Earlier this week, a video speculating that Barron Trump has autism went viral on YouTube. Many people, including comedian and actor Rosie O’Donnell, have joined the conversation. I am by no means a fan of Donald Trump or his political agenda, but it is absolutely inappropriate to speculate about whether or not his 10-year-old child is on the autism spectrum.
The YouTube video was made by James Hunter, who is autistic himself, and came from a place of empathy for Barron and a desire for public education about autism. But although Hunter had good intentions, the conversation about Barron has spun out far beyond what he initially envisioned. Just search "Barron Trump" on Twitter and you'll see what I mean:
First, let's make it clear there is absolutely nothing wrong with being autistic. As defined by the National Institute of Mental Health, "autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a group of developmental disorders. ASD includes a wide range, 'a spectrum,' of symptoms, skills, and levels of disability"; common characteristics include "ongoing social problems that include difficulty communicating and interacting with others" and "repetitive behaviors as well as limited interests or activities." Autism is relatively common, affecting around 1 in 68 children.
But because there's still so much stigma surrounding autism, it's a bad idea to publicly speculate about whether or not someone is autistic. Even more so if that person is a young child. If Barron Trump has autism, if, how, and when the public conversation about his autism happens should be his decision.
"I never ever meant this as a bullying video. As someone who was diagnosed at age 5 and has gone through bullying myself, I would NEVER do something like that. I made this because I truly believed Barron was on the spectrum, and I wanted people to stop bullying him over his 'weird' behavior and explain to them that it might actually be due to a condition."
O'Donnell also apologized. Although Hunter and O'Donnell had good intentions, speculating about whether or not someone has autism — even with empathy — unfortunately provides material for harassment from people who don't have the same good intentions. Speaking about personal experiences with autism helps combat the stigma, but due to that stigma, that discussion should only happen with that person's consent — or better yet, be initiated by the autistic person themself.
Trust me, there is PLENTY to criticize about Donald Trump without speculating about whether his 10-year-old son has autism. You could spend YEARS criticizing Trump's misogyny, racism, homophobia, transphobia, just plain stupidity, and yes, even his hair. And if you still want to criticize Trump's kids, Ivanka is a grown adult and the New Yorker recently published a great analysis of her awful, awful book.
Top photo: Facebook/Donald Trump
Note: An earlier version of this piece was published on 11/30 without editing for content and tone — we apologize and are working on our publishing process to make sure it doesn't happen again.
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