Context and Consequences
Looking at these posts and comments, I was reminded of a news article I read many years ago about five little Korean girls who attempted suicide because they felt unwanted after a younger brother was born into their family. The sisters overheard their father, on many occasions, talking about how glad he was to finally have a son after so many years of having had only daughters. Believing that their father did not value them as they were, the girls concluded that he would be happier if they were dead.
The reporter did not interview the father for the article, but I would guess that he did not in fact have any ill-will toward his daughters and that he was horrified by what happened. He probably never had any idea that his daughters could feel hurt by his words; after all, wasn't it entirely natural for a father to want a son?
And indeed, many parents want children who are like themselves—whether we are talking about a father who longs for a son, a ballet-loving mother who wishes her athletic daughter were more feminine, or a non-autistic parent who would prefer a highly social child. Having such expectations is not at all unusual, and parents often do find it stressful and confusing when a child turns out to be different from what they had anticipated.
In most such cases, the prevailing cultural expectation is that the parents will quickly put aside their feelings of disappointment and accept the child that they actually have. Descriptions of life with a child who differs from one's expectations as a "nightmare," or similar extreme language, would not as a general rule be considered socially acceptable and would not appear in the mainstream media unless the article had to do with learning to appreciate and value a child's differences. The potential for harm would be immediately recognized.
But as Sarah's blog entry discusses, although modern society has recognized as a general rule the importance of understanding and accommodating diversity, the autistic population often does not get the benefit of the rules that apply to everyone else. Numerous articles have described autistic people in derogatory terms that would never make it into print if applied to any other minority group. The excuse usually given for publishing such articles is that parents naturally feel that way.
It's not a very good excuse.