Wednesday, March 27, 2013

YOU Have Autism, Too!

What is autism?
If someone is shy & considered “socially awkward” – does that mean they have autism?
If someone is quiet & doesn’t speak much – do they have autism?
If someone is always tapping their finger or their head – is that a sign of autism?

Well, according to a new study by the CDC, I had autism when I was a kid which I have apparently grown out of. And 1 in 50 kids have it, at least, according Michael Rosanoff of advocacy group “Autism Speaks”. 1 in 50?? Really?? Look, is it possible that of every 50 kids, at least one of them is gonna have autism? Sure, I guess so. Anything’s possible. But how in the world can doing a telephone survey on parents be considered a responsible way of getting information that can dramatically impact families? That’s how this particular study was done. 95,000 parents in 2011 and 2012 were contacted by phone and asked certain questions about their children. According to the study, less than a quarter of the parents contacted were interested in doing the survey which says that parents not affected by autism were likely not the ones answering the survey. But here’s my concern: parents cannot be the only source of information gathering in regards to a child’s health.

Before you lose your mind, let me explain what I mean. I am a fierce advocate for my children’s health. I stay on top of what needs to be done and don’t necessarily agree with the doctor’s advice just because s/he is a doctor. We work as a team to do the best for my kids’ health issues. I do my research and read up on issues related to their medical needs. But I am no doctor. I must take into account what the medical professionals are telling me when making final decisions on how to move forward.  Isn't it possible that some parents who answered this survey have their facts wrong? Couldn't it be true that there are parents who believe their kids “have something”, even though their doctors have disagreed with them, because they like to tap their fingers on the floor while watching Sid the Science Kid or because they ignore their name being called, no matter how much they’re called? Then here comes this phone survey, asking questions about an unsubstantiated fear they have and BOOM! 1 in 50 kids have autism!

Couldn't it also be true that these “symptoms” of mild autism are just harmless habits? Maybe that socially awkward person IS just supremely shy. Maybe that kid with a speech delay prefers to listen rather than speak. We all know that there is no medical test, no genetic screening, which will confirm conclusively that a person has autism. In very severe cases, it’s quite obvious. But are we saying that every little quirk is something? Does everything a person do or think need to be diagnosed as some type of neurological deficiency or disability? I've told you before; I really hated science in middle school and didn't do so well in it. Should I have been diagnosed with a learning disability?

Listen, I’m all for research but in my opinion, all this media coverage on every single iota of autism research has gotten way out of control. I receive several newsletters on disability issues daily and in every piece of mail there are several links to one autism article or another. A new study on rats; a new therapy that may cure it; smelling salts that will change thinking patterns; scientific “breakthroughs” that have no evidence or track record saturating the brains of families who are looking for cures or even just minimal help. 

Don’t you think that all this “information” is actually detrimental, rather than helpful, to families who are really interested in actual help?


  1. I have to agree with you. Autism is the condition du jour. This is good as it is an epidemic and it is getting exposed. However, I think it is being over thought like a demon under every stone.

  2. I was quite disappointed to see that Aspergers was now being included in the autism spectrum. When you expand the spectrum that much, two things happen:

    1) You start to make it the 'condition du jour' as Gail said ... *everyone* now qualifies under that spectrum.

    2) You make it more difficult for those in need of services to actually get them. You cannot compare someone with mild Aspergers and someone with severe autism and say they have the same condition; nor that they'll respond to the same treatment.

  3. Great! I was socially awkward a child, I was socially awkward as a teen, I am still socially awkward at 65....nothing a vodka and tonic can't cure. I have my share of diagnoses, don't need to be an aspie....I'll settle for settle socially awkward.