I have just heard from a friend with autism that Newsweek Magazine might be publishing an article by Ari Ne'eman, neurodiversity advocate and founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network. (HERE) People with autism who support neurodiversity gained considerable attention in the mainstream media, in sharp contrast to those of us with dissenting opinions who have tried informing the media of this discrepency in the past, but to no avail. I'm still hopeful of the possibility that Newsweek Magazine will be different, so I sent the below letter to the magazine's email address:
I am a 20 year old sophomore at Brandeis University, and a sufferer of Asperger Syndrome, the mildest form of autism. I'm writing in response to a rumor circulating around the internet, which may or may not be true, claiming that you are going to run an article written by Ari Ne'eman, neurodiversity advocate, leader and founder of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN) and junior at the Baltimore County campus of the University of Maryland who also has my same diagnosis. Is this the case? Neurodiversity is an ideology supported primarily by some autistic individuals and parents who do not believe that autism is a disability, and opposes any potential cure. People professing this belief have gained wide coverage in the media, such as interviews with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, appearances on ABC's Good Morning America, as well as an article for The New Yorker Magazine to name a few.
However, most autistic people, at least ones I have met, do not believe in neurodiversity.
Yet, it appears there has been a mainstream media blackout on those of us within the community who publicly disagree with that point of view. I am among such people, and it is therefore my belief and those of many others that the opinions of autistic people and their experiences have been misrepresented by the media for giving neurodiversity proponents within our community all the air time, leaving none for the rest of us. As a result, advocates of neurodiversity have been allowed to redefine the public's perception of how people with autism feel about their disabilities. Their agenda and misguided beliefs denying the disabling aspects of autism, while opposing a cure, have given others the impression that autistic people are satisfied with their conditions just the way they are. That could not be further from the truth, I can tell you that I as well as many others with autism do not see it that way and would like our autism to go away. We have frequently tried alerting media venues such as this in the past, particularily those which have given coverage entirely to neurodiversity advocates and none to us, including ABC and CNN, asking for fair and balanced coverage. So far, these requests have gone unanswered. Yet, I feel confident that in spite of the poor luck we've had, there will eventually be a news source which will do the right thing and respresent our views. I am hopeful that Newsweek will be such a source.
Along with their views on a cure for autism, as well as its disabling nature, Neurodiversity advocates carry a variety of other controversial views. As well as denying that autism is a disability and asserting that it should not be cured, neurodiversity advocates are also in complete denial that there is an epidemic of autism and that it could have any environmental causes, citing "greater awareness" for the growth. As much as I would like to believe that there are more autistic people my age since I was born at the end of '88, right before the autism cluster, no one who has claimed this imaginary population exists has actually been able to locate and rediagnose these people. Claims made by Ne'eman and others that autism has simply replaced other labels such as "mentally retarded," citing decreases in the mental retardation label with increases in autism is dishonest and inaccurate. The rate of autism, as demonstrated by Dr. Craig Newschaffer, exceeds that of mental retardation. Furthermore, the mental retardation label has merely been replaced with that of developmental delay, explaining the decrease in the use of the former label. However, neurodiversity advocates will show tables that only portray the graphs of autism and mental retardation, leaving out developmental delay altogether, and have even been displayed on the MSNBC website. This is a lie by omission, and the corrected version of these graphs is available on the Thoughtful House website. Meanwhile, as the autism rate is skyrocketing at a rate similar to obesity, public health officials have done nothing.
Neurodiversity only adds insult to injury, especially when Ari Ne'eman uses his own experience of first being labelled ADD, then rediagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, to support epidemic denialism. I do not know Ari's full story, as I cannot speak for him. However, I can give you a thorough run-down on my autistic experience. I was born in 1988; at the age of 2 and a half, my pediatrician referred me to developmental specialists as the result of early developmental delays I had with speech and language.
When I was brought into New York City to see a psychologist at age 3, he predicted I would be diagnosed with a Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) when I was older, explaining to my mother that I was on the Autism Spectrum. My young age at that time was probably the reason why he did not give me a diagnosis in writing. That was in 1992, two years before the DSM-IV came out listing PDD-NOS and Asperger Syndrome as a diagnosis as part of a PDD/ASD category.
People like Ari will often use the DSM-IV's availability to support their contention that there is no epidemic by claiming that the addition of PDD labels as opposed to just classic autism came with the introduction of this manual, causing the growth. Having been associated with a PDD label before that, however, I can tell you that I am living proof that these labels had already existed before the DSM-IV's introduction. Sure enough, as the doctor predicted, I was diagnosed with a PDD: Asperger Syndrome at the age of 8. Unlike Ari, no one ever mistook me for someone with ADD, although I was diagnosed with a co-morbid Auditory Processing Impairment. To my knowledge, Ari Ne'eman had no early speech or language delays, which is perhaps the reason why he was initially given a different label, NOT a result of greater awareness.
