When animals and prisons have more rights than those with autism and learning disabilities

There are some blogs that tear me apart to write. This is one of them.

Today a government report was published with the title “The detention of young people with learning disabilities and/or autism.” You can read the report in full here: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201920/jtselect/jtrights/121/121.pdf

I read about it in the press today and cried. My own child has autism and learning disabilities. He’s non verbal, epileptic and he is doubly incontinent. I am not ashamed or embarrassed to say that at times his care needs are extreme and I struggle. Reading the introduction Members of Parliament wrote to their own report was like reading a diary and a glimpse into a future that could so easily happen to my family. Could this be your story?

Too often the pathway to detention is predictable. It begins from before diagnosis. A family grows worried about their child. They raise concerns with the GP, and with the nursery or school. It takes ages before they get an assessment and yet more time passes before they get a diagnosis of autism. All that time they struggle on their own with their worries and without help for their child. This pattern continues throughout childhood as families are under-supported and what little help they have falls away when the child reaches the age of 18. Then something happens, perhaps something relatively minor such as a house move or a parent falls temporarily ill. This unsettles the young person and the family struggles to cope. Professionals meet to discuss what should happen, but parents are not asked for their views. Then the child is taken away from their home and the familiarity and routine which is so essential to them. They’re taken miles away and placed with strangers. The parents are desperately concerned. Their concerns are treated as hostile and they are treated as a problem. The young person gets worse and endures physical restraint and solitary confinement – which the institution calls “seclusion”. And the child gets even worse so plans to return home are shelved. The days turn into weeks, then months and in some cases even years.”

The report says “we are inflicting terrible suffering on those detained in mental health hospitals and causing anguish to their distraught families.” It makes recommendations that it says are ‘urgent and not complicated’ but that ‘We have lost confidence that the system is doing what it says it is doing and the regulator’s method of checking is not working.

Let’s stop there for a minute. Here we have some of the most vulnerable people in our society having terrible suffering inflicted on them with our own government saying it has lost faith in its own system to protect them.

Would you believe me if I told you that the 2,250 children and adults with autism and/or learning disabilities detained in such places have LESS rights than animals or even prisoners?


Some basic research into the rights of animals showed me that they had the right to:

• need for a suitable environment

• need for a suitable diet

• need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns

• need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals

• need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

So why are children and adults with autism and/or learning disabilities denied a suitable living environment, a suitable diet, the right to exhibit normal behavioural patters, housed appropriately and protected from pain suffering and injury? If we (rightly) wouldn’t accept this treatment of animals why are we accepting it, as a society, for those with autism and/or learning disabilities?

What about prisoners who have committed crimes, broke laws and harmed others…none of which I might add apply to those with autism and/or learning disabilities locked up in these so called hospitals?

Prisons are inspected and prisoners have strict human rights including:

• protection from bullying and racial harassment

• being able to get in contact with a solicitor

• healthcare – including support for a mental health condition

All prisoners should be able to spend between 30 minutes and an hour outside in the open air each day.

Did you see that? Even prisoners MUST have time outside every day. Yet so many of the 2,250 children and young people wrongly detained in hospitals with autism and/or learning disabilities under the mental health act are denied this.

It tears my heart and souls apart to think that an animal or someone who has killed others has more rights than my non verbal autistic son.

I can’t accept that.

Can you?

11 thoughts on “When animals and prisons have more rights than those with autism and learning disabilities

  1. It makes me so angry. At the same time terrifying that this could be the future for our family. As a society we should all be deeply ashamed of the treatment towards some of the most vulnerable people.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m afraid to even research this in U.S. its probably just as bad.
    We worry about Ben’s future all the time. We have verbal arrangements with several trusted people, but this is a reminder that we should put it in writing and make it all legal.
    Its heartwrenching and maddening to think of those caught in a horrible situation.😢💔


  3. I agree it seems some people on both sides of the spectrum care more about “animals” than disabled persons.There were to awful masscares of the disabled one in Temecula California and one in Kanagawa Japan but the went unnoticed because the murderer was NOT a M—–. These crimes happened in July 2016. Both countries have a eugenic history and Japan is worse than ours in the USA. The left and the right are eugenic and care not for disabled.
    I am glad NHS exist in the UK and saved your son’s life. Even with government health insurance there is alot of out of pocket cost here in the USA. One party puts extreme religion while an other puts social agenda before advocating for health care for the disabled here in the US.


  4. It frightens me. That in a first world country and supposedly civilised one this happens to families like ours. It makes me want to close the doors on the world but I don’t know how I’d cope. I feel like families like ours are in a rock and a hard place.
    Change is what we need.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Unfortunately, this is something that is not unique to people with learning difficulties. People with ME/CFS – both adults and children – have also been inappropriately detained and their health made worse as a result. (I wrote about one such case, in Denmark, here: https://ripplesinthewind.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/prisoners-in-the-dark/ But it continues to happen in the UK, too e.g. https://www.meaction.net/2019/07/24/uk-teenager-with-severe-me-threatened-with-forced-institutionalized/ )

    Often, the problem stems from professionals not really listening to either the person being detained or their families. “Their concerns are treated as hostile…” says it all, really. How one tackles that attitude, I really don’t know. As I quoted on my blog, “Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive…” When people believe that they are, in fact, upholding the rights of the person by their actions, what can you do? Hopefully, the report will have some impact and things will begin to change. I certainly hope so.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on The Additional Needs Blogfather and commented:
    The heartbreaking abuse of many Autistic children, and children with Intellectual (Learning) Disability or other additional needs, is happening in the mental health system every day. It is one of the greatest fears of every parent that a change of circumstances could see any one of our children suddenly entering this system. Miriam speaks eloquently and passionately for us all… I join her in refusing to accept this abuse of our children and in continuing to campaign for this torture to end.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, this ‘hostile’ attitude is certainly alive, well, and affecting these children and young people, also people with dementia and undoubtedly others. It is unacceptable. I experienced it g from a Consultant in a ‘family consultation’ about my mother-in law’s-care – she was over 90 and had dementia. I was evidently a nuisance who didn’t know what they were talking about – actually I knew very well! They claimed they had ‘lost’ her notes! Must be even more heartbreaking when the person being discussed and detained is you child! I don’t know if we have a new government (not Tories) it will be better – no reason why, one fears.


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