Tag Archives: exploitation

Meltdown Videos of Autistic Children – Awareness or Exploitation?

They’re not hard to find. You can dig them up on blogs, Youtube and even the news with a quick Google search – disturbing videos of autistic children in distress, while parents film.

Viral sympathy videos could quickly be viewed all over the world. Once a video is out there it is forever. The consequences of this are not always immediately aparent, but can be lifelong, impacting relationships with peers (kids are mean and bullies could easily use this footage), future employers, and others.

What is a meltdown? It looks a LOT like a tantrum, but there is a big difference. Tantrums are intended to manipulate a situation while meltdowns happen because of overload, often resulting in a loss of control for the autistic person. The brain has had too much, things have been building for a while and now the person in front of you can take no more – so they meltdown.

Like a volcano, the pressure must be released, in a rush of emotions and intensity. The brain is no longer able to process information and needs to reset. The types of interactions I see in these videos would not allow the needed reset to happen. When I was younger, being left alone in a quiet room was often the best way for me to recover – not much has changed through the years. This is NEVER what I see in these videos. The environment is always tense and overstimulating.

What do I see? I see a child in agony. I see a child overloaded. I see a child in extreme stress and it breaks my heart. Do you know what ELSE I often see in these videos? MOST of the time I see parents making the child’s distress and overload worse by touching, holding, and interacting with the child, essentially keeping the meltdown going by not allowing the child to calm down.

When are these videos appropriate? I understand that these videos can be useful for the diagnostic process as something shared with a medical provider but these videos should NEVER make it to the internet.

They do not raise awareness of autism. Most people think of this exact type of thing when they hear autism, it is why many adult autistics are dismissed.  The videos that I’ve seen were not created to raise awareness of autism, but to raise awareness of “the suffering of parents of autistic children” – at the expense of the autistic child in question.

We have strict laws, protecting the privacy of people’s medical information, but parents are allowed to ignore their child’s rights by sharing information and footage publicly,  without regards to the for potential harm in removing the child’s privacy and consent.

How is this legal? IS it legal? It shouldn’t be.