Today’s world is bombarded by ‘autistic people’ and parents who claim they have been ‘cured’ or ‘recovered’ by diets, sauna therapies, and other home grown remedies created by parents with little or no training on autism. Late thirties Raun Kaufman claims his parents home-grown play-based therapy helped cure him of his autism and has made a fortune on his group Autism Therapy Association while some doctor’s question whether or not Raun was ever autistic at all. Jenny McCarthy, using her credentials gained from her being a Playboy centerfold, claims her son was cured after she gave him a chelatin diet. Her claims that vaccines cause autism has caused thousands of parents to endanger and lose their children who subsequently were not vaccinated. Anti-vaccine activists have ‘edited’ MRI vaccine inventor Paul A. Offit’s Wikipedia page to say he studied at a pig farm in Toad Suck, Arkansas when in fact he has a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and an M.D. from the University of Maryland (Jenny meanwhile proudly claims she has her degree from the University of Google). Offit’s opponents have subsequently sent him death threats over the phone and envelopes filled with anthrax. When I check my e-mails I will sometimes see e-mails titled Autism Lawsuits in my spam folder, against doctor’s who administer vaccines in America’s already crumbling health care system. Cannabis magazine featured on it's front page an article called Autism and Cannabis: How Prohibition Makes it Tough on Parents. Maybe the thousands of autistic people who have ended up on drugs have developed better social skills.
Today many parents of autistic people feel guilt when their own child doesn’t develop as he/she should and struggle financially and emotionally to get their children the therapies necessary to do so.
When put under a magnifying glass, maybe we should ask what these stories of ‘amazing recoveries’ really do? For starters, here’s a few things you may have overlooked:
1) Autistic people are maimed, injured, and even killed by applied ‘cures.’ An eight-year old autistic boy, Terrence Cottel Jr. was put under a blanket while a minister performed an exorcism to vanquish the demon supposedly causing his autism. What this accomplished was Terrence suffocated under the blanket and subsequently died. Despite widespread outrage over what the exorcism caused, the minister was given a slap on the wrist.
2) Increased guilt among parents of autistic children. When parents see these ‘cures’ shown in the media, the wonder Why can’t I do the same? This guilt, already out of control by their children’s struggles, can make it hard for parents to give their autistic and non-autistic children the love and support they need to grow and develop.
3) Increased financial stress. Autism services, not provided by health insurance or schools, are expensive and difficult for parents to acquire. Yet many gullible and unsuspecting parents, many with little education or income, will pay heavy for ‘therapies’ that supposedly cure their children’s autism.
Clearly it is questionable whether the cure autism culture has any real merit. Moreover, Jenny McCarthy and Raun Kaufman clearly ignore the facts that autistic people are fully human with strengths, feelings, and talents like anyone else. For more information on the subject, you can check out Paul Offit’s book Autism’s False Prophets, which unlike Jenny McCarthy’s and Raun Kaufman’s writings, is based off extensive research and training and does not rely on sex appeal, Wikipedia abuse, or death threats to doctors.