Tuesday, July 23, 2013

For the love of the children

If you pay attention to the news at all, you've probably read about at least one gay teen who committed or at least attempted suicide. It is well documented that suicide rates among LGBTQ youth are significantly higher than among the general population. While reviewing research literature that would comprise the backbone of my senior research proposal, I was shocked by how many studies show that sexual and gender minority youth are at such a greater risk for suicide and substance abuse. It's heartbreaking. 

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.


  1. Yes!!! very Very true!!!! I loved this! I hate those sayings too. So depressing. We do not need a cure- we need acceptance:)!

    1. I thought you might like this. :) Thanks for commenting and I'm glad we're on the same page with all this!!

  2. I wish this concept was talked about more in the public schools, and autistic guest speakers were invited to campuses to talk about their bullying issues. If autistics cannot get the kind of acceptance they need in their homes, it is up to the schools to direct them to a safe environment where they feel they can belong. "Autism Awareness" clubs never help much, all they do is cause NTs to pity autistics, which is next to the last thing we need.

    1. Yes. This. Very, very good points. Most public schools have such a long way to go when it comes to understanding autism and their autistic students. If autistic kids aren't getting support at home or at school, this is a recipe for disaster.

  3. You should read http://www.autreat.com/dont_mourn.html, it was written in 1994 and contains many of the same sentiments you bring forward. Its still an ongoing battle for us to be accepted just for who we are.


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