How do you protect your child, boy or girl, from predators? At the time of writing this, British footballers have started to reveal the sexual abuse they suffered from the age of 11 at the hands of their football coaches. These I gather are neurotypicals (those not on the ASD spectrum) who have been exposed to abuse. It made me think, what are the risks for those on the autistic spectrum?
It is often a worry having a pre-teen girl on the autistic spectrum, who is far from girly and feels more comfortable hanging around boys. Do people on the autistic spectrum lack boundaries? Well they are no different to the rest of us. Some of us have strong boundaries and react badly to our personal space being invaded, others do not or if aware, freeze not knowing how to react. While my gorgeous niece is not keen on being hugged unless she initiates it, she also does not know how to give someone space if she likes them and wants to be around them continuously. As a younger child this seemed very typical of her years, as young children rarely want to stop when they like something or someone. However, a couple of weeks ago while out shopping paying for items at the till, I turned around to see a man in his forties standing less than a hair’s breadth behind her. The obsession on that day to wear a hoody made her look like a pre-teen boy from behind. Nevertheless, whether boy or girl this predator physically charged towards me when I accosted him, accusing him of being a pervert. All the while my niece seemed none the wiser of this predator’s unacceptable invasion into her personal space.
Interestingly, my niece’s reaction to me alerting security was to raise her eyes to the ceiling as though I was making a fuss about nothing. This led me to realise that I did not want to add to her discomfort or embarrassment during such a time. When the security guard asked if the pervert had touched my niece, I did not feel able to verbally reveal her neural status to him and cause her more embarrassment. Besides she was not aware that he was standing so close to her.
Once home I looked on the website of the National Autistic Society and ordered some Autism Alert Cards, which are designed for the person with the condition to show others when in difficulty. As my niece is in denial about having Asperger’s, I ordered some for the more responsible adults in our family to carry when with her. This can be shown to others to explain her situation, while in her presence, thereby limiting any anxiety caused to her.
Having raised this recent experience with the professionals involved in her care, they acknowledge work needs to be done with her on what constitutes inappropriate behaviour. I am presently exploring ways to talk to her about the same, so that she understands the concept of what personal space means and when it is being invaded.