Thursday, January 28, 2010

Blaming Autism

Frustrated by an autistic student who had fallen down, Akron school aide Ingram Myers dragged the young man "50 to 100 feet" by his ankles through the school hallway. This is not the first time Myers has been investigated for harming a student. In 2004, he was accused of striking a high school student, and was subsequently transferred to his current position. He has been placed on paid leave pending investigation of the January 14 incident involving the autistic child.

"I really want to see that this aide is not only removed from the school district but from his place of employment," Powers-Fabian [the student's mother] said. "Something should be done criminally so that they're (sic) something on his record so that he cannot work with this population in a school district."

Who is to blame? According to Kim Stagliano at Age of Autism, well, of course, you to blame. "As the numbers explode," she writes, "expect more horror stories of abuse and neglect." She is certain the solution to such actions is to eliminate autism. Protecting autistic children from harm is as simple as removing the behaviors associated with the disability. Isn't it?
Minority populations have always been vulnerable to abuse by those intolerant of difference. Take away autism (as if that were even remotely possible), take away the behaviors that make a person autistic (problably some annoying person would still fall down), and abusers will easily turn to another target. For the record, I disagree not only with Stagliano's position, but with Ms. Powers-Fabian's assessment as well. It is not enough to protect "this population" from violent acts perpetrated by unethical authority figures. All human beings deserve better.
"Blaming the disability" is no more than "blaming the victim" dressed up in charity model clothing. The issue here isn't autism. The issue is the abuse of power, and how this abuse is supported and enabled by views asserting, however covertly, that some people are less worthy, less valuable than others.


  1. Blaming victims has got to be one of the vilest of all attitudes.

    Btw, your link to "Charity Model" is broken, may I suggest this one?

  2. Thanks, Kowalski! That one is much better than the one I had used anyway.

  3. Wow Bev, that's terrible. No wonder we all celebrate vigilantes like Batman as heroes... our legal system is a mess.

  4. We live in barbaric times, and future generations will look back in horror disgust, and disbelief at our villainy.

  5. And musing how much better things are now, conveniently denying or ignoring all the stuff that is still horribly wrong, as so many people do now too, regarding our own time and times past.

  6. Awesome post, as usual!

    Blaming the perceived lack of power--whether it's a disability, a weakness, a difference, or any other targeted trait or characteristic--would be silly, if it weren't so damaging. Blame, if it must be placed, is on the abuser, the authority that put the abuser in a position to abuse (which, in this case, would be the school system), and those who did nothing to stop the abuse (how can someone be dragged 50 to 100 feet in a school and nobody stops it?).

    But would it not be better to fix the problem, instead of fixing the blame? For even if this person is let go, another will come if the problem is not solved.

  7. Thanks, Stephanie, I agree with you, the problem here is systemic, not individual. And it's not just the schools. Abuse in the workplace, in group homes and institutions, all is permitted to exist through the implicit consent of all who do nothing to put an end to it. I appreciate your comments on this post.

    ASpieboy, I do very much hope that you are right and that the time will come sooner rather than later.

  8. horrified by that story

    cant say anymore as still shocked

    i love your blogs xx

  9. "Abuse in the workplace, in group homes and institutions, all is permitted to exist through the implicit consent of all who do nothing to put an end to it."

    And that's what makes spreading these stories so important. As hard as they are to read, I hope someone reads them that has stood aside in the past, but finally gets the clarity of thinking and the courage to stand up.

    So much abuse is perpetuated simply because nobody considers it to be their responsibility to interfere. It is. It's anyone and everyone's responsibility to step in and stop it when they see it.


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