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How "Neurodiversity" is hurting our kids

How "Neurodiversity" is hurting our kids

BY J.B. HANDLEY May 17, 2018

“A cornerstone of the neurodiversity movement is the assertion that autism is an exclusively genetic condition. This position is no longer tenable in the face of statistical and epidemiological analysis.” - Twilah Hiari, Neurodiversity is Dead. Now What?

 Click for Amazon link

Click for Amazon link

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vermont —Last week, my publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing, revealed the news that my new book, How to End the Autism Epidemic, would not only be released on September 19th, but that it was also #1 on Amazon.com in a number of categories, including both the "Autism and Asperger's" and  "Vaccination" categories. You'd think my book, which provides a clear, unequivocal, and science-based explanation for how, exactly, vaccines are triggering the autism epidemic would be heavily criticized by the vaccine industry and all its minions. And, at the right time, I'm sure it will. What I didn't expect was the shocking response to my book from a faction of the autism community often referred to as "the neurodiverse." 

In an immediate fury, Chelsea Green's Facebook post about my book was bombarded by neurodiverse advocates, claiming the book is "ableist" (basically, bigotry towards those who are disabled), that it advocates "eugenics" and "genocide", "promotes hate," and that clearly I, the author, must "hate my own child." 

As the parent of a beautiful child with autism still struggling with what is, at times, a devastating disability, I found the comments of the neurodiverse to be shockingly brutal and gut-wrenchingly nasty, while also being categorically untrue. Since my book hasn't been released yet, of course none of these commenters know exactly what my book says, but I can assure everyone that it's neither hate-filled (except perhaps towards the CDC), nor does it advocate eugenics or genocide as a way to deal with the autism epidemic.

The neurodiverse took exception to calling autism an "epidemic" and wanting to "end" it which, if you subscribe to the neurodiverse view of the world that some do, effectively threatens everything they believe, and can be viewed as a form of intolerance. Let me explain with a little background.

Neurodiversity: A great idea (at first) for respecting neurological differences

 Steve Silberman with his book, Neurotribes

Steve Silberman with his book, Neurotribes

In 2015 Steven Silberman published NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. Silberman, a former record producer, restaurant critic, and teaching assistant to the poet Allen Ginsberg, created a stir in the autism world and brought the tortured idea that autism has always been with us at exactly the same rate back into the public debate. He described a world in which autism is a “naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius.” The geeks of Silicon Valley? Nikola Tesla? All “blessed” with autism.

“Whatever autism is, it is not a unique product of modern civilization. It is a strange gift from our deep past passed down through millions of years of evolution,” Mr. Silberman writes, attempting to erase an epidemic with the stroke of a pen.

The term neurodiversity first appeared in the late 1990s, coined by sociologist Judy Singer. She likened acceptance of diverse ways of thinking to other social acceptance movements taking shape and hoped “to do for neurologically different people what feminism and gay rights had done for their constituencies.” On the surface this appears to be a noble pursuit—what could possibly be wrong with advocating for acceptance? In Wired magazine, Mr. Silberman examined the social revolution he believed was taking shape, as advocates with autism and “others who think differently are raising the rainbow banner of neurodiversity to encourage society to appreciate and celebrate cognitive differences, while demanding reasonable accommodations in schools, housing, and the workplace."

Mr. Silberman’s message met the needs of the media’s social agenda to make autism normal and resonated both in elite circles and with vaccine injury deniers. Featured in many prominent publications (Forbes, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Economist, and the New Yorker, to name a few), Silberman won the Samuel Johnson Prize for nonfiction in 2015. A glowing review in The Atlantic praised Mr. Silberman’s book and noted that autism self-advocates “make space for anyone who feels not quite normal.”

Mr. Silberman took it a step further, pinning the survival of our species on our ability to accept neurological diversity, explaining that “the value of biological diversity is resilience: the ability to withstand shifting conditions and resist attacks from predators. In a world changing faster than ever, honoring and nurturing neurodiversity is civilization’s best chance to thrive in an uncertain future.”

Reality Check!

