Skepticism and Autism

The 31st Skeptics’ Circle is up at Terra Sigillata. Biotech, alternative medicine, climatology, religion and more.

My favourite post is by Dick about his personal experiences with The Fleecing of the Autism Community.

“These frauds sell crap, preying on the concern of parents for their children. They guilt us by saying, “Wouldn’t you do anything to help your child?” When it doesn’t work, we are told we didn’t do it right which is shorthand for “we didn’t spend enough money.” I’ve seen the shit come and go. And everyone has something to offer…for a price. No one is giving this stuff away. They are impoverishing an entire class of people.

I am pissed at people who prey upon the fears of parents. No other single disability has been ravaged more by broken promises, and outright lies and deception than parents of people with autism. I am skeptical of every single treatment option, without exception. Behaviorist interventions can help with some behaviors, but it is not the final answer. Anyone who walks into my door, promising to SELL me a cure for my son runs the risk of bodily harm administered by a 2×4. Our family has been personally held up and robbed by people who are living very well at our expense. Impoverishing our entire family will not do anything to improve my son’s future.”

Like Dick, I have two children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder. There are coping strategies for their social and abstractive difficulties, and if one’s child is a high-functioning autistic a productive independent adult life can be reasonably expected. Some of the characteristics of autism can be behaviourally modified and controlled to enhance social normativity: but the child will still always be autistic – THERE IS NO CURE FOR AUTISM.

Eventually someone will discover what causes autism (and no, it’s not vaccines, or mercury in vaccines). When they do they will probably win the Nobel Prize. And maybe that discovery will lead to a method to prevent autism appearing in the first place, which will ease the guilt and apprehension of a lot of parents.

However, knowing a lot of high-functioning autists who are productive, creative, kind and inspirational people, some with specific savant-skills, perhaps if we eugenically cull the autists our society as a whole will lose something important. Sometimes it’s more important to appreciate our different children for the gifts they do have than to mourn and rail against the Fates for normality they lack. After all, what sort of message does it send to our children if we’re always looking for something to “fix” them?

Autistic children have strengths as well as weaknesses. Acknowledge that their brains are different, remind them what they find easy compared to neurotypical children as well as the different challenges they face, and help them find strategies to fit into a neurotypical society as much as they need to while enjoying and validating their autistic perceptions as well.

Celebrate the child you have. Our children deserve no less.

UPDATE: Doing the found a fab new blog dance! Autism Street, written by Dad of Cameron, a skeptical dad writing to encourage perceiving autism as a difference vs a defect.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, health, medicine, parenting, skepticism

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6 replies

  1. So long as the discovery of a genetic cause doesn’t start a process of genetic testing and abortions.This is becoming a big issue for people with other genetic, but non-life threatening, conditions.

  2. Ah, I finished reading your post, and you make the same point. Apologies for pointing out the obvious :/

  3. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog!I have mixed feelings about an “Autism Pride” type of movement. I think when kids are young, we should do everything possible to teach them how to interract and get along with the rest of the (NT) world. But once the person is a teenager, if they want to differentiate that way I’m okay with it.More of us are probably on the spectrum than we know or realize.dick

  4. My kids are preteen, so that’s probably why I’m feeling that way now. When they were younger of course I wanted them to appear as NT as possible, because I wanted them to have friends and learn stuff at school.Unfortunately I found our local Autistic groups not my kind of people because of the emphasis on autistic children as defective, a burden that had to be managed – it was so depressing. I think that’s a problem.

  5. Hi, Thank you for the kind words about my blog as well! I thought Dick’s recent post at the meeting of the skeptics cirlce really says it all. It’s so motivating to know that there is not necessarily a sucker born EVERY minute.

  6. Nice of you to drop by, Dad of Cameron.As a species, we’re very susceptible to magical thinking – I used to see it all the time with relatives when I was doing neuro rehab as a physio.There’s a snake-oil salesman born every hour, at least.

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