Before I started blogging about autism, the most controversial therapies I’d come across were ABA and the GF/CF diet. I knew there must be therapies I hadn’t heard of yet, but I had no idea they were in the hundreds, or how shocking some of those therapies would be.
Sometimes I discover that what I thought was an interesting and harmless therapy, is actually quite destructive and largely disproven, such as Facilitated Communication. I’ve also stumbled across some therapies that look like more extreme versions of therapies we already use with success with our son, that make me wonder where the line gets drawn; such as the way we use deep pressure with our son, but find “packing” highly disturbing.
Every so often I hear of a therapy that makes me wonder just how desperate and gullible some parents are, such as fecal transplants. I thought I was a desperate parent, but I will not try anything and everything in the unfounded hope that it will “cure” my son’s autism. Fecal transplants might sound just silly and gross, but they’re also dangerous.
Speaking of dangerous, I hadn’t heard of giving an autistic child chelation before I started blogging either.
If you’re not shocked enough yet – and maybe you’re not – then how about electric shock treatment, which is still being used today: Shocking autistic people many times a day as a behavioural intervention. To really understand all the horrors and abusiveness of this treatment, you’ll need to read about it for yourself. If you have experience with, and understand, autistic people, you will find it even more disturbing.
And just when you think you’ve heard it all (though by this point in my post you should know better than to think that), there’s chemical castration.
By now I should be desensitized to writing all of those therapies down, but they still deeply upset me. That anyone would consider doing these things to my own son, endangering his life, or seriously damaging his long-term mental and physical health, takes my breath away.
And yet, I do understand what those parents are thinking. From a parenting perspective, autism is hell, it is exhausting, and it can feel like a prison you’re locked into for the rest of your life. Those feelings are particularly deep and strong in that first year as you adjust to the diagnosis. During that time the parent is also very unlikely to have done previous research into autism therapies, and will be vulnerable and open to suggestions about how they might reveal the child they’d hoped to have.
Add to all that, the fact that just about any idea can be made to sound rational with enough sciencey talk and confidence in its presentation. Perfectly rational human beings get sucked into what look like utterly irrational acts, whether that be hurting other people or hurting themselves. Which is why we have to be ever vigilant, with a healthy dose of skepticism. Especially when we have seemingly limitless power and control over the bodies and minds of such vulnerable people. There seems to be no limit to “therapies”, so it is up to us to set our own limits.