I’m approaching fifty years old, and as a child I’d never seen or heard of even one peer with autism. Ask any teacher, doctor, nurse, or coach who has been working for three decades or more and you’ll always hear the same thing: something new and very different is happening with children today. My teenage children know dozens of kids with autism, and schools are bursting at the seams with special education classes. When you look at a graph of the change in the rate of autism over time, it’s breathtaking:

click to enlarge

When I first heard that there were researchers, spokespeople, and experts claiming that the growth in the number of kids with autism was all a big mirage and that these children had always been here, I really couldn’t take it seriously.

Data simply doesn't support the neurodiverse view of history

A simple question refutes this narrative: “Where are all the adults with autism?” If Mr. Silberman’s version of history is plausible, you’d need roughly 2 percent of American adults to be exhibiting clear signs of autism. Let’s do the quick math: Fifty-four percent of the US population is over the age of thirty-five. That’s roughly 174 million people. If one in thirty-six of those adults had autism, that’s 4.8 million American adults with autism—4.8 million adults over the age of thirty-five who have a disabling condition that makes independent living a challenge for all but the mildest of cases.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental activist and lawyer, has often discussed the lack of adults with autism, citing his family’s decades-long involvement with the Special Olympics, which he asserts never used to have participants with autism. He asked (in 2017 when the autism rate was one in forty-five),

“Why isn’t one in forty-five older people you see walking around the mall, why isn’t one in forty-five wearing diapers and wearing a football helmet, and having seizures, head banging and stimming?”

There is no data anywhere that supports an adult autism number anywhere close to 4.8 million. To accommodate that many individuals, you’d have nursing homes, group homes, and mental institutions overrun with adults with autism. The best data I could find about housing for adults with disabilities was in Canada, where a federal health system makes data more trackable. In Canada’s largest province, Ontario, there are 13.6 million people. Adults over thirty-five make up 7.34 million people, which at a rate of one in thirty-six would mean 204,000 adults with autism. And how many group home spaces does Ontario offer for adults with all forms of developmental disabilities? Eighteen thousand. Keep in mind, autism is only one form of developmental disability and represents well under half of all cases. Ontario doesn’t have more beds, because they don’t need more beds (yet) —there are nowhere near that many adults with autism. In fact, forty-two thousand adults are being serviced in Ontario for all disabilities, and if the rough math says that if autism is half that number, there are 90 percent of the adults with autism in Mr. Silberman’s world “missing” from Ontario (twenty thousand actually there versus two hundred thousand). Because they don’t exist.

 Click for Amazon link

Click for Amazon link

If that simple math isn’t enough to convince you, a book was published in 2017 that I believe will do for “epidemic denial” what Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did for DDT. Denial: How refusing to face the facts about our autism epidemic hurts children, families, and our future, was written by former UPI investigative journalist Dan Olmsted and Harvard MBA and autism parent Mark Blaxill. Apparently, the authors had similar misgivings about writing an entire book dedicated to a topic that one would hope most people consider to be poppycock, noting that “part of our personal challenge as an autism parent and a health journalist becomes taking the ‘idea’ [that there is no real autism epidemic] seriously enough to debunk it thoroughly, not just wait for history to stomp all over nonsense as it is eventually wont to do.”

Olmsted and Blaxill’s book is so incisive and so clear, and so specifically destructive of Mr. Silberman’s entire thesis (they dedicate many chapters to refuting NeuroTribes), that I will struggle to do the book justice in a lone blog post. What I can do is offer you a few select passages from the book that I think stand alone in painting epidemic denial in the absurd light it deserves:

Epidemic denial doesn’t add up. Take the US population of 124 million in 1931—the year the eldest child in that first report on autism was born. Divide that number by the current autism prevalence of one in sixty-eight children [Note: it’s now one in thirty-six]. There should have been 1.8 million Americans with autism in 1931. There weren’t. We have scoured the medical literature for cases before then, and there are essentially none to be found.

