Stop speculating whether Barron Trump is autistic #StoptheBullying

#StoptheBullying
#StoptheBullying

By Debra Muzikar

As I write this blog, there is a video that has gone viral with a hashtag #StoptheBullying showing images of a ten-year old child (who happens to be Donald Trump’s child Barron) making a case that the child is autistic. This last week Rosie O’Donnell added to the speculation by suggesting that the assertions made in the video were true and asking the Trumps to come forward with the diagnosis to bring more awareness to autism. O’Donnell who has received a lot of backlash from sharing the video defends her position by saying she has an autistic daughter and recognizes the signs.

Yesterday, as I watched the video for the first time I felt uneasy. After reflecting on the video overnight, waking up this morning to see the video posted on my Facebook wall (and then deleting it at autism advocate Dena Gassner’s urging), I feel the need to address concerns I have regarding the video.

The right to privacy

People have the right to privacy about their diagnosis. In the United States there are HIPAA laws that protect people’s privacy about medical diagnoses. The Trumps have not come out with a disclosure of a diagnosis. Whether or not the child has a diagnosis is speculation and an invasion of this family’s privacy. If the child does have a diagnosis and the Trumps are not disclosing it, that is their right and it should be respected. If the child doesn’t have a diagnosis its not for the public to make that diagnosis based on a collage of videos of the child.

Posting unauthorized videos of a child is a form of cyberbullying itself

Ironically, the video being distributed has a hashtag #StopTheBullying. Cherrypicking images of a child and making a case for a diagnosis without that child’s or that child’s parents’ permission is a form of cyberbullying. Postings on the internet are forever. This video can affect this child’s future in unforeseen ways. Maybe this is why Melania Trump has come out with a position about children and cyberbullying.

Official diagnoses should be made by professionals

It is not uncommon in the autism community to see a person who has “autistic characteristics” and come to a conclusion that the person may be autistic. It is not uncommon to suggest that person pursue an “official” diagnosis from a professional. Many parents of autistic children, such as myself, are good at recognizing the signs of autism. This does not mean we are authorized to make a diagnosis. I certainly wouldn’t share in public forums my opinions about a child’s diagnosis.

The video itself is offensive

The video has somber music and refers to the autism “epidemic.” Watching the video was reminiscent of watching vintage Autism Speaks ads. This type of negative media messaging is harmful for the autism community and is against the neurodiversity model the Art of Autism promotes.

As Shannon Penrod points out we in the autism community must lead by example

Shannon Penrod addressed this issue on the Autism Live show a couple weeks ago – “Stop Saying Barron Trump has Autism”

At this time in history, when reliable news has been replaced by twitter, Instagram, youtube and Facebook posts, we as a community need to be mindful about what we share.

This is not meant to be a political post or an endorsement of Donald Trump and his politics.

7 Comments

  • Nancy Lea Speer says:

    I also urge others not to participate in bullying this child. The Trumps were including their son in an important family event. Years ago, when I, as a professional woman, was attempting to penetrate the market place, I was often called a “Bull Dyke.” Initially this embarrassed me. In time, I realized, to be embarrassed by being called that term implied that I considered it a negative term – that being a lesbian was not ok. So I let my enemies wonder. There is NO shame inherent in having a child on the autism spectrum! A child on the spectrum is often as blessed as he or she is challenged. As Dr. Temple Grandin has said, “Without autism traits we might still be living in caves.” Now that’s a truth! Barron Trump is an adorable and promising little boy.

  • I agree. I see the same problem in missing persons news releases. While in some cases it may be helpful to disclose autism, bear in mind a missing person is clearly not consenting. In some cases, the police put “functioning age comparisons”, even if this was never part of the person’s diagnosis. In most cases, only basic physical descriptions are needed. If you are someone who shares missing persons releases, please take them down off all websites and social media once the person is found alive.

