Guest post byRita Skeeter, award-winning journalist and ultra-reliable source for all the dirt you've ever wanted to read.
Whilst slumming in the dismal wasteland that is Muggle television, I came across an ad by Autism Speaks called Neighbors, which makes the rather astounding suggestion that providing more therapies to autistic children would result in their having more friends. This can be done, according to the ad, through insurance mandate legislation.
Now, some therapies ought indeed to be made more widely available. Physical, occupational, and speech therapy can be very helpful to many children. In magical society, it's a matter of considerable importance to ensure that our little ones are provided with these therapies at an early age, if the need arises. After all, the study of witchcraft and wizardry can be quite difficult if one cannot hold magical objects firmly and recite spells clearly. If a young Hogwarts pupil stumbled over the words of an incantation, she might end up turning her hair into snakes, or something equally unpleasant. Even after the spell was reversed, I found it dreadfully scaly and hard to comb for weeks afterward. But I digress.
To be nothing but Muggle pretenders, Autism Speaks and Dr. Lovaas certainly have an overinflated idea of their own abilities. If there really were some sort of alchemy that could magically transform anyone into a friend, well, we'd all be drinking tea and playing friendly games of Quidditch with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and I expect I'd be out of work. Granted, there are love potions and such, but they soon wear off. Turning people into true friends is a matter of time, effort, and shared interests—not of aping their mannerisms. There are no shortcuts or magical behavioral charms.
Besides, we all know why some children have no interest in befriending certain others, don't we? It's the same reason why so many witches and wizards from our most illustrious families have no use for Mudbloods—plain, simple, old-fashioned prejudice. There's no way to magically transform intolerance into something else by putting its targets in behavioral therapy for several hours a day, either. If the goal really is that all children should be friends and play happily with each other in their neighborhoods—well, they're going to have to be taught to accept and appreciate diversity, rather than excluding and abusing those who are different.
As long as we are on the subject of teaching children not to abuse others, if your little horrors—er, I meant to say little darlings—are the sort who like to stomp on insects, you should teach them to show kindness to all God's creatures. Even a beetle can suffer a nasty case of post-traumatic stress when it comes within millimeters of being squashed by a little boy's wretched smelly shoe. Especially if the beetle just happens to be an Animagus—not that I would have any firsthand experience of shape-shifting, of course…