The inhumanity of shamanic healing

26 Jun

The inhumanity of shamanic healing

‘Laurens van der Post meets Crocodile Dundee’ – Michael Fitzpatrick on Rupert Isaacson and his Horse Boy Method, the latest miracle healing programme for autism.

Rupert Isaacson, The Horse Boy: A Father’s Miraculous Journey to Heal His Son, Penguin 2009.

Michel Orion Scott (director), Rupert Isaacson (producer), The Horse Boy, DVD, 2010.

Rupert Isaacson, The Long Ride Home: The Extraordinary Journey of Healing that Changed a Child’s Life, Penguin 2014.

It was a shock to sit in a fashionable North London bar with an audience watching – without evident protest – a film scene in which the mother of a boy with autism ritually cleanses her genital area with ‘holy vodkha’ on the instruction of a shaman in deepest Mongolia. It is even more shocking to watch as six-year-old Rowan is subjected to what a sympathetic journalist who accompanied the family on their trip to Mongolia describes as ‘what looks to an outsider like child abuse’ (Tim Rayment, ‘The quest for a miracle cure’, Sunday Times 9 September 2007). Rowan is ‘whipped by a shaman – an intermediary between the natural and spirit worlds – and force-fed milk, then held under a noisy drum.’ He undergoes a dramatic behavioural regression: ‘He loses his language and starts to babble. He screams uncontrollably at the sound of a cow, assaults a little Mongolian girl, and bites his father. Getting the distressed child to the ‘sacred waters’- the ‘brain spring’ – means wrestling him there.’ (The film shows only a discreetly-edited version of these events, focusing on the whipping received by Rowan’s parents, film-maker and author Rupert Isaacson and psychologist Kristin Neff, though there is a more detailed account in Isaacson’s books).

When, in the Q&A following the film, I ventured to agree with Tim Rayment’s assessment that this did indeed ‘look like child abuse’, Isaacson responded angrily. He claimed that as a father he had merely followed his son’s lead – and urged other parents of children with autism that they should do the same. But – and this is one of several evident contradictions in Isaacson’s approach – it is clear that, though his son may have shown a spontaneous interest in horses, the initiative to subject Rowan to shamanic healing came entirely from his father.

Isaacson’s latest book records how, since the trip to Mongolia, he has subsequently taken Rowan through similar rituals with shamans in remote regions of Namibia, Australia and New Mexico. He has also established a riding school at his ranch in Texas, offering the ‘Horse Boy Method’ for children with autism, claiming that this achieves ‘miraculous’ healing results, perhaps not ‘a cure’, but dramatic improvement in symptoms. Here is another contradiction. On the one hand, Isaacson believes that autism is ‘not a problem to be fixed’ but is ‘a wondrous way of being’; on the other hand, he presents it as the result of demonic possession, perhaps a curse from his enemies (made during his earlier work as a human rights activist in Africa), or the malign influence of ancestors (perhaps Kristin’s mentally ill grandmother – hence the vodkha douche). For Isaacson, autism is a state of superior enlightenment and special gifts, but it is also a manifestation of ‘black energy’ – evil spirits that require exorcism.

Rupert Isaacson emerges as a father deeply committed to his son, but struggling to cope with the challenges of autism. He is particularly troubled by the difficulties in toilet-training Rowan, by his recurrent tantrums and by his social disengagement. He is unsparing in his account of the day-to-day difficulties of family life with an autistic child (Rowan is now 12) and the strains this imposes on all the family. But though he asks himself some good questions, he lacks the insight to come up with the obvious answers. Thus – ‘how could I be sure this was not all just New Age nonsense on my part?’, ‘Was I a complete fool for doing this – just on some kind of ego trip, and not doing this for Rowan at all?’ and (my favourite, his reflection on the demand from the Chairman of the Shaman’s Association of Mongolia for $125 each for the services of nine shamans) ‘Had I fallen into a nest of charlatans?’ As another hapless father might put it, ‘D’oh!’

As the father of an autistic son, I have no doubt that horse-riding can be a highly enjoyable and beneficial activity for people with autism. It combines physical exertion in the outdoors and interaction with both horses and people in a way that can enhance mood, improve behaviour, encourage sociability. Though we have never succeeded in getting our son on a horse (he refuses to wear any sort of hard hat), we have, like many parents, found much benefit from cycling (with an improvised saddle in a similar position to that used by the Horse Boy) and from trampolining. These activities are considerably cheaper and more accessible for most families than horse-riding – and they do not require any specialist training or expertise. I cannot see any advantage in dignifying these simple activities as ‘bicycle or trampoline therapy’ or any justification for making extravagant claims for their ‘miraculous’ healing powers.

