19 Nov 2016

Disability, Caring and Rights

I read this article earlier and it and the response to it on twitter has greatly disturbed me.
*Content warning for the article- parent literally calling her disabled adult daughter "damaged goods" and discussion of adult woman's personal care needs.*

I am saddened and angry at how this story has been framed. There are multiple human rights abuses described in the article. The article itself adds a new breach of Siobhan's rights- the right to privacy by discussing her intimate personal care needs in public. I am frankly disgusted by how her mother describes her:
“Sorry. I’m going to be very straight about it: she’s not special. She’s damaged goods. I wanted the child that I thought I was going to have. The one that was going to have two children by now, and have finished university studies, and be having a life for herself, in a home where I could visit and babysit my grandchildren. I wanted to have that child.”
That's not how being a parent works. You bring a child into the world and you do your best for them but you can't plan a life for them that fits around your fantasy.

On twitter this is being heralded as brave honesty- that finally a parent is breaking the taboo of how hard caring is. That's bullshit. There's an article every day about how hard parenting disabled kids is. There's no end of parents sharing their innermost thoughts about the child they wished they'd had instead of the damaged one they got. Seriously type "care disabled son or daughter" into Google or twitter to see how mainstream and non-taboo this narrative is.

There are stories each year of parents who go so far as to murder their disabled offspring (both adults and children) and every single time, there is a flurry of voices talking of how caring and loving the murderous parent is and how they ended life out of love and mercy. Anyone who objects to this despicable narrative is asked to "walk a mile in the killer's shoes" as though those asking that people don't murder disabled people are the cruel ones. In the light of this common narrative, I think Rosita Boland who wrote this article and the Irish Times which published it have to think again about the way they framed this story and their duty to Siobhan herself.

I am even more disgusted by the callous dereliction of duty by the Irish state. There appears to be no moves to investigate what Siobhan wants or what is in her best interests. She needs access to an independent disability advocate trained in non-instructed advocacy as soon as possible to work out what she is entitled to and how to achieve it. Her parents are being dumped on by a system that has abandoned people with high support needs, treating them as second class citizens. If Siobhan's human rights are respected, her parents will benefit.
So much for a country in which those in power seek praise for their so called pro-life laws.

6 Oct 2016

Thoughts on A World Without Down’s Syndrome?

We watched the documentary prenatal screening and the reduction in people being born with Down Syndrome presented by Sally Phillips.
It's on BBC iplayer here and below is a short clip.

The best article on this that I have read is by Francis Ryan in the Guardian.
I have however some points that I want to make about the programme. I tweeted these this morning and am bringing those thoughts together now.

First principle is that individual women must have full bodily autonomy. Nothing in #worldwithoutdowns negates the need to legalise safe, free abortion in Ireland/elsewhere. It is still essential that Irish people #repealthe8th and that women in the north are also afforded rights over their own bodies.

It's good that a programme like A World Without Down’s Syndrome? was created and screened. It's right to raise these questions and challenge assumptions about the value of disabled lives.

Sally Phillips was open about her bias as mother of a child with DS. The scientists however were at pains to dissociate their work from any consideration of ethics. Lyn Chitty who developed non-invasive prenatal test was out of line when she said to Sally "Well your son is likely to outlive you," as though that was a bad thing. Children tend to outlive parents, that's a good thing. I want my 3 kids to live at least as long after my death as I lived before their births. And the Californian dude who sequenced his unborn son's DNA said, science just tells you what you can do. Morality is something else.

Geneticist George Church in Harvard asserted, "It's all about education. It's not the technology that's the problem. It's the societal pressures and the market forces that are at work." He said it's the job of parents to change society's perception of the value of disabled people. As usual the work of disabled self-advocates who should be at the centre of this, is ignored.

Society doesn't value and accommodate disabled people. The rhetoric around disability is deficit and bigotry laden. Politicians and the media depict disabled people as scroungers who burden our education, health and social care services.In this climate of course people opt for prenatal tests, in which case it's better that safer tests are developed

However prenatal testing puts pressure on mothers to reject a specific child which is different from women who do not want to be pregnant at all. Fatal foetal abnormality is different again- it is appalling that pro-forced birth folk conflate FFA and disability. Little angers me more.

