What You Focus on Expands
Updated: Jan 22
The Scary Truth About Parents With Autistic Children
Like many Dads, I find myself aimlessly wandering the internet at the end of a work day, tablet in hand, scrolling through news, sports, and Twitter. Inevitably, my Google and Yahoo feeds offer articles that align to my “interests”, which really means that the algorithm for web searches works very well. As a result, I receive a lot of links to articles regarding children with Asperger’s and autism from around the country. You would think this would be a good thing for me, having a son on the spectrum. In fact, the opposite is true, largely because the overwhelming majority of the articles highlight child abuse or even infanticide of children with autism. Just this week, I learned of a 6 year old autistic boy who was killed by his mother and aunt in Apple Valley, CA. His name was Duke Flores and he was missing for two weeks before his mother was charged. Several months ago, a four year old autistic boy wandered off from his father in North Carolina. His body has never been found and his Dad was charged with murder. I’ve even come across stories of teachers and special education specialists who have been charged with abuse - truly heartbreaking.
The statistics are alarming. Children with Autism are 2.5 times more likely to suffer abuse than children not on the spectrum, which equates to about 31% of all autistic children suffering some sort of abuse from their caregiver. Experts suspect that the abuse rates could be higher, largely since these children would have difficulty communicating to anyone in a position of authority.
It is difficult for parents with autistic children to navigate our complex health and social services systems. My wife and I have struggled to coordinate care for my son, with our health care system being so fragmented. We’ve wandered from PCP to Specialist to other Specialist and back to PCP. I can only imagine for parents in lower income brackets how challenging it must be to have an autistic child, coupled with a lack of education as to why their children behave the way they do. All North Americans
need to be more aware of the complexity associated with a child on the spectrum. These kids are not “acting up” or “misbehaving”. It’s a part of the condition and the factors that lead to these flare-ups are typically predictable. We would never admonish a child with cystic fibrosis with a “c’mon, man – just breathe”, or a dyslexic with, “just focus on the words, why don’t you?”. Children with autism should be afforded the same level of respect.