Sunday, September 27, 2009

Autism: Dissension in the Ranks

I’ve seen a lot of celebrity endorsements for one or another approach at handling autism. Green our Vaccines, Autism Speaks, Rethinking Autism and varied groups or advocates all have their own approach. They all have one inherent flaw holding back their progress. They all speak as if their way is the way to handle all forms of autism. There is no blanket approach to handling autism. That will not work and causes unrest in the autism community.

The best example so far is the divided lines with the organization Autism Speaks. Supporters of Autism Speaks want to see a cure for autism and support all medical studies make that happen. High functioning autistics see this as a par-racial erradication of their kind. Both sides have valid arguments. A cure of some kind could make non-function or low function autistics function for the first time. A child who previously could only rock in a corner, may go out to play and say “I love you, Mommy”. So why is this fight unrealistic? First of all no one can force a cure of any kind on anyone and it will likely be very expensive. So far they agree, that autism is not curable. It’s not even certain that all forms of autism can be detected before birth. Even then, only the most severe will likely be detected and that would leave out high functioning forms. While we all have the right to be heard and have a say in what’s going on, paranoid fear serves nothing. We should all support the idea of having kids able to run and play. We should also support what has contributed to some of the greatest minds in history.

Another example is the campaign to Green our Vaccines. I agree with what they are trying to do and believe that there are ways to avoid pumping mercury into our babies. Once again, this will do nothing for those who have a form of autism right from birth, having nothing to do with a vaccine. Unfortunately the message is delivered in such a way that it looks like this is what they are claiming. While autism is what caused these celebrities to start endorsing, it’s not accurate. They are against vaccine poisoning and autism is just one result of that. Generation Rescue, who invented the “Green our Vaccines” slogan is heavily endorsed by Jenny McCarthy. In one media event I saw her exclaim on stage that “autism can be cured!” and such a broad statement is laden with error. Once again, it may be that some forms of autism can be reduced or avoided, but certainly not all. And it bears repeating, there is no cure for autism. To make such a claim is very irresponsible and gives false hopes to millions.

We need to remember that autism is different in every person and that there are five forms and multiple causes. We need to support each other and be more understanding to the broad scale of the autistic community.


Unknown said...

A good piece. However, after mentioning Rethinking Autism in the opening paragraph, you didn't follow up on what you agree with and disagree with when it comes to their approach as you did with Autism Speaks and Green Our Vaccines.

David Wilde said...

Thank you. Rethinking Autism is still pretty new, so I'm watching and deciding on them yet. They are kind of the opposing side to Autism Speaks. I was also just listing examples and thought if I went on to explain how I felt about all of them the piece could get too long.