I didn’t really underline why exactly I was so baffled yet aggravated by the story of the woman who thought her autistic daughter was prone to visits from demons and ghosts. I was too busy laughing and groaning to make it clear.
But now I’ve sufficiently digested it, and I’m going to offer a clear, concise explanation to why this load of rot is not only laughable, it’s also offensive and dangerous.
Autism being affiliated with demons and ghosts wasn’t born with the New Age movement and the sudden interest in ghost-whispering, ghost-napping, ghost-whatevering. Before there was even a word describing what autism is, we were thought to be changelings, or possessed by demons, or somehow related to a spiritual world. Perhaps the mildest example would be the Holy Fools of Russian folklore, but most were not looked upon kindly. Many were killed, abused, or confined to tiny spaces because of fear of them, and this still goes on today (In Unstrange Minds, autistic children from Peru are detailed as being kept in cages with a sign in Spanish saying, “Beware, I Bite”)
This history alone would be enough to make the ghost and demon idea insulting to me, paired with this culture’s inclinations towards describing autistic children as “soulless” or “demonic”. But it goes beyond that. The idea of pairing autistic children with supernatural beings is no longer malicious, and more towards the “holy fool” end of the bullocks spectrum. The culprits are usually parents who refuse to see their children as “disabled” because we’ve made disability such a dirty, unfortunate fate in this society. Instead, they’re “Crystal Children” or “Indigo Children”, or gifted with precognitive or some other type of ability that’s in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. Instant transformation from pitiable disabled kid into magical child.
That is what is so damn insulting to me. Disability is not a dirty word, and this is what this does. It coats disability in a pretty mystical coating of feel-good crap.