Professionals blaming parents for childrens' difficulties

Hello everyone. I just thought i would enquire here about something I have seen discussed a few times. It seems to be quite common for parents of children with asd / adhd to be blamed for their childrens' behaviour. I find this quite worrying and troubling. Does anyone here have experience of this? It seems not uncommon judging by how many times its mentioned on groups that I have joined. It just seems quite sad that some professionals do this. Surely its not right or ethical? How can this be changed? 

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  • Hi NAS24122,

    I think there are several critically significant (and very saddening) reasons why parents of ASD individuals can often be blamed for their child’s difficulties or have to fight very hard for their concerns to be believed and respected by others; and that these ‘critical reasons’ are actually inherently linked to ASD (and UK culture) itself.

    High functioning ASD is well known to be hidden; its presentation can therefore be incredibly subtle, and critically it may often first show itself by the absence of appropriate or reciprocal emotional responses from the child. Therefore HF ASD may only first be able to be suspected or detected by those who know the ND individual intimately and who have a genuine emotional relationship (attachment) with them.

    Very few everyday ‘professionals’ (teachers for example) have anything beyond a very superficial (and specific, directed, one sided) relationship with the child, and therefore they are simply not able to effectively detect the child’s lack of appropriate reciprocity or emotional responses in (an equal and loving) relationship. When parents then voice their fears about what they may initially believe to be their ‘difficult, puzzling or unsatisfying relationship’ with their child, professional (who may not have experienced these difficulties with the child themselves as they have a different, often superficial, relationship with the child)  are then only too quick to dismiss them as a simple ‘parenting skills problem,’ or a psychological issue (in need of counselling) of the parents themselves, or within the whole family unit.

    This ASD ‘blindness’ is also pertinent if the child’s social and communication difficulties are manifesting (as they usually always do) in a ‘lack of conformity’ behaviours in school or at home.  These difficulties can then be quickly and routinely dismissed by professionals and others (for sometimes unacknowledged fear, Ego driven or power seeking reasons of their own) as being simply ‘bad behaviour.’ Most things that stray from the 'accepted norm' in this way are deemed an automatic threat and treated defensively accordingly. And parents who then voice their concerns about any underlying reason why their child ‘doesn’t seem to conform or understand’ are then too easily open to being defensively dismissed as being bad or ineffectual parents or simply seeking or making excuses for their child’s ‘bad’ (threatening) behaviour.

    Another difficulty with detecting high functioning ASD is that ND individuals usually have above average intelligence, and we in the UK are absolutely terrible, as a culture, of pinning great importance on academic or professional excellence while completely neglecting emotional and holistic wellbeing. If a child is making progress academically, sadly some professionals still equate this as fool proof indication of 'normalcy.' For high functioning NDs, where skills may be decidedly imbalanced (and relational skills or personal autonomy cannot easily be detected in highly artificial or controlling environments, such as school) this leaves NDs very vulnerable to having their holistic needs and difficulties dismissed, undetected, and neglected.

    Fundamentally, as a highly hierarchal culture, every one of us in the UK is actively groomed from an early age to seek permission and approval from those deemed to be our ‘superiors;’ often to the direct detriment of acknowledging our own needs or trusting our own instincts. This practice makes for more obliging cattle. The flip side of this cultural paradigm is that ‘professionals’ automatically therefore grant themselves authority over ‘lesser others,’ such as parents, in subtle ways which may be hard to detect and which may also be firmly outside of their (the professionals,) own self-awareness. Couple this with our 'natural'(?) tendency to see difference (any difference) as a direct threat, it becomes only too easy to see how ('lowly') parents whose child is different from the majority, in sometimes subtle ways that at first only a loving parent may first detect, can only too easily (automatically even) first be blamed, their concerns repeatedly denied, before battling on until they are finally acknowledged and understood. 

    Hence why it is so hard to pin these practices down to being straightforwardly unethical or wrong, (even though they arguably are) as they seem to be an accepted part of our cultures 'background noise' from which all other decisions (both conscious and subconscious) are being made. And I personally believe that  ‘hidden HF ASD,’ by its very nature, is often a very real and direct victim of our cultures paradigm.

    What could enable positive change would be if we were encouraged to trust ourselves as individuals, and be more accepting and trusting of one another as individuals too.

    If everyone was really treated and respected as an individual, no diagnosis of ASD (or ADHD) would ever really be necessary.

    Fantastic thread! Thank you!

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