Autism, Child Abuse and Neglect

by Darlene Barriere
(Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada)

Parents of autistic children have been fighting the provincial governments in Canada for years over getting subsidized specialized care for their autistic children.

Parents have fought in the courts, and have even won the right to have specialized care paid for by the medical system, but the governments of the day continue to pay little or no heed to the rulings. This non-compliance is short-sighted and neglectful. The "neglect" has left parents to foot the very expensive bills required to help care for and treat their autistic children. All too often parents cannot afford, and therefore do not supply the specialized interaction, integration and behavioural therapies required. This puts their autistic children at even greater risk for child abuse, including physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of teachers, students and adults in the child's life, as these people attempt to "make the child conform" or punish them for not conforming.

Autism is a developmental disability that changes the way the brain processes information. It adversely affects social interaction, behavioural and communication skills. Autism is the most common neurological disorder affecting children and it is one of the most common developmental disabilities that affect Canadians. Autistic children are unique and each of them responds and behaves differently, even though they may share the same diagnosis.

Symptoms of autism often do not appear during the first few months after birth, but are generally evident by the age of 3. They include repetitious behaviour that parents often describe as the child being in their "own world"; lack of eye contact with people; and low attention span for human interaction.

Children with autism often have unusual ways of learning. They have difficulty paying attention. They react to sensations in ways that non-afflicted people do not understand. They have difficulty determining facial expressions of others.

Disabilities among autistic children vary from gifted to severely challenged—10% of autistic children are so gifted they are considered "autistic savants." Boys are four times more likely to be afflicted with autism than girls. Families with one child afflicted with autism have a 20% chance of having a second child afflicted. Parenting methods DOES NOT cause autism.

Autism crosses all racial, ethnic and socio-economic thresholds. Children with autism are much more likely to be to be bullied and harassed by their peers. There is no cure for autism.

There are those who oppose the various treatments listed in the first paragraph above, citing that they are abusive in and of themselves. This position is evident on the comments page directed at this article; the link is just below.

Comments for Autism, Child Abuse and Neglect

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Nov 05, 2007
some inaccuracies
by: Ettina

Firstly, lack of treatment is not the big problem. The big problem is the *kind* of treatment advised. The most highly recommended treatment for autism, ABA treatment, involves teaching to child to fake normal regardless of how they feel or what they really want and is in my opinion abusive. Even in gentler ABA programs, the child is taught unquestioning obediance to adults which increases risk of abuse. What reduces risk of abuse is teaching children to say 'no' and expect to be listened to, and know how to get help.
You refer to normal people as 'non-afflicted'. I am not afflicted with autism. I'm just autistic. It's not an affliction or something I suffer from, just a term for a collection of unusual personality and ability traits. I'd prefer if you said 'non-autistic' or 'neurotypical'.
Minor correction - the general conception of savants is that they are severely cognitively disabled with a highly specific talent in a certain area. It is a very distinct concept from intellectual giftedness, which overall high performance on most tests of cognitive ability. Both appear to be common in autistic people.

Nov 06, 2007
I will not retract what I wrote in my article
by: Darlene Barriere

The article I wrote titled Autism, Child Abuse and Neglect will stay as written, with an additional paragraph included at the bottom of the article that makes reference to this comments page and the comments below.

Darlene Barriere
Violence & Abuse Prevention Educator
Author: On My Own Terms, A Memoir

Nov 13, 2007
ABA is Torture
by: TheASman

***Moved to this page by Darlene Barriere - webmaster***

I just heard from an autistic advocacy site that an autistic posted here. I understand that some of the issues here was her characterization of treatment of autistic children. I and many autistic advocates feel ABA is a form of torture.

My goal is to ensure and make people aware that adult autistics do exist and they have their own thoughts and opinions that are at times at variance to the non-autistic advocates of autism.
Most adult autistics do not want a cure and see their autism as part of the natural variation of humanity.


Mar 13, 2009
by: Debra Vines

I have a 21year old son with Autism. Over the years of advocating for him in the community, friends and family members I am the Voice that says my son is not Invisible. I am really sure that people are aware of how they do not reoognize our children. They will acknowledge you and walk right pass them as if they are not standing there. This is just a note to all of you that have done it. OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT INVISIBLE111

Sep 23, 2009
Autism and child abuse
by: Michael Katz

***Comment moved by Darlene Barriere - Webmaster to the following page on this site Autism and Child Abuse in order to give the article more exposure***

Jun 13, 2010
ABA is child abuse, no argument
by: Anonymous

I was trained and conned by 8 ABA consultants - my child was abused in my own home- I tried to 'out' the abuse and had my child taken from me- it is abuse- how can a child with delayed reactions respond to instant reinforcementr? Isn't it reinforcing brat-behaviour by reinfocing INSTANT gratification- of course IT IS- stop this evil con right NOW

Apr 09, 2011
Special angel
by: Anonymous

I moved into a 2 family flat over a year ago my neighbor downatairs has a 13 year old autistic daughter both parents are herion addicts the father has been in jail since christmas day and the mother does nothing to maintain or manage simple daily heigyne she has had cps out for neglect and the house being filthy with dirt and fleas ive never said anything before today I just dont know how to help this girl I am angry at the mother and father to almost hate and God knows I dont hate but her just locked in the apartment 24/7 pleading banging screaming im past the point with understanding I feel like a horrible person for crying out but how should or do to help this special angel ????