The show attempted to highlight the humanity of people with Down Syndrome. It partially succeeded. It emphasised, as usual, the benefits that they bring to others, how loving and "predisposed to happiness" they are and how they make families better. I dispute this; those with DS are as variable in their personalities and temperaments as all of us. They have innate value. They don't need to be cute or clever or exceptional.

I disliked the section with the woman crying on stage about the way midwives told of the diagnosis. The show centred the experiences of mothers of kids with DS. I disliked the way Sally hugged the woman with DS in Iceland and called her a lovely girl. That was infantilising

It was just wrong to interview a woman who'd had an abortion and have her explain her choices on camera. This issue is about society not individual choices.

I've read complaints that only "high functioning" (yuk) people with DS were shown. Rubbish. There's more than enough out there about how haaaard it is to raise disabled kids. I'm happy to see people with DS old and young shown just getting on with life for once.

It's irrelevant whether people with DS or other disabilities have special talents that benefit society. If everyone had to prove their usefulness to society to be allowed to exist, the world's population would take a big drop.

I worry that the information given to women following screening, belittles the value of disabled lives, and inordinately emphasises difficulties they face. It's not as though all non-disabled people enjoy a charmed, perfect, blissful existence.

Is there a test to see if the child you're pregnant with will grow up to be an abuser, thug, manipulator, murderer or Tory? Is DS so much more deserving of eradication than all these?

The problem is that women are getting the message that they would be irresponsible to chose to give birth to a child they know to be disabled. These children are seen as 'drains on society' leading 'empty and pain-filled lives'. They are said to 'cost the state too much to care for them'.

The rhetoric that disabled people are drains on society leading empty and pain-filled lives is eugenics and anti-feminist.

21 Feb 2016

Why She Left

A couple of years ago I wrote a post explaining why someone like Nigella Lawson, smart, beautiful and successful, might stay with a man who is abusive.

Today, based on that list, I will share some of the reasons why someone might opt to end a relationship with an abuser:
  • She's concerned about the impact living in such a poisonous environment is having on her children.
  • She's seen her children fall victim to some of the tactics used on her.
  • She knows now what this is- she's had support from people and professionals who've helped her to identify the mind games and manipulation.
  • She has the support of those who have known and cared for her all her life.
  • She knows that she deserves a better life.
  • She's almost 40 and the thought of waking up at 45 still living like this turns her stomach.
  • She's still afraid, but has clarity of thought, is still guilty about her children but is free from obligation to a grown adult.
  • She's liberated from focussing on his concerns, needs, complaints, wants. She's giving nothing more.
  • She has had enough of the incidents, explosions, hurts and humiliations.
  • She started to keep track of what was happening.
  • The emotional bond she once had to him has broken. That last link finally snapped.
  • She welcomes change, knows things will be hard but will improve with time.
  • She would rather be alone than with the wrong person.
  • She's immune to the apologies, promises that he loves her, that he'll change and do whatever it takes to make things OK.
  • The false hope has finally died.
  • She retains her values and principles and knows that she couldn't have fought any harder to make it work.
  • She wants to enjoy life.
It can be difficult when you're enmeshed to find clarity and make concrete plans. For anyone who is lost in a fog of fear, guilt and anxiety- get help from a domestic abuse organisation. They will help you to make plans and stay as safe as possible. 

9 Nov 2015

Troubled by Autism Training

I attended a relationships and sexuality education (RSE) training day hosted by Unison in Belfast and provided by Middletown Centre for Autism. It was free to attend as the Centre is fully funded by the education departments of Northern Ireland and the Republic. Most of those attending today were teachers though parents accounted for a large portion of delegates also. As usual at these types of events, the trainer proceeded as though the idea that any of the delegates might themselves be autistic was utterly unthinkable.

I have researched RSE and autism in detail for both my post graduate course and to equip my autistic son with the right information and skills. I also did some voluntary work for the NAS on an RSE program for autistic adults and completed a course on sexual health education. I wanted to attend today's training to see if I could pick up some more practical tips and ideas. I always gained something from any previous Middletown training even if it was on a topic I already had some knowledge of.

