Normalising should not always be autism goal

Shona Davison
Shona Davison

If you have read about ‘super-parenting’ helping autistic children, then I recommend that you think critically about the articles and study.

The study has some positives – it considers anxiety as part of the outcomes, which I love – but it generally is another study where you judge someone as being improved if their ‘autistic symptoms’ are fewer.

Normalising is the goal it seems.

It uses the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) which is behavioural.

Autism is neurological.

You are not less autistic just because you have learned to behave less like an autistic person.

And we don’t all want to be less autistic despite the challenges of being autistic in an unaccommodating society.

The media’s (not the researcher’s) use of the term ‘super-parenting’ is harmful. Parents get judged enough and these headlines feed into that.

It smacks of the debunked ‘refrigerator mom’ theory, where mums were blamed for their kids’ autism (not sure why dads were let off the hook).

This theory was around for decades.

There, as always, is no long-term study about the side effects/mental health of the participants.

Imagine if a drug therapy were used without those tests.

No-one seems to think it’s necessary to look at side effects of autism ‘interventions’.

The study is another example of neurotypical researchers judging autistic kids through a neurotypical lens.

I believe they did get autistic input but not enough.

It is full of medical language, as always.

My ‘autistic symptoms’ include being great at tasks requiring attention to detail, getting passionate about my interests (good for my career and mental wellbeing), and having a strong sense of right and wrong.

Is ‘symptoms’ really the right word for that?

The paper fails to consider whether reducing ‘symptoms’ is what we should be aiming for.

Every time research like this gets into the media we are reinforcing the message that autism is bad.

That we are sick, we need curing.

What we need is acceptance, accommodations and opportunities for our voices to be heard above those of well meaning neurotypicals (who are so often WRONG!)

Rant over, you may get on with your day.

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