From Darlene - Webmaster: Report to CPS, again and again, if necessary. Only escalate the report each time. Failing that, go to your local house representative/member of parliament. Failing that, go to the media. Do all you can to give this special angel a chance at a decent life.

From Victim to Victory, a memoir
Darlene Barriere
author. speaker. survivor. coach
From Victim to Victory, a memoir

Sep 28, 2011
What do I do?
by: Anonymous

My step son exhibits all autistic traits. I am taking him next thursday to be evaluated. His mother is in complete denial to the fact that her son has some delays and exhibits all of the traits that an autistic child would carry. Once I get him checked, and provide her with the details. If she does not follow through with the doctors recommendations and carries on with life, can that be reported to CPS? Will they take that seriously? How does that work, when a child has autism or developmental disorder that requires special needs, for lack of better words..

Dec 21, 2011
Faking Normal
by: Anonymous

I am a middle aged woman who now believes herself to be on the spectrum based on the descriptions of Asperger's and NVLD. That is me, and my childhood difficulties and experiences were classic Asperger's. I was never diagnosed with it since it was not well-known at the time. As a result, I was expected to act normal. At the time, it was overwhelming. There is no question that my childhood was unduly stressful. I was constantly unhappy and was trying to kill myself as early as age 8. On the other hand, I do not think I would be capable of functioning very well at all as an adult if my Asperger's had been left alone and if my unusual behavior had not been addressed and corrected.

It would be a wonderful world if children and adults who are ASD could all be accepted for who and what they are. I would be the first to go for that. My experience is that the world doesn't work that way. If you want a job, a spouse, some friends, whatever, you have to act at least a little bit like other people. I have a young relative who was diagnosed with autism. I would hate for him to be unsuccessful in his life because he lacks the ability to appear somewhat normal to others -- to make eye contact, to listen to others, to talk about things that are interesting to others as well as himself, etc. I have a young adult friend also on the spectrum. Like me, he was "forced." Because of this he has a job and he has some potential to make something of his life. Unless we can change the whole world and make it more accepting of the unusual social differences of those on the spectrum, I am all for ABA. Bring it on.

Oct 21, 2013
parents in denial is not abuse?
by: Anonymous

Parents in denial because no one wants the refrigerator label helps no one. Children were ignored, hidden, isolated. We were not taught anything and grew up odd, depressed, on the margins of society. Probably had we been born 10 years earlier my mom would have had me lobotomized. sterilized and if possible euthanized. She did not want a daughter replacing her as Daddy's favorite little angel. Can you blame her, I was not all that warm and responsive and she likely had her own issues. What idiot decided all moms are angelic? Did it really help the more severely afflicted with the crappy moms and blind Dads. I have amblyopia, prosopagnosia, CAPD or auditory and milder visual dyslexia as well as that parasomnia that goes by the name of Jactatio Capitis Nocturna aka Rhythmic Movement disorder with associated poor autobiographical memories but astonishing rote memory that passes for photographic memory. I have never had friends, relationships. Everyone has quirks.

Mar 18, 2014
What does a parent do when deemed as a child abuser if the child undergoes self-injurious affliction?
by: Dave

I have a cousin who has two children. They both have autism. One of the children who is old enough to attend school is four years old and the other who is constantly baby-sitted at home is two years old. The four year old has been diagnosed with a severe case of autism which causes her to experience harmful 'self-injurious' afflictions upon herself, causing bruises, scars, pain, etc.
She was just placed into anew school as of last year of early September 2013. She is still getting acquainted with her school as she is the only child in her classroom that has this cognitive difficulty. Her mother has constantly complained about how she would like to switch her school but never got around to finding one in her neighborhood that specializes in educating autistic children.
Recently, my cousin attended school and I suppose during her restroom break (which the teacher or teacher's aide assisted her with) discovered two bruises on her arms and legs. They immediately followed protocol as mandated reporters. Ultimately, authorities prosecuted the mother, stripping her children away from her. Luckily, the mother is out of jail now, but is very confused on how to handle her case, as she has no money to afford a lawyer to fight the false allegations as a form of "corporal punishment" deeming her to be documented as a child abuser.
I am her cousin and I am very concerned with the fate of their immediate family. I am going around looking for similar cases or instances, whereas individuals were falsely accused of something that seemed apparent, but not quite what it appeared to be. If you would kindly give your response with answers it'll be greatly appreciated on behalf of myself and family!! We are desperate for help and cannot afford an attorney. Hoping to build our own case as autism is fairly prevalent, unfamiliarized to the greater public, and misunderstood. Again, it is greatly appreciated. - Dave

From Webmaster - Darlene Barriere: There are no answers to be given here, Dave. The legal system has too much power for those without funds to fight. Try the newspapers or a state representative. Good luck.

Oct 15, 2015
by: Anonymous

We live in Utah- Little Boy 3 yrs old with autism- mother and father divorced and father remarried, both father and stepmother have abused and kept food from him when father has had his visitations, Mother reported to DCFS, they couldn't make a case. Police wont help, they say father is a good guy. Autistic boy screams and crys and runs to hide if he thinks father is coming to house to get him and when he calls on the phone the boy screams at him "you hit me" and hangs up the phone. The little boy then has nightmares for days and wont eat. The father refuses to believe the boy has autism (yes he has been diagnosed and is in special ed school) Anyone know what can be done to protect the child from father and stepmom from their hitting and abusing the boy because they think he is just a brat and needs hardcore discipline?

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