The trainer started off by defining and explaining autism using the pathology paradigm. I was concerned that she felt the need to spend some effort telling the teachers attending that autism is a real condition diagnosed only after careful observation and not an excuse for bad parenting or bold children. Are we really still at this point?

It quickly became clear that her speaking style was to make sweeping generalisations and to refer to autistic people as "they". She never said the word autistic once but used person first language throughout despite the well established preference of autistic people themselves for identity first language. Jim Sinclair wrote about this in 1999- it's high time the message got through.

The day started with a quiz for delegates. One question asked "how long can puberty last for a young person with autism?"
I'd written- same as for everyone else, around 4 years. When we went through the answers the trainer said that it can last longer for autistic people- even as late as 22.
I've never heard this before and a quick search hasn't turned anything up but I welcome any insight on this.

One slide said "autism is not curable but treatable with interventions."
I disagree, it's neither curable nor treatable.

She said that "Asperger's is autism with high IQ."
Oh really?

She said that they have a visual learning style. (What all of *them*?)

She said that while *we* (non-autistics) learn by osmosis, "our [autistic] children do not pick things up."

She told a story about a boy who was upset while playing football and said it was because of theory of mind and that "he had no understanding that other people have differing opinions."

She said that if a child with autism goes to brush his teeth and there's no toothpaste left, he will stand still because they can't problem solve.

She shared a slide of the ways in which most people learn about RSE. She said that autistic kids don't read magazines (unless it's Super Mario or similar) and they don't go to events like the school disco or weddings or naming ceremonies.
Oh really?
(And what about autistic girls, many of whom devour magazines aimed at teen girls?)

There was a video shown with 4 office workers in a canteen. One woman is crying as she's just split from her boyfriend while the other woman makes sympathetic comments. The sad woman asked "why did he dump me" and the autistic character pipes up that maybe he thought she was ugly. Silly literal autistic man- that got a big laugh. I sneered- I've seen this sniggering at autistic characteristics before and it's unacceptable.

She said that "children with autism" don't like it when people look through their school bags for notes or whatever but they lack the skills to say stop.

At one stage she asked us to call out what we think RSE for children with autism should contain.
I said "how to say no."

She quoted Wenn Lawson and told the group that Wenn is now gender neutral and repeatedly referred to him as she.

She said that girls internalise behaviours and symptoms but boys externalise.

She said that you should keep electronic devices out of children's bedrooms at night due to "neurons coming off the phone." I hope I misheard- but dear lord!

At this stage I made up my mind to leave at the lunch break. I had not gained anything from this except how not to provide RSE for autism training.

There was some useful information shared that could help parents and teachers. She talked about the importance of respecting the values of the family and emphasised that the parent is the main teacher. She talked about emotions, safety, respect, and starting this process early. She talked about the need to be aware of sensory issues. I'm sure there was more useful and well informed information provided in the 2nd part of the training that I missed.

However I will be writing to Middletown Autism Centre about the issues outlined above.

17 May 2015

A Post to Guardian Dad For Autistic Kid

Content warning- disablism.

Yesterday the Guardian published a letter from a man to his autistic son entitled, A letter to … my son, who has autism, for whom I’ll always do my best. Read this at your peril as it is truly vile.

With just a few deviations, this letter follows the tried and tested Assembly Manual for Autism Articles TM  which I created in 2008.

Guardian Dad starts off describing Autistic Kid's arrival into the world, how he felt "total, unconditional love" and envisaged watching Autistic Kid "grow up, go to university, find love, then maybe settle down and have his own family." The thought that Autistic Kid might not want to follow such a path doesn't seem to have occurred to him.

He then weirdly complains about his own parents choice to leave Autistic Kid "half of everything" in their wills. Is this because Guardian Dad wanted it all for himself?

Then, following stage 4 of the autism article template, "the parents realise the child is somehow different, something is not quite right" Guardian Dad describes how Autistic Kid "didn't play very well [...] flitting from toy to toy, with no concern for the people around you and ignoring any child who engaged with you."

I would speculate that Autistic Kid was playing differently not badly and it's impossible to say he lacked concern for other people. Autistic Kid's other kiddie crime was to "only talk to adults when [he] wanted them to do something" so we know he communicated via speech. Anyway it turned out that Autistic Kid is autistic.