While Isaacson’s claims for horsey-healing are fanciful, his promotion of shamanic exorcism is more worrying. He returns to primitive notions that developmental disorders are the result of evil spirits, the responsibility of malign forces or dead ancestors – or even of parents who must subject themselves to rituals of purification and mortification. Most of the rituals he describes are the familiar theatrical displays of scary masks, trance dancing, chanting and drumming, laying on hands, sucking bones and spitting out fluids. But there can be no justification for subjecting an autistic child to the sort of inhuman and degrading treatment described in his account. Nor can this ill-treatment be justified by the claims that Isaacson makes in relation to Rowan – that these rituals were followed by improvement in his toileting, his tantrums and his sociability. My son made similar improvements as he got older, without exposure to horses or shamans, as have many autistic children.

In his promotion of the cult of the primitive, Isaacson combines elements of Laurens van der Post and Crocodile Dundee. But, as the libertarian anarchist Murray Bookchin observes, this sort of retreat from into mysticism ‘is no trivial matter’: ‘It took thousands of years for humanity to begin to shake off the accumulated “intuitions” of shamans, priests, monarchs, warriors, patriarchs, dictators and the like – all of whom claimed immense privileges for themselves and inflicted terrible horrors on their inferiors on the basis of their “intuited”wisdom”.’ (Murray Bookchin, Re-enchanting Humanity: A Defence of the Human Spirit Against Anti-Humanism, Misanthropy, Mysticism and Primitivism, Cassell, 1995, p98.)

The warm applause for the Horse Boy film in North London reflects the enthusiastic reception received by Isaacson in the British press, where he has won something of a fan club: ‘With his long blond hair, biker jacket and distressed jeans [Isaacson] looks like a surf dude’ (Liz Hunt, Daily Telegraph, 6 March 2009) ‘With his flowing blond locks, [Isaacson] looks like a veteran of a 1980s rock band’ (Jessie Hewitson, The Times, 2 December 2012).

This reminded me of ‘a handsome, glossy-haired, charismatic hero to families of autistic children in this country and America’ (Justine Picardie, Telegraph Magazine, 8 June 2002) – a description of Andrew Wakefield, the former Royal Free gastroenterology researcher whose fraudulent research claiming a link between the MMR vaccine and autism did so much harm a decade ago. (It is scarcely surprising to discover that Isaacson endorses Wakefield – now a neighbour in Austin, Texas since he was struck off the medical register in the UK.)

Back in 2002, Picardie suggested that Russell Crowe could play Wakefield in a movie version of the MMR story; in the event Wakefield fans had to settle for Hugh Bonneville in the 2003 Channel 5 drama Hear the Silence. Now that Isaacson is planning a Hollywood remake of his film, he favours Robert Downie Jnr to play himself in the starring role. Given the popularity in the American cinema of sentimental voyeurism in relation to autism and cosmopolitan condescension in relation to aboriginal societies, the film seems destined for the Oscars. The only losers will be people with autism who will continue to be the object of atavistic fantasies and the targets of promoters of miracle cures.

Michael Fitzpatrick is the author of MMR and Autism: What Parents Need To Know (2004) and Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion (2009).

45 Responses to “The inhumanity of shamanic healing”

  1. Sharon McDaid (@sharonf) June 26, 2014 at 19:58 #

    Oh dear Isaacson is back to milk the all-too credulous public with his horsey nonsense! I spoke out about the media acclaim they received for the Horse Boy book years ago and was contacted by the mother who objected to my blog posts as harsh and unkind.

    • lilady June 26, 2014 at 20:46 #

      Mommy Dearest should consider herself fortunate that I didn’t blog about her and her husband’s lame attempts to *recover/cure* their autistic child.

      Cripes, I despise these abusive parents.

  2. Eileen Nicole Simon June 27, 2014 at 00:45 #

    This kind of mumbo jumbo has come about to fill the void of stalled scientific research. I will submit a comment on this for the upcoming IACC meeting, but am responding here because you are a member of the committee.

    A “facilitated communicator” was invited by staff at my son Conrad’s group home to try to make sense of his echolalic manner of speaking. She reported that he told her he had been physically and sexually abused by me, his mother. I was then ordered not to visit Conrad.

    My husband suggested just staying away for awhile, “They won’t kill him.” But they did.

    Informed at best by a few community college courses, staff urged the psychiatrist to increase Conrad’s dose of Thorazine, which she did, to 500mg three times per day. Conrad was found dead in bed on the morning of January 17, 1995. Toxicology revealed a lethal level of Thorazine in Conrad’s blood. Details are on my website,

    A “self advocate” on the IACC suggested a year or two ago that “facilitated communicators” could be made available for language-impaired autistic people. NO, professional members of the IACC should long ago have made developmental language disability a primary focus of discussion and research.

    Evidence has been available since the 1960s that nuclei in the brainstem auditory pathway are prominently damaged by asphyxia at birth. Complications at birth are recognized as ominous. Why did Virginia Apgar develop her scoring system in the 1950s? Why did she write a book, “Is my baby all right?”

