As an autistic autism professional, this has often intrigued me. It would be fair to say that in 20 years, I've not seen an instance of this, other than when someone has been pushed into a brain event akin to an epilepsy situation. In my lifetime, I've not been violent to anyone other than in self defence against a bully one day who was attacking me regularly. That's quite an achievement, if all the hundreds of autistic people in my life are more likely to be some sort of nasty threat to me. I've thought long and hard about all of my autistic family members and friends.....no, still no idea what this is about.
Yet, we get these studies claiming that they have researched it and found that parents have reported high instances of aggression for a large number of their children. Fascinating. I wondered what the researchers meant.
I looked at a lot of studies. Let us consider one finding. The studies often make mention of the 'Child Behavior Checklist', which lists out over 100 questions. It has an 'aggressive behaviour' set of questions. I'm going to tell you what those say, so you can marvel at this with me:
Mood can vary suddenly
Asks for attention
Disobeys commands, at home, or at school.
Experiences meltdowns or tantrums
Destroys some things - at home, or at school
'Gets into fights'
For each of these, score 1 for 'sometimes' and 2 for 'often'. The more you score, the more 'aggressive' your child is.
So, if you have a loud child who...
Appears rude and sulky (because their body language doesn't match expectations and they cannot hear voice loudness)
Doesn't hear commands (because of sensory overload) or cannot process them, so doesn't know to obey them
Experiences autistic meltdowns from being put in situations that cause these physical brain events, ( which may result in them pushing others away or lashing out in extreme pain and fear)
Asks for assistance more than other children because they cannot see or hear well enough in the sensory chaos.
Is wary of what on earth people are going to do to them next
And screams in distress
.... you have an 'aggressive child', see?
Or have a lot of people made a science (and, in some instances, a lot of money) out of characterising autistic children and adults as deliberately 'aggressive', when they are no such thing?
The picture shows a shocked older woman. It represents the sort of shocked face people tend to have when told that we are likely to be 'aggressive'. In reality, most of us are victims of aggression repeatedly over a lifetime, by non-autistic people. Many of us are the kindest, gentlest, nicest people you'll ever meet. A few are nasty characters, in the same way that a few people with size nine feet are nasty, and a few men and a few women and a few people who do knitting. Doing knitting doesn't make them nasty. Being autistic doesn't make us nasty. Thank you for listening.