If you’ve been on Twitter recently you may have seen the hashtag #stoptheshock trending internationally a couple of times. As an autistic person I am going to break it down for you and explain what it shows about the world.
The hashtag is a campaign to raise awareness about the fact that the ban on electrocuting autistic school children into obedience was overturned in a Federal US appeals court.
Yep, some teachers, with support of parents, sued for the right to torture children because their brains work differently. And they fucking won! God Bless America.
So now, thanks to the court ruling, teachers at a Massachusetts school can get on with strapping their students up to a taser pack and zapping them when they feel it is necessary, similar to a dog’s shock collar. The shock is triggered by a button the teachers carry with them at all times.
It sounds like a dystopian nightmare movie, but it is actually happening because that’s how scared the world is of disabled people.
The institution in favour of zapping austitic kids was argued the practice was ‘necessary’.
One example of ‘necessary use’ was when teachers shocked an 18 year old for refusing to take off his jacket and then continuously shocked him every time he screamed out in pain or when his limbs would move around and tense up. Things that wouldn’t be fucking happening if the teen wasn’t being tortured!
I studied teaching and currently work in childcare where I look after some autistic kids. I am going to be honest here and say that at no point have I thought ‘you know what I need to do my job? A taser’.
I have seen movies about non-autistic people. I understand that neurotypical (not autistic) people often have trouble understanding people. I get it. Non-autistic people often don’t realise that their actions hurt people. For some reason, they can even get offended by the term ‘autistic’, and are often scared by us. But that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to tase children.
And hey, I get it. Sometimes it can be tricky to get kids to listen, and sure they might flinch every time you reach for the taser button, but, even so, that doesn’t mean you should fucking torture them.
In saying that, I want to make it clear that other popular solutions aren’t great either, even if ‘advocacy groups’ back them. Most of the biggest advocacy groups don’t hire autistic people and consider autistic people to be a ‘problem’.
ABA therapy (Applied Behavioural Analysis) is used internationally and has been championed by some of the biggest autism advocacy groups for its results in teaching autistic people to ‘hide their autism’, in a way that experts refer to as ‘Autism Conversion Therapy’.
‘Curing Autism’ is the other big one, which might not sound bad until you find out they don’t mean medication or something along those lines. They mean eugenics, sorry ‘selective breeding and gene altering to remove autism’, which totally isn’t eugenics and totally isn’t how the Nazis wanted to deal with autism.
There are actually things you can do to help autistic people instead of punishing us instead. On the ChangeMakers podcast, Autism advocate Robyn Steward actually goes through some of the simple ways and reasons to work with autistic needs.
While all autistic people are different, some of the common issues and solutions can be super useful. Things as simple as explaining something differently, being less noisy or taking breaks from work can be massively helpful.
And to any trigger-itchy tasery American teachers reading this: no, shocking an autistic kid is not one of the suggestions, you fucking monsters. ‘Things the UN has declared torture should actually stay out of the classroom’ is a phrase I really shouldn’t need to use, but hey that’s how the world works. #StopTheShock.
(This article was produced in collaboration with the ChangeMakers podcast – you can listen to the episode with Autism advocate Robyn Steward here.)
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