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When I Saw the TikTok 'Autism Challenge' as the Parent of a Child on the Spectrum

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Bullies are bored.

In the recent “Autism Challenge” videos on TikTok, users are shown mocking people with disabilities, specifically using sounds and gestures to mimic those with autism. These people are making fun of kids like my 6-year-old son, and I am not OK with it.

Lauren with her son. He is wearing noice-canceling headphones.

What is funny about someone struggling to get their basic wants, needs and feelings across? Someone who cannot say when their stomach hurts, or that they feel hungry, tired or sad?

The people shown in these disgusting “Autism Challenge” videos take simple things like communication for granted. They are at home making videos about how people like my son move, jump, flap, bounce and dance to express themselves. We are supposed to laugh and be entertained? Well, we are not.

And let me tell you, we are not bored.

Lauren's son drawing

We are struggling. The safety of routine in my boy’s world was ripped away by quarantine, something we have found impossible to explain to him via visuals or a social story.

We are here trying to help him manage meltdowns, working on food therapy, language development, self-care, co-regulation and self-calming skills.  We continue to work on safety in our home with hopes to get back to working on safety out in the community soon.

We are here, painfully watching a 6-year-old battle anxiety. We are his calm in the storm of aggression, self-injury and fear.

This kid is not bored.

He puts in work all day, every day. He is resilient. He is tough. He is smart, curious, brave, gentle, kind and he understands much more than he can say. He has more heart than those mindless Tik Tok “Autism Challengers” probably ever will.

Thankfully, for now, these videos break my heart, not his.

It completely devastates me that he will eventually cross paths with ignorant people like this.

We need to do better.

I am talking to my fellow parents. The most appalling part of this video challenge was the parents’ involvement. Some were behind the camera and some were even participating in the mockery.

We need to teach our children that their words and actions carry weight. They affect people, they can hurt people.

We need to show our children how to stand up and use their voice when they see people mistreated.

Inaction is easy. When we advocate together, change will happen.

Lauren's son, black-and-white image.

This story originally appeared on Wilson’s Climb.

Originally published: May 24, 2020
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