My name is Thomas. It is not my real name. I am using this name as I don’t want my abusers to find me.
I am 59 years old. My mother abandoned me as a young child and I was put in a foster home and an institution. Both places abused me.
I was diagnosed autistic aged 4. Autism then was seen as a rare form of schizophrenia and was a mental illness and they tried all they could to normalise me.
My foster parents abused me telling me my mother should have aborted me. I stimmed, tippy toed and screamed. They hated that. I couldn’t tolerate being touched, or noise. I was sexually abused from aged 4.
I was then insitutionalised where physical abuse continued.
I was forced to go onto strong meds and it did terrible things to my sensitive digestion. Psychiatrists treated me as mentally ill.
They told me I would never be independant and treated me like a small child. Like many autistics in some ways I can be quite childlike, but I am cognitively intelligent.
Like many autistics I often related better to objects than people. Again I was ridiculed, especially by psychiatrists. All my life I have had a close attachment to one particular object , and they tried all they could to remove that from me. That object is my Thomas The Tank Engine Ornament.
They inflicted Lovaas ABA therapy on me.
They forced me to stop stimming and hit me when I did.
I love drawing, but if I drew the same picture twice in a week they yelled at me and forced me into more therapy.
They hated my special interests. They tried to destroy all of them. Many were forced out of me and I still struggle to focus on them again.
I was punished for lining things up.
I was severly punished for not giving eye contact. I was kicked, hit and slapped on the face for not doing it. Eye contact was hell for me, and still is
I did not speak until I was 11. I was punished for not speaking. I was never given other options of communication, as verbal was the only thing they cared about.
When it ended I was offered therapy. The therapist sexually assulted me.
Even though the abuse eventually got less, living in assisted care was still very problematic for me. Hearing people in other rooms, fire alarms going off, noises I couldn’t control. My meltdowns were very frequent due to sensory overload and I was scared I would hurt someone, or end up in prison.
With a lot help from friends we decided I needed to live outside the city and on my own and with nature. Humans scared me, I have difficulty processing facial expressions and so can find it hard to understand what people mean. Animals however, I have a natural liking to. I was exhausted with the therapies and tired of having to adjust life to suit everyone else.
At last, I found a wonderful therapist who taught me life skills. She let me be me, and listened to my needs. We worked with my special interests to enhance my life skills and worked on my strengths, so I could have the life I wanted and needed.
I have now been living on my own for 17 years. In the countryside where its quiet. I now take no medication, I stim all I need, I don’t force myself to keep eye contact with people. I am managing my sensory issues with body brushing so I can hug my friends too.
I have 4 cats who I love dearly.
I have sensory issues with my hearing, therefore I use industrial strength head phones, that have soft cushions. Strong lights hurts my eyes, so I have dark sunblocking shades. To keep the wind from me outside, I wear a big hat.
Routine is my life and it stops me getting too distracted. I thrive with routine, and can cope better with needed changes when I stick to these schedules. As long as the change is gradually added to my planner, over time, I can adjust.
I only go out when I can avoid crowds, perfumes overwhelm me so I avoid any places like this.
I can enjoy my special interests to my hearts content. I love to do artwork.
Occassionally memories of repression can make me feel guilty about having special interests. I love my main object, like a person would love another. My love is so deep. No one can judge me for that now. They tried so hard to humiliate me for it, but they failed. My Thomas the Tank Engine ornament always sits on my chest of drawers.
I believe strongly that autistic people should be allowed to be themselves. Adjustments and accommodations need to be made. I try to help many families online with this. What is normal anyway? Normal is a setting on the dryer, and my normal is Autism.
It was a huge honour to have the privilige to interview Thomas . He is an amazing person as you have read.
No one can deny that what Thomas went through was pure abuse. The hitting, slapping and ridiculing was unforgiveable. He is left with depression, anxiety and many has many trust issues.
Not being allowed to be yourself is very problematic. Yet ABA is still used to this day. Reducing stimming, forcing eye contact, reducing special interests, only valuing speech as communication, instead of exploring other options such as AAC or sign language is ever present.. Not fully valuing sensory issues. Trying to ‘normalise’ the child is still common practice. The methods may be gentler, but the principles and objectives often remain the same.
Follow this facebook page for discussion as to why ABA is still bad and can still be harmful for Autistics.