It was April of 1943 when Dr. Leo Kanner, arguably the leading childhood psychiatrist of the day, wrote the words in the journal The Nervous Child that changed the rest of us, and the month of April, forever.
“Since 1938, there have come to my attention a number of children whose condition differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far, that each case merits – and I hope, eventually receives – a detailed examination of its fascinating peculiarities.”
At that time, Dr. Kanner was an immigrant who had lived on two continents in multiple countries; was fluent in two languages; and had just written the authoritative and exhaustive guide on all things related to childhood psychiatry in 1935. Because of his research, he was the premier expert in the country that the first 11 families of children later diagnosed with autism ever came to for help and why.
The fact that he had just written and published a book on the subject only 8 years prior to making this extraordinary statement; that he was almost 50 years old and had lived on two continents when he did; and that he was announcing to the world in fancy academic language,
“Hey everyone, there’s something NEW here…and PECULIAR… and FASCINATING…. and I’VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE…. and I’m an authority on this stuff… and I’m going to give it its own name because of it…”
Because, as our beloved Dan Olmsted and so many others have said for over a decade now, if he was right and autism was new, it cannot be genetic. Something in the 1930’s in two very specific parts of the world actually, the United States and Austria, changed. And that’s really only a handful of things.
And likewise, if he was wrong, he simply gave a name to a human condition that’s always been with us. In other words, he was expert enough to get to name it something new that we still call it, but too ignorant to realize it wasn’t. (Think about how ridiculous that logic is. Never mind. Don’t. It hurts.)
A condition that nobody, including himself, bothered to name, discuss, or identify prior.
That isn’t expressly written about anywhere in medical or folk literature beforehand.
That no one over the age of 40 today ever heard of until the late 1980’s.
Because it was new, but not new, don’t you know?
We just didn’t call it that for 70 years even though it had a name.
Because doctors were incompetent.
Like every school and every teacher.
And every parent.
So we didn’t diagnose it.
And then we misdiagnosed it.
And now we over-diagnose it.
And hordes of misdiagnosed folks were institutionalized.
While they also worked for NASA.
And got married.
And then they died.
(Oh, God, it did make my head hurt. Damn it.)
There’s a word for this kind of rationalizing. It’s called “DENIAL”. And each and every one of us has experienced it at least once in our lives. I can think of at least 3 times in my own life, the regression of my daughter being the first instance that comes to mind.
Denial has a certain sound and a certain language all of its own. It makes things complicated that aren’t complicated. It insists there is an exception to the rule. It speaks in circles and contradictions. It cloaks itself in mystery and layered explanations.
It’s marked by lots of sighing and pauses. Your voice gets a little higher. There’s a cocking of your head as you look up at nothing while you speak, your subconscious begging to get your attention to stop you from saying something stupid, literally slowing down your words and making it harder for them to come out.
Because as they come out, you know they don’t make sense. You hear how stupid they sound. You feel your gut screaming at you that the truth is something else.
And yet you continue, for if it’s true what you’re saying when you’re in denial… oh God if these words are true coming out of your mouth? Well, then life is Ok! Everything if fine!
Because denial is a powerful coping mechanism. It protects us from processing painful emotional truths, particularly those that turn our entire world upside down.
“Well, the doctor said not all kids crawl…. And well, her brother is talking for her… and you see, lots of kids have chronic constipation… and yeah, she must be so sick all of the time because I’m a teacher around kids… I mean, the rest of aren’t sick, but yeah, yeah… that’s all it is.”
Oh, for that to be true. Oh, how good it felt for that to be a possibility for those years.
Ugh. It makes my skin crawl to think about. Because once you’re out of denial, it’s so freaking obvious what was right in front of your face all along. And the longer you were in denial, the more you then have to deal with the extraordinary amount of time you lost staying there.
It’s a double whammy, adding to the tremendous pain of the truth you now must face, not to mention the third whammy of having to shake the shit out of everyone else still in it, many of whom become enraged at you as you try.