They also provide “since the beginning of time” math, which makes Mr. Silberman’s and other’s claims even harder to accept:

Back up a bit more: how many people have ever lived on earth? About 100 billion by 1931. Again, simple math yields about one-and-a-half-billion autistic individuals who have lived before 1930. Now we begin to glimpse the emptiness behind the Epidemic Denier’s claims. There may have been scattered individuals with enough traits to qualify for an autism diagnosis, but 1.5 billion would have been far more visible. Someone would have said something. Given the distinctive profile of autistic children, it’s impossible that no doctor or social observer commented on their markedly different behavior.
 

Romanticizing a devastating disability

As an autism parent, if I immerse myself in Mr. Silberman’s fictional version of autism and its history for long enough, it all starts to sound sort of fine, if not even a little great. Autism is just a different way of thinking. It’s always been here. People with autism are gifted and have so much to offer the world. Heck, a new TV series on ABC, The Good Doctor, brings autism even further into the mainstream—the central character is a doctor with autism who has extraordinary powers to heal.

Unfortunately, the Good Doctor is like a guy with a small limp and a cane representing paraplegics to the world. His story is fascinating and compelling but bears little resemblance to the autism most parents, myself included, actually deal with every single day. And on a personal level I resent the way Mr. Silberman, The Good Doctor, and many neurodiversity advocates are romanticizing a devastating disability. If you “discovered you have autism in college,” you don’t have the autism now afflicting more than one million American children. Including my own son.

Despite what neurodiverse advocates will claim, the definition of autism has remained remarkably consistent over time. Because autism can’t be diagnosed with a blood test, it’s diagnosed through observation, and anyone possessing enough qualities of autism has autism. The hallmarks of an autism diagnosis include early onset of symptoms (typically before thirty months), an inability to relate to others (called “social-emotional reciprocity”), “gross deficits” in language development, peculiar speech patterns, and unusual relationships with the environment (attachment to inanimate objects, rigidity, etc.)

As Olmsted and Blaxill explain, “Most with an autism diagnosis will never be employed, pay taxes, fall in love, get married, have children, or be responsible for their health and welfare.” In fact, upward of 50 percent of children with an autism diagnosis are unable to speak at all, according to the California Department of Education. A study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders showed that 28 percent of eight-year-old children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) exhibit self-injurious behavior (they physically hurt themselves). Maternal and Child Health Journal published a study showing that kids with autism are twice as likely to be obese. A study in Pediatrics showed 35 percent of young adults with autism have never had a job or received any education after high school. The average cost to support an individual with autism over his or her lifetime? $2.4 million.

If those figures aren’t bad enough, a study published in the journal Research in Developmental Disabilities showed that children with autism are also considerably sicker than their non-autism peers. Asthma, skin allergies, food allergies, ear infections, severe headaches, and diarrhea or colitis are all far more likely to be present in a child with autism. In fact, the gastrointestinal problems of children with autism were so much worse than any other group that the study authors thought it deserved special attention, noting “one finding stood out in particular when we compared the developmental disability groups to each other: Children with autism were twice as likely as children with ADHD, learning disability or other developmental delay to have had frequent diarrhea or colitis during the past year. They were seven times more likely to have experienced these gastrointestinal problems than were children without any developmental disability.”

Recently, National Public Radio reported that people with developmental disabilities are seven times more like to be sexually assaulted and that the assaults typically “happen in places where they are supposed to be protected and safe”—a nightmare scenario for every autism parent.

Finally, and tragically, the organization Autism Speaks estimates that fully one-third of children with autism also have epilepsy, “a brain disorder marked by recurring seizures, or convulsions.” And a European study in 2016 found that people on the autism spectrum “are dying younger than the average person—by 12 to 30 years” with the leading cause of early death being epilepsy.

Is this the same happy world Mr. Silberman depicts? Not on your life. Or theirs.

Echoing many autism parents, autism mom Amy Lutz penned an essay for Psychology Today to lambast Mr. Silberman's book soon after publication:

Few things are more surreal to the parent of a severely autistic child than the neurodiversity rhetoric that recently culminated in Steve Silberman’s book NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity. To call the disorder that has left our children with profound impairments in cognition, communication and behavior a “strange gift,” as Silberman does, is truly mind-boggling.