    Brain maturation did not proceed normally in monkeys subjected to asphyxia at birth. Auditory system damage should have been recognized as an obstacle to maturation of language circuits in human children. I am grateful that at the IACC meeting in April, some discussion took place of the dangers of umbilical cord clamping. I have submitted comments on this subject for the July meeting. Yes, I could be totally wrong, but then provide the evidence that clamping the cord within seconds after birth is safe. And, explain what health benefit is gained by clamping the cord.

    • Science Mom June 27, 2014 at 19:42 #

      What does this have to do with the topic at hand? I.e. abuse of an autistic boy at the hands of his parents?

      • Eileen Nicole Simon June 27, 2014 at 22:05 #

        If autism were recognized as a neurological disorder, there would be no market for shamanic interventions. The “facilitated communicator” who claimed to have interpreted my son’s echolalic speech, was also a shaman. She abused him. She was the reason I was not allowed to visit him.

        But I did visit Conrad one more time. Staff at the house yelled at me to get off the property. Conrad waved goodbye from the front porch, and the last words I heard from him were, ”I love you mom.”

        Two months later he died from an overdose of Thorazine prescribed by a misguided psychiatrist. Conrad was abused by an impostor, staff at the group home, and a psychiatrist, who should have been tried for murder. Staff at the group home were devastated when Conrad died. I am sorry for the grief these young people endured.

      • lilady June 27, 2014 at 23:02 #

        “What does this have to do with the topic at hand? I.e. abuse of an autistic boy at the hands of his parents?”

        It has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic at hand, Science Mom.

        It has everything to do with Ms. Simon’s cord-clamping-fixation.

        I question why Ms. Simon and her husband did not take immediate legal action when they were barred from visiting their child, for a total of five months, because of allegations of physical and sexual abuse by Ms. Simon.

      • Science Mom June 28, 2014 at 00:35 #

        If autism were recognized as a neurological disorder, there would be no market for shamanic interventions.

        What are you even talking about?

      • Eileen Nicole Simon June 28, 2014 at 12:55 #

        My fixation is: the inferior colliculus. This small nucleus in the midbrain auditory pathway is damaged by asphyxia at birth. It is also damaged by toxic substances. Citations to the medical literature can be found on my website, I also explain there why I don’t run to lawyers for help.

        I read the article on asphyxia by William Windle in the Scientific American back in 1969, but when I tried to discuss this with our pediatrician, he laughed at me and told me I shouldn’t be trying to read the medical literature. This was an abusive remark.

        My response was to go find more in the medical literature. Librarians at the Harvard medical library helped me more than any pediatrician. Plenty was already known back 50 to 100 years and more ago. The idea is absurd that present-day pediatricians need more training to recognize developmental signs of autism.

        Did I miss the point of Matt Carey’s post? I don’t read books on miracle healing. Aren’t they written because medical experts provide nothing better?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) June 28, 2014 at 16:15 #

        ” I don’t read books on miracle healing. Aren’t they written because medical experts provide nothing better?”

        If that were true homeopathy would have died out long ago.

  3. Victoria Wingfield June 27, 2014 at 13:34 #

    Perhaps someone ought to investigate Isaacson’s ego a little further. Not only is he claiming to be a hero to all autistic children, he has some very ‘special’ relationships with female volunteers (and with mothers of autistic kids) at his Horse Boy Centre. The man is out of control. I was given this information by a former volunteer who felt she was sexually harassed. Make a Hollywood film about that!

    • Science Mom June 28, 2014 at 14:25 #

      Did I miss the point of Matt Carey’s post? I don’t read books on miracle healing. Aren’t they written because medical experts provide nothing better?

      Yes you have missed the point because you are too busy with your self-indulgent promotion of an unsupported hypothesis. Charlatans taking advantage of vulnerable people should be denounced, not excused because people like you have decided that you think you can do better than experts. For your information, many aetiologies of ASDs have been elucidated. Medical science doesn’t work in a snap you know.

      I read the article on asphyxia by William Windle in the Scientific American back in 1969, but when I tried to discuss this with our pediatrician, he laughed at me and told me I shouldn’t be trying to read the medical literature. This was an abusive remark.

      Given what you are trying to advance and the group that you support, he wasn’t off the mark at all.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) June 28, 2014 at 16:13 #

        Just to be clear–this isn’t my post. This was written by Mike Fitzpatrick.

      • lilady June 28, 2014 at 23:19 #

        Ms. Simon is accustomed to posting her insensitive off-topic comments on the clown blog, where no *treatment* for autism (castration/chelation/bleach enemas/stem cell transplants in filthy, unregulated off-shore clinics), is too outrageous.

        I’ve viewed the YouTube videos of the loony parents who subjected their child to abusive autism *treatments* and who have operate their *treatment* center in Texas.

        Austin Texas really is the epicenter of autism quackery.

    • Jack July 26, 2016 at 16:23 #

      As the former husband of a woman who went down to Horse man’s place and came back wanting an “open marriage,” I can attest to that notion Victoria. Isaacson’s actions with the volunteers, his wife, his girlfriend and the mothers are deplorable.

      Plus I have proof in emails of his actions if anyone really cares.

