Here we go again…
Scrolling my newsfeed I came across the latest so-called possible groundbreaking treatment for autism. This time, at least it’s not a bleach enema or a bovine hormone injection. At least it seems that way on the surface. So what is it? It seems innocuous, at first, a nasal spray, now how bad can that be.
The video has gone viral with hundreds of thousands of views in since it was posted on Facebook about 17 hours ago at the time of writing.
Yet again it’s the narrative…
The threads on the video are dominated by hopeful parents thinking this is a wonderful thing, and I get that. Overwhelmingly parents love their kids and want the best for them. The narrative around autism is essentially that autism is bad, needs to be cured, and of cause we must be aware of it. A subtext within the narrative is one of socialisation issues and that if autistic kids could be better at social stuff there lives would be demonstrably better.
The power if this narrative is that so many never question it. Organisations, research groups, charities, the media, parent groups etc take it is given that it’s correct. Resulting out of all this is the proliferation of programs and research projects all about getting autistic kids to socialise better. We see it in social skills traning programs in occupational therapy through to this situation of spraying a hormone up your nose to be better at socialisation.
The assumption here is that better social skills means a bettter life for the autistic person. But who says this is true. The assumption flows out of a belief that there is actually a “normal” way of being. Even if that were true, the pertinent question is who gets to say what is normal. Historically in many endeavours the definition of normal is imposed by the powerful majority.
Throughout a large part of modern history the so called normal was to be heterosexual cisgender. To the point that to be anything else was considered to be at best disordered but more often to be abhorent or an abommination. Thankfully this period is almost behind us.
Another assumption at play here is that the autistic person desires to be changed. Very often this is a false assumption and we are quite at peace with how and who we are. Change is not what is desired, but acceptance is longed for.
The treatment here is the use of a nasal spray to deliver doses of Oxytocin. The theory being this will enhance the socialisation of the user of the treatment. Oxytocin is a hormone created in the brain, many mothers would know of it as the hormone delivered to induce labour.
I don’t know about you but I have to wonder how the hormone connected with childbirth and breastfeeding is a good thing to spraying up the noses of children.
Not being a scientist, I am sure I could be schooled on the chemical and biological issues here, but, I am left with some pretty serios questions.
What is the effect on body systems of delivering a hormone of this kind into the body systems of children?
What may be the long term effects on the person of prolonged exposure to this hormone?
Changing by chemicals…
Make no mistake, this treatment is all about autistic people being changed to appear more like neurotypical people. Watching the video it is clear that the mother is very positive about it, that in their view, the child is much better off. But that’s the thing, it’s in her view. And, it is completely about the child meeting so-called “normal” behaviours and interactions.
Many parents will believe they are just trying to do the best for their kids, and I get that. I do. I do not believe they are attempting to harm their children. This does not change the fact that there is a dam good chance they are.
We have discarded the terror imposed on LGBTIQ community in the form of conversion therapies and chemical castrations.
We have discarded the action of forcing left-handed children to write with their right-hands because of the false belief there was something sinister about being left-handed.
Alarm bells should be ringing. This kind of treatment is fraught with danger.
This is akin to giving me a nasal spray to stop me being left-handed. Perhaps I should give my LGBTIQ friends a nasal spray to stop them being that. Hey, I know, lets make a nasal spray to stop those with gender dysphoria seeking medical intervention. I hope you would agree that those would be horrific.
Have we not learned.
Surely we must learn from what has already occurred. Surely we must take note of the many autistic adults who have experienced therapies in the past that have caused them significant harm. Many autistics who endured ABA therapy have ended up damaged with PTSD, and we should certainly be concerned about the long-term effects of any therapies that have at their core a goal of making the autistic person appear less so.
The Key questions…
Before we pursue and promote or even consider any therapy or treatment surely their are key questions to be asked. Each person will have different ideas about what those key questions may be and what priority they will have against each other. That of course is just a factor of how humans are.
For myself when it comes to this treatment I must reject it.
It flows from a premise that there is an ideal “normal” and I must change to meet that normal.
Autistic acceptance is not a consideration, in fact autistic traits are considered undesirable and a deficit.
Chemical induced change is surely just a mask.
In the end I am left wondering, is this just a crutch or helper treatment to pretend to be NT. If that is the case it must be rejected. Flowing from that is my experience of just how much of an impact passing or pretending has on me, how much this exhausts me and puts me out of daily functioning as a result. The use of this treatment would likely increase the amount of time passing or pretending and therefore lead to that impact of that being magnified.
This is a very real concern. It concerns me greatly that an end result here if not PTSD will be massive autistic burnout and autistic shutdown.
Keep your hormone spray away from my nose.