  • WMF says:

    I agree that this is a private matter; however, at some point, some things will become obvious whether or not a diagnosis is made public. However, why should the American people pick up the tab for their private parental decision? And it’s not cheap. Other first families have transitioned, and they should be no exception. If they choose to stay in NYC, they should pay or share in the exorbitant security costs. They need to do what is best for the whole country. I am fairly certain that they have experts in the DC area more than qualified to handle whatever the issues are with respect to the young child. Maybe all of this should have been taken into consideration before running for office.

  • RPES says:

    I only agree to some extent. Honestly the reason I’ve been speculating is because I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, even Trump who I think is a huge danger to this country. And having an autistic son myself, I could completely understand the need to stay in NY until Barron finishes the school year, if it’s because the kid is autistic or has other needs. If he’s a typical 10-year-old (or however old he is, I think that’s about right), it’s a lot harder to justify the expense of protecting the family in NY. So in that regard I actually think it makes sense to speculate — I’ve been using it in defense of their decision to stay in NY (and again, I’m strongly anti-Trump in general, I’m just very sympathetic to the possibility that the child needs special consideration in this regard.

  • Marcia Hinds says:

    You are completely right in everything you said in this article and I want to thank you for writing it. But there is an even more important reason why people shouldn’t tell others when their child has autism.

    People don’t understand what autism really is and many of those experts who think they do, have it wrong. Children are recovering from autism, and yet the general public and most doctors are unaware that this is even possible. As soon as the A-word is used, people assume that it means “game over.” They do not know that this is a neuro-immune condition that is medical, treatable, and surmountable.

    Restoring a child’s health by treating the hidden infections, viruses and everything else that has overloaded their immune systems isn’t easy. But it is being done. And as the research and medical treatments improve even more, more children will improve and get better. When kids get proper medical, behavioral, and educational interventions full recovery becomes possible. And these children can lose their diagnosis completely.

    Ryan is now 28 and an aerospace engineer. He is one of the lucky ones to be in the right place at the right time to get the interventions needed to fully recover. But when he was diagnosed at age four, my son had every one of the thirty-five symptoms listed on the National Autism Society’s website. We knew something was not right with our son before the “experts” predicted my son would end up in an institution. The day Ryan was diagnosed was the worst day of my life. The psychiatrist gave my son and us a life sentence and ripped away every dream we had for our child. We were told there was no recovery from autism, no cure, and no hope… Or was there?

    My son definitely acted different and the stares and comments other people made were often cruel. But I still never told them my son had autism. Only our family members, Gina our babysitter, Pam our behavior therapist, and very close friends knew Ryan had been diagnosed.

    It might have been easier for me to explain his bizarre behavior by revealing he had autism. But it would not have been what was best for Ryan. I never explained his odd behavior by telling anyone his diagnosis, especially the people who worked with him.

    I learned early on that when we told people about the “A-word,” they lowered their expectations for my son. I once made the mistake of revealing his diagnosis to Ryan’s piano teacher. I was so proud of all Ryan was learning and thought this gifted teacher should know just how much he really had accomplished with my son. But after I told his teacher, his music lessons were never the same. I had to stop the lessons because the teacher started to feel sorry for my son. He no longer treated him like he was capable of learning and let him do whatever he wanted.

    In the second grade Ryan was placed in a class where the teacher had a special ed. credential. She knew a little too much about autism and just what my son shouldn’t be able to do. This gifted teacher had lower expectations for Ryan than the other children. She knew what autism was and had extensive knowledge. But that year Ryan didn’t progress much. His teacher was just a little too accepting of “his disability.” She thought she was being loving and accepting. She really did try to help Ryan. But she was helping him in the wrong way to become the “best little autistic” boy he could be. Empathy and understanding were not what my son needed. He needed someone to expect him to do things the same as everyone else. Ryan needed someone to enforce the rules every child needs to follow.

    Currently, the “A” word has a negative connotation. With understanding that will change. When it finally becomes accepted that this is a medical condition and kids can get better, we will change the autism paradigm. Or maybe we should just stop calling it autism and start calling it what it is, a messed up immune system. There is hope because it is possible to have a different outcome. But until people get it, I would never share that a child has an autism diagnosis.

