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Reconsidering the Nature of Autism

8 Apr

Todd Drezner has a new piece up on the Huffington Post: Reconsidering the Nature of Autism. He starts out by quoting the forward to one of Jenny McCarthy’s books. The forward is by alternative medical practitioner Jerry Kartzinel.

Here is what Mr. Drezner wrote in his introduction:

“Autism … steals the soul from a child; then, if allowed, relentlessly sucks life’s marrow out of the family members, one by one.” So wrote Dr. Jerry Kartzinel in the introduction to Jenny McCarthy’s bestselling “Louder Than Words.” No wonder, then, that the concept of neurodiversity– the idea that we should understand and accept autistic people as a group that thinks differently from the majority — has proven to be so controversial.

The quote takes me back. Back to when I was starting to look online for information about autism. I remember when Jenny McCarthy hit the scene. Kev responded here with his blogging. The blog might have been then, not LeftBrainRightBrain. I remember that Kev’s blog went down: the traffic was so high that he hit his bandwidth quota. I remember that he responded to the forward from Jerry Kartzinel. He responded with words and, a little later, with video:

I don’t bring this up just for some sort of nostalgia. But this reminds me of two major themes. First: words hurt. What Dr. Kartzinel wrote, and Jenny McCarthy published, hurt. It hurt a lot of people. It added to the stigma of autism and disability. Second: words can be powerful. Kev fought back, as did many others. How or if this was an influence on Todd Drezner, I can’t say. It influenced me as I still remember it.

We can’t sit back and let people stigmatize others, for whatever reason they may have. Kim Wombles shows that almost every day with her blog Countering. Bev did it with a humor and keen perspective on Asperger Square 8. Corina Becker is taking up the task with No Stereotypes Here. And this is just a few of the many voices, autistic and non, out there.

Having said this, I will bring up one message that I’ve felt needed to be countered for some time. Here is a screenshot of a page from the book “the Age of Autism” by Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill. Both write for the Age of Autism Blog (Dan Olmsted appears to be the proprietor). Mark Blaxill is a member of the organization SafeMinds. Both promote the idea of autism as vaccine injury and, more specifically, the failed mercury hypothesis. (click to enlarge)

To pull but one disturbing quote: “As one of the first parents to observe an autistic child, Muncie learned how well autism targets ‘those functions distinctly human’ “. Yes, I have spent quite a lot of time fighting bad science like the first part in that sentence: the idea that autism is new/the kids in Kanner’s study were the first autistics ever. But what about the second part: that autistics are missing or have impaired “distinctly human” functions? Yes, I’ve also responded to that sentiment in the past and I plan to continue to do so. And that is much more important than the fight against bad science.

Words hurt. Jerry Kartzinel’s words hurt. Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill’s words hurt. They hurt and they are wrong. Plain and simple.

Another phrase from the above paragraph: “autism brutally restricts the interests of the affected”. So say the team that has one interest: pushing mercury in vaccines as a cause of autism. A little ironic?

Reading their writing, I am reminded of one of Bev’s amazing videos:

Back to the paragraph from “The Age of Autism”. Dan, Mark: You don’t think autistics made tools, explored the globe, invented new technologies? The sad thing is, it seems like you don’t.

Yeah, a lot of kids, kids like mine, aren’t in the world explorer/inventor categories. And even kids like mine are still as human as you or I. They are not missing anything “distinctly human”.

McCarthygeddon begins

1 Apr

Only yesterday Orac warned people of the upcoming wave of stupid about to break over us all. His only mistake in my view was confining it to the US.

Well today the wave breaks. In an interview with Time described by that publication as:

McCarthy and TIME science editor Jeffrey Kluger sparred over the causes of autism and the safety of vaccines…

Ihave to say that if this is sparring then I hope Mr Kluger decided against boxing as a sporting hobby. He all but rolls over and allows McCarthy to tickle his belly.

Theres a bellyfull of the usual facepalm inducing idiocy of course but also chilling warning about how far these antivaxxers are prepared to go:

I do believe sadly it’s going to take some diseases coming back to realize that we need to change and develop vaccines that are safe. If the vaccine companies are not listening to us, it’s their f—ing fault that the diseases are coming back. They’re making a product that’s s—. If you give us a safe vaccine, we’ll use it. It shouldn’t be polio versus autism.

Thats right, Jenny is quite prepared to go for a Polio epidemic in the name of her unscientific cause. And who’s fault will it be? Why the people who make the vaccine that helps prevent Polio of course! And why? Because Google Phd McCarthy – the woman who used to think she was an Indigo and her son a Crystal Child in communication with an alien – believes that vaccines cause autism. Of course the lack of any reputable scientific evidence tends to indicate she might just be in error but y’know why let a little thing like accuracy get in the way of a body count?

Time out Jenny, you’re getting scarier and scarier.

Nigerian Neurodiversity

17 Jun

Its refreshing to realise sometimes that there is a world ‘out there’ beyond the West and that they are living with autism too. And whats more, they aren’t considering it soulless, or sucking the marrow out of families, or organising pointless marches for people to exercise their right to blame others, or forming organisations that concentrate on blaming vaccines, or claiming that denying autism was anything except mercury poisoning in the past and now claiming its the vaccine schedule is just the evolution of a hypothesis, or making a tidy profit of the ignorance of parents.

No, what they’re doing is ‘serving humanity’:

Mr. Babatunde Willouhby,a masters degree holder, left his lucrative job to serve humanity by taking care of autistic and children with Down syndrome, amongst others. He is an administrator in an autistic school, named Hope House School, here in Abuja. While chatting with him recently in his office, I saw in him a man with passion for dealing and caring for a special group of children with slightly different behavioral pattern from those who the society will tag ‘normal children’.


Mr Ayiem……said the value he attach to the welfare of his son does not make him see the money spent as expensive, but an investment which is worth giving any individual with confidence that, though it will take time, his son will be independent some day.

and most of all

….socially people see it as a stigma, but I don’t. I have had occasions where I go out with her to supermarket, church and social gathering and you notice people looking at you in a particular way, but I don’t care because she is my daughter. I give her all my love and I display it publicly. I want her to know that she is one of the must loved children in the world.


autistic children and children with Down syndrome can contribute significantly to the society ,if only they are accepted. When we are at home for instance, we help her with her school work by showing her what to do and what behaviour is proper. Of course, like any other child she may go off the track but we help her to do the right things.


If you play any song on radio or on CD and ask who sang it, whether American or Nigerian, she will tell you the name of the artiste. How she knows the name of the artiste and their songs, I don’t know. So if she wants to take that line, I will encourage her all the way. Wendy to me, is one in a million and for me she is a normal child.” From this discussion with Mr Ojugbuna I saw the picture of a father who believes in his child and that was reflected in the behavior of Wendy.

Nigeria is classed as a developing nation (what used to be called ‘third world’). I’d say that in my opinion it has developed a whole hell of a lot further and faster than some people I can think of over in this supposedly enlightened culture.

Dear Dr. Kartzinel

3 Oct