Australia is afraid of autism

Opinion: Katharine Annear

We have known it for a long time but never before have we seen it played out in so many ways. Autistic people tied to chairs, locked in rooms, put in cages, restrained by workers and chained to a bed. We hear it, the fear, in people’s responses to all of these incidents; Autistic children are violent, difficult to mange, unpredictable, a 24/7 burden, have special needs, need to be restrained for their own good, unsafe. You can’t imagine what living with an autistic child is like say hundreds of internet commentators – as if the fear justifies the terrible abuse.

The fear is the biggest burden and it just keeps growing with layer upon layer of stigma contributed to by the media and by the very people that stand to represent us.

See this advertisement by Autism Awareness Australia and you will begin to see  just why there is so much fear  – from 1:00 on we learn that autism is stealing the minds and personalities of 30,000 Australian children – kidnapped by autism. Apparently Australia should be afraid.

I’ll tell you who is most afraid today. Autistic people who face the very real fear of being restrained and abused because they are Autistic and they are feared.

We know there are thousands of Autistic people and their allies, including families, out there working to redress the fear and attack the stigma. Yet somehow the loudest voices still take the stage – the voices that excuse the abusers and perpetuate the fear. To be afraid of autism is to be afraid of Autistic people – can you sleep well at night, I can’t.

Autism the most common impairment under NDIS

National Disability Insurance Scheme

According to report released by the NDIS ‘Autism and related disorders’ is the most common primary disability across all trial sites (30% of participants nationally). In South Australia, 46% of participants have Autism and related disorders listed as their primary disability due to the very young cohort of participants (0-6 year olds). In Tasmania, intellectual disability is the most prevalent primary disability at 49%, due to the young adult cohort (15-26 years). In New South Wales and Victoria, the two sites established in 2013/14 and inclusive of all ages, intellectual disability and Autism and related disorders are the most prevalent primary disabilities (32% and 23% respectively across the two sites).