In addition to raising awareness of the world’s most famous development disability, World Autism Awareness Day also exposes some of the more enduring misconceptions that reporters still hold about autism. While more and more major media outlets are presenting evidence-based approaches to this intriguing story, many smaller outlets have yet to pass their earliest developmental milestones.
It’s apparent that much coverage suffers from the rush to produce an autism story for no reason other than it’s World Autism Awareness Day. As I read some of these stories, I can almost hear an editor yell “Who can find me an autistic kid?” Barbara Grijalva, a news anchor at Tucson’s KOLD News 13, answers the call with stiff prose and loose attribution:
Autism is epidemic in our country. Ask a parent or a pediatrician, and you’ll find not much is being done about it.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says one in every 150 children is born with autism in the U.S.
There’s a spectrum of symptoms, including communication and behavior problems.
There’s no cure. No one knows what causes it. Parents mostly are left to fend for themselves.
Research has shown that early intervention with behavioral therapy and special education can improve a child’s life, but insurance won’t pay for treatments.
There is very little government money being directed at finding a cure for autism.
It’s a situation that stresses out families. Keri Barber is the mother of a young autistic son. She says, “You go to bed at night thinking about autism. You wake up thinking about autism, and you feel like you’re running full speed but in place.”
The divorce rate for parents of autistic children is estimated to be 85%.
Wednesday was the first “World Autism Day” (sic) to bring attention to, what the experts say, is an epidemic that is going largely unnoticed, and under funded.
If this story has a theme, it’s that a virtual avalanche of spinning, flapping kids is bearing down on our sleepy global village, and the only ones noticing are frazzled parents and our cryogenic news anchor. That there is no clear evidence of an epidemic totally escapes her. Instead of information we can use, we get drowsy stream of consciousness from someone who couldn’t care less.
From WLOX in Beloxi, Mississippi, reporter Don Culpepper brings us news of a WAAD miracle:
Like most mothers of autistic children Dawn Felton doubles as his doctor and therapist.”The avenues I would have to go through was the internet and then I would read about all of these programs that I had no money for,” said Dawn.
One thing she could afford to do was change Justin’s diet to eliminate wheat and dairy products.
But recently she found an organic detoxifying product that she says worked miracles.
“Recently I organically detoxified Justin. One week after that detoxification, Justin began reading books orally for the first time ever. He reads books in front of the entire library at Bel Aire Elementary School,” said Dawn.
I asked Culpepper if WLOX could confirm any of Felton’s claims.
“Unless I had access to Justin’s medical records how could I?” he responded by email. “Since we did a story on them five years earlier, I took her and her family’s word that Justin was improving. And I tried to limit exposing her claims of how and why the treatment worked for them. It was simply a story of hope to promote Autism Awareness Month.”
Ah yes, hope – the only bee that makes honey without flowers.*
Finally, from WRDW in Augusta, Georgia, we have the story of a medical mystery that pits science against D-list actress Jenny McCarthy. To be resolved: Do vaccines cause autism? Fortunately, Health Team 12 is on the case.
Whether vaccines cause or contribute to autism is a hotly debated topic in the medical community and for parents.The Morris family did some research, and they say they are holding out.
“”I would rather take the risk of my child developing measles and curing them, then her develop autism and live in this box the rest of her life,” says mom Mary Wingate. She and her fiance, Joseph Morris Junior, have decided to wait a little while longer before vaccinating their six month old daughter, Georgia Alison any further.
And what was the source of the Morris family’s research?
A late night with Georgia was the wake-up call mom didn’t even know she was looking for. She stumbled across a TV show with Jenny McCarthy as the guest. Something Jenny said — brought her here to a website she runs, www.generationrescue.com
“I was like wow she really is passionate about this and wants people to know more about this,” says Wingate.
McCarthey (sic) has an autistic child and like so many others, she believes vaccines caused her son’s disorder.
What would we do without Health Team 12?
* Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899), noted American orator and agnostic