    • Rosetta November 4, 2017 at 20:14 #

      I witnessed and experienced some horrible things working for Rupert Isaacson. She was not the only one, that guy is a sexual predator, with easy access to a continuous flow of victims. Can I get her information or will you give her mine?

      • Jack May 9, 2019 at 17:53 #

        Not sure how to contact you Rosetta, but would love to exchange info.

      • Simone Smith August 14, 2021 at 09:50 #

        I’ve been reading Kristin Neff’s new book “Fierce Self Compassion” and, in it, she tells the story of “George” (she says she changed the names and identifying details of the various people involved to protect the innocent) who ran a nonprofit organisation that provided services for autistic children and their families. She describes how “George” staffed the centre with “adventurous (and mainly female) teens and young adults” and then goes on to describe how “George” “sexually harassed, exploited, degraded or worse” a number of women who had worked closely with him, and how the girls who were working with him found out that they were all having a sexual relationship with “George”. Kristin describes how George was a manipulative, bullying, malignant narcissist and a sex predator. Apparently, after a whole bunch of the women who worked for him exposed his behaviour, “George” closed the autism centre down and moved out of State. After reading your post and other posts here, it makes me think that the “George” described by Kristin Neff in her book is Rupert Isaacson and the autism centre is the Horse Boy Centre?

  4. Eileen Nicole Simon June 29, 2014 at 01:37 #

    Autism is associated with many etiological factors: prenatal rubella infection, prenatal exposure to valproic acid, PKU (phenylketonuria), adenylosuccinase deficiency, tuberous sclerosis, neurofibromatosis… What systems in the brain are affected by all of autism’s many genetic and environmental causes???

    Under-connectivity is seen on MRI scans. This implies a failure of maturation. What disrupts maturation? Brainstem damage was found in monkeys subjected to asphyxia at birth, and maturation of the cerebral cortex did not progress normally.

    Autism will not be understood until the brain systems affected during the perinatal period are found, and how subsequent maturational processes are affected. The auditory system should be considered, and I will continue to try to point this out until proof I am wrong is provided.

    • Science Mom June 29, 2014 at 15:56 #

      Autism will not be understood until the brain systems affected during the perinatal period are found, and how subsequent maturational processes are affected. The auditory system should be considered, and I will continue to try to point this out until proof I am wrong is provided.

      You may wish to tell autism researchers that they are wasting their time with prenatal neurological development since you have all the answers being the “expert” you are. Furthermore, you have been shown to be wrong with regards to cord-clamping does not cause asphyxia but here you are beating that dead horse still. Not every post is about you and your idée fixe.

  5. ankee June 29, 2014 at 20:40 #

    Reblogged this on Anke's and commented:
    I’m speechless. Evidently Haringey Autism, a charity I have contact with, has invited parents to a talk by the father of an autistic boy who advertises shamanic healing rituals for dealing with autism. This blog post is the reaction from a parent who was there.

  6. Dr Mitzi Waltz June 30, 2014 at 15:42 #

    I’m willing to suspend some judgment when it involves people who are actually part of shamanic cultures looking to that direction for support (e.g. it wouldn’t surprise or shock me that a rural Mongolian might see a shaman if they have an autistic child, it’s not like there’s anything else on offer in Mongolia outside Ulan Bator).
    It’s also pretty common for people to accept more than one explanation for autism, even when these are in conflict–if one of the explanations comes from spiritual ideas, much as you or I might think it’s barmy, we have to meet people where they are and try to help them move on in a way that’s respectful to people with autism. Sometimes there are ways to use these ideas to advance a more scientific approach, e.g. it’s not a giant mental leap from ‘ancestral curse’ to ‘inherited DNA’, although one of these concepts is obviously more perjorative than the other! Don’t mind therapeutic horseback riding either, and since the comparator Isaacson was using when he started down this road was ABA, maybe the shamanic stuff actually seems less invasive. Although that’s really no excuse for all the rest…
    Anyway, I’ve written about this before:
    He strikes me as someone who has found a willing market to exploit more than anything else, which is the case for most of the other “new age” hucksters I’ve seen in the autism world.

  7. dennis August 26, 2014 at 13:25 #

    Perhaps… Perhaps Isaacson was attempting to get spirits INTO his, uh, child – make him a bit more, uh ‘Normal’ – so he’s as ‘ihabited’ like the other Normies?

    On a more serious note, this shows clearer the true nature of how we (autistics) are seen at the unconscious level by Normies. (their preferred term, as it speaks of their supposed choice to become Normal)

    Systems of magic serve to externalize and legitimize the methods and thinking of the unconscious; and as autists lack what Normals have in that way, it seems possible that Isaacson was merely being a bit more obvious than the rule here: he was seeking to overwhelm his son by the process of initiation into the ‘mysteries’ of Normalism by ‘shamanic initiation’.

    Shamans acquire their familiar spirits – a common term is ‘power animal’ – by means of prolonged and painful rites. To the unconscious – as found in Normals – most autistic ‘interventions’ serve the precise same thing.