    That being said, we need to tell people something so they know we are aware there is a problem and it is being addressed. This is explanation I used, “Ryan’s immune system wasn’t working properly when he was younger. We now have a doctor who is really helping him and correcting all the medical issues. And we are working hard to catch him up on all the things he missed.”

    As parents we can never let anyone limit our children or prevent us from having dreams for their future. The really hard part is having a big enough imagination to see what your child may be capable of one day. Please never give up until you find the answers, no matter how hard your kid or the “experts” try to make you. And remember miracles do happen, but they only happen by hard work and sweating!

  • Marcia Hinds says:

    Here is another reason not to share when a child has autism. People don’t understand what autism really is and many of those experts who think they do have it wrong. Children are recovering from autism, and yet the general public and most doctors are unaware that this is even possible. As soon as the A-word is used, people assume that it means “game over.” They do not know that this is a neuro-immune condition that is medical, treatable, and surmountable.

    Restoring a child’s health by treating the hidden infections, viruses and everything else that has overloaded their immune systems isn’t easy. But it is being done. And as the research and medical treatments improve even more, more children will improve and get better. When kids get proper medical, behavioral, and educational interventions full recovery becomes possible. And these children can lose their diagnosis completely.

    Ryan is now 28 and an aerospace engineer. He is one of the lucky ones to be in the right place at the right time to get the interventions needed to fully recover. But when he was diagnosed at age four, my son had every one of the thirty-five symptoms listed on the National Autism Society’s website. We knew something was not right with our son before the “experts” predicted my son would end up in an institution. The day Ryan was diagnosed was the worst day of my life. The psychiatrist gave my son and us a life sentence and ripped away every dream we had for our child. We were told there was no recovery from autism, no cure, and no hope… Or was there?

    My son definitely acted different and the stares and comments other people made were often cruel. But I still never told them my son had autism. Only our family members, Gina our babysitter, Pam our behavior therapist, and very close friends knew Ryan had been diagnosed.

    It might have been easier for me to explain his bizarre behavior by revealing he had autism. But it would not have been what was best for Ryan. I never explained his odd behavior by telling anyone his diagnosis, especially the people who worked with him.

    I learned early on that when we told people about the “A-word,” they lowered their expectations for my son. I once made the mistake of revealing his diagnosis to Ryan’s piano teacher. I was so proud of all Ryan was learning and thought this gifted teacher should know just how much he really had accomplished with my son. But after I told his teacher, his music lessons were never the same. I had to stop the lessons because the teacher started to feel sorry for my son. He no longer treated him like he was capable of learning and let him do whatever he wanted.

    In the second grade Ryan was placed in a class where the teacher had a special ed. credential. She knew a little too much about autism and just what my son shouldn’t be able to do. This gifted teacher had lower expectations for Ryan than the other children. She knew what autism was and had extensive knowledge. But that year Ryan didn’t progress much. His teacher was just a little too accepting of “his disability.” She thought she was being loving and accepting. She really did try to help Ryan. But she was helping him in the wrong way to become the “best little autistic” boy he could be. Empathy and understanding were not what my son needed. He needed someone to expect him to do things the same as everyone else. Ryan needed someone to enforce the rules every child needs to follow.

    Currently, the “A” word has a negative connotation. With understanding that will change. When it finally becomes accepted that this is a medical condition and kids can get better, we will change the autism paradigm. Or maybe we should just stop calling it autism and start calling it what it is, a messed up immune system. There is hope because it is possible to have a different outcome. But until people get it, I would never share that a child has an autism diagnosis.

    That being said, we need to tell people something so they know we are aware there is a problem and it is being addressed. This is explanation I used, “Ryan’s immune system wasn’t working properly when he was younger. We now have a doctor who is really helping him and correcting all the medical issues. And we are working hard to catch him up on all the things he missed.”

    As parents we can never let anyone limit our children or prevent us from having dreams for their future. The really hard part is having a big enough imagination to see what your child may be capable of one day. Please never give up until you find the answers, no matter how hard your kid or the “experts” try to make you. And remember miracles do happen, but they only happen by hard work and sweating!

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