Robert MacNeil Returns to NewsHour for ‘Autism Today’ Series

5 Apr

Robert MacNeil of the PBS NewsHour has produced a series on autism for autism awareness month. He’s given an interview about the project on the NewsHour website.

For the first time in more than 15 years, Robert MacNeil is returning to the program he co-founded, with a major series of reports on “Autism Today.” The subject that drew him back is one that resonates deeply with his own family and many others. Robin’s six-year-old grandson, Nick, has autism.

Here is the video from that interview:

http://www-tc.pbs.org/video/media/swf/PBSPlayer.swf

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

A rundown of the episodes was given in the first announcement of the series. The series looks to cover a very wide range of topics. Mr. MacNeil notes that he has a producer with experience in covering autism: Caren Zucker. She wrote the piece for The Atlantic on Donald T, the first of Dr. Kanner’s patients reported in his original paper on Autism. Amongst her other projects is Christmas with My Autistic Son in the Daily Beast. There’s some very good work there.

As noted above, Mr. MacNeil also has worked from a personal connection: his grandson. According to an email I received, over the weekend Mr. MacNeil’s daughter came forward about the project in a post on the Yahoo group, EOHarm:

Hi, my name is [A] MacNeil and I have been a listmate here for a long while. This series was born out of 3 yrs of conversations with my dad after my son Nick regressed into Autism following his MMR, Dtap and Hib at a 15 month well-baby visit. It was a long journey getting this program off the ground and some really terrific experts in our community helped to convince my dad that this was really imperative. The program is no where near as hard driving and aggressive as I had intended but, in it’s own quieter way, some key points are made. In the first segment I discuss Nick’s regression post vaccination, we make the point very clearly that he is physically sick and that we have been terribly let down by the mainstream medical establishment, and that when we get to decent medical help Nick starts to get better. I would have loved to have highlighted the work we do with our DAN, whom I adore, but that MD asked not to be named. They would rather focus on treating children and do not want a lot of media attention. I haven’t watched the other segments yet, so I can’t comment on their content. I hope you’ll watch. It was very sentimental to see my dad on camera with my kids at this later stage in his career.

Thanks so much,.

Based on that post, it appears as though Ms. MacNeil is the owner of the My Vaccine Injured Child blog, which was started after she attended the Green our Vaccines rally.

I still look forward to this series. Perhaps not with the same enthusiasm I had a few days ago, but I look forward nonetheless.

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4 Responses to “Robert MacNeil Returns to NewsHour for ‘Autism Today’ Series”

  1. Sullivan April 5, 2011 at 05:39 #

    Two statements really disappoint me:

    “There are wires crossed in the brain as it develops, or something analogous to that, which delays speech. It delays the most — delays or impairs for life — the most human thing we have, which is our ability to look into each others eyes and feel that other person’s existence and what might be going on in their mind, and to empathize with them. That is denied — largely denied — to children with autism”

    My child is not denied anything of humanity. Not the most, nor the least human thing we have.

    Discussing vaccine causation:

    “MACNEIL: I know about it, because my daughter refers to it in the first one. And what I’ve said is, she has, says her piece, because my grandson seemed to be developing quite normally until the time of his vaccine. And she says, she doesn’t know. Was it a coincidence or what? ”

    It seems quite clear that she feels she does know.

  2. McD April 5, 2011 at 08:26 #

    They seem to be the sort of family who would have recorded their child’s early years/months on video. If she were to claim he were fine till 15 months, the video would back that up. It seems to me that that would be an important patt of the story if it were so, so we would see that, one would think.

    I had no inkling anything was really wrong until about maybe 18 months. And it took a few months to convince my husband and mother. Then I realised that looking back, there were indicators, a couple of events, over the preceding couple of months that maybe I could have fingered as ‘first symptom’.

    But the clincher was going through photos and videos later on with a good friend – an experienced PhD Behavior Analyst. With the benefit of hindsight and a neutral observer, there were clear signs right back to seven months.

  3. sharon April 5, 2011 at 11:03 #

    @ Sullivan, that bugs me too. When we interpret our ASD children through the lense of NT development we assume that kids who don’t show attachment in the usual ways have none. In my opinion we have a long way to go in understanding that just because ASD people don’t show emotional connection in the ways most of us do, does not mean it’s not there.

    @McD, I am fortunate enough to have a good understanding of childhood development. That meant that I could see my son was showing ASD signs from very early on. I started to have thoughts of Autism from about 5 months with my son. The big red flag was avoidance of eye contact, but there were so many subtle clues. It is so easy to miss or dismiss a lot of ASD behaviours when our children are small.

  4. AutismNewsBeat April 5, 2011 at 17:45 #

    What bugs me is MacNeil’s description of the series as “the most comprehensive” look at autism yet. That sounds like code for “equal time is given to both sides.”

    I’m also disappointed by MacNeil’s reference to the “freight train” of autistic adults headed our way. If ASD incidence has remained stable over the last 20 years, and the best evidence suggests it has, then why would we expect a larger than normal cohort of young adults needing services for autism? It sounds like MacNeil is leaving open the question of the autism epidemic in episode two, then assuming an epidemic when he covers the “freight train” in episode three.

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