This is my biggest fear realized. Innocent children who cannot express themselves or defend themselves, being neglected, mishandled and abused by none other than their parents and for none other than WHO they are. The attached story of a 4 yo autistic boy kept in captivity by his parents and found soaking in his bodily excrement by the police will undoubtedly break your heart. The real scary part is that for every abuse case discovered many more go unnoticed.
Many more cases of autistic children abused by their care-givers will surface and are happening now. The reasons vary from parental ignorance to a distorted attitude toward children and their role, to misconceptions about autism.
None of that is any excuse of course but there is a historic trend that needs correction. This brings me to the crux of the story. John Locke I have a bone to pick with you. You see the attitude toward children and their role was very unhealthy during the dark ages. Children were expected to work and contribute fully at a very young age, even younger than 6 yo. Many children used to die from the heavy burdens they had to carry and the long hours they worked. As progress took over europe, mr locke came up with another theory in the name of “progress”. His theory was that children are born without a personality and with no predisposition to certain areas of interest. He argued that children are what their parents shape them to be. While his theory cut down on child labor as adults started seeing the potential in shaping their children to fulfill dreams they could not fulfill, there was a dangerous side-effect of this attitude looming.
The interests of the parents were forced on children and many times these interests clashed with the child’s inborn interests and predisposition. This is where the modern day concept of child abuse comes from. A child who is non-responsive to a parent’s wishes or a child who simply does her own thing despite the parent’s urging to do otherwise. Based on the prevailing social understanding that children are supposed to follow their parents guidance no matter what, such non-conformist children were considered abnormal (erroneously of course) and treated badly or mistreated or abused physically, psychologically and sexually too.
These kids who had their own personality and wanted badly to customize their lives to their own liking were considered deviants and freaks and it became ok to abuse them as “a way to bring them back to society’s expectations”.
Even today unfortunately a majority of parents still believe their children should do whatever the parent determines is in the best interest of the child. Attention to the child’s own inclinations, notwithstanding. Many kids simply succumb to the routine and activities dictated to them, and hate them in silence. this creates hostility toward the parents and is manifested in a variety of ways. Some children go as far as cutting their parents off as teenagers. And people wonder to this day why teenagers rebel. It is a mystery alright.
Here is the worse part. What about the child who cannot defend herself, express her wants and needs or negotiate with or manipulate her parents into living her life according to her natural inclinations. These are the autistic and highly sensitive children. These suffer the most. They cannot get themselves to live according to their parents who are ignorant of their likes and dislikes and they cannot manipulate their parents to back off. This type of clash reflects badly on the child’s development and view of the world and of strangers. Inevitably continuing dictation by the parents will lead to temper flares and to mounting anxiety in the child which could negatively affect their life later on as adults too.
My clients always ask me what is wrong with a parent who wants to send her child to the best school, or have her join a multitude of costly after-school activities or send the child on certain camps. I always answer, but I am not the one who should answer that. Have you asked the child what she wants. or have we just assumed that the parents’ judgment is final. The truth is the child SHOULD be consulted on everything from choice of furniture in her room, to clothes to school to activities to everything else. And the child should NOT be forced to engage in any activity against her own will. The parent’s role s to monitor the child’s level of discomfort and try a new activity as soon as this discomfort is observed.