Managing Editor's Note: If you are unfamiliar with The Autism Trust, their "slogan" is "A Safe Haven for People with Autism." Hardly controversial.
By Teri Arranga
In today's edition of spiked-online.com, backwoods doctor Michael Fitzpatrick blasted Polly Tommey, founder of The Autism Trust, for the current campaign that seeks better supports and services for autistic individuals in the UK via meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown. ( Read the Spiked online piece HERE.) Fitzpatrick also blasted The Autism File magazine for including information about vitamins (oh, mercy me) and advertisements from "suppliers of biomedical products" (though none of them as lofty as Merck/Vioxx and Eli Lilly like Fitzpatrick's cronies' medical journals), among other things. But what is worse is that Fitzpatrick is trying to undermine the efforts of Polly and The Autism Trust to improve quality of life for autistic individuals and their families, many in woeful situations of deprivation and stress. What he did was to write an open letter to the Prime Minister of 10 Downing Street titled "If you want to help families affected by autism, you shouldn’t be inviting Polly Tommey to No.10."
To set the record straight, The Autism Trust is a registered charity (www.autismtrust.com) that is, again, asking for better supports and services for autistic individuals. As the result of a remarkable and sustained campaign in the UK - unprecedented in its scope and support - Polly Tommey will be having meetings with members of the Prime Minister's team in advance of the promised meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown himself. For Fitzpatrick to try to undermine this and to try to deny a charity the ability to do that on behalf of suffering individuals in a country deluged by autism is outrageous. How dare Fitzpatrick try to undermine the charity's work in this direction with an ill-informed rant? He does not even correctly state The Autism Trust's proposed objectives of the meetings - instead lying to the Prime Minister's office by slanting his presentation. Fitzpatrick never contacted Polly Tommey nor any other member of The Autism Trust for comment in advance.
If it threatens the Deer/Fitzpatrick camp when we want to get better services and supports for 1 child in 60 in the UK and their families, then we have touched a nerve. For example, how can trying to get decent housing and family supports threaten Deer and Fitzpatrick's current repertoire of witch hunting? Why are they so scared that they would resort to petty tactics?
The Chairman of The Autism Trust, Oliver Jones, has written to Fitzpatrick as follows:
I am both shocked and astounded having read your open letter on the Internet this afternoon. How dare you act in such an ill informed manner about a campaign that I and many others have invested significant time and effort in - when you evidently have no idea about what we are actually focused upon.
I find it remarkable that a professional person can take such an aggressive stance as you have done about The Autism Trust's campaign without having the decency or following proper protocol by making contact with any of the Trustees and specifically myself to determine the objectives and intent of our forthcoming meetings.
The Autism Trust is now also registered in the United States, and we are asking for your support in a letter writing campaign. All letters to the Prime Minister's office should be very positive, simply supporting The Autism Trust in its objective of getting better services and supports for individuals with autism and their families in the UK. We do not want to mention Fitzpatrick to the Prime Minister's office; we do not want to draw the Prime Minister's office into Fitzpatrick's petty sensationalistic brawl. However, letters to Fitzpatrick can be frank about his misconceptions, though still polite as befitting our dignified, intelligent, and highly educated autism advocacy community.
• Please support The Autism Trust campaign: to get recognition of the importance of autism to so many people in the UK and the rest of the world today and to acknowledge the crisis that so many families are facing. We need our governments to increase their understanding of the needs of so many families, to increase the levels of financial and care support, and to make that support much more accessible. The Autism Trust is part of that solution ... that is our message.
We would recommend that any people who want to support Polly Tommey and The Autism Trust's campaign do so by writing to Gordon Brown c/o Katie Martin (Press Office in Downing Street) on email firstname.lastname@example.org or to Michael Ellam (Director of Communications in Downing Street) on email email@example.com.
• Secondly, in respect of Michael Fitzpatrick's ill-informed letter, we would recommend that we should not seek to highlight this man in the eyes of the UK government, but, instead, we should recommend that people write to him directly. People like Dr Fitzpatrick - like Brian Deer - should simply not be allowed to undermine genuine initiatives such as Polly's - we cannot allow this censorship.
We would recommend that he is contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org and also by email marked for the attention of Dr Fitzpatrick to email@example.com.
This campaign has been supported by thousands of parents of children of all ages with autism - basic resources and support are what we are asking for. We should not have to face the tirades of narrow- minded, self-appointed "spokespeople" like Michael Fitzpatrick who can do so much damage if given the the chance.
Parents' voices must be heard - we must join together.
The Autism Trust - USA