Prevalence data further refutes rigid ideology

If the rate of autism has actually increased, the rigid ideology of some neurodiverse members immediately crumbles. Let me explain by sharing a comment that appeared just this morning on my Facebook page:

"The autistic community finds the whole idea of a cure abhorrent. There have always been neurodivergent people. They are not sick or wrong. They are disabled by the neurotypical world that thinks there is only 'their' normal, not by their different neurology. Please listen to the autistics who have the right to speak for themselves. Not those who want to eliminate neurodivergence. There is no epidemic. Just better diagnosis and recognition. In past generations we did not know what we were seeing or have the labels. It still existed."

As you can see from the quote, and I think it's fair to say that this quote is very typical of the neurodiverse philosophy, the under-pinnings of the entire ideology is that autism has always been with us at the exact same rate, we're just better today at recognizing it. The problem with this view is simple: the science doesn't support it. The idea that researchers only recently became good at diagnosing autism is absurd, particularly when you consider how easy it is to recognize autism. Moreover, some of the research studies that came up with the original autism prevalence data were amazingly thorough, oftentimes looking at data from an entire state. In my book, I review many of these original studies, I'll just mention one of them here, I think it further shows the perversity of the comment above.

North Dakota, 1987

 click to read article

click to read article

Most people have a hard time internalizing the difference between an autism rate of 3.3 per 10,000 and an autism rate of 277 per 10,000. They know the second number is a lot bigger, but perhaps don’t appreciate the practical application of this difference, so let’s consider a real-world example: In 1987, just before the 1989 inflection point of the autism epidemic, a peer-reviewed study was published called “A Prevalence Study of Pervasive Developmental Disorders in North Dakota,” which aimed to count how many kids had a PDD/autism diagnosis in the entire state. The researchers looked at all 180,000 children under the age of eighteen and determined that North Dakota’s rate of autism was 3.3 per 10,000. Here’s how the authors summarized their findings:

Of North Dakota’s 180,986 children, ages 2 through 18, 21 met DSM-III criteria for infantile autism (IA), two met criteria for childhood onset pervasive developmental disorder (COPDD), and 36 were diagnosed as having atypical pervasive developmental disorder (APDD) because they met behavioral criteria for COPDD before age 30 months but never met criteria for IA. The prevalence rates were estimated at 1.16 per 10,000 for IA, 0.11 per 10,000 for COPDD, and 1.99 per 10,000 for APDD. The combined rate for all PDD was 3.26 per 10,000 with a male to female ratio of 2.7 to 1.

This was an exceptionally thorough study. The children with an autism diagnosis were assessed in person by a doctor. The data was published in a journal. It was peer reviewed. It was replicable. They found 3.3 per 10,000 kids had autism. Could the researchers have been wrong? Was the real number actually very different? Maybe. Perhaps the real rate was as high as 5 per 10,000 or as low as 2 per 10,000. But ballpark, we are talking about 3.3 out of 10,000 kids with autism or roughly 1 in 3,300.

We now know autism impacts 1 in 36, that’s eighty-three times more kids than the North Dakota study found in 1987. But it’s worse than that if you think about it a different way: In 1987 if you had 1 million kids, 330 would have autism. Today if you have 1 million kids, 27,777 have autism. Let me say that again. In 1987 the rate of autism prevalence meant for every one million kids, 330 had autism. With today’s number, about eighty-three times higher, you’d have almost 28,000 with autism.

If you’re to believe Mr. Silberman and other epidemic deniers, you have to believe that the research on autism prevalence done in 1987 was simply wrong. The researchers in North Dakota missed a ton of kids and wildly underreported the actual number of autism cases.

How many kids did they miss? Well, if the North Dakota researchers found 3.3 kids per 10,000 when they should have found 277 per 10,000 kids with autism, they missed 98.8 percent of autism cases in North Dakota.

That means in 1987 the pediatricians, psychologists, and all of the screeners (not to mention all the parents) in North Dakota were missing 98.8 percent of kids with autism and just letting them slip through the cracks. These kids, all 98.8 percent of them, were sitting right next to you in class, and you, and their parents and doctors, never knew it. It’s an impossible world, but it’s the one that Mr. Silberman and neurodiverse advocates want us to believe in.

