They never call restraint “violent behavior”.
They call flicking a paper clip “violent behavior”. They call snapping a pencil “violent behavior”.
They don’t call throwing a kid to the floor “violent”.
Our breaking is less important than that of a pencil.
Because, you cannot hurt an unperson. You cannot be violent to someone who doesn’t exist.
Because, when you are crazy, autistic, disabled, to exist in space is violent. To exist in space becomes an act of war.
Therapist: “Where does grandma work?” Little boy: “Um… she works at the house.” “No. Where does grandma work? Say ‘library’.” “Library.” “Whee! Now you get a starburst.”
This is not how you teach three year olds to communicate in language. Communicating is not about saying what you think other people want you to say. Communicating is about connecting thoughts to words the best you can and saying them (or typing them, or pick your pleasure). This is not how you teach a kid “the woman who gives me many cookies works in a big building full of stories, which is awesome” this is how you teach a kid “when people tell me “blah blah blah” I should say “blah blah BLEE blah”.” And this shows how, even “playful nice aversive-free” ABA is about having the kid be right, and not having the kid be a kid who mixes up “house” and “library”, or calls a library a “bookhouse”, or thinks Grandma’s “work” is baking him cookies. Don’t you want to say, “What does she do at the house?” and hear him say “Gives me cookies” and see him light up, and smile with him, or maybe he’ll tell you she stacks the books at the house and you can say “I think she does that at the library.” in a nice way, and also a way that actually teaches him something, because the way you’re doing it he just knows he’s wrong, and he doesn’t know why. Being a little kid shouldn’t be about wrong and right. If a kid tells you he’s found a portal to fairyland, you aren’t supposed to say “No”, you’re supposed to say “Take me with you”.
TW: abuse, therapy, abusive therapy, weird ways my brain works
So! I’m going to see a therapist. I don’t trust therapists. I have been to a ton of therapists, and even the ones who didn’t do things like throw kids on the ground or scream in our faces or twist our arms behind our backs have had a combination of these ideas: – Everything wrong with my family is my fault – Acting normal is a really important thing for me to do – I actually could do things I said I couldn’t do- I was just not motivated/too scared/a bad judge of my own limits (this one was occasionally true but not nearly as often as they thought it was, and the way they applied it was quite damaging) – My mom said (whatever the thing was) never happened; I must be lying/delusional/have trouble perspective taking, and a really important therapy goal should be to get me to realize that my mom was right about everything I could go on… (Note: I’m not saying there aren’t good therapists, and I’m not criticizing anyone who has chosen to go to therapy. If you’ve found a good therapist, I’m really happy for you.) And therapists are really good at manipulating people (I mean, therapy is about changing the way people think? So it can be a really powerful tool for good, and also a really powerful tool to misuse) and I’m super easy to manipulate a. to say what you want me to say in verbal communication, because of my scripting and low processing speed and general trouble saying what I mean in mouth-words and b. if you get me to dissociate first, because, how can I tell I’m not dreaming? How can I be sure I’m not eight? How do I know that it isn’t a good idea to put grape jelly in my ears? Okay, that’s sort of a ridiculous example, but in that state you could probably get me to put grape jelly in my ears if you wanted to, and, more seriously, you could convince me that I’m broken in whatever way and that I need to try and fix myself- and this kind of therapy has put me in long term mindwarps, and I’m afraid it will sometime put me in a permanent mindwarp. The thing is, there are some things therapy could really help me with, such as my terror of telling people things because I know I’m going to say everything wrong, or my assumption that anything anyone says to me or doesn’t say to me actually means “you’re a really horrible person and I don’t like you” (part of that may be because of past therapists telling me that people are just pretending to like me – I would love therapy to reverse previous therapy!) But, almost every time I’ve revealed information to therapists before it has been a really bad idea- can I tell you about the horrors of abusive-parent-and-abusive-therapist-work-together-to-abuse-kid? And that brings me to the fear that working with a therapist will make things get worse again. Because things have got better, so much better – I mean nothing has even been thrown in a long time- and I want them to stay better. But therapists tended to make my parents terrified that Really Bad Things would happen if they did not Control My Behavior and they also tended to suggests ways of Controlling My Behavior that involved, for example, slamming me into walls. (Can I tell you about therapist language. About how Escort To Safe Space can mean Drag Kid By Hair and no one but the parents-kid-therapist or just the kid-therapist can know it, and the parents-kid might not know it’s an unusual definition and no one will believe the kid.) I’m going to get a therapist because school says I have to or they won’t let me go to school anymore because they’re afraid I’m going to kill myself (look, I got practically kicked out of school and I did not get thrown into a wall, things are very safe and they need to stay safe (one of the things I wish a therapist would help me with is my reaction to safety being “I’ve-got-to-keep-this-I’ve-got-to-keep-this *golem voice* my preciouss safety! *knocks on every piece of wood in the room, tries even harder than before to be perfect, stops talking to safe people because I might say the wrong thing and make them stop being safe people, has panic attack because I know I’m going to ruin it*” (Yes, noticing that I’m safe actually causes me panic attacks. “No one has hit me in a while OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO DIE!” I have a very ironic brain.))) TL;DR: My school is making me get a therapist. I would put myself on the list of People Who Need Therapy except that therapy has never been anything but awful and damaging. I wish I could get therapy to reverse previous therapy.
When I was younger, I didn’t make much eye contact. When I looked into someone’s eyes, I saw the person- with all their thoughts and feelings and traumas big and small- laid out like a painting. Five seconds was time enough to take in information that would take half an hour to even start to digest.