    They ‘work’ through sheer torment; and in the process, the tormented individual is either ‘cured’ – by ‘breaking on through to the other side’, and becoming ‘inhabited ( with the folk-magic equivalent of demons) or is killed.

    Normies think such deaths to be NO loss. After all, we chose to live; we chose to be autistic (whatever level of supposed severity…) – and, if we were not so accursedly stubborn, we could obey our Normal masters and become portions of themselves – and in the process, honoring / worshipping them. On the other hand, failures deserve to die.

    Note: the above is a description of the deep TRUE beliefs of most Normies, I.e. what they actually believe. If questioned, they will, as a rule, deny believing this way. Their actions, however, speak the truth as to what they believe.

    Isaacson simply is a bit more honest about his beliefs than most. He, and most other Normies, has no place in HIS world for not-human imposters like me.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 26, 2014 at 18:16 #

      Dennis. With all due respect, you are engaging in a form of othering with statements like “their preferred term, as it speaks of their supposed choice to become Norma”

      And, quite frankly, I can’t say I can recall anyone saying “normies”.

      • dennis August 30, 2014 at 02:54 #

        ‘Normal speaks of the state of supposed *self-chosen* state of instinctual functioning – as if the Normal person effectually *chose* by some strange ‘magic(k) means to be what they actually are.

        Note that ‘neurotypical’ is a state of being – a descriptive term, supposedly, one which refers to a ‘happy accident’ – something that simply happened.

        Trouble is, the Normal unconscious doesn’t work that way. That magical realm has everything happen for a reason; there, everything is causal AND hierarchical (as in ‘the great chain of being) – and all things have a healthy dose of inherent ‘morality’.

        Note to the wise: the morality of the unconscious can be stated as being “power IS righteousness.” Hence, the truth, in Normal circles, is whatever the most powerful person says it is.

        Finally, when one is a lesser being, all notion of conscience more or less evaporates on the part of one’s betters. They reserve that privilege for those who’ve earned it – those morally-superior superior beings who have chosen to be Normal.

        We, on the other hand, have demonstrated our status as “devils” by choosing to NOT be ‘Normal’ – and hence, we are not human. No, not even animals fit for pets.

        We are the Normies’ DEVILS.

        Who is doing the bothering here? I am trying to describe what is happening at the unconscious level in the bulk of the population – a vast ‘mob’ who wants nothing more to see the lot of us dead. The motive is simple:

        “when the pharmakoi (scapegoats) are properly disposed of – in short, when they are banished to Hades – then ( and only then) will the polis be truly pure enough to once more enjoy the favor of the gods.”

        Ancient Athens, circa 500 BC or so. They didn’t deny instinct then – not like now.

  8. dennis August 30, 2014 at 03:15 #

    bothering -> othering. This tablet thinks it knows better than I do as to what I’m trying to say.

    As for the word ‘Normies’, it isn’t commonly used. Why, I’m not overly sure, save that perhaps too many of us have ‘radically internalized’ our subhuman status.

    I know I have, to my detriment. It makes it MUCH harder to be appropriately submissive and worshipful to one’s Normal betters – to deny who and what I am to the point of slow self-destruction; to hate myself enough that all I do is their will- (much as if each and every Normal person were indeed a full expression of a cluster-b personality disorder).

    Lesser beings must make their betters look and feel as good as possible. Not sure which of the 48 laws of power that corresponds to, but “never outshine the master” comes to mind, among others.

    There is neither room in their world nor their hearts for us. We are their devils – their pharmakoi. Only time waits for genocide.

    • Chris August 30, 2014 at 05:49 #


      Cute word. What does it mean?

      “There is neither room in their world nor their hearts for us. We are their devils ”

      What about those that are our children? Why do you think I consider my adult son a “devil” and that I do not have room in my heart for him? Where is your evidence?

      If I did what you are telling I would do, he would be living on the streets. Instead we feed him, house him, provide him a computer and pay for his health insurance due to his genetic heart condition.

      Why would you be so cruel to accuse us as being heartless?

      Are you painting all neurotypical people with the same brush?

      • dennis August 31, 2014 at 16:14 #

        He’s altogether favored, at least for the moment.

        Most Normal people, however, do not think to give heed to ought save instinct when it comes to ‘the other’; and, unless you first recognize this (and other) instinctual tendencies and then consciously work (over time) against them – then you too will see your son (and those like him) as lesser beings.

        Granted, that is HARD work. It feels intensely pleasurable to bully lesser beings; there is vast social reward in their ill-treatment; worst of all, to go against instinct in this matter causes YOU to not merely be regarded as also being ‘lesser’ – but your fellow in-group members will summarily expelled you with the title of ‘traitor’.

        Another pharmakos minted, and destined for hell. The in-group must retain its (magical) power; and, as power is rooted in instinct, those who are Most instinctual in behavior will have the maximal status.

        Perhaps you are one such. Are you?

