I had all but given up on Hollywood and the media understanding the real issues in the autism community and then last week, something happened. Andrew Wakefield’s study was retracted from The Lancet. Full disclosure, Wakefield’s study never actually claimed that vaccines cause autism. However, it did set into motion a series of events that would eventually lead to Jenny McCarthy being able to debate the American Academy of Pediatrics.
And how does the former Playmate turned warrior mother feel, now that the basis of her argument has yet again been debunked? She and boyfriend Jim Carrey released this statement: “It is our most sincere belief that Dr. Wakefield and parents of children with autism around the world are being subjected to a remarkable media campaign engineered by vaccine manufacturers…” It is clear to me that anyone who holds “mommy instinct” in higher regard than years of vaccine research is irrational and dangerous. Yes, McCarthy and Carrey are dangerous on many levels. They don’t know when to stop. Unfortunately, people will continue to listen to their tales of diets curing autism and how Big Pharma is poisoning our children.
I know there are some rational people left in Hollywood and the media and it’s time for them to speak out against pseudoscience. Greg Gutfeld may have taken some comedic liberties in his piece “Celebrities that Makes Kids Sick” but his intent was dead on, in my book. I just hope Mr. Gutfeld doesn’t feel the wrath of the anti-vax crowd as Dr. Paul Offit has. Dr. Offit is the co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine. When his book, Autism’s False Prophets was released, he refrained from doing a book tour for he received too many death threats. And you thought politics were rough.
Not every parent is fighting for a cure. In fact, there are parents, like my husband and I, fighting for society to accept autism as a disability rather than an illness to be cured. We have adopted a philosophy similar to any responsible parent. We celebrate our autistic son’s strengths and try to improve on his deficits. We continue to be encouraged by the results and are devoted to supporting him whenever and wherever possible. We are tired of listening to celebrities that claim to speak on our behalf while making accusations that carry little weight and incite emotional responses. We do not think our child is trapped inside a shell or has been taken from us. In fact, we find this message extremely detrimental to the development of our child and the way society views him.
We need a paradigm shift in the way we view autistic individuals and I refuse to let media and celebrities frame the debate unchallenged. Autism awareness should not be aimed toward a world without autistic people, but that is exactly what organizations like Autism Speaks promote. Autism Speaks supports research that will inevitably lead to selective abortion, the same so-called “cure” that is often used for Down Syndrome. Recently they aired a video directed by Alfonso Cuaron and Billy Mann at the World Focus on Autism event that depicted autism as a demon that will rob your child and your family of any chance of happiness. Celebrities flock to Autism Speaks and the general public donate millions of dollars each year. Very little money goes back into the community or into improving the quality of life of autistic people. And how can they call themselves Autism Speaks when they don’t have one autistic person in a decision making position to determine where they will spend their money or how they will portray autism in the media?
Recently, HBO premiered Temple Grandin to rave reviews from the autism community. Claire Danes beautifully portrayed the brilliant and fascinating Dr. Temple Grandin, an autistic woman that had to overcome all odds, not to cure her autism but to be the best in her field. It was inspirational, intriguing and refreshing to see a film from the perspective of an autistic person. I would encourage Hollywood and the media to explore this side of autism a bit more. And then maybe, the autism community will get the help and support it deserves.