Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wrong Planet, Right Ad?

I was reading something earlier today on the ever-so sophisticated when I ran into something that can only be described as hilarious.

Most of the denizens of site are of the opinion that autism is built into the person and is a part of their identity. They view it not as a disorder but as a characteristic of who they are - like someone else might feel about their race or religion. These folks tend to take a very dim view of people who even hint that autism could be caused by any environmental factor.

So, imagine my surprise when I happened to glance up to the top of the page and saw the following banner ad -

That's right, there was an ad about searching for measles at the top of, complete with fake little red dots on the kid's faces. Because, you know, if you are thinking about autism, the next thing you are going to want to search for information about measles. And that is so what wrongplanet is all about - measles and autism.


  1. Those folks would be amusing if their ideas weren't so damaging.

  2. I think they still are amusing. I just hope that the more that they push their agenda the more people see through them

  3. I can't speak for all of wrongplanet especially because I find I don't get along with them very well on their forums, but as to the irritation that many Higher functioning autistic people, such as myself, display when faced with these topics, they're afraid of what might happen if a test is developed that can detect autistic phenotypes.
    Upwards of 90% of babies with suspected autism would probaly be aborted, along the lines of chromosomal disorders and other genetic disease tests.

    For those of us who function well with autism, it IS part of who we are, and we enjoy the community of others like us. We don't want a genocide to take place and that is where the passion comes from.

    As to reacting strongly to the possibility of environmental influences, that is probably due to ignorance on their part. Many genetically associated diseases are affected in their phenotype by the environment, so it stands to reason that autism would too.

  4. kotoroshinoto ,

    I can understand your fears, but I think they are misplaced. No one is saying that the goal is to abort close to every child with autism and I think if you look at other disabilities that have available genetic testing, such as Fragile X, you can see that this does not happen. And in reality, genetic testing for a form of autism (Retts) is already available.

    I believe that this entire fear comes from what happened with Down's syndrome but that is not really a valid comparison. If you look back a number of years you will see that one of the main problem with Down's was that if you had it you had a very small chance of surviving into your twenties and the general prognosis was poor. The prognosis today is improved but life expectancy is still low and I believe that more people are choosing not to abort (although these numbers are still small).

    Compare that with other mental disorders such as Fragile X. There are genetic tests for this condition, which I believe can be used prenatally, but there is no widespread abortion.

    Autism is clearly not a fatal condition so I don't believe that there would be widespread testing. There could be testing done in the future, as their is now with Rett's, in families that already have children with severe autism. But this would not be the same as widespread abortion.

    I understand what you are saying about autism being part of who you are, but I have to respectfully disagree. I think what often happens is that the sense of belonging to a community is what becomes part of who a person is and the common thread holding the community together is a shared diagnosis.

    It is normal for anyone to derive a sense of self from their community and circumstances, but that does not make it who they are. After my twins were born we joined the community of parents with multiples. Here, like in autism communities, there is a very strong sense of identity from the shared experience of raising multiples - and this is not something that you can understand easily unless you are a parent of multiples. But having twins is not my identity and more than my children having autism is.

    No one wants to disrupt these communities nor does anyone want to make you be someone other than you are. There would be no forced "curing" of those who did not want to be cured.

    But you have to consider the flip side as well. For every one person who manages to find a way to live well in spite of their autism, there are many others who are not as fortunate.

    Autism is similar to depression, bi-polar, ADD, and other related conditions in this respect. Some people find ways to live with or in spite of the shortcomings these create while others find it impossible to do so. And these disorders can, like autism, affect all aspects of a person's life so that everything that they do is colored by it.

    Yet if you asked a person with depression if they wanted to be rid of it or a person with ADD if they would like to be able to focus I am sure that the majority would jump at the chance. And this would not make them different people - it would remove an obstacle that they have to struggle with.

    The same applies for people with autism, especially young children. Autism stops them from being what they could be and removing it would remove an obstacle from their path.

    There can be no "genocide" of autism. Autism is not an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group - it is a name for a disruption of what is considered to be normal development.

    You are a person with your own unique combination of character, strengths, and weaknesses. You are not a disorder.

  5. It's also sort of a backwards commentary toward those who think vaccines cause autism because mark my word, measles WILL reappear and those who were not inoculated will be the first to suffer. Measles can be fatal. So can many of the other diseases likely to rear their ugly heads again.

  6. Sister Sunshine, I think you are completely correct - IF the discussion on vaccines continues the way that it is, people are going to lose trust in the immunizations and stop giving them to their children. And when that happens, preventable diseases, some of them with serious side effects will return.

    However, the way forward is not to downplay parental concerns and and telling parents that they are being silly. The way forward is to address the concerns and work with the concerned parents to modify the system in a way that is acceptable to everyone involved.

    Vaccines can have side effects, up to and including death and pretending otherwise that there aren't risks is just as dishonest and pretending that all autism is caused by vaccine.