Back to North Dakota for a second. The scientists and doctors who did that study in 1987, the one showing 3.3 kids per 10,000 with autism, they were damn serious about making sure they were accurate in their count. You see, they followed the same birth cohort, the almost 200,000 kids who made up their original study in 1987, for twelve years. They published a second study, thirteen years later in January of 2000, called, “A prevalence methodology for mental illness and developmental disorders in rural and frontier settings.” The authors concluded:

The results of the prevalence study [the original study in 1987] were compared with the results of a 12-year ongoing surveillance of the cohort. The 12-year ongoing surveillance identified one case missed by the original prevalence study. Thus the original prevalence study methodology identified 98% of the cases of autism-pervasive developmental disorder in the population. This methodology may also be useful for studies of other developmental disorders in rural and frontier settings.

So these researchers went back twelve years later and checked their work. With a couple of hundred thousand kids, they found they had undercounted their original estimate of prevalence of autism in North Dakota by exactly one child. One child! I could keep going, there are many more studies, but I'll just highlight one, done more recently in California.

California, 2009

A study done by Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto of UC Davis’s MIND Institute and her colleagues titled, “The Rise in Autism and the Role of Age at Diagnosis,” made it clear that the rise in the number of children with autism was very real, and the increase “cannot be explained by either changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted.” In an interview Dr. Hertz-Picciotto was even more emphatic:

There is no evidence that a loosening in the diagnostic criteria has contributed to increased number of autism clients. . . . We conclude that some, if not all, of the observed increase represents a true increase in cases of autism in California. . . . A purely genetic basis for autism does not fully explain the increasing autism prevalence.

Dr. Hertz-Picciotto even called for a renewed focus on studying environmental factors that may be playing a role in autism:

It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California. We’re looking at the possible effects of metals, pesticides and infectious agents on neurodevelopment. If we’re going to stop the rise in autism in California, we need to keep these studies going and expand them to the extent possible. . . . Right now, about 10 to 20 times more research dollars are spent on studies of the genetic causes of autism than on environmental ones. We need to even out the funding.

Science also shows people with autism are physically sick 

I opened this article with a quote from Twilah Hiari's excellent article titled Neurodiversity is Dead. Now What? that I highly recommend you read. Not only does Ms. Hiari (an adult with autism) criticize the flawed thinking by neurodiverse activists about autism prevalence, she also discusses the other achilles' heel within the neurodiverse ideology: the science showing that people with autism are physically sick, and that their condition can be improved through medical intervention. She writes:

“It’s like a switch got flipped.” Those are the words my primary care provider uses to describe my experience of regression from Asperger’s syndrome to “low-functioning” or level three autism at age 38. In 2014, she’d watched in horror and perplexity as a long series of adverse reactions to pharmaceuticals and other medical treatments stole my ability to speak, read, and write, caused my sensitivity to sound to skyrocket, and decimated the few social skills I’d spent the previous decades mastering. For a long time, I stopped driving and even walking alone, because after my brain changes I’d become lost in the neighborhood where I’d lived for eight years. My genetic composition hadn’t changed. What had changed was my level of exposure to substances my body couldn’t metabolize. My brain, immune system, and microbiome had been transformed. 

Some parents of children with autism on my Facebook page argued similar points:

"Should we ask the people that move from autistic to neurotypical whether they felt the people that worked with them to that end were being ableist? Or whether they think denying any treatment that increases neurotypical functioning is ableist? That seems like the most straightforward way to address this issue."

And:

"No one with severe autism would want it if they had the option to be otherwise healthier. Autism often comes with many comorbities sometimes life threatening ones like seizures or self harm. Can we be honest and say this doesn't need to be embraced as good. Its very hard and sad for them and their families. Curing autism would suit a lot of folks.. Lets hear their voice."

