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I am an Autistic person,not a person with autism. I am also not Aspergers. The diagnosis isn't even in the DSM anymore, and yes, I agree with the consolidation of all autistic spectrum stuff under one umbrella. I have other issues with the DSM.

I don't like Autism Speaks. I'm Disabled, not differently abled, and I am an Autistic activist. Self-advocate is true, but incomplete.

Citing My Posts

MLA: Hillary, Alyssa. "Post Title." Yes, That Too. Day Month Year of post. Web. Day Month Year of retrieval.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Infantilization or Not?

Trigger Warning: Infantilization, discussion and descriptions of

Infantilization is a thing that happens to Autistic people, and to people with lots of disabilities in general. It seems especially common with developmental disabilities and intellectual disabilities (called learning disabilities in the UK, but learning disabilities means something very different from that here in the USA. Just a heads up.)
So, do we know it when we see it?
I've got a list of things. Some of them have infantilization as at least part of what's going on. Some have it as basically the whole thing. Some don't have any. I'd really like to see a discussion of what we think is and isn't so we can all learn. I will be including explanations... eventually. I want to see discussions first, though, so get talking. I might even use your explanation if it is really good. (Not all of it is necessarily disability related.)
Edit: Answer post is here.

  1. Said about Autistic people: "Some of these kids have gone to college and have jobs."
  2. An Autistic 10 year old watches Blues Clues and reads Science News.
    1. (Just the fact that she does so.)
    2. Her parents encourage both interests equally.
    3. One teacher confiscates Science News but is totally OK with Blues Clues.
    4. A babysitter prevents her from watching Blues Clues, but lets her read Science News.
  3. About a fifteen year old: "He has the cognitive ability of a three year old."
  4. A parent only ever puts Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer on for their twelve year old autistic child.
  5. The parent offers both of these shows, among many others including age appropriate ones, and lets the kid choose.
  6. A person who has a uterus wants a hysterectomy because they know that they never ever want kids ever. People tell them that they will change their mind later, and refuse to let them make their own decision.
  7. An adult is told to act like an adult after expressing interest in something that is considered typical of children.
  8. I walk to the store.
  9. There is an event that is specified as being "for kids" even though anyone can choose to sign up.
    1. The local developmental disabilities group decides to bring all the developmentally disabled adults in their care to this event, where they are spoken to like children.
    2. Some of the adults from the developmental disabilities group choose to go, and they are spoken to like children.
    3. Some of the adults from the developmental disabilities group choose to go, and they are spoken to as adults who can make their own choices, and who simply have some interests that are thought to be typical of children.
    4. The local developmental disabilities group decides to bring all the developmentally disabled adults in their care to this event, and they are spoken to as adults who can make their own choices, and who simply have some interests that are thought to be typical of children.


  1. 1. Isn't infantilization. It always rubs me the wrong way though. Maybe because mine won't be going to college.

    2. 1. Nope not infantilization.
    2. I don't see anything wrong with the parents encouraging interests.
    3. - 4. Infanitlization. It's taking away the choice and signifying that the child cannot make the decision themselves.
    3. Just a statement of fact.
    4. Infantilization. I get that that's probably what they like, so the parents aren't trying to be unfair. But you should offer something else, more age appropriate, and give your child the chance to choose what the want. I feel that autistics have issues with making decisions because they aren't given the chance. We assume they can't, so we don't let them, and they never develop this skill.

    5. This is good. Let them choose.

    6. Infantilization. Again, it's about choice. The person is able to make their own choice and doesn't need to be told how they may feel in the furture.

    7. Not infantilization, but not okay either.

    8. Not infantilization, but good exercise.

    9. 1. Infantilization.
    2. Infantilization.
    3. Not infantilization.
    4. Depends, do all the adults WANT to go?

  2. 1. This one is infantilisation, because
    a) I personally wouldn't call people over the age of 12 "kid". Particularily not -adults-.
    b) The statmemnt, in and of itself "some of them have gone to college and have jobs", two typical things associated with adulthood, shouldn't be surprising when present among adult people. (Not that this means you -have- to have been to college or have a job to be considered an adult. But the entire statement reeks of "but the autistics never grow up, except some of them play at being adults")

    2.1. No. That's just a person with interests and media enjoyment.
    2.2. This is good parenting.
    2.3. I... don't know. I mean, yes, in the you-don't-get-to-grow-up fashion, but I can't develop my argument.
    2.4. This is the same thing but opposite of 2.3. only that infantilisation here is that you-can't-be-grown-up-if-you-like-childish-things.

    3. Yes, because mental age argument. This is a 15-year old with whatever difficulties that person has. And when that person was three, they were three with whatever difficulties they had then. And a three yearold without difficulties will still have -different- cognitive abilities to someone with 12 years worth of experience over them.

    4. If it's because the person -likes- Dora the Explorer and Blues Clues, then I don't see it as a problem. If it's based in the presumption that their child is in fact secretly five on the inside and never growing up it is infantilising.