      • Chris August 31, 2014 at 17:55 #

        Why are your painting all neurotypical people with the same brush? Are you not accusing everyone other than you has being a bad person?


        Another interesting word. What does it mean?

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 31, 2014 at 18:17 #

        he explained that word in a comment that was caught in the moderation queue.

  9. dennis August 31, 2014 at 15:56 #

    pharmakoi is the plural form of pharmakos -> scapegoat, scapegoats. (Greek)

    Heartless? Toward yourself(selves) – No. The highest place in the ‘tower of empathy’ (a three from end on am version of the planar ‘circles of empathy’ mentioned by Martha Stout and others) is for you yourself. Those closest to you by blood are next; others who you recognize as ‘fully human’, next in line… So on down, until you come to the first great divide, that between ‘human’ and ‘not-human’.

    In the minds of most Normal individuals ( who see themselves as better than all lesser beings – relax, it’s instinctual…) the highest category in below that line is ‘pet’. If your child is seen as a pet, he is most-favored – and better off than most autists, by the way.

    Most people look after pets very well, they don’t abuse them – and, most crucially, their expectations are in line with what the pet is capable of doing.

    Below the status of pet, however, is that of ‘draft animal’ – which is where most employable autists are found – at least, as long as their usefulness to their Normal owners exceeds the social liability of being associated with that particular lesser being.

    Autists are a lot less useful than they once were – that, and social perfection is much more a necessary matter.

    Below ‘draft animal’ is ‘scenery’. Scenery is ignored as long as it is unobtrusive. Should it draw attention to itself (good, bad, indifferent – no matter) it will be dealt with as a weed. Rarely, it is admired. The term for such admiration (one of them, anyway) is ‘disability porn’.

    Below ‘scenery’ is ‘disease vector’, which is the last stop in the not-human region. It’s where most future-pharmakoi currently reside. It’s the category many people put me in currently – the modern equivalent of leprosy; someone who must not be seen in public (there use to laws about such – look up “ugly laws”). Someone whose current duty is, ultimately, to die, unmissed and unmourned.

    There is but one worse place, though, which is where some people have currently put me, and that is ‘devil’. Devil implies demonization; unlike all other categories, ‘devil’ demand acknowledging the unconscious and instinctual nature of xenophobia

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) August 31, 2014 at 18:16 #

      It’s truly sad that you believe this. But please continue to lecture me about what I believe. Isn’t it odd that this is news to me? Here I would have thought that being inside my head I’d know this better than you. But, go ahead, tell me what I think. When you want to know the truth, you will ask for the information rather than pretend like you know it. Until then, good day.

    • Chris August 31, 2014 at 20:05 #

      “pharmakoi is the plural form of pharmakos -> scapegoat, scapegoats. (Greek)”

      Thank you.

      And I join Matt in thanking you for telling me how I think. It is news to me too. I believe what you are doing is also a form of scapegoating.

  10. dennis September 4, 2014 at 03:04 #

    oFrom memory; supposedly attributed to Richard Feynman: ” You must first make sure you do not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool…”

    Yes, I DO wonder if I’ve bought a line of rubbish, here – at least until I begin recalling the gaslighting and other abuse I’ve endured over the last fifty+years. I then tot up the evidence I have, not for and against – that, and the recognition that I’m not nearly the first to say most of this.

    Much of what I’ve written here and in other places amounts to a *reinvention of the wheel. I find that gladdening – all those years of gaslighting need a Good answer.

    Now, the fact that you deny what I’ve said *apart from thought* makes me wonder. Your answers amount to insult – not a shred of evidence. Not even evidence of thought – which seems to prove the following(at least to me. If you find holes, tell me, and I’ll try to either fix matters, or change the theory…)

    1) your tone implies something along the lines of outrage, – I.e. how dare this lesser being impugn my greatness! Does he not know that I am better than he is? Actually, I do. Society regards social functioning as the sole test of humanity – and even the most socially-inept Normie make me look like an ignoramus – mostly because I don’t have the correct instincts, and all Normies, by definition, have them. That is ultimately what makes them Normal.

    Look up the Latin word ‘Norma’. It has a rather intriguing meaning – almost as if it’s not something vague in the slightest, but altogether precise and exact – as in the derivative word Normal has a precise and accurate meaning – as if there truly is ONE standard.

    2) Because I am a lesser being, I am supposed to recant everything that you have found issue with – for lesser beings are not permitted opinions. Rather, they are supposed to *brainlessly * parrot what their betters speak. Sorry, I’m too dumb to be a suitable ‘mini-me’. That requires both ’empathy’ and a ‘theory of mind’. Now, being all-powerful Normies, you know that all autists lack everything good, and especially the two qualities I just named!
    You, because you are Normal, have both of those qualities. I guess that makes you human – no, scratch that.

    The correct word is ‘o Theoi – as in Gods. (I knew trying to learn Greek would eventually be of *some* use…)

    So you are angry with one most Normies name ‘less than an animal’. Oh well, guess I need more Mirroring lessons – need to only tell Betters what they want to hear. They like that – really makes ’em feel grand.

