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Ariane Zurcher Headshot

Autism Is Not to Be Feared... Fear Is

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I used to work at an ad agency. One of the first things I learned was that there is one emotion that motivates people more reliably than any other: fear. Fear compels people to do a great many things they might not otherwise do.

Once we've become convinced that something is worth fearing, it is extremely difficult to reverse. When we speak of autism using words like "burden" and "tragedy," phrases such as "a devastating crisis," that cause alarm, we are doing tremendous harm in the short- and long-term to the autistic population, harm that will be very difficult to reverse. So when those first news reports came out linking Asperger's with the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, as though this explained everything, it only took an unethical few to do tremendous damage to an entire population of people. Despite the fact that there is no link between a diagnosis of Asperger's and violence. Despite the fact that autistic people have endured horrific "treatments" that are deemed "therapeutic" and therefore are somehow allowed to continue. Click here and here if you want to see for yourself. Or read these reports -- here, here and here -- about the systematic abuse of autistic people, abuse that continues unabated as you read this.

It is wrong to condemn a group of people, people who have suffered at the hands of those who now accuse them, a people who have been marginalized, some of whom cannot defend themselves because they do not speak and have not been given the means to communicate effectively through any other means. It is important that you know. It is important you understand the ramifications of connecting autism with murder. It's important to understand why the words we use, the constant stream of negativity in relation to autism, is causing untold damage to my child, to your child, to all autistic people, to the very people who have had to deal with exactly this kind of prejudice their entire lives. It has to stop. It has to stop.

To add another layer of horror to something that is already unspeakable, targeting a group of people and making it about them instead of a lone gunmen is adding more pain and agony to more children's and people's lives. Don't we see that? Can't people see we're making it worse? We aren't ensuring our children will be safe with these beliefs. We aren't making the world a better place with more prejudice, bigotry, false assumptions, and fear. Fear is what drives us to conclude that we are fighting a false enemy. Fear is what compels us to segregate, lock up, institutionalize, condemn and torture. Fear is what causes us to commit acts of violence against those we've deemed violent. And when fear is allowed to fester unchecked it turns into something else.

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This page was created by an unknown person. No one stopped them from creating this page on Facebook until it had gone viral and hundreds of thousands of people had seen it. It has since been taken down. I do not know what has come of the person who thought it would be a good idea to create such a page. I made the decision to post it because everyone I know who is autistic is living in tremendous fear. They are worried about leaving their homes, they are fearful of allowing their children outside. This page created by one sick person, represents a prejudice that is steadily growing, a prejudice that must end.

For more by Ariane Zurcher, click here.

For more on autism, click here.

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