Is it really any wonder people like to stay there? Denial is nice. It’s comfortable. And it even has a color now: blue.
Autism will one day be a case study of collective denial, mark my words. The seriously mind-numbingly stupid excuses. The contradictions. The “well, you see…” phrases. The pauses. The sighs. The higher pitched voice. The looking up at nothing while talking slowly.
This is body language we cannot control. This can’t be schooled away. The way we talk, the way we look, and the way we sound when we’re in denial is universal and unavoidable.
Simply watch the interviews of those who deny the epidemic and environmental causes and see for yourself. Ask someone in denial for their rationalizations of the epidemic and watch their faces and listen to their voice. For even more evidence, just read the insanity of the words of those who insist that nothing is wrong, nothing has happened, and that everything is fine.
That moms and dads caused autism in the 40’s because they didn’t bond with their children, and then, no, it was just moms in the 50’s, and then, nope, just moms that wanted to kill their kids in the 60’s, and then, well, no, sorry, not homicidal moms but genetically flawed moms by the 90’s… and now it’s sick moms who need more vaccines to keep from getting sick… and don’t forget those nerdy dads… and old dads… oh, and old moms… and oh, old depressed nerdy moms and dads in tribes… oh, and Elmo! Him too! Which is why we needed to add a new puppet apparently.
They’ll puzzle at how any of us could ever believe…
That it was normal for 1 in 20 boys to have autism.
That there was such a thing as “safe” mercury and “unsafe” mercury.
That autism was caused by immune system activation in the brain of a child from viral and bacterial infections in their mothers, but not possibly from vaccines… that are designed to cause immune system activation from viral and bacterial infections while coupled with toxins and foreign DNA.
That parents were imagining what happened to their children.
That cave drawings showed autism had always been with us.
That humanity wouldn’t have survived without a little autism.
Denial is everywhere.
It’s in the Department of Education data, where it acknowledges zero autism in the schools in the 1970’s and 1980’s… but adds an asterisk that’s only because they didn’t call it that without explaining what in the hell they did.
It’s in the behavior of people who recoil at the idea of drinking lead in their water, but roll up their sleeves to be injected with mercury…while pregnant.
It’s in the conversations of people who on one hand acknowledge they never knew a single person with autism growing up, but on the other, insist they must have.
It’s in the waiting list for housing of the 22,000 plus young people with an autism diagnosis just hitting age 21 in Florida that will never live independently, but no one needing housing in that capacity age 35. (I mean, sure, they die at 36 we’ve recently been told, but where are they now in their last year?)
It’s in the doctor’s file that shows little Johnny has eczema, and diarrhea, and constipation, and seizures, and hypotonia, and systemic inflammation, and immune system dysfunction, but because little Johnny has autism, are never treated as relevant.
Because they are the autism.
Because autism is actually more appropriately called M.I.A.: Medically Induced Autism. And because we keep asking the very people who are least likely to be able to see that they caused it to tell us if they did.
Beware anyone who tries to talk you out of your own reality. Beware anyone who makes things complicated that are not complicated. Beware anyone who talks in circles.
Beware anyone that tells you this time there is an exception to the rule. Beware anyone that tells you you’re not smart enough to understand why. Beware anyone who pauses, hems, and haws, and stares up towards the sky as they say something God awfully stupid and try to make it seem smart.
This is not the advice I give folks about autism. This is the advice I give to my children about anyone in their lives. People who engage in that kind of behavior are dangerous, I warn them, even if not intentionally so.
You won’t see me lighting up anything blue this month, celebrating brain inflammation and calling it diversity, or being happy that Elmo, the once supposed cause of autism, now has a friend of his own creation.
What’s actually M.I.A. this April is common sense…. and honesty…. and integrity… and bravery… and a firm grasp on reality. Autism is new, it’s epidemic, and it’s environmentally caused in genetically vulnerable people.
And as long as these truths remain missing, I’m happy to remain M.I.A. in April as well.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism and the author of An Unfortunate Coincidence: A mother’s life inside the autism controversy by Skyhorse Publishing.