Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Autism Controversy: Belief or Disbelief and miseducation
Once in a while you can still come across someone who simple doesn't think that some form of autism doesn't exist. They think it's some kind of elaborate scam either by families or the "big pharma" to get money.
If you are dealing with autism I'm sure you wish you were getting money because of how much treatments cost. That being said, "big pharma" isn't raking in the bucks either for the same reason. Now the pharmaceutical companies are not the controversy I really want to get into here, so that's for next time. This time it's the struggle to get some people, sometimes important people to believe autism exists.
I'm talking about teachers, principles, some media platforms, and even doctors. The number of disbelievers has dwindled in the last few years, but they are still out there and can do immeasurable damage. A prime example of that damage is Mike Savage.
Back in 2008, radio show host, Michael Savage had this to say about autism: "fraud, a racket. ... I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot."
This caused a massive outcry and picketing to remove Mr. Savage from his job on his very political talk show. It also caused a massive clash between his loyal listeners and anyone who disagreed with what he had to say. The danger of making a general statement like that (especially in the context delivered) is that it creates a misrepresentation of the condition. I literally came across hundreds of online comments to the tune of "oh, you have autism? Mike Savage says you're a fake" and that was one of the tame ones. There were even teachers and medical professionals who took to the political sense rather than the medical and it affected how they in turn treated autistic students and patients. The clash was a major chain reaction that caused a great deal of conflict. This is not to start a debate over Michael Savage, so such comments won't even be entertained. I say that, because I've already been in long tirade discussions that get absolutely no where on the matter with anyone who thinks disagreeing with this guy is a blight on humanity.
When a teacher thinks Asperger's is just an excuse for bad behavior, she inhibits that child's support system and injures him or her mentally and emotionally. This happens in places like Florida and Arkansas. My next example of making waves is Wendy Portillo, a school teacher in Port St Lucie, Florida. Also in 2008, she made headlines for having her kindergarten class students, stand up one by one, and vote young Alex Barton out of his class for "bad behavior". Each student was forced to say something negative about Alex before voting him out. I can only imagine the results on his psyche. Mrs. Portillo lost a year of work, but was given her job back with support of the community. Yes, dozens of parents, and over a hundred supporters, came forward to give some kind of testimony to the board that Wendy Portillo was awesome and should have her job back. Was it forgiveness or did all these people hate autism? Is that a sign of just how much autism education is needed? I think so. As it is, Wendy thanked all her followers by getting in trouble yet again in 2010 for mistreatment of a partially deaf student. I wonder if all the same people will come forward to dump on a deaf child's integrity too? Sorry, in any case, it goes to show just how much some actions can create shockwaves that damage our community world wide. All the students in Alex Barton's class were taught something very wrong and they attribute it to autism. The public demonstration shows the same line of thinking.
There is a dangerous ignorance out there and it can do a great amount of damage to treatment possibilities, public education, and public opinion of people with autism. It's why we must be vigilant in teaching the truths of autism to anyone who cares to learn. It's our children's world next. How will it treat them?