    5. Good parenting. (Also, age appropriate is a weird concept, and depends entirely on your point of view. My parents treated the Bond films as comedies, and thusly I have watched those since I started finding them interesting. (I -remember- having seen them since I was five, but it's possible I've seen them before.) The Bond films are classified PG-15 in my home country.)

    6. I don't know. I live in a country where you have to be over 25 to even get a sterilisation without medical cause, so being cautious about hysterectomies (aka, major, invasive surgeries that removes body parts that could be argued are maintaining hormonal balance in your body, in the "the uterus isn't only an incubator" school of thought) seems entirely reasonable to me. On the other hand, the -decision- should still be your own, and should be respected.

    7. Ohmy. This is infantilising, in that it shouldn't matter if you like childrens books. Liking childrens books doesn't make you "mentally a kid" and thinking that it does is in fact infantilising. Same goes for any interest that is read as childish. (Believeing in Santa, liking Mickey Mouse, wanting to -play-...)

    8. Uh? I am confused.

    9.1. Infantilisation, DD people never grow up, mentally kids and all that jazz. It takes the decision to go away from the ones that do want to go, and forces the ones that don't want to go into the situation, and in the end it would probably be rahter humiliating for the entire group.
    9.2. Choosing to go is all very well and good, but being treated like a child for choosing to go is infantilising and really not alright.
    9.3. Yes, good, I approve.
    9.4. I think blanket decisions to bring the entire group (of adults) to an event for kids is infantilising because it doesn't take individual interest in the even into account. The even treating them as adults is good, and individual members liking it is none of our concern, but the person who decided on this as a group activity obviously thinks that the group are secretly made up of children.

  3. 1. No. Overestimates the degree of impairment to the population as a whole but not necessarily on the basis of subjective age.

    2. No, no, yes, no. Blues clues is well within the age-appropraite range for 10YO, in my opinion. It is probably appropriate for many of our nationally elected representatives, for that matter. The teacher is an idiot for not encouraging the child at whatever level she is capable. The babysitter's motivations are either selfish (personally doesn't want to watch it) or misguidedly well intended.

    3. Insufficent explanation. Coming from the mouth of a doctor explaining test results, no. Coming from a teacher understating the child's ability to make a point, yes.

    4. Insufficient explanation. Is it the child's choice or the parent's? Does the child habitually enforce this choice with extreme reactions?

    5. No. Normal. Sometimes the kid just wants the entertainment equivalent of "comfort food."

    6. No. If the uterally-challenged person is not of age, it's a reasonable prohibition. Same reason we generally don't tatoo 10YO kids. If they are arguing to a young adult, its one of the mandatory talks like birds and bees except this one is the "some decisions you must live with the rest of your life and can't take back, believe me I know, look at this missing finger" kind of talk. If they are explaining this to a post-menopausal woman, there are bigger issues to contend with.

    7. Yes. Adults are not supposed to play, ever, ever, ever so infantilization is used to get them to conform. The implication is that one cannot be taken seriously as an adult and you must pick a side. Either you are an infant or an adult. So I think it is an indirect form of infantilization.

    8. No.

    9.1 Yes on how they are treated, no on the choice to go depending on the event.
    9.2 Yes.
    9.3 No. Appropriate response.
    9.4 No. Appropriate response.

    Note that "all" is in italics. This alone is not sufficient to decide because the center may simply not have sufficient resources to split the group and there are relatively few activities that are universally liked within the group. To provide variety the staff must occasionally choose events that some portion of the clients do not necessarily want to attend. Of these, some will be appropriate to the particular subset of clients with the youngest subjective age or personal interest at that level. The question in this case is not whether the event was age-appropriate but rather whether the center has accepted too wide a range in subjective ages in their clients.

  4. 1. Depends, I think. If someone tends to refer to people of college-age as kids (my mom does this when she talks about any of her students at home, she works at a university) then probably not. But if they don't, then yes. I think that it is worded like disbelieving that we could go to college and have jobs though, so it's still ableist whether it's infantilizing or not.

    2.1 - Nope.
    2.2 - Nope.
    2.3 - Yes, it's saying Science News is not age appropriate for her when she's 10, 10 year olds should be able to read Science News.
    2.4 - I don't think it's infantilization, but it's still shitty. If they want to watch Blues Clues, that's fine.

    3. Yes definitely. They aren't a 3 year old, they have very different needs and experience than a 3 year old.

    4. Depends if it's because the child likes those shows, or if it's because the parents think that's what the child should be watching because they are considering them to be a little kid. They could try putting on other shows though, and if the person likes those, then there'd be new shows they could put on sometimes.

    5. No, that's good.

    6. If they're an adult, they should be able to get the procedure without people trying to talk them out of it. As well, the "you'll change your mind when you're older" is always very condescending.

    7. Yes, it's essentially implying they're acting like a kid.

    8. No

    9.1 - Yes
    9.2 - Yes
    9.3 - No
    9.4 - Yes

  5. 1. Yes because they refered to adults as kids.

