Maybe I understood you perfectly

[TW: Seclusion/Restraint]

Draw closer – I have a story to tell you…

An article was recently published which alleges that a box was constructed for the seclusion of Autistic people at a site operated by Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect), which is one of Australia’s autism service providers. They say they’re the largest and they probably are because they’ve gobbled up other smaller service providers. If you want the details of the box, complete with an awful photograph of said box, you can refer to the original article.

Of course, Aspect went into damage control mode and issued a nonpology, and their Facebook page exploded with the expected outrage, but that’s really just to provide some context to the story that I want to tell you.

It went like this, a parent commented saying:

On the whole “in the box” issue I have to say I’m torn. What is abuse for US and NT children isn’t necessarily abuse for a child with autism or sensory needs. My son is considered quite low functioning and quite often takes himself to walk in robe, turns off the light and just sits there. I think the difference is that he chooses this himself. Done in a respectful way the idea of having somewhere for kids that need this type of thing for calming reasons can actually be a type of therapy. Again, I’m torn – I do like to think that people in the industry have only the best interest of their clients in mind and hope this is the case in this instance.

Um, what? Apparently you can abuse Autistic people because they might not be like the rest of the Real People?

So, a few people called her out on that because Autistic people are still people and abuse is still abuse.

Her reply:

You have clearly misinterpreted my meaning.

I said I reserve judgement because I do not know in what capacity this “box” was intended.

If it was for restraint or discipline then obviously that is abuse to any person or thing!

As stated, my son enjoys and seeks out small areas and dark enclosed places as he finds calmness and peace there. If there was a “box” or room or area provided for him to seek this out of HIS OWN choice then that’s a whole different situation.

And I’m sorry but what I do with my son with autism and what was done with my other children are different. I would never have dreamed of restraining my other children when outside at age 7 – and in many people’s opinion it would be seen as abuse to have a harness on a 7 year old or have him restrained in a pusher when he is able to walk. But if I didn’t do it he would be straight into the road.

I have discussed this issue with many friends today who also have kids with similar challenges like my son – as one friend said many people would quite rightly call it abuse to physically hold down a child – but for her son when he is at his worst meltdown stage will be harming himself if she didn’t hold him.

It’s not a black and white issue.

At this point, it’s probably important to point out that the box had a lock on the outside, so I think we can all draw our own conclusions about what the intended use of the box was.

But, here’s the thing: People will often say “You didn’t understand me!” or as in this case “You have clearly misinterpreted my meaning” when their meaning was not misinterpreted, they were not misunderstood – they were just plain wrong.

The funny thing about statements like “You misunderstood me” is that people who say that generally proceed to re-state their original point but they expand on it which shows that their thinking on the issue is not just wrong – but really wrong.

I could dissect all the wrong in her response above, but I think (or I hope) it is obvious to anyone who reads it.

What I want to say is this: before you tell people that they misunderstood you, ask yourself whether they understood you perfectly, but you were just wrong.

Abuse of people, regardless of neurology, is wrong. It is a black and white issue, and there are no grey areas.