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When My University Class Promoted Harmful Myths About Autism

I chose to study a psychology degree as the first step to becoming a counselor after I had experienced many mental health issues. One of the mental health disorders I live with, but I certainly don’t suffer from, is Asperger’s. Given this, I thought taking an autism module would be interesting. I thought it would go in-depth about the causes and up-to-date treatments. Instead, I was met with a classroom that deemed the R-word acceptable and a lecturer who was confused when I confronted her about calling a meltdown a tantrum — yet I am glad I took this module.

For six months I sat in a lecture hall listening to outdated studies and common sense with references attached being passed off as worth my nine grand a year in tuition fees. For six months I happily got into arguments with my lecturer in front of the class. This class was taught in a very “us vs. them” style and I was not going to stand for it. I spoke out about inaccuracies, about the use of the R-word, about the advertisement of horrific unethical charities and about how we don’t want or need a cure. I got to speak out to a classroom of students willing to learn and help the autism community, many of who would not have assumed to see how wrong this teaching was.

I also saw how good people are. I saw countless students talk through the lectures, calling out the taught “interventions” as torturing children until they become “normal-passing” and “recover.” I saw just how many people going into this field are willing to ignore teachings that are unkind and unfair. I got to see firsthand how the next generation of psychologists are sweet people who won’t take on board teachings that degrade individuals like myself.

Funnily enough, I don’t think my views will align in such a way that I will be able to pass this exam, and I don’t plan on writing what I have been told to write just to get a good grade. Of course, we are told there are no right and wrong answers, it’s how you argue it, but I think anyone who has had a lecturer like this will know how untrue this tends to be.

I am not going to nod my head along just to get by. I am going to write a well backed-up answer that reflects how I feel the autism world should be viewed. I will write about how research does not support the idea that more men than women “get” autism, that it is not over-diagnosed, and that most of the “research-supported interventions” are cruel. I will use well-published researchers to show the world of autism as it is, and they will have to choose whether to mark me fairly and accept my views and maybe think about their teaching just a little bit, or to mark me down for my views, rather than marking me down for my genuinely appalling dyslexic ramblings.

If I fail this exam, I know it won’t be my learning techniques or dyslexic memory landing me in trouble this time — it will be the things I believe in the most. That’s why despite all the anxiety and stress I feel for this upcoming exam, I absolutely will not be sad if I fail. I will know I wrote what I felt, and that is enough for me.

P.S. If my lecturer reads this, I do think you are a kind person and willing to listen, but your teachings are not autism-friendly. I hope you take this on board and don’t hate me too much for saying it. Also please take out the R-word and the sexist parts from your teaching. No one believes that BS anymore.

Getty photo by Image Source.

Originally published: October 28, 2020
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