The Abuse of Autistic People

Filed Under (Activism, Inclusion, Safety) by Estee on 14-10-2010

As Adam begins to get older and the more options that become available to him, like overnight camps and aide workers, I am more attuned to the many stories I hear regarding the abuse of autistic people. There was a time when Adam and this blog were younger, that I had followed a website that tracked nearly every case of murder and abuse. It’s hard to get wrapped up in that for too long. One has to know when to look and when to carry on. There is fear and then there is awareness.

I never bought into the “recovery” model of autism — that the onus was on us and our children to “become normal.” To blame the autistic person or a family for a child not being able to talk is ludicrous and unsupportive. Rather, I believe we have to keep aware of the many cases where vulnerability lies, and provide the finanical support so that families can hire the aides they trust. While nothing is fool-proof and many of our children can be susceptible to abusers, autistic or not, it is helpful when parents have the right to choose a school aide or any type of support worker. A parent or primary caregiver should have the right to turn down someone they do not feel comfortable with. I say this because many children are ascribed workers and Educational Assistants here in Ontario. It might be assumed that if one needs financial support, then one must accept the individual ascribed to them. If it’s an issue for the family, that is if they want to change the worker, there seems to be a lot of red tape. I want to reiterate that the right to a support worker, that both the autistic and the family are comfortable with and trust, is an accommodation and should therefore be a right for autistic individuals.

More and more, I believe that autistic people, including our non verbal children, and parents must be central to the process in building our support teams. As I’m seeking camps and other activities for Adam to grow more independent and enjoy his life, I want to try my best to ensure he is protected. I’m not sure I can at all times, and maybe that is the most frightening part. Yet, Adam can indicate to me when he’s distressed by virtue of his behaviour. Just transitioning to a new home and a new school, he indicated to me that it was very difficult by body-jerking and losing some of his words. He was disorganized and needed more physical stimulation. He also expressed more repetitive behaviours during this time. Of course, Adam is still learning how to communicate in a typical way by typing on his computer and his devices.

These behaviours, however, were such important examples for me to see how Adam can express himself during stressful times. It is something I am tuned into now as he grows older and perhaps will express other distressing things to me where he needs more of my intervention and support.

For more reading material on autistic abuse see


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.