Louis Theroux on Autism
I was just watching this show on iPlayer. I am afraid I am in England so it may not be available in the States though you may be able to find it by googling an alternative posting. Anyway, having mild Asperger’s that was never diagnosed during school, partly because it is so mild and partly because they hadn’t invented the category when I was very young, one thing immediately occurred to me. I am incredibly intolerant of other people most of the time. I can totally interact because I have spent 39 years learning to act normal and also a little medical help, but I would be able to tolerate the people in these schools even less than I could tolerate neuro-typical people.
At first I thought that I was just being insensitive and was not going to say anything but then they showed a kid, Nicky, who was a lot worse than me (though far more accomplished) and at one point he said ‘did you see that?’ When asked ‘what?’ he said, ‘a kid having a hissy fit. That is exactly why I shouldn’t be here.’ I thought that if he felt the same way then I couldn’t be wrong. Essentially what I am saying is that this way that autistic kids are put into special schools is not the best way to deal with them. Of course they need a different type of education but I don’t think they need a different kind of environment. I would suggest that in many instances what they actually need is to have the same environment as the rest of us.
I suppose as Nicky was progressing onto a normal school that this is what they are working towards. I just feel that there must be a more humane system for them. The problem is how kids like these are treated by other people, that is one of the reasons they have to be put apart. It is a thorny issue. A lot of them will be held back by trying to develop in such surroundings but I imagine others may not even notice. Perhaps the answer would be to more finely delineate the differences between them in order to judge the environment in which they should learn. One thing I particularly disliked was the fact that Nicky was seen to graduate from autistic school to normal school. Of course one of the things that anyone with a form of autism probably has difficulty with is change. What can be a bigger, more traumatic change than moving from one type of school to another? Nicky should not be the one who has to put up with a change like this. The system should change so as to make his change of environment unnecessary.
The autistic should not be segregated. I know it is supposed to be for their own good but I think that is only part of the motivation. A larger part of the motivation is convenience for the people who have to deal with them. Modern techniques of dealing with autism are still relatively primitive, perhaps in time they will find a better way. I hope so.