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One of the things I hated when I was younger was the expectation that I would allow any adult known to my parents to touch and kiss me. The touching was bad enough, but having someone’s face shoved against mine was something I can only describe as repulsive.

Most of the people who wanted to do this were significantly older than my parents, often stank of alcohol or even less pleasant things, and seemed to regard my unwilling submission and distress as some sort of personal victory. That parents sanction this kind of thing, and even find it funny, or get angry if the child refuses, has always worried me. For an autistic child it’s one of the stupidest things they can do.

If you are very rule- and logic-based, then demonstrating that any adult known to your parents must be allowed to have physical contact on demand, negates all the ‘stranger danger’ education. Most neurotypical children can negotiate the more complex concepts of ‘bad’ and ‘acceptable’ touching. Not all autistic kids, and even teens, can manage this. They know that a parent gets angry if they try and refuse contact with a relative or family friend, and that they are usually forced to submit, so when those boundaries are crossed by an adult in inappropriate ways the only rule they can fall back on is that they must do as they are told.

And when bad things happen, the child is met with neurotypical incomprehension. Why did you do that? Why did you do what he told you? Why didn’t you say no?

And the answer – I didn’t say no because you told me not to – if given, is likely to evoke an even more negative response. Of course I didn’t! How dare you blame me? How could you be so stupid?

I think it’s time we let all children establish their own body boundaries. Read this. It’s a good discussion of the inappropriate ways we force unwanted physical contact on kids.

If you wouldn’t force an adult to kiss another adult if they didn’t want to, why the hell are you making kids do it?

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