    1. Maybe not because people might mention that about allistic kids, but if they said it specifically because the kids autistic then it would be.
    2. No, it's good for parents to encourage kids in their interests.
    3. Yes, but it mightn't be because they're autistic, they might consider that inappropriate for any children.
    4. No, it's not specific to autistics, some people think that they need to force kids to like things more "age appropriate", which is bad but not infantilization.

    3. Yes definitely.

    4. Yes, they're assuming the kid will only like shows meant for little kids.

    5. No, it's good to give kids a choice.

    6. Yes, but it's not specific to autistics. All kinds of people perceived as women get treated like they don't know what they want.

    7. No, I think people who say that mean that the person they're talking to is above children and shouldn't be lowering themselves by being interested in and doing things children like.

    8. If someone was saying that an autistic person could only go somewhere by walking, it wouldn't be infantilizing, it'd just be saying that they couldn't do something (although it could be infantilizing if they thought you had to be able to use public transport or drive to be considered an adult).

    1. Yes, because they're assuming they will like things meant for children*, they're not letting adults make their own decisions, and they're speaking to them like children.
    2. Yes because they're being treated like children and it's even worse if the group organises recommended it*.
    3. Yes if the group organises recommended it*, otherwise no.
    4. Yes because the group organises thought they'd be interested in it* and made them go.

    *though it's not infantilization if they thought they'd like it because they knew they had an interest in it.

  6. From Tumblr: says:
    1. They wouldn’t say that about generally able-bodied people, so I’d say it’s condescending and patronising, plus the use of the word “kids” seems a bit infantilising to me.

    2.1 No, if she likes it then it’s OK for her to watch.

    2.2 They’re recognising her personhood, instead of denigrating her interests, so it’s not infantilisation.

    2.3 Yes.

    2.4 I wouldn’t call it infantilising but I would call it controlling behaviour.

    3. Yes, and inaccurate because not all 3-year-olds have the same abilities.

    4. Yes, quite a bit.

    5. No, letting your child have a choice and not bashing their interests is good parenting.

    6. Yes, definitely.

    7. I don’t think so, but I would say it’s rude.

    8. No

    9.1 YES.

    9.2 Yes, speaking to adults in baby-talk is infantilising.

    9.3 No, that’s fine.

    9.4 If they all wanted to go and had signed up, then it wouldn’t be infantilising, but if not, then I think it would be because despite the fact that the people at the event were fine, it’s still bad to generalise.

  7. Also from Tumblr:
    1. To me, this sounds more like expectations/trying to adhere to the functioning level binary society just loves to throw at us. Because some people on the spectrum can go/have gone to college (I am one of them), this subliminal message that ‘if only you can appear to be more normal you too can do these things’ is drilled in. When I was younger, my teachers in one of my elementary schools told my mom that the only thing I’d be good for was doing laundry, and to only teach me things like that.

    2. I’m not so sure about this one.

    3. Infantalization to the motherfucking T.

    4. I guess it depends on if that’s what the autistic child wants, if they’re interested in those things and it brings them comfort; then I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    5. Ideal dream situation that all parents should do, regardless of neurotype.

    6. Yes, because the people saying that they’ll change their minds assume that the person is unable to make their own decisions, as if they know the autistic person’s body more than, say, the autistic person. I’ve personally gotten this one and it’s infuriating to no end.

    7. Yes.

    8. I guess I can see this more under functioning expectations, perhaps. I don’t know.

    9. I think the only one that might not be is the third part, because it was their choice to attend, and they, as adults, were treated as adults.

    1. is the source

  8. 1. I am 30 fracking years old, do not call me a kid unless you are old enough to be my grandparent. That is infantilizing. I stopped being "these kids" 12 years ago, at least, depending on where you stopped calling allistic kids "kids" (often before 18, in my experience).

    2.a) good for her?
    b) good for them as well
    c) ...what. No. Kid wouldn't read it if she didn't like it. And understand it.
    d) Um. No. Don't do that. Age appropriate is an inane concept.

    3. Mental age is infantilizing & can take a long walk off a short pier.

    4. that what the kid wants? Cuz it sounds kinda yuck. Why not teach the kid to turn on the TV?

    5.I haaaaaaaaaaaate the concept of age appropriate, but that's significantly better.

    6.OK so I hate this with the passion of 10,000 firey suns. It's infantilizing, ish, but it's not JUST ableist infantilization. Not like that makes it better. Though often in my experience they just can't WAIT to get our defective uterii out of us if they can tell we're disabled =/

    7. Just asshatted & invalidating, not infantilizing per se.


    9. a) *gag* yuck everyone involved is yicky
    b) The talkers need to take all the seats & shush
    c) This is acceptable.
    d) This is not acceptable. Let people choose.

  9. I've noticed that "kid" is nowadays used as a colloquial term to describe pretty much anyone under 20-ish.

    1. It is. Doesn't excuse it for go to college to have jobs, because graduating, getting a job generally means being older than that.


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