by Nicky Vere-Compton
For this “Aut Thought”, I’d like to answer the question, “Why won’t people let autistic children stim?”
Two years ago, I learned the phrase, the “normalising society”, and I’ve been talking about it ever since.
The phrase posits that the white, male, straight, cis, abled, NT establishment is run on the principle that everything would be so much easier, if we were all the same. So, let’s normalise, standardise, stamp on societal outliers, ram square pegs into round holes, without caring that doing so will break young square pegs. What matters is everyone being “indistinguishable from their peers”, allowing society to be governed by the “idea of normal” embodied by a privileged few.
That’s my take on the “normalising society”. It was Foucault who coined the phrase. He knew all about being a societal outlier – he was gay.
As an autistic child, I wasn’t that old when I first encountered the “normalising society” – I met it at school. Those autistic children who are really unlucky meet it first through their parents and again at school.
Consider today’s autistic children. About 1 in every 25 children you meet will be autistic. That’s 4% of children in the world – a huge amount of children. These children are hotwired to experience over-stimulation, which I call “overload” or “stress”, but which could equally be called “trauma inherent in autistic wiring”. Likewise, these children are hotwired to know how to counter “over-stimulation” with “self-stimulatory behaviour” or “stimming”.
Autistic children instinctively know what they need to do, to regulate. They may need help in learning how to regulate safely – ramming the cushion, not the wall – but they’re born with the capacity to self-regulate in the face of “trauma inherent in autistic wiring”.
Autistic children know how to self-regulate in the face of over-stimulation making them sad – light too bright, noise too loud, feelings too intense, words for feelings too few, room too hot or too cold, thoughts too incessant, room too crowded.
Autistic children know how to stim, to regulate, and this instinctual knowledge gives them great potential to live a fulfilled autistic life. Question is, will the “normalising society” let them?
So here’s autistic children needing to stim and who when they stim don’t look “normal” – they flap or rock or sway or jump or order or align or twirl or repeat words or sing or hum or inject phrases into conversations, rooted in what they’ve watched, listened to and read or push their heads into cushions or make involuntary movements and noises or stand and move like a T-Rex or chew or bite.
NT children don’t do this. NT children don’t “make an exhibition of themselves”. “Normal” children don’t counter over-stimulation with stimming, doing what they need to do to regulate. It’s the “not normal” children who do that.
Thus, the “normalising society” sets out to reduce the “not normal” behaviours, standardising the “not normal” children.
The normalising society’s systematic and relentless destruction of autistic children’s instinctive self-regulation, which they use to counter and calm the trauma of over-stimulation inherent in their wiring, means these children are left with the trauma, but without the means of regulating it.
The children are under rules, really prohibitions, not to stim. In addition, they’ve been subjected to fresh trauma in that the thing they loved – that embodiment of autistic expression, the stim – has been taken from them.
That’s what the “normalising society” does to autistic children, by way of ABA and its imitators.
That’s why the “normalising society” must be stopped.