Why Jenny McCarthy is Not the Person to Turn to for Autism Advice

Jenny McCarthy was just offered a spot on The View, replacing Elisabeth Hasselbeck.  McCarthy’s original claim to fame was posing nude on the cover of Playboy. Once she started becoming irrelevant, she began to pedal the idea that vaccines cause autism.  She also claims to have cured her son of autism by using a glutein-free casein-free diet.  Over the years, she has garnered support from Andrew Wakefield, the author of the now debunked study which supposedly showed a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, as well as many other parent and others in the autism community.  Despite Wakefield’s study being debunked because of fabricated data and ethics violations, she still pedals this false idea, leading many to not vaccinate their children, or try other dangerous things, like chelation therapy.  Although she is equipped with a Ph D. from the University of Google, many are upset by her appointment.

It makes me glad to know that people are aware of the danger of her ideas, but there are still many who don’t.  There are many out there who will cling to her ideas because they are desperate to help their child and she seems to have a solution.  However, her solution is not one that is backed by credible science.  When told this, McCarthy respond’s “[My son] is my science.”  I think we all know why that is a problem.

I realize there are many who say their child received the MMR vaccine and the “regressed into autism.”  Although I don’t doubt their observations, they need to realize that correlation does not imply causation.  There may be many other explanations for why a parent begins to observe more autistic traits from their child once they reach a certain age.  It has been show over and over again that vaccines are not the cause. As of right now, the cause is unknown, but genetics seem to play a large role.  Of course, McCarthy continues to ignore this and pedal whatever she wants.

McCarthy is also not the most neurodiversity-friendly person the autism world knows.  She speaks of her son receiving the MMR vaccine and “Boom!  The soul was gone from his eyes.”  Her belief that autism steals people’s souls is highly offensive, and no one should be giving it credence.  That type of fear-mongering has no business in any discussion about any population of people.  If somebody were to say that about gay people, they would not be given such a large platform as McCarthy has.

One of the things that angers me about the United States is how poor our science education is in comparison to other developed nations.  I believe that everybody should be able to read an analyze a scientific journal article (no, not an article in a magazine, like Psychology Today).  I think everybody should know how to find credible journal articles on different subjects and, at least, gain a cursory view of what the scientists were trying to study, their hypotheses, their methods, their results, and their conclusions.  Yes, a lot of journal articles are in very specialized fields and you’d be lucky to understand even 20% of what they’re writing about (believe me, reading studies on proteomics and biotechnology is really hard!), but 20% understanding is better than 0%.  I believe all people should be exposed to journal articles at the High School level.  A strong knowledge of science and the scientific method should not put you in an exclusive club of people.  If the United Sates had a better understanding of science, people wouldn’t turn to a former playboy model with no scientific background for advice.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

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Man Shoots and Kills Minor…Gets Acquitted

I honestly don’t know how to start this post.  Do I rehash what happened?  Everybody knows at this point the George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon Martin. The jury couldn’t prove that the crime fit second-degree murder criteria.  I admit I’m no legal expert, and I am not knowledgeable about the ins and outs of a second-degree murder charge in the state of Florida.  I am also not very knowledgeable about Florida’s “Stand your Ground” law.  However, I am baffled by how Zimmerman is allowed to walk away a free man.

Yes, much of the evidence in the case is cloudy.  It is not clear how the altercation between Martin and Zimmerman started.  It is also unclear who was attacking who.  I also can’t speak to the character qualities of Martin or Zimmerman.  Despite this cloudiness, there are some things about the case that are clear.  Zimmerman was armed.  Martin was not.  Zimmerman approached Martin after following him for a period of time.  Zimmerman shot Martin multiple times resulting in his death.  Martin was also a minor.

I don’t know what Zimmerman’s intent was in shooting Martin, whether it was in self-defense or to kill him.  If we give Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt and say the killing was, indeed, in self-defense, it would only be reasonable that he would be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, or a crime along the lines of that.  It doesn’t make sense to me that he gets to go free.  What if Zimmerman does something like this again?  What do we do about the laws in Florida surrounding “Stand your Ground”, murder, and manslaughter?What do we do about people who think they have the right to take the law into their own hands?  Something isn’t right.

I am angry that somebody can shoot and kill a minor and not get any sort of punishment.  I am angry that there are people out there who think they can police neighborhoods without proper training.  I am angry that a man can go after a minor because he “looks suspicious”.  I can’t help but wonder if the case would have been adjudicated in the way it was if Martin was white.  I would like to think that white privilege is a thing of the past, but I’m not disillusioned.  It isn’t.  We are not living in a “post-racial” society as many people would like to think we are.  White privilege exits today, as it has throughout the history of our nation.  Did it play a role in this case?  I wouldn’t doubt it.  There are certainly historical precedents that would suggest so.

In the end, I feel that the ruling was an injustice.  A person should not be able to murder a minor and then be set free because of legal technicalities.  Laws need to be changed.  Now.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”

No, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Autism is not like Cancer or Diabetes

http://www.therepublic.com/view/story/autism-bus-ads/autism-bus-ads

Recently, Seattle Children’s Hospital plastered ads on city buses which featured a young boy smiling, with a caption reading “Let’s wipe out cancer, diabetes, and autism in his lifetime” next to his face.  These ads drew the ire of ASAN, which, rightfully, took offense to the ads.  Last Friday, Seattle Children’s Hospital apologized for offending people and said that wasn’t their intent.  The ads are being taken off of the buses.

While I’m glad that there seems to be some progress in how people take into account the feelings of autistic individuals and work to make things right, it is still unnerving that these ads are even put up in the first place.  The ads are a reflection of the typical conversation being had about autism: one which does not include autistic people and one which views autism as an appendage.

If somebody were to have asked an autistic person how they felt about the ad, it probably would not have been displayed in the first place.  The mainstream view of autism is still one that paints autistic people’s lives as tragic burdens and people who need a cure.  That view is changing, but slowly.  People are seeing the need for acceptance and inclusion, but don’t seem to know what those two words mean.  Many seem to think inclusion of people with disabilities means some kind of token inclusion, like what occurred with Jason McElwain when he was allowed to play only in the last game of his basketball season, despite being registered as on the team and having a uniform.  While I’m glad his talents were finally recognized, I wish his coach would have presumed competence and allowed him to play throughout the season.  So, when I say inclusion and acceptance, I mean full inclusion and acceptance, like you would do with any other student.  By extension, when I speak about including autistic people in the conversation about autism, I mean full inclusion:  in social policy, in scientific discussions, and in discussions of supports and services.  It’s the right thing to do.

The ads also propagated the idea that autism is something that can be separated from a person.  I have gone through this in other posts (see this post for more detail) and have spoken about how the ideas of cure and recovery don’t really say what people think they do.  But beyond those ideas, many autistic self-advocates will say that autism is an integral part of who they are.  Many also have said if somebody were to eradicate the autism from their brains, they wouldn’t be the same people.  It’s not a very hard concept.  Autism is not a disease.  Autism is a way of being; parts of it good, and parts of it bad.  More and more people are coming out and saying the same thing; it’s time for these voices to be listened to.

Unfortunately, there is still a startling lack of respect for autistic voices.  Autistic voices continue to be ignored, despite many instances of pushback against offensive ads or programs, such as NYU’s Ransom Notes Campaign or Autism Speaks “I Am Autism” ad. It is frustrating that these types of situations still occur, but I have to remember, progress is a “slowly moving turtle-mobile” and there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.  I know we’ll get there; we just need to keep pushing forward.

“If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”