By Anne Dachel
New Book ‘In a Different Key’ Tells the History, Politics of Autism from Chicago Tonight: Another interview for John Donvan and Caren Zucker about their book, In a Different Key
Donvan recounts the life of Donald Triplett, the first person diagnosed with autism. Doctors at first advised his parents to institutionalize him, "which was very, very typical in that time period."
The support Donald got from his hometown is the reason he has been so successful.
The authors describe how ABA helps kids with autism. Nothing is said about any biomedical treatments or the concomitant disorders and illnesses these kids have.
The interview cited "refrigerator moms" as what was believed to be the cause of autism.
Host: "One thing that's been in the news so much is the story how the public has been misled to believe that vaccines cause autism. That's been scientifically debunked."
Donvan added that parents whose kids regressed following vaccination think there's a connection, but it's just coincidence. "The families say the child stopped speaking" shortly afterwards.
"What the science seems to show is that there is such as thing as regressive autism, where there's progress for awhile and it stops. And it happens around that age."
Losing the ability to speak sometimes "within a day" of vaccination happens, but the studies all show no link, according to Donvan.
Zucker on the neurodiversity movement: "We should accept people for who they are and how they act, and that society needs to embrace them."
She noted that some people believe autism shouldn't be treated or cured, yet many parents are dealing with a child who can't speak, but "everybody wants the same thing, which is to embrace people who are different."
Donvan was asked for his advice for a parent whose child was just diagnosed with autism. "Know that there's help compared to 30 or 40 years ago. Things are so much better because of the parents whose stories we tell in this, who fought to close institutions, who fought to give kids the right to public education, which they're only had since 1975. ...You can go to your pediatrician and the odds are much much higher that your pediatrician will know how to advise you. ...Go online, but go online to responsible sites.
"And also insist, insist on this point that Caren was just making that the world around you accept your child for who he or she is, as he or she is, and do not have shame and do not hide."
Here's the story of autism, according to Donvan and Zucker:
Caren Zucker, as an investigative journalist, was able to find the very first person with an autism diagnosis, someone who's now in his 80s.
This man, Donald Triplett, was placed in an institution as a child, because that's what was done with autistic people back then.
Thanks to proactive moms who stood up for their autistic children, we now educate and provide for autistic individuals.
Neither "refrigerator moms" nor vaccines cause autism.
It's time for the world to accept autism. Parents should not hide their autistic children. All we need to do is to wake up to the fact that autism happens to more and more children, even to ones who seem to be normal and developing as they should.
What Donvan and Zucker are really selling here is helplessness. There is nothing you can do to prevent autism. We have to just accept it--because we have no other choice.
What these authors need to explain are all the inconsistencies in this interview. As ABC journalists, how can they be so unaware of the real issues out there?
If the definition of autism was expanded in 1994, why do the numbers keep going up?
Donvan is quick to dismiss any link between vaccines and autism, citing population studies. I would like to know if, as a reporter, he has ever asked who funded any particular study? Has he ever looked for opposing science? How could Donvan have missed the Hannah Poling story? Why is the only treatment the two authors talk about a behavioral therapy?
Zucker often tells the story of Donald Triplett. Where are all the other autistic people in their 40s, 60s, and 80s? Surely they must have looked for more representatives of adults with autism than Donald T. If the institutions have been shut down, where are these people living currently?
Stories are out everyday about training almost every profession to deal with autistic people. "Autism friendly" and "Sensory friendly" are now the terms used to indicate accommodations for those with autism. Why didn't we ever provide for these people before?
The mission of Donvan and Zucker seems to be to get us to accept autism as just a fact of life in the 21st century. The problem is, we're going to have to do more than just embrace autism. We're also going to have support all these children as adults. Currently our big problem is hundreds of thousands of students with autism aging out of school with nowhere to go. Donvan and Zucker need to explain why this is happening, if autism has always been here.
Our ignorance about autism is not because affected people were hidden away in institutions. It's because autism didn't exist like it does now. Donald Triplett's condition was a rarity back when he was a child, otherwise, these two reporters would be able to go to nursing homes around the country and find lots of other elderly autistic people. They can't do that. No one can, because they're not there.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.