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Ableism by Eddie Jackson, Long Road Sixth Form College

February 2022

Ableism has always been an issue when it comes to the process of mental health disorders and society. However recently this has been a more frequently talked about the issue due to the development of society. Having a diagnosis of autism and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) myself, I would like to show firsthand experience of how ableism can seriously affect someone just trying to live out their life.

Lack of education, ignorance and dismissal.

There has always been supporting handed out towards neurodiverse people although it depends on how useful that ‘support’ is.

For example, many years ago the lack of understanding in this world was astronomical and people did not have the education to understand mental disabilities. For example, if someone were to have a learning disability in the Victorian era, they may well have ended up in a mental institute due to their ‘unstable conditions.

Although of course, this type of ‘help’ is not in place now there are certain companies that may have a similar effect on someone as a mental institute may have done.

This brings me to my discussion about the famous autistic support group “Autism Speaks”. Which is known to be an incredibly controversial support system for autistic people.

You may be aware that last year Sia released her own movie called ‘Music’. This movie follows a non-verbal, autistic girl called Music. Sia also openly supports “Autism Speaks” in this movie. It is also important to acknowledge that the actress who played Music, Maddie Ziegler is a neurotypical young woman however she did refuse this role multiple times knowing how harmful it would be towards people. The reason she ended up accepting it was due to peer pressure from her mother and Sia herself who is known to be her Godmother.

Through this information, it is clear that Sia was very persistent about having Maddie play Music.

So why is this movie so damaging to the autistic community?

To begin with, it was very upsetting to hear that someone neurotypical was performing as a neurodivergent character. There are many neurodivergent actors spiralling around agencies who also get limited opportunities for roles compared to neurotypical people due to potential help being put in place. A good example would be the account ‘chloeshayden’ on TikTok which has brought up issues about Sia multiple times and is an autistic actor. On bringing up these issues, Sia was quick to respond by blocking her and ignoring the issues which Chloe had stated.

Upon casting Maddie, Sia got a lot of hate due to Maddie being neurotypical. In Sia’s response, she said that she had originally cast an autistic girl, however, she did not react to the overall experience as well and was ultimately fired. First of all, there have been multiple convictions that this statement may be false, and it was Sia’s way of getting out of being cancelled. Secondly, the whole statement in general was disgusting. If someone finds the experience hard you edit it for them and make it more comfortable for them. If this is still not possible there is this knowledge that Sia could have just found another neurodiverse actor instead of making a beeline for Maddie.

This of course though is not the full issue of why Sia’s movie is so controversial.

In some of the scenes, Music is seen being restrained by her peers. This caused outrage when the movie was first released. This is due to the knowledge that some people who are uneducated when it comes to the autistic spectrum will believe that this is the right procedure to carry out on someone. The particular method as well is a method which has known to be dangerous and can actually kill the person being restrained in certain situations. The method being used is a form of abuse and is not to be carried out upon anyone.