Tag Archives | news

Dear news media, this is how you fail the autism community so badly

The autism community’s biggest enemy, by far, is the news media. How so? Well, first of all they report the “terror” of autism, the “suffering” of autism. Secondly, they take any report that says “We put X and Y in a room together and found a Z% correlation” and create sensationally outrageous headlines such as “Z is caused by X!!!! Your children are doomed!!”

If you are not a part of the autism community, I can understand how this must appear to be an over exaggeration. If you are in the autism community, thank you for recognizing that it is, in fact, not an over exaggeration.

To give you two prime examples of how the news media agencies fail us, we only need look at what is happening this week.

“Significant” Link

Study: ‘Significant’ statistical link between mass murder and autism, brain injury” – http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/05/21/study-finds-significant-portion-of-mass-murderers-and-serial-killers-had-neurological-disorders-including-autism/

This article names all sorts of serial killers that you either hate or will hate after reading about them, names like Adam Lanza, Seung Hui Cho, Jared Loughner and Jeffrey Dahmer. Having just come off the headline of “significant statistical link between mass murder and autism”… can’t you just feel that emotion taking over? 

Oh wait, we skipped this one minor paragraph tucked away in the middle somewhere that has little importance… it’s this one:

The researchers stressed the study is “clearly limited” by the “anecdotal and speculative” nature of some of the published accounts. Lead researcher Clare Allely, of the University of Glasgow, emphasized the study did not suggest those with autism or Asperger’s are more likely to commit murder. “We’re not saying people with autism will be serial killers,” Allely said, adding “it’s way too early to make any statement like that.”

Hey wait, that does seem important, doesn’t it?

To me, a more appropriate headline would have been “Anecdotal and speculative information researched on autism and mass murder finds it’s way too early to say people with autism will be serial killers”.

Well, maybe not, it’s a little long and granted, it doesn’t pull in the readership that “significant link!!!” will.

Now, in my own research, I discovered that the number of homicides in the US between 2000 – 2010 was 165,068. 

This week, one person with autism plans a murder and suddenly we’re having studies about there being a potential link? Where are the studies that say “hey, 165,000 murders were by people that had no disorder. Could be a significant link!”?

Bullying Autistics Leads to Murder

This second bit of news also bothers me on another level.

Santa Barbara Shooting Suspect Calls Loneliness ‘Darkest Hell’” – http://abcnews.go.com/US/santa-barbara-shooting-suspect-calls-loneliness-darkest-hell/story?id=23855994

In this article, they write

“Schifman said Rodger was diagnosed as being a high-functioning patient with Asperger syndrome and had faced bullying through much of his life as he had trouble making friends.”

Now, I talk to autistic children every single day and at least 2-5 of them each week that feel like committing suicide due to the amount of bullying they are subjected to.

There are literally hundreds of autistic children dying each year due to bullying.

Why?!!? Why are there 100’s of children committing suicide due to bullying each year and no one cares?

But 1 child plans to commit murder due to bullying and suddenly this is national coverage? And autism is a big part of the story?

This is heartless and devastating to those of us with autism, those of us in the autism community and to your audience in general.

Stop Hurting Us

Stop Hurting Us

You Are Hurting Us

Listen, I understand that you need to get enough ratings, you need enough of an audience to “rate” against your competition. But please stop!!

I am begging you, I’m am pleading with you and I am insisting that you stop making autism out to the bad guy.

We are not mass murderers any more than non-autistics. We are not suffering any more than anyone else with depression or bullying. We are not this evil force that you paint us out to be.

We are children, adults, parents, friends, neighbors… we are your brothers and sisters.

You need to understand, you are hurting us. You are causing the suffering that you report about by reporting the way you do. You have become the bullies and you are bullying us.

Stop the sensationalist headlines. Stop burying important facts. Stop singling us out of a crowd of thousands and saying we all must be like that one in the crowd. Stop making us that thing to be feared.

Stop hurting us. Please just stop hurting us.

If you can’t find it in your hearts to start helping us, at least, please, stop hurting us.

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The reason we cry when someone is nice to an autistic child

kiss cheeseburgerRecently a photo of a girl kissing a cheeseburger went around the internet like a lightning bolt, shared by millions and adored. I won’t get into the whole story but you can read about it here.

Most people loved the story while some others questioned, why is it that we cry just because someone is nice to an autistic child?

Stripping away our desire to have this happen with our own children, it’s a fair question. No one cries when someone does this for just any child. No one even makes it into a story and it certainly doesn’t go viral.

