April is coming up and I wanted to say a few words about the month dedicated to autism awareness. Many of us in the autism community are tired of stories about lighting the world up in blue and celebrating autism as if parents should be happy about a diagnosis. We've endured years of feel-good coverage about awareness, fund-raising walks, and no explanation for the mystery of autism.
Most of all, we want you to do your jobs.
Do you know what reporters are really supposed to do?
Five years ago I found this youtube by Bob Woodward. (Remember Bob? He and Carl Bernstein were the famous reporters at the Washington Post in the 1970s, who exposed Watergate and helped bring down a corrupt president. They even made a movie about them.
Woodward said that a good journalist does three things when covering a story and I thought I'd pass them on to you with the hope that you would apply them to your reporting on autism.
First, you're supposed to CHECK SOURCES.
Woodward: "It means checking everything, talking to half a dozen or even a dozen people for a day story. If it's something longer, you want to totally surround and saturate the subject."
Second, you need DOCUMENTATION.
Woodward: "I have not really ever seen a story in a newspaper or on television or even on radio that couldn't be enhanced with some sort of documentation that would support or add more detail to what the story is about."
Third, you're supposed to CHECK INFORMATION FIRST HAND.
Woodward: "Get your ass out of your chair and get over there."
This is the kind of stuff we the public think reporters do when they cover a topic, so when you start giving us stories about Autism Awareness this April, we want you to do it like professional journalists.
Instead of stories with photos of happy kids on playground equipment or a 30 second video of a cute four year old interacting with a speech therapist on the news, show us the dark side of autism--the teenagers in diapers, the non-verbal children who spin and rock endlessly, and the really sick autistic kids with seizures and bowel disease. People deserve to know just how badly autism can affect a child.
Talk to real parents who have enormous fears about the future. They're the people whose teenage children who will be aging out of school in a couple of years and they have no idea what's out there for them. You might even describe this as A CRISIS. Members of the press never use that word when talking about autism, but trust me, a serious health problem with no known cause or cure that affects 2 percent of children really is a crisis.
Speaking of the rate, why is it that no matter how bad the numbers get, it's never a true increase, according to every media source quoting officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention?
When each stunning leap in the rate, one in 150, one in 110, one in 88, and the last update, one in 50, was reported, you allowed officials to claim that they had no proof that more kids actually had autism.
Just how bad do the numbers have to get? When does something become AN EPIDEMIC, in your opinion? Why are the numbers always based on studies of children?
You give health officials a free pass every time they lamely claim that autism has always been around like this, we just called it something else. If that were really true then they would be lots of middle aged and elderly people out there in group homes and nursing homes who've spent most of their lives being non-verbal, flapping their hands, wandering away, obsessing over certain activities. Lots of these adults would also have a medical history that includes a sudden and dramatic loss of learned skills and regression. YOU NEED TO FIND THESE PEOPLE. Or else you need to report the truth about autism--it is a new condition that overwhelmingly affects children. You have to stop telling us that bad genes are the reason a child ends up with autism.
How come none of you ever talk to special ed teachers who've been in the business 20 or 30 years? Ask these people if they think we've always had disabled kids like this. Do you ever ask yourself why you're covering autism training being given to police, fire fighters, EMTs, librarians, teachers, and yes, even doctors? Why would they have to learn about a disorder that's always been around?
By the way, why is it that you all never hold health officials accountable for the research they tell you about? Why do you accept every new study showing no link between vaccines and autism from the agency that runs the vaccine program as valid science? Why doesn't someone ask, WHO FUNDED THE STUDY? Why doesn't anyone look into THE CONFLICTS OF THE RESEARCHERS?
AND PLEASE, stop giving us Dr. Paul Offit as the go-to-guy on vaccine safety. We all know that he's more than "an infectious disease expert from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia," as he's always described in news reports. Why don't you mention that he's also someone who's personally made millions of dollars from the development of a vaccine for rotavirus? Wouldn't you say that this gives him an enormous bias?
The truth is there are over a hundred and fifty studies out there done by INDEPENDENT EXPERTS that do show serious side effects from our unchecked, unsafe vaccination schedule. IT'S YOUR JOB to cover these as well. That may not make you popular with advertisers or mainstream medicine, but IT'S YOUR JOB.
It's important that you know that we are sick to death of seeing you blame the controversy over vaccines and autism on Jenny McCarthy, Kristin Cavallari, and Dr. Andrew Wakefield. It's simply not true and you know it. You know it because of the Hannah Poling story in 2008. She was the young Georgia girl whose claim of vaccine injury included autism and was compensated by the federal government.
The government didn't tell us about this stunning revelation--her parents did. Her dad, Jon Poling, a neurologist and a researcher, studied children who regressed into autism following vaccination. This was never suppose to happen. There isn't supposed to be any way that getting vaccinated could lead to autism, but in the case of Hannah Poling and others, it did. The same health officials who continue to say there is no link agreed and she was paid compensation. This stunning event was in the news in 2008, but it quickly died and you guys went right back to telling us vaccines never cause autism. How can you report like this? What kind of pressure are you giving into?
Believe me, parents in the autism community (and there are more and more of us) know exactly what you're doing. When you slam Jenny McCarthy and label her a Playboy bunny, you're hiding the fact that medical experts support her.
She co-authored the best-selling book, Healing and Preventing Autism, with Dr. Kartzinel.
Dr. Gordon is a nationally renowned pediatrician, member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, UCLA Medical School.
Dr. Kartzinel is a well-known advocate for children's health which includes the use of bio-medical treatments to recover children with autism. He has used these therapies to recover his own son from autism.
Pretending these doctors don't exist smacks of a cover-up.
When you mention Dr. Wakefield, you do the same thing. The man is a gastroenterologist and the children he wrote about were brought to him by their PARENTS. THEIR PARENTS said they were normally developing until they received the MMR vaccine. They got sick with BOWEL DISEASE AND AUTISM. How come no one ever interviews any of them? Why don't you ever mention the fact that the British government indemnified the manufacturer of the MMR and that the government has everything at stake in denying any link?
I could go on and on. I've been following all of you for years and your claims never change. It's so obvious to us out here in the real world that you're not doing your jobs.
It's all about telling the truth. And it's all about covering up the truth.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which goes on sale this Fall from Skyhorse Publishing.