I am angry. Really angry!
The last few months have been a bit slow on the media front for autism and ASD related stories.
There have been a few features, including your usual this causes autism, and that causes autism and maybe this causes autism and probably that causes autism. I read these but always gloss over them because if we put all of this causes together the list could be endless. It is very reminiscent of that whole Daily Mail attitude towards cancer. There was a hilarious Facebook group listing all of the factors, items, lifestyle choices that would eventually cause cancer in some form in a person. I thought it was hilarious but then I am savvy enough to know that rags like the Daily Mail thrive on scaremongering amongst the general public, the same public that lack the capacity to think for themselves.
However, as a good friend of mine also noted, lately every article on autism and specifically on its mythical causes, have had attached to these, copious amounts of reader comments. It is these comments that I would like to talk about.
These comments worry me and their lack of awareness regarding autism and ASD related is frightening. In the last few weeks, I have been helping A's high school and some of his after-school activities raise awareness of autism. A lack of awareness creates barriers for him and all other kids on the spectrum. While the school is fantastic and I am very happy with it, there has been some bullying in the first few weeks. Low level stuff, really but stuff that could have been avoided if the populace knew that A is autistic. The school and the parents of kids on the spectrum do not want to single out anyone in particular as being different and it's been tricky trying to negotiate a way of raising awareness that doesn't single out any of our kids, especially, I find when dealing with autism where it affects the kids in very different ways. We're still trying to come up with ways of combating this. A way that would help the school population understand that these kids, the ones who act a bit strange and seem a bit odd, are that way for a reason. This week we are targeting parents, trying to get them to understand first so that they can answer any questions that the kids may have.
I have blogged before about A's love of breakdancing. What I failed to mention was how he very nearly gave it all up a few months go. The class teacher, despite my constant emails and messages failed to compensate for his autism or make the class aware of why A's behaviours were different sometimes. We had a fantastic teacher earlier in the year who taught him that breakdancers were a community, that there was a sense of unity among them through a shared passion. This new teacher however, seemed to be preoccupied with creating a highly competitive atmosphere and A was excluded from crews and battles and even a class one day for being a freak and a weirdo. He hasn't been to the class for a few weeks and unless the teacher actually bothers to answer my emails to address this situation, he won't be going. We attended a breakdancing competition last week and the kids from the class were they were particularly dismissive and ignored him for the duration of the event. He was devastated and it has knocked his confidence again.
This is the harm that a lack of awareness does.
So back to the media. This week the Daily Mail published this headline:
Are high-achieving parents who met at work behind rise in autistic children?
A headline like this is sensationalist, nothing more. I could present you with thousands upon thousands of parents of autistic children who do not specialise in these fields, who are not university educated, who have not vaccinated their children and still have autistic children. The same media attack on cancer has been happening with regards to autism and so called specialists are lining their pockets with research grants that could be better used elsewhere. As a parent of a child with autism, I welcome all research on autism, but their attention needs to be directed elsewhere in terms of educations, associated illnesses and early intervention.
Another had this to say: "AUTISM IS A FORM OF BRAIN DAMAGE CAUSED BY THE MMR JAB. Mostly likely caused by mercury used in the jab. this leads to the same type of sickness usually... most prominently including gastroenteritis. I dont believe in conspiracy theories generally, but i believe this to be A MASSIVE CONSPIRACY BY THE MEDICAL ORGANISATIONS."
Sally from Swansea has some sage advice: If these male scientists wanted to avoid autism, they should have married somebody far less intelligent than them. Simple as that. - Sally, Swansea