Then Guardian Dad for the second time in a 700 word article, expresses how he hates himself for being right. Despite his professed aversion, he sure wants us to know about his rightness record.

The next section is outrageous and warrants a content warning. Remember this is aimed at a six year old child:

"You love your mother, which is good – because you make her life hell. Without your outward signs of affection towards her I don’t know if she could maintain the abuse you put her through. I've watched a loving, kind woman become a tired, hard, uncaring, dispassionate bitch. But all this is aimed at me, with you only getting the occasional frustrated tone, or at worst a sigh of irritation. 
She loves you with all her heart, but that means there is no room for anything else. She will fight for you until her last breath. But any type of intimacy between the two of us has vanished. In six years she’s aged 20 while I’ve put on 30lb and have become more isolated than ever. I hold back as much as I can, but sometimes I snap. I’m sorry. I know it distresses you when we argue, and I hate myself for doing it."  [My bold]

There is so much wrong with this. Guardian Dad ignores the power relationship between small child and adult couple. The child is not abusive- he isn't using coercive behaviors to maintain power and control over the parents. He has a developmental disability that affects how he perceives and interacts with the world. He may well have multiple sensory sensitivities. And believe me, Autistic Kid is picking up on how Guardian Dad feels about him and his mother.

I am disturbed by Guardian Dad's venomous depiction of his wife and the revelation that he sometimes snaps and argues with his wife though he knows it distresses Autistic Kid.

Guardian Dad feels "bereaved – for the family I should have had. I am a good person and this should not be happening to me." He talks about how he thinks about leaving. Poor Guardian Dad, my heart bleeds for him. He was owed a more perfect life than this with a faulty child and a tired, hard, uncaring, dispassionate bitch for a wife. And he got fat. None of this is his fault, oh no he's a "good person". We know this because he says it though he doesn't share anything that shows it.

"But we love you more than ever. You’re not responsible for any of this – it’s your disability. We know that you try your best, but you become confused and anxious about everything that is going on around you.  Neither your mother nor I know what the future will hold, but we still feel the same way about you today as that first time we saw you."

Guardian Dad is blaming Autistic Kid even though he knows that the world is a scary place for him. Writing this letter to a public forum is not a loving act. It adds to the mountain of anti-autism rhetoric that will only serve to make life harder for Autistic Kid, my own son, and all other autistic people.

Guardian Dad absolves himself from all responsibility. He resents the time his wife spends with his son. He directly places the blame for life not turning out how he wanted it to on the shoulders of a disabled child.

If he had written this to his therapist that would be ok. If he had written an article expressing how he finds it difficult to father his autistic child, and described some of the problems they had faced, that would also be fine- so long as he didn't blame the kid. If he had described how social security cuts are impacting on his family and how he has to fight for support I would applaud him. If he had come to me in my work and shared these thoughts with me I would have encouraged him to figure out what he could do to make things better and helped him get appropriate support from various agencies. But Guardian Dad wrote a very public letter even if it is anonymous. His sense of entitlement and self-absorption shine through every paragraph. The Guardian would never have published a letter from a father blaming their small non-disabled child for all their problems.

Autistic Kid didn't get the father he should have. I would like him to know: you keep on being your own awesome autistic self and I hope that one day you will know there is a community out there who will welcome, understand and embrace you.

18 Apr 2015

Yes to Marriage Equality

I've just written about our wedding on April 9 and described what a beautiful and perfect day it was. I had married before, 19 years ago. It was an unhappy marriage that I tried for many years to fix before coming to accept, with the support of many people around me and the help of Women's Aid, that staying married would destroy my life and likely those of my children. The separation happened four years ago and the horrendous task of divorcing took a few years more.

I am forever grateful to the people who helped the children and me through that time. I am indebted to all those who over the years, campaigned to change the definition of marriage and make divorce legal. They ensured that children receive the protections they deserve and their efforts meant that I could be free from a terrible situation and, as a person who'd had to stop paid work to mind the children, was not left destitute.

For years after the separation I was a single mother of three. For one of those years, my sister lived with us and for all of them, all members of my family and our friends, have been there for us providing practical and emotional support when we needed it. We never stopped being a family even though we did not fit the proscribed model of a nuclear family. I've often heard campaigners against equal marriage bang on about how children deserve a mother and a father. What children need, as I have discovered, is to be free from abusive situations and to have access to people around them who love them and on whom they can rely. The precise set-up is not important.

