Tag Archives: sexual abuse

Sparrow Rose Jones’ E-Book

Sparrow Rose Jones wrote an e-book No You Don’t: Essays From an Unstrange Mind that is now available on Amazon.  The title comes from a powerful essay she wrote on her blog – Unstrange Mind –  in response to the many parents who have told her how they would like nothing more than to have their autistic child grow up to be like her.  Sparrow writes:

“I used to say, “I hope she’s much better off than I am,” or simply, “no, you don’t,” but over time I learned that parents refuse to accept that answer.  Maybe they think I’m doing that social thing where someone compliments you and you are expected to refuse the compliment a time or two, finally accepting it but maintaining your veneer of humility.  Or maybe they’re just baffled.  But sometimes they even got angry so I finally learned that I should answer, “thank you.  That’s very kind of you to say.”  Reinforced behavior — reinforced by social censure if I dare give the wrong response.”

Sparrow writes,

“… what I wish to come from this book:  a recognition of the shared humanity we all enjoy and a sense of connection among people coming together across a wide gap of experiential realities.”

And again from the essay – No, You Don’t:

“… they think, “my child is non-verbal.  My child goes to school and crawls around on the floor, meowing like a cat.  My child still wears diapers while all her same age peers have been toilet trained.  My child bites and hits people.  My child bites and hits herself.” And so on.

“Then they hear that I was many of those things, myself.  I was kicked out of the classroom for crawling on the floor and hiding under the tables.  My first grade teacher said I was “mentally retarded” and petitioned (successfully) to have me removed from her classroom.”

Further along she writes:

“I was raped.  I was abused — domestically and otherwise.  I was molested.  I was taken sexual advantage of.  I want you to teach your children to say no and I want them to know how to mean it and back it up when they say it.  I want you to teach your children to value themselves and I want you to teach them to own their bodies.”

Sparrow writes about how she lives in “crushing poverty”, how she has spent a great deal of time homeless, couldn’t keep a job,and was “unable to consistently keep a roof over my head or food to eat.

In her follow-up to her No, You Don’t essay she writes about the response she received because of it.  “There was a small group of people, though, who read my essay and became angry.”  She describes how she was attacked by parents of autistic children, “I felt like I was being punished for writing and all that compliance training kicked in as a result.  I closed down my blog.  I became physically ill from the stress and shame and ended up in the emergency room more than once as a result.

The next essay is called “Bullies, Bullying, and the Struggle to Speak My Heart”.  The first sentence of that essay is:

“Bullies have been one of the most constant things in my life.”

Sparrow writes:

“An Autistic kid who is behaving in a violent manner is an Autistic kid who is seriously suffering on a daily basis and needs a lot of help.  And being able to speak doesn’t always mean that a kid will be able to tell you what is wrong.”

There are too many wonderful essays in this e-book to quote in one short post.  Sparrow writes honestly with tremendous compassion for all of us.  She ends her beautiful collection of essays with this:

“May my journey of self-discovery inspire you to journeys of your own.  Where there is life, there is hope.  Autistic lives do not always look the way you might expect or hope they would look, but you must keep a sharp eye out for the tender flowers as you travel and you must understand that Autistics often bloom in surprising and exquisite ways.  Don’t try to shape us to your garden or we may wilt.  Enjoy and foster our own, unique beauty in all its fierce wildness and you will find your heart and your truest reward there.”

No You Don't

The Insidiousness of Prejudice

A year ago, I would have gone to a parent/teacher conference and not thought twice about my daughter being in the same room while we spoke about her.  Six months ago, I knew enough to know that she understood what was being said even if she didn’t indicate that she did and would move to another room or arrange for child care during a conference so she would not be present.

This morning I received a passionate comment from someone who was responding to another comment about parent/teacher conferences.   You can see the whole comment by going to yesterday’s post, but she ended with this:

“These things can ONLY happen in context of a culture of acceptance of the exclusion of Autistic people from discussions about our own lives, and of acceptance of the ‘need’ to speak of us in negative inaccurate terms because that supposedly fulfills some ‘need’ that will bring us help and support. It doesn’t EVER bring us the support we actually need because negative inaccurate information ‘about’ us means any support is founded in untruth and therefore is not help and support of US as the ACTUAL human beings we are.

PLEASE, if you truly want to help Autistic people, stand up for our right to be part of the conversation about our own lives from a VERY young age. Advocating FOR us is GREAT, but ONLY if the purpose of that is to support us in our SELF-advocacy… and to put pressure on professionals to accept OUR voices and OUR choices as the determining forces in OUR lives.”

My initial reaction was a defensive one.  My first thought was – but children are never present at parent/teacher conferences.  And then I realized that isn’t true.  My son Nic is asked to attend our parent/teacher conferences and has been required to attend them since he entered middle school (the fifth grade, the age Emma is now).  My second thought was, but what if one of her teachers or an aide said something awful about Emma in front of her, what if they spoke of her in language that would be hurtful?  I can’t control how others speak.  But then I realized that were this to happen in my son’s presence I would not hesitate in saying something in front of him to that person.  I would correct them and tell them why it was unacceptable and he would hear this and understand that this person was wrong in speaking this way about him.  Then I thought, but wait, we might need to discuss topics that might make her sad, things about self-injurious behaviors or how she ran out into the hallway and it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to hear these kinds of conversations, but again I thought of my son and realized how we would include him in the conversation.  As I went through the various reasons why I couldn’t do what the commenter suggested, I saw quickly just how insidious the ingrained prejudices regarding autism are.  I saw how I still have so much more to learn.  And so I continue to and I tweak my thinking and my behavior and then someone else tells me something and I have to think about their words and then I have to tweak my behavior some more.

Directly after reading this thought-provoking comment (I am so grateful to the writer for having sent it) I received an email from someone I care deeply about.  I do not have explicit permission to write about the specifics so I will not, but it was about where these kinds of ingrained beliefs can lead.  It was about abuse.  It was a story I am becoming more and more familiar with.  It was about someone I know.  It was about a defenseless, nonverbal child.  It was about more than one event.  It was about many, many abuses occurring over and over by many, many different people.  My horror is never lessened no matter how many times I hear of this.  In fact my horror increases.  What I used to believe, what I used to console myself with, that these were unusual, isolated instances of horrible people behaving in heinous way, is not something I can cling to any more.  These stories are everywhere and I am hearing them all the time now.  I cannot console myself that they are unusual.  I can no longer wrap myself in a cocoon of optimistic assurances that this hasn’t happened and will never happen to my daughter, because even if we are lucky enough that they do not happen to our specific child, they are occurring constantly to other people’s children.  How is that any better?  How is that any different?

The abuse of people who are considered “less than” and “incompetent”.  The physical, sexual and emotional abuse that Autistic people and children are having to endure at the hands of people ALL THE TIME that they come into contact with, at school, their care givers, the people they are suppose to be able to trust, their relatives, neighbors, the list goes on and on.  This is going on around us and to those we love and care about.  This is about people who are hurting, not just our children, but people all over the world who are deemed “less than”.  This is so much bigger than “our children”.

Em’s “self-portrait” – 2011