But less well documented and certainly less talked about is the fact that rates of suicidal thoughts are 28 times higher among autistic children than among their typically developing peers. Twenty-eight times higher. Let that sit with you for a moment. Autistic kids are 28 times more likely to consider ending their life than are non-autistic kids. That's devastating.
Different explanations for these statistics are thrown out there. Bullying is certainly an issue. I'm really thankful for the Day of Silence campaign, the It Gets Better Project, and the StopBullying.gov website. The first two are specifically dedicated to bringing awareness of anti-LGBT bullying, as well as providing hope. I'm thankful for this, and I think the It Gets Better Project has done a lot of good. It's exciting to see so many celebrities and even President Obama get on board with this.
Anti-autism bullying is prevalent too, and seems to be a likely cause for the higher rates of suicidal ideation. I wish that there would be campaigns out there to bring awareness to this. If it's true that 1 in 88 children (or whatever the current stat is) have ASD, then I feel like this should be a pressing issue, a significant need. I hope that one day it will be.
So yes, bullying is an issue. But honestly? I think most of these suicidal thoughts and attempts can be prevented simply by having an accepting and supportive home environment. If kids know that they have a safe base at home where their parents and siblings will provide love and encouragement, I think that this wouldn't be nearly the issue it is.
However, the fact of that matter is that many times the home is where these kids receive the least amount of unconditional acceptance. It is a well known fact that many LGBT youth face rejection from their families, and are often evicted from their homes.
This post was inspired by the fact that I recently heard a dad say about his autistic daughter, "I wish we had a normal child." Read that again: I wish we had a normal child. When I heard this, I was so angry I couldn't even speak. You know what's worse? This kind of sentiment among autism parents is very common. You won't always hear them saying straight up that they want a normal kid (but sometimes you will!). What you often hear is that they "hate what Autism has done to my child" or "Autism stole my child from me" or "I wish my child wasn't autistic" or "we need to fight for a cure for Autism." All of these things have the same thing at the core: non-acceptance of their autistic child.
You see, Autism can't be separated from a person. Wishing for a non-autistic child is wishing for a different child. It's refusing to accept and love the child for who they are. Autism doesn't steal children. Autism isn't a leech or a disease that reeks havoc on people. Yes, autistic children will be different from allistic (non-autistic) children, but different is not less.
Trust me, autistic children know when their parents don't love them for who they are. Even though we might not read every single bit of body language, we're not stupid when it comes to things like this. That sort of daily rejection of one's personhood very often leads to depression, which can lead to despair, which can lead to suicide.
Statistic don't lie. And these statistics that I cited today should be very sobering. They are to me. Especially because they relate to my two communities--the LGBT community and the Autistic community. These are my people. These are good people. And they deserve to be loved. And accepted. And cherished. They deserve to know that they have an unalienable right to life.
So please, for the love of the children, do what you can to make sure that these minority kids know that we need them, and we love them, and the world is a better place with them in it.