There’s a new autism research organisation in town – the Autism Science Foundation.
The Autism Science Foundation’s mission is to support autism research by providing funding and other assistance to scientists and organizations conducting, facilitating, publicizing and disseminating autism research. The organization will also provide information about autism to the general public and will serve to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism.
You might expect me to have mixed opinions regarding this organisation and that is the case. On one hand, the are very very positively consigning the autism/vaccine episode to the scientific dustbin where it belongs.
Vaccines save lives; they do not cause autism. Numerous studies have failed to show a causal link between vaccines and autism. Vaccine safety research should continue to be conducted by the public health system in order to ensure vaccine safety and maintain confidence in our national vaccine program, but further investment of limited autism research dollars is not warranted at this time.
Two thumbs up to that. My own opinion is that it is not just a waste of research dollars it is also an insulting slur to autistic people to be denigrated as ‘poisoned’ in some way.
So thats the good. And that bad? Well, consider this:
Autism Spectrum Disorders are characterized by significant impairments in social interaction and communication skills, as well as by the presence of extremely challenging behaviors. Such behaviors include stereotyped motor behaviors (hand flapping, body rocking)
I don’t consider hand flapping or body rocking to be ‘extremely challenging behaviours’. I consider them to be the typical movements of an autistic person either communicating or adjusting to an environment or both. I have never challenged my own autistic child’s hand flapping or body rocking and never will.
Moving on, who is on this Foundation? Firstly and most familiar to me is Paul Offit. I think this is an *excellent* start. Karen Margulis London I know next to nothing about. Same with Michael Lewis. That leaves one other.
As we all know Alison Tepper Singer left Autism Speaks earlier this year due to its anti-vaccination leanings. As we _also_ all know, prior to that she was best known to the autism community as one of the central figures in the very unfortunate ‘Autism Every Day’ video.
Ms Tepper-Singer and I have been communicating via Facebook for the last few weeks. The ‘Autism Every Day’ video has been discussed as well as a few other things. I also discussed this with a few close friends (some autistic, some not).
In the interest of totally coming clean, I’d like to therefore say that we have been talking about the ASF for a few days. I have made clear to Ms Tepper-Singer that my clear priority is the friendships I have and community I am part of. The website is very new and therefore the language on it could be very much better and should be for example. This is one case of where I would very much like to see more respectful and accurate language being used.
But overall, I would like to see an autistic person in at least the same position as I am – advising. I was therefore very heartened to learn that that is already the case. I don’t think it would be fair for me to name that person and I will ask that if anyone does know then please do _not_ name them in the comments or elsewhere. I see forced ‘outing’ as akin to bullying so please refrain.
This is going to be a surprise for a lot of people I guess. The man who created the petition that has gained nearly 2000 signatures speaking clearly against Autism Speaks, ‘Autism Every Day’ and Alison Tepper-Singer in particular colluding with that same Alison Tepper-Singer.
All I can tell you is why I am doing this. I am doing it because I think that to have someone(s) on the inside is much more productive than being on the outside. This community has been passed over time and again and now we have a legitimate organisation that I believe _wants_ to learn to do the right thing fulfilling the mantra of ‘nothing about us without us’ and doing it in a way that is dedicated to good science, not harmful and costly quackery.
Could I be wrong? Of course I could. And if I am then I will step back and not participate. But I think that the only we way we can achieve our goals is to take chances now and then. I will be utterly transparent and as I have told Ms Tepper-Singer no doubt I and the other adviser(s) will have plenty to say. And if things do not work out then the onus falls on me to explain myself and me alone. There will be no comeback on the neurodiversity community.