As well as having difficulty learning to talk, I also suffered from other problems later in life such as emotional and academic problems that frequently plague those with autism. I was in a self-contained educational environment from pre-school through eighth grade. During the later years of that period, I had to deal with horrible bullying and discrimination for my disability. I have suffered through terrible meltdowns, which when I was younger often struck on a weekly basis. I can now proudly say that I have gotten over many of my struggles related to emotional regulation and successfully fought my way out of special ed. Yet, my disability remains a daily and overbearing hindrance to both my academic and social success. I still find that poor social skills, anxiety, executive function, perseveration, and remaining emotional difficulties all get in the way of my quality of life.
Neurodiversity proponents will blame society for issues such as mine for not being as accommodating. Yet, if there really is nothing wrong with us as they say, then there would surely be no need in asking for accommodations from society. Now I have turned down accommodations offered by my university despite qualifying for them, although it is because I feel having them won't help me in the long term, not because I am in denial that autism is a disability as they are. It would therefore seem as though people like Ari would be among the last to request these if they felt so strongly about autism being a natural variation as opposed to an unnatural disability. This is yet another flaw in neurodiversity logic and a complete self-contradiction of their belief system.
While I have felt at times that the way society has treated me for having autism has caused greater difficulty for me than autism itself, that is not how I feel at this stage in life, nor would it change my perspective on having autism if I did. That is because autism is an actual medical problem, not merely a neurological difference. Nutrition-related problems are a huge factor, and I can base that off of my own experiences. I take literally dozens of vitamins each day. Each vitamin does its role in helping me function more proficiently, I know this because whenever my vitamin load has been reduced, I often start to experience more neurological problems.
Perhaps the single greatest success I have had with any biomedical treatment however was with methylated injections of vitamin B-12, which literally made it possible for me to no longer need the aide I was given as a freshman in high school and allowed me to move into all honors classes and work independently the following year. It's been 5 years and I've been taking MB-12 shots ever since. When I miss a shot, I find that my condition rapidly deteriorates, which often serves as a reminder that I've missed one.
This safe intervention is exactly the kind of help autistic children need, but unfortunately the kind that neurodiversity proponents actively try to discourage them from getting. However, even those friendly to neurodiversity within the autistic community are beginning to dissent from this approach Ari and others take, and are starting to realize the importance of biomedical treatment, including people I have talked to within Ari Ne'eman's ASAN.
As for autism causation, I feel there are environmental factors at work here, and that they are the cause for the skyrocketing autism cases. Mercury in vaccines is a significant factor. The neurodiversity group is in deep denial of this, as it jeopardizes the very foundation of their argument, which they support by citing studies with fatal design flaws that bias the methodology and render the results useless, that were done by funding and authors with pharmaceutical industry ties and those to a corrupt public health system. I have written extensively on this subject for Age of Autism, where I serve as a contributing editor. As you know, AoA is a website managed by journalist Dan Olmsted that runs articles concerning the topics of autism. It is read by millions of people, including those in medicine, public health, and the autistic community. I have written on a diverse range of topics including my own experiences with autism, neurodiversity and the role mercury plays in autism causation. My articles can be found here:
I am well aware that you have given coverage to Age of Autism and quoted Dan Olmsted in an article you ran about Paul Offit, the man who made a profit of at least $29 million off the diarrhea vaccine he patented through Merck, whose position on the ACIP at CDC allowed him to open the market up to his product by voting for RotaShield, later banned, and advocate that his vaccine for rotavirus was different from the previous one. He also authored "Autism's False Prophets," which I read.
Unfortunately, I have not been as active as I would have liked since I am in college and just declared my major in history. However, if you want to publish an alternative point of view from an autistic person that is not consistent with the one-sided coverage always given to neurodiversity in the mainstream media, I will be more than happy to provide you with one on autism relating to personal experience, causation, epidemiology, treatment and the need for a cure. Since causation is most controversial, I could still run a story tackling neurodiversity on other issues related to autism if you want, or focus more on the other issues as I have done in some of my articles for AoA. If not, I urge you to at least find someone with an Autism Spectrum Disorder whose views are in opposition to those of Ari Ne'eman and neurodiversity. If not me, I know there are others willing to represent our side of the issue. Otherwise, you will be doing what all the other media groups have done before you: misrepresenting the views of autistic people. Furthermore, getting a new point of view across from individuals afflicted with autism will open up some badly-needed dialogue from within the community as well as ignite greater interest from the general public.
If you decide to not only represent alternative viewpoints fairly, but choose to represent the counterpoint to neurodiversity, feel free to contact me. You can email me either to the address from which I am sending this letter, or my Age of Autism account which is: firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you, I hope we can get in touch.
Jake Crosby, Age of Autism, contributing editor with autism