I had never expected to find love, yet in July 2012 I met a man who I am now married to. He and I are perfect for each other; as I said on our wedding day, his weirdnesses and mine match! It was important for us as a couple to marry. We wanted to make our union legally binding, to demonstrate to the children that we are both there for them for the long haul. We wanted a party and a chance to show our friends and family just how much we mean to each other. We wanted to be husband and wife.

Everyone is entitled to arrange their relationships in whatever way works best for them. My relationship is no better than that of my friends who opted not to marry. I don't think that anyone needs to marry to be committed to their partner. Many people oppose the institution of marriage for perfectly valid reasons. But what all people deserve is to have that choice. I have heard the reasons people have given for opposing equal marriage and none stand up to scrutiny. There is no reason why marriage need be between a man and a women only.

The joy we had on being able to marry, the ability to make that decision is something all people ought in a civilised and caring society to share. The only reason why anyone would deny that to other couple is because they think those relationships are less important and that is an opinion based on bigotry. Our children are listening, we need to let them know that they are all valued and that we oppose the dreadful bigotry that LGBT folk of my generation endured growing up. We need to end this ridiculous inequality in all corners of Ireland and let them ALL grow up with the choice to marry or not marry as they see fit.

Our Wedding

Thursday April 9th was the best and happiest day of my life so far. My three children, our closest friends and beloved family members gathered with me and the man I love, to witness our marriage. We had the ceremony in Belfast City Hall with a registrar who did everything she could to make it special and personal while also accommodating Ryan's needs. We and the children walked in together and Ryan read out his own words:
"I am happy today because my mum and Micheál are getting married. That is great and loving and wonderful.
Micheál is my friend. He is funny and sometimes silly. We go to Tesco and he buys me the right cookies and DVDs. I like taking him to the cinema.
My mum is beautiful and kind. We go to the Transport Museum and W5 and the funfair.
Our family will always be friends and love will win the day."

By Neil Arthurs Photography

We exchanged our vows including some we'd written ourselves:
In all the world, there is no heart for me like yours.
In all the world, there is no love for you like mine.
I promise to be your sidekick and your best friend, to keep laughing with you, to mind you when you need it and lean on you when I need it.
(To love these 3 children as I officially become your partner in their lives)
To share all my joys and sorrows with you,
To love and support you through sunshine and rain for the rest of my days. 
By Neil Arthurs Photography

My two boys in the photo above are dealing with events in their own way; Michael, like every other man in my family, was in bits crying and Ryan was perfectly at ease listening to his music.

I had been able to find a poem to read out, The Present by Michael Donaghy, that expresses beautifully what this means to me and which fits with both my nerdy and sentimental sides:
For the present there is just one moon,
though every level pond gives back another.
But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon,
perceived by astrophysicist and lover,
is milliseconds old. And even that light’s
seven minutes older than its source.
And the stars we think we see on moonless nights
are long extinguished. And, of course,
this very moment, as you read this line,
is literally gone before you know it.
Forget the here-and-now. We have no time
but this device of wantonness and wit.
Make me this present then: your hand in mine,
and we’ll live out our lives in it.
And Michéal read The Sailor's Vow by Alan Jenkins:
The life I spent so lavishly
Before we met
Seems one long night, in memory,
Of sea-fever and sea-fret –
Which led me here, to you, to this:
Our haven below decks.
You anchor me, I you, with a kiss
(Though the coast is strewn with wrecks).
Official documents were signed and we were officially and legally married and it was time to celebrate.

By Neil Arthurs Photography

Everyone was gorgeous and looks beautiful in the photos.
Our reception was in the Harlem Cafe Belfast just round the corner from City Hall so we just walked over and enjoyed a few glasses of prosecco to get the party started. And boy did we party.
Photo by Red Mum 

Before we had our meal, Micheál and I, his uncle and my dad all gave short speeches. Dad told everyone how Micheál had brought happiness to our home. I managed to gulp-weep just twice and since I usually cry st the least wee emotional boost, that was pretty good going. When we'd finished, my daughter Tara stood up and in her very own way, said how much she and the boys love us both and are so happy to see us marry.