So I went to therapy and social skills classes. I was told to make more and more eye contact. Like a room where ten people were talking at once, so much information came from the constant eye contact that it all got lost. Eventually I learned to shut off the part of me that took information from eye contact so I could make as much of it as my parents and teachers wanted.
Now I am, when not under stress, “almost normal” at appropriate eye contact. Eye contact doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s lost it’s value; that’s why I can give it away so freely. It used to be a window into a person’s heart. Now it’s just staring at eyeballs, their small circles of color and their larger blank white.
So yesterday my teacher – Mr. Math, let’s call him – who is usually very very easy going, cursed at a student and said he was going to keep us all after class (at the end he changed his mind and only kept the people who were actually being disruptive). At this point it occurred to me that Mr. Math was going to grab me and throw me and when I tried to use logic and tell myself I had never seen him do that and teachers at this school don’t do restraints, I thought that I had also never seen him curse before, and the logic just didn’t work. I also became unable to ask for a break, ask to use the bathroom, or ask for clarification on a math problem. I reverted back to the singular goal of Don’t Make Adults Mad or Something Horrible Is Going to Happen. Last week, when I had a panic attack, I asked to take a break and a teacher pretty much let me hide under her desk while I ate lunch. It was horrible – I kept thinking I was an awful person and I was going to die, I kept going hot and cold and hot and cold, and I could feel my heart beat making every single specific bone shake – but I talked myself through it and asked for help and did everything right because I was able to hold on to the fact that the adults were not going to hurt me and so my goal could be ending the panic attack instead of making sure adults didn’t hurt me. I think I figured out why it didn’t happen this time: I have, subconsciously, lists in my brain of things certain people do, when they like you or are angry with you or get worried about something or excited about a particular subject, etc. I also have lists – again, subconscious and deeply ingrained – of things certain classes of people do: police officers, teachers, little kids, adults. When Mr. Math did something that was not on the list of Things Mr. Math Does When Frustrated, I, subconsciously, went to the list of Things Teachers Do When Frustrated. This includes throwing kids, pinning them to the ground, screaming at them, “You’ll be crying by the time I’m done with you!”, Etc. The switch from list to list when Mr. Math acted out of character was not illogical. And it just doesn’t make any sense to me not to have violence on the list of Things Teachers Do – violence is a thing teachers do; I’ve seen many different teachers do it many different times. Maybe the problem is to categorize violence as something Special Teachers/Therapy Teachers/Behavior Modification Teachers/Special Ed Room Teachers do. I will be attempting to modify my database using this sub–list. There is also the problem of thinking that even nice people are going to make an exception and hurt me because I’m weird/bad/etc. This was basically what I was told and for a long time pretty much every adult I was around hurt me or threatened to (there were a couple who, thinking back on it, actually might have been safe people, but I thought they weren’t hurting me because I wasn’t being Bad) so I have to remind myself pretty much constantly that we are playing a different game now. It’s not dodgeball, it’s basketball, and if I get hit by the ball, it’s probably a mistake. (My list of Things Adults Do is a pretty big problem though.) (However, it seems like I don’t count writers as adults, so this is good.)
Trigger warning: abuse, discrimination, gas lighting
I am angry. Off the top of my head, I cannot think of an autistic person I know who has not been abused. I saw children thrown to the floor by screaming adults for rocking their chairs. By special ed teachers. So I sat still I had quiet hands I closed my mouth and chewed my tongue into corned beef and I went home and tore apart the skin that had been cinching tighter and tighter around me all day. They didn’t believe my friend who loved dressing up like a princess or my friend who loved computer programming or me. Oh, I finally thought of an autistic person who wasn’t abused. And another. Out of the dozens and dozens of autistic people whose memoirs/blogs I have read – autism is my “special interest”. (Oh, you said “special-interest” instead of “perseveration”. You get your disability positivity points for the day, now you can pat me on the head and call me a savant and have a nice little debate about whether I am real.) The thing is that my mom is the Perfect Advocate Parent. The thing is that she does this because she cares about me. The thing is that she does this all to teach me to be socially appropriate and to fix my behavior problems. The thing is that she kicked me over and threw me to the ground because she knew that I could sweep better than that, that I was actually refusing to sweep by saying I was doing the best I could, and that it is Not Okay to not do what an adult tells you to do – downright dangerous, in fact. That could generalize to me running out in the street or seriously hurting people or mouthing off to a police officer. (I got bruises from where she kept me safe.) I knew I deserved it because she ended her dragging me by the hair and twisting my arm by hugging me and forgiving me for making her do this. She’s a Good Parent. She was only following the plan. She was doing the best she could. I have PTSD. (So common as to be almost routine in autistic adults.) (When you’re autistic, it’s not abuse, it’s therapy.) More than 90%, it is estimated, of people with developmental disabilities will experience sexual abuse in our lives. I couldn’t find statistics for physical or emotional. If you are a teacher, or otherwise one of the Trusted Adults (registered trademark) of a disabled person, and they report something that sounds like abuse – it probably is. Even if they don’t report anything, they are probably being, or will be abused. Isn’t that terrifying? Aren’t you angry? All the therapists and autism experts or whatever didn’t believe us/believed anything was justified and even necessary so we wouldn’t end up murdering people/ending up in an institution (of course stigma and negative stereotypes don’t do any harm! You know you’d have to be retarded to think something like that!) Please stop teaching compliance. Please stop teaching compliance. Please believe us. (One of the major differences, often, between a person who experiences traumatic events and develops PTSD and a person who doesn’t develop PTSD is that the person who doesn’t develop it has a support system. Of people who talk about it with them. Who don’t say, that never happened, or, that’s all your fault.) (She was a Good Parent and I got bruises.) (90%. We are not alone.)