Wednesday, 2 March 2016

TV Depictions of Autism (Spoiler for Blacklist)

Dave and I are terribly behind on our PVRed shows, so those who watch live TV probably saw this a few weeks ago.  The Blacklist featured a woman who "kidnapped" kids with special needs (their parents paid her to make it appear that the children died) and then when they reached puberty, she killed them.  Her reasoning was that they needed to remain innocent and if they were allowed to grow up, then they would have horrible, miserable lives and it was thus a mercy to prevent that.

Some of the kids were blind, some were deaf, and according to a brief snippet of dialogue, about half had autism.

This is the third show I've seen recently which featured parents paying someone to get rid of their autistic child.  Criminal Minds and Law and Order: SVU also did shows where parents couldn't cope, so they paid someone to take away their child.

Now, I'm certainly not going to pretend that raising a child with autism is easy.  I won't even pretend not to have doubts about what kind of quality of life is possible.  But I am darn well objecting to a portrayal of autism as the equivalent of a worse-than-death sentence.

Even House had an episode where a severely autistic child was deathly ill and someone commented that the parents didn't look happy when he was cured.  The response was basically that they didn't have anything to look forward to, their life sentence was just continuing.  

Parents do have difficulty coping, particularly since there are very few support options.  It can be morale- and spirit-breaking work.  It's exhausting and endless, and that's if you're doing it right.  Maybe these shows are trying to raise some support and awareness for the challenges that families go through.  Or maybe they're just trying to cash in on some sensationalism and autism is a trendy topic right now.

I will always object to anyone who classifies my children as doomed or as a nightmare which needs to be escaped from.  Perhaps it's just an inherent mama-bear instinct as I can't deny any of the particulars.  But for me, my emotional math ends up at quite a different sum than theirs.

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