I don’t often get mad but inequality, mistreatment and ignorance all make my blood boil, particularly when it’s aimed at the most vulnerable in society, such as those with disabilities or special needs.

There are discussions in every nation right now about the challenge of maintaining services to the community in the face of exponentially rising costs. With revenue stagnating or even falling in some economies, tough decisions have to be made.
I know and I accept that.

What I won’t accept however, are the attacks on the vulnerable that inevitably come when closer scrutiny is applied to government spending.

It’s common to see social commentators, journalists and even the government of the day rail against those who rely the most on government assistance. Common wisdom states that if they could just try a little harder they could look after themselves and no longer be a burden on the public purse.

Because obviously they are not REALLY in need of assistance.

Most recently, I was horrified by an article in The Australian, ostensibly discussing the looming cost of the full roll-out of the NDIS nationally. However the article quickly degenerated into a soapbox piece for the writer to share their views on rising rates of autism.

This quote will set the scene for you…

“The explosion in ­autism spectrum disorder means the fledgling NDIS ­bureaucracy is faced with huge numbers of children with various psychosocial disorders, and vocal parents who are doctor-shopping for an autism diagnosis demanding early intervention and increased financial support for an often ill-defined behavioural problem under the cloak of disability simply so they can access extra help for their child.”

And the money quote…

“But we should be asking whether many of the children at the milder end of the spectrum are, in fact, suffering from emotional problems and psychologically stressed parents; and instead of looking to the disability route, perhaps parents of difficult children with reasonable intellectual capacity need to look more closely at their parenting practices.”

I was truly aghast at the author’s insinuation that special needs parents are money hungry, desperate, doctor shopping, incompetent and hysterical.

I was even more troubled by the belief that people with autism on the milder end of the spectrum are merely suffering from an “ill-defined behavioural problem.”

But I was absolutely furious to read the parting advice, that parents need to look more closely at their own parenting practices before seeking help.

This opinion piece paints a harsh picture of how autism and special needs are perceived by some in our society – a picture that sadly many people see and believe. It also highlights the genuine ignorance of the condition and the impact it has on the person diagnosed and their families.

I have no idea why autism diagnoses are sky-rocketing – no-one knows.

I have no idea how we as a society are going to fund and support people with autism and their families into the future.

I have no idea whether there are people out there rorting the system or not.

But I do know that autism is real.

I know my kids, who are both on the milder end of the spectrum, face challenges every single day, even though they are both intelligent, verbal and compliant.

I know how much money we have spent over the years helping them access the therapies they need to try to fit into a society that does not understand, let alone cater to, their needs.

I know how many hours we have spent attending appointments, researching therapies and working with them at home to give them the best shot at a full and happy life.

I know autism is real.

I also know how hard it is to be a special needs parent, struggling to understand my kids, desperately trying to access the help they need, battling with bureaucracy to fight for their rights and forever educating the ignorant.

It’s not a life I think anyone would willingly choose, if they had a choice.

Which is why ignorant, ill-researched stories, like the one shared in The Australian, drive me absolutely crazy. Honestly we have enough ignorance to battle in this world – we really don’t need it to be perpetuated and amplified by those who should know better.

I will leave you now with one of my all-time favourite eecards because it’s simply perfect:

Autism ignorance eecard

image source

The cost of autism ignorance in the community is real and growing – I really wish I could slap some sense into people so we could move forward and provide more support to those who truly need it.