Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sick. Sick. Sick. Sick.

Excuse my echolalia.

Not only has Autism Speaks shown no remorse whatsoever for condoning child murder in that abominable video, now the perpetrator—er, producer—of the Autism Every Day video, Lauren Thierry, has given an interview in which she makes the appalling claim that fantasies of child murder are perfectly normal for parents of autistic kids. This is what Thierry had to say when the interviewer asked her to comment on the widespread outrage and disgust that gave rise to suggestions that Alison Tepper Singer's children should be removed from her custody:

If most mothers of autistic children, Thierry responds, look hard enough within themselves they will find that they have played out a similar scenario in their minds. "If this is not your reality, then God bless you," she says.

Ballastexistenz wrote that she wasn't even going to dignify that idea with a response, and indeed, it's so outrageous it doesn't deserve one. But if you look at parent blogs such as Autism Vox, you'll find comments along the lines of "despicable" and "How DARE she try to speak for me?" from pissed-off autism parents and grandparents, including Mike McCarron, who wrote that "Moms that love their children... don’t deserve to be typecast as anything but good Moms."

As if we needed any more evidence of Thierry's complete lack of anything resembling human decency, she also called Alison Tepper Singer "gutsy and courageous." Most of us would choose other words to describe a woman who would say, right in front of her young daughter, that she had thought about killing her daughter but decided not to do it because her other child needed her. Words like "sick" and "evil" come to mind, as well as quite a few other four-letter words.

Once again, Autism Speaks has demonstrated that it does not speak for anyone except bigots, child abusers, and eugenicists.

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  • I'm speechless. Almost.

    Although I have plummetted to depths of despair many times over the years worrying about what the future holds for my son, I have never ever fantasized of taking him out of this world.

    The joy he has for life might not be up to the standards of "others", but it's his joy. His life. He has as much right to it as anyone else.

    I venture to say that this is a fine example of some parents who have trouble viewing their children as individual people rather than as extensions of themselves.

    I further venture that any parent who harbors fantasies of killing their child (and themselves)is in serious need of respite care and support services.

    They are stepping too close to an abyss of crisis and/or depression.

    In my opinion they need some help, not a "You go, girl!".

    Thanks so much for writing this. As always, I find your analysis to be superb.

    By Blogger Attila the Mom, at 12:50 PM  

  • Thanks Attila. I agree it's likely that many of these parents have trouble viewing their children as individual people rather than as extensions of themselves.

    I don't believe that it's possible for any two people to experience joy, or any other emotions or perceptions, in exactly the same way. There are millions of subtle differences in the way humans perceive and process the world. The "normal brain" is a myth.

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:14 AM  

  • I watched this film, and also found it offensive and manipulative.
    However, I am a labor and postpartum doula, and I've talked to many mothers of neurologically average children who have had similarly difficult and desperate experiences while parenting.
    Having thoughts of harming yourself or your child is not actually a terribly uncommon experience for mothers, though it is rarely something mothers talk about publicly.
    The film is manipulative in using these stories to evoke feelings of horror in people. It sensationalizes the most vulnerable moments in the lives of these children and mothers, and then implies that it is autism, or autistic people that are horrific.
    I agree that it is inappropriate to talk about these feelings in the presence of your child. But I don't think that having had such feelings means a person is a bad mother who doesn't love her child. And neither does it mean that there is something deeply wrong with her kid that needs to be fixed.
    It is not autism, or colic, or any other way a child is that causes these crises. It is a failure on the part of society to provide adequate support to parents.
    The film is as manipulative of the parents as it is of the viewers.
    If a filmmaker shot the hardest parts of my life as a mother, and edited them into a short and dubbed in sappy music, the conclusion would seem equally bleak, and people would probably be questioning my parenting abilities as well.
    My kids are not autistic, but I had two months of staying up nights being vomited on by a screaming preschooler. My daughter went through a phase of unbuckling her carseat and getting out while I was driving. I once had to hold her as she had a major tantrum in front of her entire kindergarten class on a two hour train ride. I have certainly changed my fair share of diapers. And I have had moments, as most or all parents have, that I am not proud of.
    Parenting is hard. Parenting a child who is autistic is especially hard. Our culture has so little respect, understanding, and support for people with autism.
    I am sorry that these moms were conned into blaming their children's autism for all of the hardship in their lives.
    They should be angry at their communities and governments for not being there for them and their kids. They should be angry at this culture for imbuing them with fantasies of normalcy. Normalcy is a half-assed dream to have for your kids. You are not entitled to have kids who get married, or graduate from a university, or get an 'important' job, or even who learn to speak. Parenting is not about some legacy getting fulfilled for you. It is not your kid's duty come through for you the way you want them to. But it is your duty to come through for them. Its your duty to love them even more fiercely when this society says that they are somehow unlovable.
    I don't think any of the emotions that parents of autistic children feel are wrong, but I think its a damn shame that this film uses them in such a fear-mongering, dehumanizing, and misguided way.

    By Blogger Jade, at 5:31 AM  

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