molested a couple of times by other boys and once a boy exposed himself to me. Once, I was punished for honestly answering a guidance counselor about why I had missed several days of school and he rewarded those who he knew were lying to him. In high school, I was drug tested while having a mental health crisis, but they never drug tested the students who came to school high every day. I was also referred to an Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) counselor to help me find ‘competitive employment’ (a stated goal in my IEP), but she did nothing to help me and instead just asked me about the walks I took around my neighborhood.
I was forced into counseling under threat of suspension or expulsion at Geneva College for “smiling in class,” and at the same time contradictorily for being “distressed”, the same professor also openly discriminated against neurodiverse students like me.
In 2014 I was falsely arrested for “driving while autistic” and charged with being high (due to my voice & facial expressions) after they found their suspect who confessed to the crime.
In 2014, I also had co-workers at Walmart who tried to get me fired by purposely doing a task wrong and then blaming me for their mistake.
In 2018 I worked as a bus driver and was profiled and twice falsely accused by a school of being high. Meanwhile, they did nothing to the drivers who openly violated the no-smoking policy right in front of the no-smoking sign on campus. Then my HIPPA Rights were violated by my employer as they required me to tell them my diagnosis, medication, and get a letter from my doctor certifying my ability to work under threat of losing my job (even though I had perfect attendance, above-average performance, and had not violated any rules nor had any accidents).
The Delphi Technique Reading Massachusetts (iror.org) is a method of social engineering that all human/civil rights advocates should be aware of. Persecution is normally a religious term but has secular legal applications like political imprisonment. I think what many autistics have experienced from psychiatry rises to the level of persecution.
It is estimated that neurodivergent youth receive 20,000 more negative comments than their peers (I can certainly testify to the veracity of this claim), and it should be no wonder that we have such high rates of depression and suicide.
There are many things that parents & institutions can do to help autistic students. It begins with making efforts to understand their individual needs. I also recommend a trauma-informed approach. I am always asked about drug use/alcohol, which was never a problem for me, but never asked about abuse/trauma I experienced.
There are also things I’ve found that autistic individuals can do to help themselves. One is to avoid the trap of defending oneself from ridiculous accusations as this is a gaslighting technique. We need to advocate for identity-first language, we are people, not a problem to be solved. I suggest autistics understand the concept of theory of mind, this is something I never even heard of or understood until I was 30. I’ve also found that using recording devices when necessary to protect ourselves and create accountability in confrontations with power dynamics by which the Autistic person is often blindsided. I also suggest that autistic individuals advocate for their rights and make their voices heard.