Inflamed brains is NOT an inherited condition

In 2004, Dr. Carlos Pardo-Villamizar at Johns Hopkins University discovered that autism brains are permanently inflamed, the first scientific evidence that autism was a physical disease. The press release from Johns Hopkins proclaimed, “Brain’s Immune System Triggered in Autism.” Titled “Neuroglial Activation and Neuroinflammation in the Brain of Patients with Autism,” Dr. Pardo-Villamizar’s research demonstrated “an active neuroinflammatory process” in the brains of people with autism, in what was the first time scientists looked at the actual brains of people with autism. Dr. Paul Patterson of Caltech, provided one of the best explanations for the importance of Dr. Pardo-Villamizar’s work:

There is also very striking evidence of immune dysregulation in the brain itself. . . . A group led by Carlos Pardo at Johns Hopkins found what they’re calling a “neural inflammation” in postmortem examination of brains of patients with autism who died between the ages of eight and 44 years. But these people weren’t infected — they died of such things as drowning or heart attacks. The study found that the microglial cells, which act as the brain’s own immune system, were activated. The study also found amazing increases of certain cytokines in the brain, and of others in the cerebro-spinal fluid. This is a landmark paper, in my opinion. It presents the first evidence that there’s an ongoing, permanent immune-system activation in the brains of autistic people. [Emphasis added.] It’s a subclinical state, because there’s no overt infection. But it’s there.

For the first time, we learn that autism brains have an immune system in a permanent, active state. It also mentions, for the first time, the discovery that certain “cytokines” are highly elevated. Cytokines are small proteins released by the immune system to tell other cells how to behave. They are also biomarkers for inflammation. Dr. Pardo-Villamizar didn’t know it yet, but scientists would soon identify certain cytokines that are clear markers for immune activation, that all brains with autism seem to share. I’ve been haunted by Dr. Patterson’s quote ever since I first read it, because of this one line: “There’s an ongoing, permanent immune-system activation in the brains of autistic people.”

I can’t help but think, “Is this what my son is experiencing?” His head always seems to hurt. Sometimes he slaps himself in the head, he often seeks head pressure, seemingly to alleviate discomfort. Is his brain permanently swollen and in a state of subclinical infection? And if it is, how in the world did it get that way? What created this condition? What triggered it? And of course, how do I reduce the inflammation and help him feel better?

Dr. Pardo-Villamizar and colleagues were the first to find this “microglial activation” in the brains of children with autism, and this finding has now been replicated many times. I discussed Dr. Pardo-Villamizar's findings, and the work of many other scientists, in a post I wrote last month: International scientists have found autism's cause. What will Americans do? Today, we have a very clear idea of what is triggering all the inflammation, please read it for yourself.

But, it's genetic!

I saw this argument made many times: Autism is genetic! The problem is, no published science backs that up. Software Engineer Andre Angelantoni provided one of the more complete explanations I have seen to refute the "autism is genetic" myth:

Some people say the following: "What it boils down to is that it's genetic and whether its directly from the parents or the family line if one's child has autism (or a variation there of), then that means the "fault" lies with them" (because it is genetic).
 
This is incorrect and it was never true. Some popular autism books made this unwarranted conclusion and other people, poorly trained in science, think it is the gospel truth. Now, it is true that there is a genetic component in the autism formula (G=Genetic; E=Environment):
 
G(risk) + E(risk) + GxE(risk) = autism(risk)
 
—but it is just a component. The environment plays a role and, in my view, the most significant role. This is starting to appear in the literature because of the 800+ genetic variants found to elevate autism risk there have been zero smoking guns (many variants appear to add just 1% risk). Autism researchers are being forced to look elsewhere. The fundamental mistake people make is thinking that because there is great heritability that means that genes cause autism. It just means that susceptibility to environmental triggers is inherited.
 
It is a simple but shockingly widespread error. Consider that if everybody smoked, lung cancer would look genetic, too. Well, virtually everyone vaccinates you can see how this error has occurred. 
 
In fact, genes simply transfer environmental susceptibility to offspring. 
 
For the past ten years researchers have been looking for environmental causes of autism and quite a list has formed:
pesticides, phthalates, polychlorinated biphenyls, solvents, air pollutants, fragrances, glyphosate and heavy metals, especially aluminum used in vaccines as adjuvant, acetaminophen, parental age, cesarian section and more.
 