    Only one thing makes them feel better – and that’s SPORt. See, it ain’t murder then – as in “once we get (50?) signatures (online?). then we’ll find an autistic (kid?) AND LIGHT ***IT*** ON FIRE…”

    Get that word ***IT***. YEP, I’m an it – an objectified tool. A meal, a tool, a toy – oh, and an enemy, too.

    • Chris September 4, 2014 at 03:50 #

      “Your answers amount to insult – not a shred of evidence.”

      Do you think anyone would react well to a string of insults?

      If you have issues, then you need to speak to a professional, not us.

      I am just a parent, and I have been swimming in a world that I had no idea existed before my kid was born with medical issues, and just barely holding my head above the water. Prior to that I had to defend my decision to be an engineer, because I was told multiple times women were too dumb to do math (with a few rape jokes thrown in for “fun”). Then I got tossed into a confused world of motherhood, hospitals and being told at a mommy/baby group that they did not want to listen to my experiences. Apparently I was too depressing.

      Now I have you telling me how I think! All this time I just thought I was stumbling along not knowing what I was doing, but always willing to listen and learn.

      By the way, if you actually find a person who is “normal”, just let us know. We’d be curious to learn about that creature if it really exists.

      • dennis September 4, 2014 at 14:56 #

        If anything your experiences seem to prove my point! First, did these smelly wretches bother to ‘try’ you? (If you can do the work, you *can do the work. If one comes in ‘in shock, duh, you first stabilize them enough to get the time to analyze them, then you determine the correct course of action (or at least try to)…)

        Sounds like these stinkers didn’t bother with anything of the sort in all of the cases you listed. (note to self- make sure you get enough caffeine down so you can think before inserting foot in mouth!)

  11. dennis September 4, 2014 at 14:41 #

    Perhaps – no, toss that. Your conscious thinking may well be otherwise. Th e reality, however, is that most SOCIAL functioning (unless one has had extensive anti-instinct training of a forcible nature, like most ‘lesser beings’ endure so as to better pleasure their masters – as I’ve endured) is instinctual.

    It is – especially if one is Normal – not, for the most part, conventionally learned.

    One is known, ultimately, by one’s instinctual behaviors. This is why ‘Instinct establishes Identity’. It is also how your fellows know you to be ‘human enough’ to earn the privileges that acrue to those who belong.

    Behavior is mutable – it can be reckoned as ‘tactics’ in the interminable power-games that seem to be so prevalent in society – but instinct, which is rooted in the unconscious, does not change. Instinct is better named strategy – more, it often seems to be held-in-common among the members of a species (cf ‘the collective unconscious’, c.g. Jung)

    (by the way, Jung’s Red Book can be downloaded. It’s a large PDF file ~ 150 meg – but it really shows how the unconscious is ‘magical’ in nature. I found it a more-effectual reply to gaslighting …)

    Normal, as a concept, is rooted in that held-in-common portion of the unconscious – in that vast collection of magic-infused instincts and prejudices – the core of which is a very complex image. This image corresponds to both an equivalent of a ‘look-up table’ and a most-precise yardstick (hence the Latin word ‘Norma’ fits, and Normal is neither vague nor innacurate. It is simply the truth; and when one is a lesser being in a world where everyone around you is a potential predator, the truth is critical)

    Ever wonder why it feels so ‘good’ when you do something ‘socially-appropriate’? How rewarding it is? That’s when you measure up to that internal yardstick you were born with – your ‘Norma’ (I called it an Archetype – sort of like the wooden pattern for sand-casting).

    As this image is found at the core of instinct (if one is not autistic…) then it ultimately defines your instincts; and, as instinct is the firmware which drives most people’s seldom-thinking lives, then things like hierarchy, in-group bias, xenophobia and many other fear-inspiring Normal behaviors are both automatic and unthinking in most people.

    More, because they don’t require conscious thought, it is altogether possible to do them constantly (on autopilot…) and yet deny them with the whole of one’s being. After all, you weren’t thinking about gaslighting a given lesser being; you were thinking about how Dumb said wretch appeared – how non-fashionable he/she was – how if said wretch had half a brain, he or she would wear…

    That kind of conscious thinking is less conscious than one might think, actually. It makes life simple, easy, rewarding and pleasurable. How I envy most Normal people’s capacity that way! Yes, even you, when you are saddles with a social liability like me – some thing that constantly leaches away your social capital. Most Normies USE that sort of thing well – as a means to a greater end – as a well-hidden means of scaling the heights of social dominance.

    Now, what have you done to ‘CURE’ him / her? Make him a credit instead of a liability. Remember, instinct demands it – it’s constantly seeking that way. Few indeed are those we answer that inner compulsion – perhaps to replace it with duty?

