"Well, Mr. and Mrs. Goes...about your son..." "Yes...yes? What is it doctor?" I was ready to practically jump out of my skin with excitement. My husband and I were holding court with the tippity-top, bestest of the best pediatric neurologists in the whole of Chicago and she was about to hand down our son's diagnosis. "Clearly, you already know...your son has Autism."
"Sweet!" Simultaneous high fives, fist pumps and mid-air chest bumps ensued. "I knew it!" My husband exclaimed! "I am so psyched!" We hurriedly thanked the celebrated doctor, bundled up our totally cool kid and headed for the car to start texting and facebooking the good news. "Oh the Johnstons are going to be green with envy." I remarked, my voice teeming with satisfaction.
"Yeah," my husband said--"and the Smiths. Man, they think they are so great with those twin Mercedes...and that whiny kid of theirs with that annoying asthma. Always complaining, "maaahmmmy, daaaaddy, I can't breathe." I can't wait for the next barbecue to show off that--what do you call it? That, IEP thing our son is going to need. Totally trumps an inhaler. That's right Smith kid, our kid is so much better than you he get's to go to a special school! Bwaahahaha!"
"Oh look, babe! He smeared his diarrhea all over the window! Hang on...I'm gonna tweet this, the girls are going to flip! Hey, can you hand him that strip of tin foil he likes to chew on, that screaming is driving me nuts."
Sounds absurd doesn't it? Not to Dr. Allen Frances, former chair of the DSM-IV and author The Autism Generation. He writes, "The most likely cause of the autism epidemic is that autism has become fashionable--a fad diagnosis." He goes on to speculate the reasoning for this is so that parents can gain access to services for their children that they don't actually need. After digesting his post along with my morning coffee I marched right over to my son and explained the world according to Dr. Al.
"Hey, angel man! Guess what? Autism is a false epidemic! You may now start processing information just like the rest of us." He smiled, spit up, smeared the DNA filled liquid all over his finger tips and pressed it into my eye sockets. This went a lot like an episode several months back, when I told him about the Good Doctor. "Great news, son! The GMC says the measles in your gut are fraudulent. You can stop having explosive diarrhea umpteen times a day!" He promptly...well, you can probably imagine. If not, I posted it on Facebook. Where most folks showcase their kid's soccer triumphs, I post pictures of diseased bowels, so other parents who are told they are making up their children's illness can see they are not alone.
In TAG sentence after sentence is rife with inaccuracy, blaming parents, non-pharma funded studies, celebrities and advocacy groups for the "false" prevalence of autism. Ah, but there is a surprising twist. In some ways, Dr. Al is actually one of the good guys. To his credit he is a champion of the people on the issue polypharmacology. I've read several articles he has written prior to TAG, and it is clear he is passionate about halting the practice of over-medicating. He frequently cites the Hippocratic injunction,"do no harm". A strong proponent of cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of PTSD he states, "It is important to recognize that sometimes the treatment becomes worse than the disease." The "treatment" he is referring to is the practice of prescribing pharmaceutical solutions to solve the side effects caused by previously prescribed pharmaceutical solutions. Drugging, drugging, and more drugging. While it has a lovely effect on pharma's bottom line, it actually kills people, and Dr. Al is bothered by this.
However, he fails to recognize that his disdain for over-dosing does not qualify him as an Autism specialist. His comments reflect a profound lack of understanding of the metabolic, immunological, and complex systemic issues that cause many of our "fashionable" kids to exhibit autistic-like symptoms. Dr. Al does not know what an increasing number of physicians, scientists, researchers and parents do. Autism is medical. He discredits environmental causation (thereby it's potential medical and biomedical solutions) without facts or statistics, by simply waving his magic doctor wand and claiming over-diagnosis. Like many public mouth-pieces these days he has zero data to back up his claim. Of course, this is of no consequence because Dr. Al knows none of his contemporaries have the answers either (they aren't looking). But doggone if that doesn't keep them all from yammering on as though they've spent their lives holding seizing children, cleaning clostridia-laden feces out of their mouths, and hauling their stimming bodies to and from every recommended therapy under the sun. When a standard of care for those suffering from Autism is non-existent, the so-called "specialists" step in from pharma (I would have said medicine, but there is no longer a discernible distinction), psychiatry, and science to make their mark on a disease they know nothing about--because they are not talking to the right people. Psst...the right people are the parents. We can put you in touch with the doctors who are saving our kids' lives. Not sure why this is so hard.
TAG reads like a pre-written pharma press release that was born on some PR lackey's hard drive and has spent it's life awaiting a greedy doctor with a media-savvy image to come along and claim authorship. Score one for pharma, Dr. Al. It is utterly tragic what a little bit of knowledge spewed from the mouth of an expert with a public platform, can do. For those unaffected, let me demonstrate what I mean by taking Dr. Al's voice on Autism and applying it to real world issues facing contemporary culture and the global community, today. Remember, people are listening to him.
Dr. Al on the debt ceiling: There is no such thing as a debt ceiling. There's plenty of money. Everything is fine.
Dr. Al on human trafficking: Human trafficking is a myth. The buying and selling of children is not really that big of an issue. More and more children are simply making the sex trades their career of choice.
Dr. Al on the search for weapons of mass destruction: Don't believe the hype. They are out there, we just have to lose countless human lives to find them. It's worth it.
Dr. Al on the elusive autism gene: Don't believe the hype. It's out there, we just have to spend millions of dollars to create..er, I mean find it...and harm thousands of children in the process. It's worth it.
Dr. Al on Human Rights and Individual Liberties: It's a fad.
LJ Goes is Managing Partner of The Misuta Project, LLC., Contributing Editor to Age of Autism, and Executive Board Member of the Illinois Canary Party.