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Autistic People and Infantilization

Autistic+People+and+Infantilization
London Graves

People are treating autistic people like babies without knowing. More often than not, neurotypical people may find themselves using a sing-songy tone, talking slow and over-pronouncing words, and smiling widely while talking to autistic people. Funny enough, this is the same way they talk to babies. Why do they do this?

 

Research states that the public often envisions a disabled person as a child rather than an adult, and when it comes to articles or organizations talking about autism, 95% of the time it has a child as the cover. When there are autistic characters in media, a good majority of the time they’re children, and are four times more likely to exist than an autistic adult. There’s been a point where people genuinely believe autism is a childhood disability and that there’s no such thing as autistic adults. Let’s think of an example as to how this stigma can impact autistic adults in this day and age.

 

Damien is autistic. Damien has always had trouble adjusting to new schedules, dealing with loud noises, and talking to people. He can’t handle wearing certain textures or eating certain foods. However, he can’t show any of this without being deemed as weird, and often “masks” to seem “normal”, or neurotypical. Any of these listed things prior can cause him to have a breakdown, and often Damien has to go into a separate, more quiet room to calm down. Damien loves anatomy, and can spend hours on end talking about the human body, as well as his own. He also loves psychology and owns many books dedicated to mental health, illnesses and disorders people may have. Damien’s a nurse, and helps out patients by jotting down their symptoms, administering medication, and helping the patient’s family feel more comfortable in the hospital setting.

 

If Damien were to discuss his autism to a patient, more likely than not, the patient will suddenly refuse to let him care for them, say he’s not ready for the job, and ask for another nurse to assist them throughout their entire stay. If Damien were to discuss his autism to a coworker, the coworker will begin to treat him like a child and will take care of his tasks without him knowing. Damien is a fifty nine year old man, and is a victim of the infantilization of autism.

 

Many autistic people, including myself, are victims of this ignorance and stigma. The stereotype that all neurodiverse people are socially distant, helpless and outright stupid are many things others have thought was real and in every single autistic person. Many people even try to baby autistic people in order to feel like a caretaker, or a better person, since they’re ‘so helpless’. That is, in fact, far from the truth. Some autistic people are extroverted and loud, others are smart and are even advanced in media that some haven’t even recognized prior, and ALL of us are able to take care of ourselves.

 

Autistic people are people, despite so many people treating us otherwise. Autistic people aren’t the only ones experiencing this; it has been disabled people/neurodivergent people all over the world. Not many talk about the ableism and babying they experience, but that all needs to be visible and treated starting right now.

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