The Dark Side of Autism

Ariana Grande, in her piece, Thirteen Reasons Why, said she was trying to be so “real”. The revenge fantasy followed too many stereotypes to be real. The plot was a Nancy Grace “True Crime” episode about a victimized suburban white girl. As a religious man, I can say that God weeps just as much for a dead orphan in an Afghani refugee camp as he does Gabby Petito. That series participated in the grand tradition of imbuing worthiness to victims deemed not by need but by cuteness. Pandas need not fear extinction but the next penicillin to aid in our species’ struggle against antibiotic resistance, some microscopic fungus, is losing the biodiversity beauty contest of the conservation movement. That series omitted any Special Ed class, a lot like most shows set in any school ever. The volume of saline dropped for the weakest victims in the schools is far, far, less. What happens to special needs people happens in darkness and without much sympathy. When they cry, society doesn’t care that much. It would just as much chuck you away in the hole where it stuffs its other un-shiny misfits.

            What is the dark side of special ed the media neglects to show? I am much higher-functioning now than I was in high school and many people believed I had not a neurological condition but an intellectual disability, or, more crudely, that I was clinically retarded. So, I was exploited to a great degree. The most common form of bullying I experienced was “circus monkey” bullying where my social blindness was used to have me humiliate myself through singing, dancing, or something else for the amusement of my peers. This happened at Wando, in my neighborhood, and also with a few cliques of Ashley Hall girls. I was actually invited to perform at the Ashley Hall talent show, as basically a “circus monkey”. A video of which was uploaded to Facebook. It was also on that basis I was nominated for Homecoming King, although I lost the election. 

            This article does not permit me the word count to detail the psychological symptoms of such experiences but suffice to say there was PTSD and depression and it did the opposite of help my social skills. Although, it was not the most acutely sadistic form of abuse I suffered. That would have been the vigilante bullying. You see, when you’re on the spectrum, you make minor social mistakes and this means two things. The bullying can be justified as punishment and you can’t report the bullying lest they counter-tattle. That moral pretext and impunity leads to ever more disgusting acts. It was in that context where I was urinated on, had rocks thrown at me, had exorcisms performed on me after I was accused of being demonically possessed, boys showed me the tips of their penises by pulling up their shorts, and more.

            Had I been able to get them in trouble, I would have declined to. I did not want them to refrain from hurting me out of fear but to treat me with kindness out of love. The problem was not a lack of anti-bullying policies but a lack of empathy and sophistication with which to instill that empathy. I would never have pressed charges against them with the law or through any school conduct system. Rather, I would have had them work with disabled people as community service to teach empathy toward my people. I would have created programs that decreased the insularity of cliques and increased the neurodiversity of friend groups which would greatly decrease prejudice and bullying. The first way to reduce unkindness between people is to increase the diversity of their contacts and connections. 

            I was sadistically abused at Wando, in Mount Pleasant, and even at the College of Charleston (that’s for another article). But unlike Thirteen Reasons Why, I would not relish my abusers’ being humiliated for their past sins or punished in any way. That’s not the beautiful way to end this. Hatred cannot drive out hatred, only love can do that. I forgive all of them. No, I want progressive and scientific policies and programs to help people have more empathy for people with disabilities. Another point is our institutions lack any infrastructure to handle the PTSD from such things which, for me, has been very severe. However, that is for another article. 


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