As the mother of a son who’s been incorrectly labeled as autistic by well-meaning (and some not-so-well-meaning) friends, relatives, and acquaintances, I wanted to rant about internet “doctors” diagnosing Barron Trump as autistic the moment I saw a story about it a week ago, but didn’t want to bring more attention to the rumor.
But now that Rosie O’Donnell is talking about it, claiming that it was out of “care and concern,” here we go.
A 7-minute video was posted to YouTube on November 11 detailing Barron’s behaviors and interests (computers, solitary play) and linking them with symptoms of autism or being “on the spectrum.” Rosie tweeted the video and wrote, “Barron Trump autistic? If so – what an amazing opportunity to bring attention to the autism EPIDEMIC.”
There are so many things wrong with this entire subject that it’s difficult to even know where to begin.
The most important thing to remember here is that Barron Trump is a 10-year-old boy who did not ask to be in the spotlight, and that any medical or psychological diagnoses he has or doesn’t have are solely his family’s business. No one else’s.
Beyond that, how can one possibly diagnose autism from the examples in the video? They are all from public appearances in situations that would be stressful for any child. He’s a boy having to wear a suit for hours (any male RedState writer will tell you how tortuous that is) and he’s not gladhanding and smiling for the cameras like a politician would. Ooh, and on election night he was standing on stage falling asleep at 3 a.m. And your point is?
Further, what gives any of these people the right to speculate about someone else’s child? There has always been a tendency in society to virtually parent other people’s kids, but social media has taken it to a whole new disturbing level.
On a deeper level, this reflects society’s need to label anything which deviates from its definition of “normal” as a disorder. Over the last 20 years, as autism awareness expanded, so did its definition, to the point where almost anyone can be judged as “on the spectrum.” Just display some sort of anti-social behavior, flap your hands once or twice while doing “The Bird,” and presto, you’re on the spectrum.
For boys who don’t act like traditional boys, who are computer nerds, who like to play alone or with just one or two friends, who are socially awkward, who obsessively study one subject, this shift in society means that they’ll be (quite possibly inaccurately) labeled as autistic. We used to just accept that people all had different personalities and that one’s eccentricities didn’t constitute a “disorder.”
I’m not denying that autism exists. I am saying that many of the people who are labeled with a “disorder” really just have a different way of thinking, and that whether Barron Trump is autistic or simply has an eccentric, computer geek personality is none of our business. His parents have it covered. If they want to have a national conversation about their son’s development, they will let us know.
But back to Rosie and anyone else speculating about this child out of “care and concern.” You know how people make rude or hurtful suggestions to friends then try to cover up their rudeness by saying, “What? I was just trying to help…”? When you tweet something like this then say, “It was just out of care and concern” when you’re called on it – we know it wasn’t out of care and concern.
Seriously, stop it. Let Barron be Barron without your faux-caring inferred diagnoses.
(P.S. My son’s diagnosis is mixed expressive-receptive language disorder. Children with MERLD display a number of autistic behaviors due to their inability to process language, but the treatments are different so it is critical they’re not misdiagnosed with autism.)