Is it because we’re supposed to feel pity or sorrow for autistic children? Is it because autistic children are poor little defenseless lambs in comparison? Is it because autistic children are viewed as the underdog and thus needing special treatment and we just love to hear that they get it?

Or is it because it simply does not happen? At least to us.

When you have a child with autism, you feel the stares as your child behaves in ways that others may not understand. We feel the judgments as people think we’re terrible parents while our child suffers a meltdown.

More so than that, we know full well just how cold people can really be when we ask for something as simple as an uncut burger and they huff, roll their eyes, refuse to appease us or do appease us but do it with an obvious amount of disdain for what we’re putting them through.

It’s because we know what it’s like to have to just up and leave a nice lunch out because someone refused to simply do something we needed and our child erupted into a complete and uncontrollable meltdown.

It’s because we know just how powerless we are against bitter, unhelpful and even rude people who simply do not care about you or your child.

So when we see someone, not just someone but their manager and other co-workers and an actual group of people who go out of their way to not just be understanding but to do something special, no matter how small, or how big, but to just do something they never had to do at all… it’s a tear jerker. It’s a shot to the gut… because we want so bad for someone, anyone to just be kind enough to do that to our own child. Just once.

Because trying and trying and trying to find someone who’d simply show us and our children just a little bit of compassion… we keep coming up empty.

And in this one photo, this one story, this one simple act… we find it.

In that instant, we have renewed faith. In others. In ourselves, that one day we’ll find someone like that too and should never give up. And most of all, in humanity.

There are kind people out there. People who won’t ask me to leave. People who won’t judge me. People who won’t grunt as I make a small request of them on behalf of my child. People who will not just accept that my child is there but actually make an attempt to make my child happy… no matter how silly it may seem.

There are people out there, who care.

Today, right now, in this world, that’s a nice thought. It’s comforting. There’s hope.

They’re happy tears.

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Please be careful what you take away from the news or other media sources

Recently, a study was rehashed (it’s been done before) stating that intelligent people that have babies are more likely to have children with Autism than other parents.

This irks me for many reasons, which I will get into in a bit but there’s a bigger problem and that’s the spin that the media puts on stories like this.

Here are just a few of the headlines around the internet all reporting the exact same study:

  • Couple who meet at work have autistic babies?
  • Rise in autism ‘may be linked to clever parents’
  • Autism: The Result of Math Whiz X 2?
  • Intelligent Parents Have Higher Risk of Having an Autistic Child
  • Couples in Science Field at Risk of Having Autistic Children
  • Is the changing role of women in our society behind the rise in autism in the past 30 years?

Do you see the differences?

Where to begin?

First of all, let’s go back to Wired Magazine, circa 2001: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers.html

That’s right… 10 years ago.

That means that if this truly is a new study, it’s a study that people have now spent money on twice to come up with the same result. That’s not really a bad thing as it may reinforce the findings, meaning it’s more likely true. The problem is that neither of these studies dig deep enough to come up with real answers.

Being smart is pretty vague. Which is where the assortment of headlines come from… is it math? Science? Both working at the same place? What if only one of the parents is smart? What if the parents are super smart??

Women’s Lib?

For those of you who had to read the last headline twice to believe it really said what it said… the article itself doesn’t get any better.

Here is a paragraph from that article:

Until relatively recently in our history, being exceptionally bright was not much use to you if you were female. In Victorian Britain, for example, the opportunities for a woman to earn her living through brainpower alone were extremely limited.

Essentially, this news source revisits the old “refrigerator mom” theory of Autism, where it was believed that mothers that were cold towards their children somehow caused it in them. Only, in this case, it’s the evolution of women becoming smart (because they weren’t smart before?!?!) is the cause.

If only women had stayed in the kitchen and cooked and cleaned… we wouldn’t have this rise in Autism diagnosis rates. Right?

This particular news story puts a lot of unnecessary blame on moms.

Check your sources

If it’s not obvious enough yet that news sources spin stories as they see fit, then I’d suggest you stop reading the news.

Again, all of these headlines come from the same original source… a study that says that Autism diagnosis rates are higher than average when both parents are in “higher intelligence” jobs such as technology, medical, science or engineering.

It does not say anything about working together, how they’d meet, which field in particular they’d work in and most certainly doesn’t put any of the blame on women for being smart.

In fact, out of the (currently) 25 news sources I’ve found on this, there is only 1 that has put this particular women’s lib spin on it. The rest talk about both parents.

