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Stop Your Dangerous Speculation About Barron Trump's Mental Condition

Regardless of what you think of his father, this 10 year-old boy does not deserve harmful speculation about his mental condition.

24/01/2017 04:59 SAST | Updated 25/01/2017 07:42 SAST
Carlos Barria / Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump and his son Barron attend the Inaugural Parade in Washington, January 20, 2017.

"This kid gives me the heebies."

"I wonder if he is all there."

"There were rumours that he was autistic. Looks plausible."

"I'm not one to pick on kids... but he creeped me out"

"Of course this kid is autistic"...

It's a day of the week ending in Y, which means the internet has been hard at work playing its favourite game "speculating wildly about things we don't actually know anything about". This time round the topic is whether or not Barron Trump is on the autism spectrum.

The basis for the speculation? Well, he's "odd" isn't he? He's "different". He's not, you know, "normal", based on the perception of normal that you have in your head. And so in rushes the internet, because who needs an actual professional diagnosis, or a deep understanding of the neurological condition, when you can see with your own two eyes that this kid is clearly autistic?

All the quotes above come from a single Facebook thread, and there are hundreds if not thousands like it happening right now. A quick glance is enough to tell you that the people speculating about Barron's alleged autism equate being on the spectrum with being creepy. Other adjectives flying around include "dead eyes" and "serial killer looks".

Let's start by saying that Barron Trump should, in an ideal world, be left alone because he is a child. He's a ten year old boy, who didn't ask to be Donald Trump's son, didn't ask to be flung onto the world's television screens. I've seen people arguing that "people were racist about Sasha and Malia so why should we leave Barron alone". Well, it was Sasha and Malia's own mother who said "When they go low, we go high." If your motivation is a tit for tat with racists, then you should reconsider your decision making skills and indeed your life.

How many of you leaping to diagnose Barron Trump have any experience with the autism spectrum? How many of you really know what Asperger's or autism actually are?

But equally worrying is that people feel fully entitled to speculate about whether or not somebody has a disability. Your very speculation is shockingly ableist behaviour that damages not only Barron Trump but every single person who is on the spectrum. By speculating, you are enforcing society's desire to label anything which does not strictly adhere to "normal". You are othering everybody on the spectrum. You are making it clear that you consider them acceptable targets for ridicule and attack.

All those adjectives being used in the armchair diagnosis of Barron Trump, you are applying those to every single person on the spectrum, and perpetuating every single harmful, inaccurate stereotype that exists.

Imagine if you continued this practice into real life. Imagine if you suddenly started commenting on your friends' Facebook pictures saying "ooh, your kid looks creepy, do you think maybe he is on the autism spectrum?" If you wouldn't do that to somebody you know, and so help us all I hope you wouldn't, then why do you feel entitled to do that to Barron Trump?

And let's be honest for a second: how many of you leaping to diagnose Barron Trump have any experience with the autism spectrum? How many of you really know what Asperger's or autism actually are? In case you're suddenly realising that you don't really know what it is, here's a handy link. Autism spectrum disorders should only be made by qualified professionals - clinical psychologists who have spent time physically with someone before making a diagnosis.

Also, any human being, yes even Donald Trump's son, has the right to privacy, including privacy about whether or not they are on the autism spectrum. Attempting to force some kind of "confession" out of the Trump's doesn't benefit anyone, but it does violate that right. If Barron Trump is on the spectrum, then that is a matter for him and his family. If he is not on the spectrum, that is a matter for him and his family.

And further to all of this: Donald Trump is a threat to every single person with disabilities. He has previously stated that he believes in the fallacy that vaccines cause autism. His choice for education secretary Betsy DeVos doesn't believe that children with special needs should automatically be entitled to equal education. Spreading rumours about his son, which Melania Trump has threatened to sue over, is potentially lighting a fire. If Trump decides he has to debunk these claims, one can only imagine what lies he might concoct about the autism spectrum or what slurs he might unleash.

If you feel tempted to speculate about whether or not Barron Trump is on the spectrum, please ask yourself why. Why does it matter to you? I can guarantee you that your speculation will not help anybody, but it could definitely hurt people.