Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Media Has It Wrong About Autism And PTSD

In 2009, a study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison claimed that “autism moms” have PTSD like symptoms similar to combat veterans.   Recently,  a FOX station in Houston aired a story with an “autism mom” that claimed that “living in continual crisis”  with her Autistic child caused her PTSD like symptoms.  The story cited the earlier study.

There were many problematic aspects to this story.   


First of all, I don’t buy the whole “Warrior Mom” thing.   It’s gross.  It’s ableist and it’s incredibly disrespectful to your children.  The entire story didn’t even attempt to understand the point of view of the Autistic person.  These types of stories rarely do.  Her Autistic child is non speaking, and we are told that he is unable to communicate.   

I’m sorry, but everyone can communicate.  Unless you are dead or unconscious, you are able to communicate.  It might not be spoken language, but that doesn’t mean there is no communication.  It just means that the people around you aren’t working hard enough to make sure that you are being supported and understood.  Is that the fault of the Autistic person or the fault of the people who will only accept traditional, spoken forms of communication?  

It would be hard to pick apart EVERY offensive and ableist thing about this story, because there is just SO MUCH WRONG WITH IT.

Is parenting an Autistic kid hard?  


But so is parenting ANY kid.  Parenting is stressful. It is hard.  If parenting were without challenges and hardships, CHILDREN WOULD NOT NEED PARENTS TO RAISE AND GUIDE THEM. Supporting your kids is the right thing to do, even when it is difficult or stressful.  


It is literally the bare minimum that our kids deserve.  Parenting is not something that is easy, but that is not our children’s fault.   I have said it before, but parenting is a humbling experience.   We parents do not know everything, but it’s our job to do the best that we can without tearing our children apart because it’s harder than we thought it would be.   If we talk about our children as a burden and a crisis, we are not building them up or loving them unconditionally.  We are tearing them down and telling them that we are not in their corner, we are not on their side.  

It is the ultimate betrayal.  

I do want to talk about one thing in this story that is often ignored.  PTSD and autism are a real problem, but not because of what we do to our parents, but because of every Autistic adult I know, including myself, I don’t know one that does not have PTSD due to being treated like a burden or a problem that needed to be fixed for their whole lives.   That’s the story the media needs to tell.  The effects of “treatments” and therapies, the effects of being talked to your whole life like you are causing everyone around you to suffer.  The effects of never being good enough, even when you are doing your best.  Your best isn’t “normal”.  Your best is just being who you are, being Autistic, and it’s not enough.

When you treat your kids like they are a problem just for existing while Autistic, you are teaching them ableism.  They are internalizing it.  They are absorbing all of those messages about autism that you are telling the world.  Even if you don’t think they are, they are listening.   They are watching, they are hearing.   What kind of messages do you want them to learn about themselves?

What you tell the world about them is how the world will treat them.   If their own parents are telling people they are a burden and a crisis, why would complete strangers give a damn about them or their rights?   

Autistic people deserve better.  

Your kids deserve better.   

Image: Green text reads : "I have not met another Autistic person who did not have PTSD from being treated as a burden or a problem that needed to be fixed for their entire lifes. That's the story we need to be telling. Text is on olive green/light purple paisley background.


  1. I am an autistic person who does not have PTSD or anything like it! Because, you see, when I or my kid brother (also autistic) did anything that was not normal, my parents took it as proof that we were awesome. Like, oh, she's obsessed with history? Let's get her lots of books. Oh, she paces a lot? Well, she's a bookworm, so it's probably good exercise for her. Oh, she has issues with certain tastes and food textures (and they happen to be foods that other people in the family love)? Well, that's difficult, but we can spend years fiddling around with the recipes until we find something that everybody likes.

    1. Glad to hear that I'm not the only parent like this! (My Dad was this way also) His strongest comment?- that one was a "misunderstood genius"

  2. I appreciate your comments, read that article a few minutes ago and although I identified with it, I agree with your points.
    My father is autistic though his wife and kids (including me) are neurotypical. Growing up with him, I didn't know anything different. It never occurred to me his behaviours might be abnormal; I like to think we didn't cause him to internalize anything.
    Myself, however, grew up incredibly aware and damaged by my inability to please. Loud noises while driving, being disorganized, not answering him immediately, talking a lot - all examples of how my healthy neurotypical self and development suffered due to autism.
    Of course - I have nothing against people with it. I'm addressing the difference and not the person.

    1. The reasons that some of that bothered him might be because he is Autistic, but him treating you like your conflicting sensory experiences were a problem are more indicative of a lack of coping skills on his part. I am Autistic and loud noises bother me. Well, my child loves making loud noises. Conflicting access needs. We find ways to make it work and I never get upset with him for not being a mind reader or not knowing how sensory processing effects me differently than him. So, I do not think that autism is what made you suffer, but possibly your dad's lack of coping skills.