By Anne Dachel
I'm sure everyone would agree that Kim Stagliano is an incredible managing editor. She keeps our issues out there everyday on AoA. Our stories are online right along with those from the New York Times and CNN.
I think her Nov 21, 2015 piece, Who Decides Our Level of Fear and What is Acceptable Risk? speaks volumes. It's about FEAR. Kim compared the fear being generated over Syrian refugees and the threat from ISIS to our concern over a generation of sick children.
What I was asking was, "Who decides what risk is real? How do we decide for ourselves?"
Fear sells. It's the oldest trick in the Mad Men book. . . .We've seen what fear of disease, even a survivable disease like chicken pox or measles or flu can do within legislature and how it can turn American against American. Remember this waiting room in California?
We have a nation of sick kids. There's precious little alarm about the state of pediatric health. Why?. . . .
What do you think? Why are some fears greater, more valid, more newsworthy than others?
Kim is absolutely right. FEAR SELLS, and it's the media running the sale.
News outlets are asking very urgent questions about the terrorist threat around the world.
What is our plan going to be? How can we make sure a Paris-style massacre doesn't happen here? What's the right thing/wrong thing to do? The debate is on.
Just like Kim, I compared this issue to autism among our children. It's coincidental that CDC officials have just announced another whopping increase in the autism rate, now at one in every 45 children, one in every 29 boys. One more big leap in a condition that was almost unheard of 25-30 years ago got a big yawn from the media. Reporters repeated assurances from the CDC that this only showed more better diagnosing, the same tired chant that has accompanied each and every increase over the last 15 years. No one from the CDC has ever referred to autism as a "crisis," despite all the increases, and neither does the media.
The media gave us non-stop coverage of ISIS over the last week. There were panel discussions. The President and the candidates were interviewed. Everyone offered their views on what we should do. Opinions were criticized. Military experts were called on for guidance. Ordinary citizens in Paris were heard from. What are governments going to do?
Contrast this with the news of an increase in the number of children with a condition that no one in public health can rationally explain. No one is EVER AFRAID OF AUTISM. No one is ever expected to have answers. No one even asks questions. Why is that?
Answer: It's because the media has always told us not to worry about autism. There is nothing to fear. All we need is awareness.
The press faithfully puts out every lame claim about the cause, mostly guaranteeing that it's genetic. (The millions spent on dead-end studies looking for the autism gene/genes have not been in vain. If experts are looking, there must be something to find.) No one brings up regressive autism, rather we're sold on the idea that children are born with ASD.
The press tells us to celebrate autism every April, and they only show us the cute side of autism: the kids who look and sound pretty much like typical kids. With such a massive, worldwide annual show, we can all relax. People are doing things. They are aware. What else could we ask?
The press cites the decade old $3.2 million lifetime care cost from Michael Ganz at Harvard. No one ever updates that. National news outlets never take the time to talk about the future when all these children with autism are adults. There isn't even a mild curiosity about where all the autistic adults who've always been here are living currently.
The press has created FEAR. It's fear of measles and other communicable diseases. As far as autism is concerned, the vaccine issue is dead. The media has given two main antagonists, namely Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. They're the bad guys talking unsuspecting parents into not vaccinating. The protagonists are all the white coated doctors, led by Paul Offit, who only want to save lives.
And it works. Quite well in fact. There is no fear of autism, no fear of vaccine side effects, only fear of disease and parents not vaccinating. This scenario hasn't changed over the last 15 years, despite Simpsonwood, all the autism rate increases, David Kirby, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Sharyl Attkisson, Hannah Poling, Bernadine Healy, Unanswered Questions, Poul Thorsen, Thomas Verstraeten, and William Thompson.
An example to prove my claim can be found in the recent story from KVOA-TV, Tucson, Arizona. Watch the video and you'll see why people DO NOT FEAR AUTISM.
Nov 16, 2015, Help for adults with Autism http://www.kvoa.com/story/30409485/help-for-adults-with-autism
Autism is often thought of as a childhood disorder. However, adults on the autism spectrum also vary widely in terms of their ability to fit in with a non-autistic world.
According to experts, there's a large adult population, spanning generations, who were never diagnosed with autism as kids. Even just 25 years ago autism symptoms were often dismissed as just a learning disability or social delay, due to the lack of educational tools and awareness.
According to Kirsten Polivchak from Tucson Alliance for Autism, receiving a diagnosis of autism, or Asperger's Syndrome, can be life changing and may help people understand why they've been just a little different their whole lives.
“They've come to us for support in finally getting diagnosed at the age of 45 or 50 and it’s not for just for clinical diagnosis. It's a weight lifted off their shoulders. They have learned the hard way, just the social norms how to behave what to do in order to hold jobs."
The Tucson Alliance for Autism offers support groups for adults with autism and for family members of adults with autism.
When I was a kid, the medical community was clueless about autism. No one had an ASD diagnosis. (Back in the days before all the prescription drug ads no one told us to "ask your doctor.")
VIDEO: "There's no one really to blame, according to experts, for the misdiagnosis. The educational tools and awareness we have today just weren't as prevalent years ago as they are today.
(Video shows a shot of Temple Grandin's book, Different, Not Less.)
". . .They've been just a little different their entire lives. . . . Adults 25 and older could be part of that generation gap that were never diagnosed. However, identifying the lost generation of adults with autism can be tricky . . . "
And what is autism, according to KVOA in Tucson? "People who can't easily read the emotions of others, difficulty making friends, difficulty having relationships, difficulty working,. . . . "
The media, which has never honestly and thoroughly covered autism, now tells the public that shy, quirky, obsessive folks--those just a little different--are the lost generation with autism. Yes, it's easy to believe they've always been out there, misdiagnosed/undiagnosed. Of course what they're talking about is not classic autism; it's Asperger's. Showing us individuals with severe autism would be a cause for real concern. Forget the inability to read emotions. I'm talking about children and adolescents who don't even recognize that others are in the room. They don't talk. They're in adult diapers. Forget the difficulty working. They need care 24/7 so they don't get out of the house and possibly die.
KVOA in Tucson and other news outlets continue to ease our fears about autism. See, there are adults out there, and the rate change once again is sign that doctors are finally discovering the kids who are affected, and best of all: there's nothing to fear!
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 is on sale now from Skyhorse Publishing.