    Trust me – you don’t want an autistic that does ‘Normal’ so well that he or she ultimately thinks themselves to be a ‘useless feeder’ like I do – that feels compelled toward being codependent upon every Normal person (while seeing most of them as partial manifestations of one or more cluster-b personality disorders). You don’t want him or her wondering if he or she is going to be assaulted today – poisoned today – hurt today – cursed today.

    You don’t want them waking up in a cold sweat after a nightmare involving their execution ‘simply for being who they are’.

    And, you really don’t want them coming up with Normie-irritating theories (like I have) to simply make sense of all the abuse they’ve endured – so as to try to stay safe – so as to (hopefully) alleviate the eternal pain of never doing anything good.

    • Chris September 4, 2014 at 16:57 #

      Again, this is not the place to air your grievances with the world. Many of which every person on this planet has experienced.

      Go to your doctor and get a reference to a good mental health professional. That person would have better tools to deal with your issues.

  12. Kathryn September 10, 2014 at 10:09 #

    Why does the Disability Expo host this egomaniac? Why do they also host the Canary Party? Does Disability Expo hate Autistics or do they just not care as long as vendors pay and/or bring fans to the event?

    • Jody March 14, 2017 at 19:41 #

      I went to one autism conference. It was filled with books, and products and people telling their stories of how they cured their child. There were some good products there, but I’m not buying a home hyperbaric chamber. Dr. Andrew Wakefield was there, this was a while ago. There was another doctor ( I can’t remember his name.). He spoke of how he cured himself and his son. My advice, stay home..

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) March 22, 2017 at 19:29 #

        Cured himself and his son–sounds like a guy named Stan Kurtz. He claims that vitamin B12 (he sells lollypops and, if memory serves, a nasal spray) and antivirals can cure autism and ADHD. It’s nonsense.

      • Kathryn April 16, 2022 at 06:05 #

        The Disability Expo is not an autism conference. It’s a trade show for people marketing assistive technology to the Disabled community. They also have quackery and the lawyers who get in the news for filing fake ADA lawsuits. (Fake as in the Disabled plaintiff was several counties away when he claimed to have visited the defendant’s business.)

  13. Samantha Collins January 16, 2016 at 21:28 #

    1. They never whipped the boy, they whipped the parents. 2. convincing a child to drink milk for a shamanic ritual is no more child abuse than convincing a child to drink his western medicine disguised in chocolate milk, which the kid apparently hated just as much. You don’t call it child abuse when a kid gets pricked with a needle for vaccinations, or when they are rubbed down with a smelly ointment to treat an illness even when they are screaming, or when they have to undergo painful procedures such as chemotherapy or radiation, even when the chances of survival might be slim. Parent convince their children to undergo these things because they hope that it will help them, never knowing for certain if it will. It is very obvious that the parents attempt to do right by their son, and every parent will make mistakes along the way and will doubt themselves. The fact that these parents doubt themselves and reconsider their motives and intentions along the way, and that their son appears to be improving suggests that they are helping rather than damaging their child. There is more we don’t know about autism than do know, so it’s very telling of your own character that you’re as judgmental as you are about something that no one understands enough about. Decades from now, we could find out that some of the medicines or therapies we forced on autistic children were actually more damaging than helpful, or had unintended consequences that no one could have foreseen. I’m sorry, but I don’t see child abuse in the documentary or the book, and I can only imagine how bad this must make the parents feel to see this kind of accusation online when they have tried so hard to do everything within their power, experience, and understanding to help their son.

    • Science Mom January 19, 2016 at 20:23 #

      Um no Samantha, the boy was whipped and subjected to excruciating pain as an autistic. Your neurotypical lens precludes you from seeing that. Autistics don’t need abuse apologists like you speaking for them.

      • Jody March 14, 2017 at 19:32 #

        Read the book. Saw the movie. Even visited the ranch, which seemed rather run down, met some of the lady volunteers and Rowan. I was not impressed. I’m just a grandma who is raising my autistic grandson. He’ll be 18 soon. What helped him the most was going to a residential school and lots of hard work from his teachers, caretakers, his uncles and me. I’ve taken him horseback riding. He likes it. He’s more interested in feeding the horses. He loves the swimming pool and bouncing his balls. I understand every parents heartbreak and frustration, but there are no miracle cures. I don’t believe there are even miracle improvements

  14. KH February 22, 2021 at 06:33 #

    I saw him at Disability Expo and thought he seemed like a massive ego wielding charisma to sell overpriced riding lessons and books. The shamanic stuff was only alluded to but it sounds horrible in this account.

    I tried to make friends with the horses at their booth and found that they were all head-shy and not friendly. Why would they bring horses who aren’t into people? Why would they have head-shy therapy horses? (Assuming they’re trained kindly and that’s not a sign of mistreatment…) It’s unkind to their livestock who don’t have a choice to stay home if they don’t like people. I’ve visited a friend whose horses nicker for attention and scritches if they see guests. They’ll lean their heads on your shoulder and make happy noises.

    The way I saw them treat horses makes it credible they’re not big on boundaries or consent.

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