Facts vs. Factoids
Many parents have researched and found behavior and educational intervention programs that help their child acclimate to our world.
In September 2007, the model and actress Jenny McCarthy became an author and spokesperson on autism. Though Talks About Curing Autism (TACA) made a mutual endorsement of McCarthy by making her their official spokesperson, many others were chagrined by her assertion that autism is reversible.Jenny’s sentiments about autism are shared by many parents who prefer to see autism as a mask that can be removed with the proper cure. A cure which has yet to be found. Because knowledge about autism, its cause in particular, is limited, any suggestions for treatment are just that – suggestions. As it stands, there are no scientifically proven ways to ameliorate the symptoms of autism. This is all the more reason to caution both parents and the public against surrendering the facts over to celebrity factoids – unverified information presented in the press as factual.
Conclusions based on factoids add incredulous layers to an already complicated dialogue.
The DAN! Protocol endorsed by Jenny McCarthy is an example of one of the more controversial means being taken by parents like herself who are seeking to bring back their “normal child.” Because DAN’s principles are based on the theory that autism is rooted in heavy metal poisoning, vaccine toxins, reduced immune response, and glutens found in foods, they have adopted a biomedical approach to treating the disorder. Nutrional prescriptions of a gluten-free diet and vitamin supplements, and a heavy metals detox therapy are part of their treatment theories. However, all of these prescriptions remain anecdotal at best. The irony of the DAN! protocol is that despite the involvement of “DAN Doctors,” the efficacy of it is not yet scientifically proven, and in many cases refuted by other members of the medical community. This is not to invalidate the research of DAN!, but rather to bring into perspective any premature conclusions inspired by misinformed celebrity endorsements.One problem with factoid-based conclusions is that it adds incredulous layers to an already complicated dialogue – and make no mistake, the dialogue about autism is very complicated. For one, the voice of Neurotypicals (the term for people who are not on the Spectrum) continues to overshadow the voice of those who actually live with autism. Even if NTs were correct in describing autism as a “mask,” they have not yet taken into account of those with autism, who are decidedly against its removal. If this comes as a surprise, it is probably because we have restricted ourselves to the neurotypical assumption that our way of experiencing the world is the preferred way. Autism seems quixotic to us.
Parents of a child with autism may throw their hands in the air in response, exclaiming, “I just need to know what to do about my child!” Amidst all of this conflicting information, exasperation is inevitable. On top of it all, you and your child are both on the low end of each other’s eccentric learning curve. Yes, they are learning to adjust to our world as much as we are learning to adjust to theirs. Many parents have surrendered the neurotypical definition of a “normal” child. In fact, the word normal does not even apply anymore. How many “normal” people do we truly meet in our daily travels? This wider, more inclusive perspective adds autism to the very long list of human behavioral possibilities. Now the question is, not curing autism, but how to live with it.
Many parents have researched and found behavior and educational intervention programs that help their child acclimate to our world. To facilitate this acclimation, they have adjusted their homes and other environments to include the sensor items and equipment needed by the child. Many of these sensory items have been invented or endorsed, not by celebrities, but by the people with autism. Perhaps more importantly, this adaptation has done something that would never have happened otherwise – it has given parents the opportunity to see the world through a new looking glass. Indeed, many parents now describe a hard earned and well deserved joy of engaging in the eccentric activities of their child. This new attitude directs our search away from factoids and towards the actual facts of life with autism.
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