Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What's a "Self-Injurious Behavior?"

A self-injurious behavior is generally a thing someone does that is damaging, but may seem beneficial to the person at the time of the behavior. For Autistics, some stimming is often denoted as self-injurious behaviors. Examples of these include, skin-biting, hair-twisting or pulling, the endless cascades of face-palms when reading stuff from Autism $peaks, and head-banging (as in against tables or walls, not necessarily the man). I happen to do all these behaviors (especially face-palming). These behaviors make me feel better, safer, calmer, and more in control of myself. They may look odd, but they don't hurt anyone. That includes me. But for some reason, there is impassioned debate on the subject. There are a few reasons for this, and it all rests on a divide between parent activist and self-advocates as is often the case. 

Parent activists often are thrust into their role as advocates when their child gets a diagnoses. Few consider the possibility that their child will be different, whether that means they are gay, asexual, trans, or neurodivergent, etc.. This has been communicated time and again to me by my own parents and other parents of other "deviants." So, when they see stimming they react worse than reading a bad chemistry joke involving an alkali metal and water. (Too meta?) When the stimming looks dangerous, then their parental instincts or whatever that thing my parents keep telling me they have kick in as well. So an Autistic could hear something like "quiet hands" or something like that. Often this will be in public because public areas are damn stressful for people like me and we need to stim,and stim effectively. Many of the effective stims a person can have is self-injurious behaviors. So, logically (?) a parent wants to take out these behaviors for something more seemly, more "acceptable." That would make sense if self-injurious behaviors were actually injuring, as a few select ones are, but I digress. 
The part that makes certain stims "unseemly" is the harsh construct of normativity. In addition to heteronormativity, cis-normativity, and racial/ethnic-normativity, there is able-normativity. Able normativity is where only a certain set of behaviors are acceptable, and stimming is clear out of it. These taboos govern the parent manual. Parents don't want to raise bad children, and if society portrays certain stims as "childish," "unsightly," or "annoying," then a parent must take it away for their child to be "normal," or "acceptable."This is despite the fact that stopping stimming causes distress like nothing else. Apparently, it's normal to hurt your child. 

Even with the insistence that (most) self-injurious behaviors don't actually injure anyone, it's a hard concept to grasp. Besides, there are other ways of stimming, aren't there? Yes, and they are helpful. Of course, many of them could be "annoying" to neurotypicals. So the limited list of stims that I have found to be acceptable are: repeated leg movements, cross-hatching, and, uh, that's it. 

The parent activists are being perfectly logical in their indignant behavior towards self-injurious behaviors, spare for one little thing: actually asking Autistics what they think. This, by the way, is kind of a theme. As stated before, so called "self-injurious behaviors" don't even hurt. Guess what I'm doing right now? That's right, I'm--GASP--biting my skin. And again, sometimes I even hit my head repeatedly against a wall. Sometimes I'll even do what kids these days call an "epic face-palm," which is basically smacking your forehead with your hand like you just remembered you could have a slightly palatable tomato-based juice drink. It works. I feel better. 

What's the problem; what's the problem? Why is this an issue? Why is this an issue? I just told you it doesn't hurt or anything. Why is this an issue? Why did I have to find other, less effective stims? Why did I have to spend so much time learning it when I could have focused on something useful? Parent activists, if you want to actually advocate for your kids, then stop this concern-trolling over "self-injurious behaviors." The only thing injurious about them is when you make us stop. 

[Note: some stims can be dangerous if done exclusively. Banging your head against a wall starts to hurt at about five times three times. Don't ask; you already know how I know. Now, if it hurts more to not bang your head even in the first place, that's a problem of environment. Don't put f'ing helmets* on us if you could lower your voice two f'ing decibels. *people do this /rant]

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