A mother spends time with her autistic child. Photo courtesy of Raising Children Network

Nick Hughes
Managing Editor

Writing about autism is a passion of mine. I am autistic and I find it therapeutic to write about my experiences with autism; they can be good or bad experiences. I am going to go over one of the aspects of the autistic community that irks me – the “autism Mom” concept and why I feel it is a problem. This concept is where a parent, good intentioned I am sure, takes their support of curing autism too far. 

Autism cannot be cured, and it cannot be eradicated from the brain; it is a chemical imbalance that makes autistics think and perceive differently. In a perfect world, there is nothing wrong with being autistic. We do not live in that utopia though and I doubt we ever will. Originally, I was going to write about Autism Speaks (AS) and, as a lot of my readers know, I have no love for the group. I decided to go, instead, to the source of the support AS gets. 

When a parent finds out their child is autistic there must be an infinite number of thoughts that go into their heads. I do not blame them for that, it is a natural reaction. Autism is a scary word nowadays and the perception of it ruining lives is getting more and more prevalent. I will say this plainly, autism is not a death sentence. Having autism does not make a person less wanted. The way that autism is dealt with is the major problem in a lot of cases. In a lot of cases, the parent does some basic research and finds out about AS and reads everything there is to read on that site. They see the walks and the money that goes towards AS. I applaud the effort, but pick someone besides Autism Speaks. I have written articles about AS and their money before, which you can find on the Snapper website. 

Autism parents want to get involved and they want to support each other; what they should be doing is supporting their child. More and more I see “Autism Mom” or “Autism Parent” with slogans like “Autism Mom, Unbreakable”. Look, I know raising an autistic child will be hard and continues to be hard, but do not glorify it. Autism moms will need support and help, I get that, it just seems counter intuitive to me that they feel they are the victims of autism. Not that autism is an entity that attacks kids either. Kids are not victimized by autism, it is a trait of theirs that they’ll need help coping with. 

The autism mom will find out that their child is autistic and insist on treating autism like a disease to be gotten rid of and masked over. That is why they blindly enroll their child in ABA therapy, which is torture. ABA, (Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy) is a method of so-called rehabilitation that teaches an autistic person to mask themselves. ABA teaches them to be a skewed version of normal. Not themselves, but what society believes they should be. They are conditioned to be what the therapist thinks they should be. 

I am sure that autism moms feel that they are doing what is best for their child, but I think that ABA is not the answer. Sitting down with the child and deepening that connection. How does that march help the autistic child? How does crusading around saying that a vaccine caused autism help the autistic child? What I am saying is simply this, love your child, regardless of the autism. Those who are lucky enough to one day have children should cherish that opportunity, not squander it by looking for a cure that does not exist and is not needed.  I consider myself lucky to have a mom who did that. My Mom was and is my advocate. 

My issue is not with the autism mom themselves, rather the ABA therapy they put their children through. I hope that some critical thought can be brought from this. Autistic people have a voice, just like others that is lowered because they are autistic. We need advocates to help us expand our voices. Stop doing ABA and stop using autism as a source of self-gratification.

I want to look at an example of a parent doing it right. My Mom is that parent. Diagnosed at the age of 14, my mom went into research overdrive on my behalf. At the time, I was in a psychiatric ward for suicidal ideation, among other conditions. She figured out quickly that I was going to live the rest of my life with this. She accepted that right away and went on to figure out how to make it a comfortable existence. 

My main issue, back then, was articulating my needs, I did not know how, and she developed a system that helped me do that. I will not go into all the specifics, but sufficient to say, my mom was a parent first and an autism mom second. It would be closer to state that she was my advocate and confidant. 

Autism is a tough topic to talk about, but I think that the autism parents of the world should look closely at how their actions affect their kids. Stop the ABA and start the process of nurturing your autistic child. They need the help, not the cure.