Sunday 14 October 2018

Irresponsible Information: Autism

Photo and drawing of a woman at a laptop computer, covering her eyes with her hands, looking sad and shocked

Content warning.  I'm going to discuss some really shocking and untrue statements about autism from professionals.  These are ones that I've heard, or been told about, in just one month.  Information so utterly wrong that I barely know where to begin with the actual facts.

First, a report from a well respected professional.  She had been told by an eminent healthcare practitioner that if there is a murder investigation, you should assume the autistic suspects did it.

Second, a report from another well respected professional.  She had been told by a different eminent healthcare practitioner that autistic people have no empathy, because if they did, they would care for their health more effectively.  One cannot begin to even understand the logic of that one...In reality, many autistic people struggle with the sensory pain of self-care such as showers and tooth-brushing, or may be too depressed to look after themselves.  It's nothing to do with empathy.

Thirdly, a parent reporting that a well respected autism charity alleged that autistic people were very likely to be rapists.  This adds to a psychologist having to be diverted by me before alleging that autistic people were more likely to be perverts.  Shockingly inaccurate, and hugely damaging misinformation.

In each case, I've been there with the counter-information to pass on.  But, how irresponsible are such statements...

We know from very good research that autistic people are by a vast majority repeat victims of crime.  Assaulted, defrauded, bullied, mocked, terrorised, impoverished, sometimes quite literally starved near to death to teach them how to 'comply' with instructions from our alleged-betters.  I've seen so much that has been worrying beyond measure.  And of course the result is anxiety, depression, and a huge number hoping to die, to get away from the pain.  A population desperate for better understanding, friendship, caring, opportunity, thriving, art, music, culture, all the things that make life liveable.

We know from very good research that autistic people are generally more moral and less likely to commit crimes than other people.  But, alas, more likely to be 'framed' by actual criminals, and more likely to be misunderstood by the Court systems and wrongly convicted.

I did a lot of research into the 'murder myth'.  I found, for example, that a number of newspapers had assumed that autism is a lack of empathy.  This is not so.  This was some informal research on the empathy levels for autistic people.

So, having assumed that autism  = lack of caring about others, they looked through Police reports for anything saying the murderers didn't care.  Then the papers invented that person being autistic.  I kid you not.  In reality, there was no greater link to autism.

What about the allegation that autistic people are more likely to be perverts?  I tracked that one back through several decades of research papers.  It came from one study, decades ago, on a small group autistic young men in a care home.  And some anecdotal evidence from forensic Psychiatrists, working with criminals who happened to be autistic.  From that, professional after professional just parroted that data, it would appear - passing it on as if it was fact.  It bears no relation whatsoever to most of the 2 million wonderful autistic people of all kinds  in the UK - young, old, all genders, all cultures, all backgrounds and faiths.  Many of them excellent members of the community, honest, diligent and caring.

We had a well respected church publication arguing that autistic people were likely to be stalkers.  When we looked at the research, it was based on a professional misreading one old report, which said autistic people's attempts to start a relationship might be misread as stalking...but that this was a miscommunication between the two people.  Autistic culture is different, and so is autistic communication.  It's nothing to do with stalking behaviour.  Worse still, other research showed that more than a third of young non-autistic people admitted stalking someone, so in fact it's a society-wide thing.  Not autism.

Where do we even start with this nonsense?  We know that autistic people are dying in extraordinary numbers and far too young, by suicide, by lack of access to healthcare, by lack of recognition of intense pain from sensory and social overload in today's busy, noisy, overwhelming environments.  And yet we have a few professionals adding hate and fear to our lives, for absolutely no discernible reason whatsoever.

I work with many excellent fellow professionals nationally.  People who care about facts, and who care about the lives and welfare of our much loved autistic people.  I want to make that clear, because this isn't a statement about 'all professionals'.

Yes, a few people of any kind can be criminals.  Any kind at all.  A few women can be.  A few men can be.  A few people who are 5 ft 10 can be.  In fact, you can take any category of person on the planet, and find that some are criminals.  And of course if someone of any kind is a criminal, they need to be stopped and a way found to keep others safe.

But autism does not 'cause' such criminal behaviour at any greater rate than for anyone else on the planet, and it never has.  

Thank you for listening.