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.