The results trickle down differently depending on which news source you read… when really, everyone should be forming opinions on the story, not the spin.

Take the Women’s Views on News for example. They only read the one news source… can you guess which news source they read?

You can read their story on this here: http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2011/11/professor-says-womens-changing-roles-to-blame-for-rise-in-autism/

Yup, they found the one that attacks women’s lib, putting the blame for Autism on women in the work force. As a result, there’s a lot of very unhappy women with the professor that came up with the theories behind the study. He didn’t even perform the study! And he certainly didn’t say anything about moms in the work force.

So a guy has a theory, a university conducts a study, the results are vague, a crappy news source puts a wild spin on it and a whole bunch of women all hate the guy that came up with the original theory.

See how that works?

The problems with this study in general

Ok, now that I have the big elephant in the room covered, let’s talk about the study itself.

Here is the way I see it.

1. Every single news source put some kind of a spin on the study in an attempt to get the most readers but not one of them explored the possibility of the parents having undiagnosed Autism themselves… or at least, somewhere in their family history.
Think about it… they’re smart, they work in the smart places (like Silicon Valley) and they get together and have children… wouldn’t it make sense that people with a history of Autism be more likely to have autistic children? If they’re truly that smart and being smart causes Autism… why couldn’t one assume that the parents might be somewhere on the spectrum?

2.  The only things that being smart has ever produced is a lack of sex life in college and a higher paying job after college. To think that two smart brains producing a baby would cause it to have genetic anomalies that produces Autism in a child is just… well, it’s a pretty big stretch of the imagination. At least, it is without the addition of some other factor, such as what I said in #1.

3. Give me 30 mins and I’ll give you 50 different studies that all have found “the cause” or at the very least, the thing that “increases the risk” of Autism. If I believed every single new study that came out, well… I’d just have to conclude that being alive causes Autism because at this point, just when I think they’ve covered everything… a new study comes out within the next week.

4. As I’ve said over and over… “smart people” is far too vague. How smart? Just clever? Did they have smart parents? Were they the first smart people in their family? What if they’re smart but don’t work in smart places? How do you explain the children with Autism for couples that don’t attend college and have no jobs?
There’s just too many holes to fill.

It’s the News job to interpret, not reproduce

The news agencies take a story and rewrite it and put it out in a way that you’ll understand and will get the most readers. It’s not their job to take a story, copy it and print it. So you’ll never get what the study actually said.

The more vague a study is, the larger the spin that can be placed on it.

When you find a new study in the news, go to http://news.google.com and look up other news sources that cover the same story, or go find the study yourself and check it out. Because reading from just one news source can be dangerous sometimes.

news spin

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Happening right now, it’s still Autism Awareness Month

I’ve been receiving a lot of emails recently, people offering me copies of movies, products to review, information on charity events, surveys or new book launches… it’s very obvious that it’s a busy month in the Autism community!

Short Survey

The Autism Program of Illinois (TAP) is conducting an online poll concerning autism awareness and government policy. It’s only 3 questions, so please take a moment to give your input here: http://www.theautismprogram.org/

Autism and Golf

On Saturday, April 30, the Tucson Autism Community Center is hosting its annual Autism Charity Golf Classic at the beautiful Tubac Golf Resort & Spa. The special guest will be Rodney Peete, NFL veteran quarterback and author of recent acclaimed book, “Not My Boy! A Father, A Son, & One Family’s Journey with Autism.” The book highlights Peete’s family’s experiences raising a child with autism and is told from the often unheard point of view of the father. All proceeds for the event will benefit the Tucson Alliance for Autism (TAFA). The weekend will incorporate other autism-related events as well.

The tournament will take place at Tubac Golf Resort & Spa, a luxurious hotel with a state-of-the-art golf course (“Tin Cup” was filmed there) and world-class spa.



Big Daddy Autism wrote a book!

The truly remarkable part is that it’s not in crayon… there are some cartoons though.

This book takes a look at Autism from a father’s point of view but it also incorporates humour as it demonstrates that there really is a lighter side to Autism sometimes.

The book includes some of his blog posts from http://www.bigdaddyautism.com, some of his cartoon work as well as contributions from many other parents around the Autism community.

Read more about it and buy it here: Big Daddy’s Tales From the Lighter Side of Raising a Kid With Autism


Big Daddy's Tales From the Lighter Side of Raising a Kid With Autism

Big Daddy's Tales From the Lighter Side of Raising a Kid With Autism

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