Buy this book.
I’ve been working on a post for a few days now about autism.
I’ve started and discarded several drafts. The point I was trying to make was that, aside from the reality of diseases returning due to lower immunization rates, another major effect of the work of people like Jenny McCarthy is an exacerbation of the hysteria that surrounds autism. It seemed to me that there’s so much high-profile pseudoscience, claims that this or that causes it, and claims of miracle cures, that people are liable to be distracted from truly efficacious therapies and actual scientific research, which, though there are still many, many unknowns, is making some real progress. It seemed autism was becoming in the public mind a spectre, a ghoul, something unreal and unknowable. How else can you explain the kinds of dangerous interventions people were subjecting their kids to?
I knew that there were families out there with autistic kids that had found ways to cope, and to be happy, and proud of their kids. My dad is a pediatrician and has told me stories about several remarkable, high-functioning autistic patients he has. It seemed that for a lot of people, autism was an incredible challenge, but not the end of the world. And I wondered to what degree the hope that others might glean from those stories was being drowned in a sea of hysteria, with the antivax movement providing a significant portion of the noise.
But I found, as I tried to write about it, that – and who could have guessed this, me being a composer and not a doctor – I don’t have the expertise to intelligently talk about my hunch. Hence my digital trash can filling up with balled up digital drafts I was unsatisfied with.
Luckily, someone else, someone who knows his shit, haas written a book about this that covers the issue in incredible detail and with wonderful patience.
Go and find a copy of Paul Offit’s 2008 book, Autism’s False Prophets. It’s a great read, and an important one.