I'm certainly not the first to comment on conservative talk show host Michael Savage's suggesting that the diagnosis of autism is a sham and calling their kids "brats" who need nothing more than a good talking-to, and I certainly won't be the last.
I don't necessarily agree that he should be fired for what he said. I just don't listen to him and have no interest in what he said or says. Freedom of speech and the power of choice.
His comments struck me as uninformed, and well, stupid. Unfortunately there are misdiagnoses every day of children and adults on a variety of ills. But to say that autistic children need a good talking-to (and I know he had more to say than that sound bite alone) is crazy.
The article I read last week stated:
Autism and other developmental disabilities now appear to affect an estimated 3.4 of every 1,000 children ages 3-10, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Some affected children have high IQs, while others are unable to communicate at all. But all of the disorders are characterized by deficits in social interaction and communication, along with repetitive behaviors or interests.
Even as more and more national studies try to decipher the roots of autism, the mystery has only been deepened by its increasing prevalence. The Centers for Disease Control Web site admits it's "unclear how much of this increase is due to changes in how we identify and classify ASDs in people, and how much is due to a true increase in prevalence."
But while theories on autism's causes abound, experts dismiss Savage's suggestion that stronger parenting could straighten out many autistic kids. And they blast him for describing autism as some "diagnosis du jour," a passing pop-medical trend without scientific weight.
After my first year of college (studying psychology) I worked at a mentally handicapped summer camp as a counselor. The autistic children and teenage campers I dealt with were disabled, from low functioning to high, but no amount of discipline was going to fix them. One autistic teenager sang Hands Across America over and over and over and over again no matter what we tried to communicate to him. He was a sweet young man whose eyes were as clear and coherent as any normal child. And another younger camper would bite his hand any time he was under duress, no matter how minor the stress. He had to be restrained so he didn't permanently damage his hand.
I can't imagine what it would be like if Baby B turned out to have autism, but I know we'd do everything we could to help our child (and ourselves) adapt and live as normally as possible.
I think adults that speak before substantiating need a good talking-to.
Bad parenting doesn't lead to autism. Bad parenting leads to bad children that grow up to be bad parents.