It takes just a moment to read the autism literature to see statements like the following:
 
"Although there is no consensus on the cause of ASD, it is considered to involve multiple environmental and genetic risk factors (Al‑Ayadhi and Camel 2013, Saad et al. 2016). The interplay between genetic and environmental factors has become the subject of intensified research in the last several years (Coleman and Gilberg 2011, Deth et al. 2008)."
 
Anyone who doesn't understand that there are environmental triggers to autism simply has done no serious research on the topic because it has been discussed openly for, as I said, at least ten years.

60 Minutes Australia depicts the real autism

I was pleasantly surprised by a recent 60 Minutes investigation from Australia that depicted what autism is really like for MANY families (as in, million around the world). If you are new to this topic, how does this portrayal jibe with that you thought? 

 

The dangers of the neurodiverse ideology

Thomas Clements, another adult with autism, wrote about the neurodiversity movement in an excellent essay titled, "The Problem with the Neurodiversity Movement." He writes:

"It may be the case that accommodations are the way to go for those that are mildly autistic and have a very mild variant such as Asperger’s, but for many autistic people, especially those labelled as ‘severe’ in their disability, the view that this is essentially all the fault of society is hardly persuasive. And in its most disabling forms, autism cannot be viewed merely as benign variation in human neurology. Self-injurious autistic behaviours such as head-banging and arm-scratching which are often associated with severe forms of the condition are evidently pathological. Given the severity of such symptoms, parents, carers, and relatives of such individuals who engage in them can be forgiven for wanting an autism cure."

This is a constant criticism I hear about neurodiversity activists: the inclusion of Asperger's in the autism spectrum creates confusion for many. Asperger's, comprising less than 10% of the autism spectrum, may well be an inherited condition (the science remains unsettled), and the typical "Aspie" is often quite capable of living alone, holding down a job, communicating effectively, and self-advocating. But, MOST with autism are incapable of advocating for themselves much less holding down a job, and that's where the danger comes in. 

I don't want someone speaking for my child who doesn't have the same disabilities my son has. I don't want someone speaking for my child who simply denies the clear science showing a massive increase in the number of children with autism. I don't want someone speaking for my child who also avoids the clear, compelling scientific evidence showing exactly how vaccines are damaging the brains of babies and causing autism

Denying the existence of an autism epidemic perpetuates the autism epidemic. Denying the existence of an autism epidemic removes the motivation to find a cause for the epidemic. Denying the existence of an autism epidemic denies my son's very real experiencing of regressing after vaccine appointments due to the immune activation events they triggered in his brain. And, as Twila Hiari said,

"This position is no longer tenable in the face of statistical and epidemiological analysis." 

Thomas Clements summed it up best for me:

Autism is a disability first and foremost. It should never become another edgy identity label for people which is sadly what is happening in certain sections of the neurodiversity movement. When autism is so severe, it can be deeply troubling to see. I’ve seen kids and adults who are incontinent and have to wear diapers, who smash their skulls against walls, who have frequent epileptic fits and who have a very poor quality of life despite all the provisions made for them. This is quite clearly not a social justice or intersectional issue and to pretend otherwise is to be deeply dishonest. Autism this severe does in fact merit a lot of scientific investigation and potential treatments, not necessarily “cures”, to mitigate dangerous and disturbing behaviours.

We need to end the autism epidemic. We need to stop poisoning babies unnecessarily. We need to be honest about what's happened to a generation of children. When I say "end the autism epidemic" I don't mean eugenics, and I don't mean genocide, I mean stop poisoning babies and giving them a permanent, lifelong disability. I will never be OK with that, and I will never apologize for advocating for my son and so many others. And, neurodiverse community, my fight's not with you anyway. My fight is with the people who enabled and caused my son's disability.


About the author

J.B. Handley is the proud father of a child with Autism. He and his wife co-founded Generation Rescue, a national autism charity, in 2005. He spent his career in the private equity industry and received his undergraduate degree with honors from Stanford University in 1991. His first book, How to End the Autism Epidemic, will be published in September 2018 by Chelsea Green Publishing and is available for pre-order on Amazon.

He is also the author of "A lone FDA scientist could end the autism epidemic." and International scientists have found autism's cause. What will Americans do? Learn more here.

 Available for pre-order from Amazon

Available for pre-order from Amazon

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