Fondazione Zoé

Proper communication with respect to health and science is an essential element in a society such as ours, in which information is transmitted over the internet, in print, on radio and on television. Each time the “news” is then recounted partially or superficially affects the right of the reader / listener to make useful decisions in their own lives. Autism is a victim of bad communication. Why is it that newspapers often make the term “autistic” associated with violent episodes (the massacre of the children in the school in Newtown, even some historians say Hitler was autistic). Because it is classified as a mental illness and therefore overlaps the modesty of families and distrust of strangers. Because it not often spoken about.

The episode where the boy was the victim of Vicenza, subjected to harassment and violence on the part of the supply teacher is emblematic. In fact does not appear in the national press, I’m aware of it only because I listen to the Nicoletti’s radio programme, a journalist that has an autistic child, who deals with this issue with tenacity and courage. It really hit me when a teacher called in speaking of their colleagues’ “burn out”, clumsily trying to defend the actions of colleagues. Those who have not only systematically beaten the boy, they cut him with scissors, it is not clear under what educational project. But the problem, of course, is uphill. People with autism need a particular network, of trained operators, not to half-baked supply teachers. Because they are fragile people, it is difficult to communicate with them, in a bidirectional way: they cannot tell us what they want and do not understand what we say. The solitude of the family, fatigue, weight loss also which they are subject is enormous. It reminds me a bit of the situation that had arisen in the 80s compared to AIDS. However terrible disease, which has forced millions of people to live hidden lives until the pressure of cultural subjects – press, cinema, celebrities who have revealed their HIV status-has slowly at least mitigated the negative perception that we had. Autism is more complicated, a movie like Rain Man has produced more harm than good, as well as many novels that insist on the romantic side: you have serious relationship problems, but you’re a genius, hence the lack of sociability is compensated by the supreme intelligence. Not really. These are our children – because they are the children of all of us -they are tender and helpless, they require that you accept them for what they are. It is a job that lasts 24 hours a day, every day of your life, with all the problems that a child gives you growing up, amplified by this disease. Families need support and solidarity, because it is exhausting having to deal with an autistic child, sometimes you need some respite.

I do not have a recipe for this, I just know that I get angry a lot when I read / hear this news. I get angry because I do not understand how to educate those who are paid to vent their frustrations on those who are entrusted to them by families who trust these institutions. I get angry because a civilized country devotes its attention to these issues (I won’t even start on what I think of politics, it is not the place and I could lapse into using bad language). Supply teachers are fine? Who trains them? The spread is really the only sign of civilization of a country, then the only thing which lends itself spasmodic attention? I get angry because we have all together constructed a corporate culture where there is room to address these issues only when an episode that would be better not to have, occurs. I get angry because I feel helpless. But at least I get angry and talk about it in my classes.
The real issue is whether the problems of a minority should remain residual in our conversations and in the media. And what is the communicative role of the media, following the wave of news that creates controversy or reserve perhaps even a little ‘space to “construct culture”?
It is clear that I have a preference, let’s just see if I belong to a minority or if there is a silent majority that seeks a voice.

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