The food was gorgeous and plentiful, the staff were fantastically friendly and helpful, and everyone I spoke to said it was the best wedding meal they'd ever had. Then the music kicked in and shoes were kicked off as my gang and his took to the floor to see who had the best moves- the Dubs or the Nordies. There were no winners, but what we lacked in grace and ability we made up for in joyful exuberance! And what made my heart sing was how obvious it was that all our guests were having a fantastic time. Best of all though, was how delighted my three children were with the marriage and the day itself. We had prepared a chill-out zone for Ryan and had plans in place to take him away early if the crowd and noise became too much for him. But he was in his element hanging out with his cousins, yapping and dancing. At one stage he was even swinging around to the Pogues with Micheál's aunties! No one could have predicted that.

It was a day filled with love, laughter, music, wine and good food. We were floating on the wave of warm feelings and enthusiasm from all around us, both our guests and from people who couldn't be there but sent messages filled with love and kind wishes. People got to see why we wanted to marry, to understand how Micheál, me and the kids are family. It was the most perfect day imaginable and if I'm ever stressed or low in the years to come, I will close my eyes and recall the moment when I was serenaded by 3 Smiths to this and all will be brighter.

(I've written a follow up post on why everyone should be able to have their day.)

3 Mar 2015

Never Say Never

In Saturday's Guardian was an short piece called "What I'm really thinking: the grandmother of an autistic child" in which a woman describes an outing with her 7 year old grandson Jimmy. Obviously we need to have some insight into the difficulties this causes her because that's the standard narrative for any and all articles on autism which centre on a family member and not autistic people themselves. So Grandma describes how "the red-faced Jimmy who is almost out of control" is "screaming and lunging violently at the locked doors" of some public toilets.

Later when Jimmy has settled Grandma discloses that she "like[s] to imagine" that they look normal and admits that few of her friends know that she has an autistic grandson in case they offer what she describes as "well-meaning but inappropriate advice" such as a book recommendation by an autistic author. "It breaks my heart because I know that Jimmy, even with the best help in the world, will never be able to read or write or lead a “normal” life."

I have not bothered to comment on a Guardian article for a few years but I wanted to reach out to this woman. I swallowed my distaste for the assumptions and probably unexamined attitudes regarding disabled lives and the potential to learn and develop. So doing my best to be considerate and temperate, I left a comment:
"If your friend's advice is to read books by autistic authors, then it is both well meaning and appropriate. Also, you cannot possibly know that Jimmy, aged only 7, will never be able to read or what kind of life he will lead. Your love and the time you spend with him coupled with good education and natural progression will help him live up to his potential. Take heart!" 
The most helpful thing to me in knowing how best to help my son has been listening to people who know what it's like to be autistic. Dismissing advice to read autistic writers is to my mind, ill-considered. Also it bothers me to read comments of the "my child will never" variety and we've all seen them numerous times in autism discussions. Sparrow Rose Jones wrote about the damage such statements can do:
"So . . . what is it that you are actually saying when you look at my life and say that I am not like your child? In a very real sense, you are saying that you don't believe in your child. You are saying that your child cannot grow to be what I am, do what I have done. You are signing off on a package that has not been delivered yet. You are dismissing your child's potential for amazing growth and change."
My autistic son will be 15 this year. I can't possibly list all the skills and knowledge he has amassed since he was 7 and like all of us, he will continue to learn and progress throughout his life.

(A couple of detractors took issue with my comment, but they showed so little insight and understanding that their views are beneath my regard.)

1 Mar 2015

Assembly Manual for Autism Articles

I haven't seen one of these for a while- a newspaper article on a parent's view of autism that adheres rigorously to the the template I wrote in 2008. Today offering is titled Autism and ABA: 'My beautiful, fun little boy was slipping away from me'. In this we learn how wealthy, beautiful and accomplished Tanja Gullestrup uses tough-love therapy to "stop her losing [her three year old son] to this isolating condition".

So here's Step 1-4 of the Autism Article TM Template (Step 5 is optional and refers to vaccination-bashing autism articles) :

1: Baby is born
2: Everyone rejoices
3: Baby grows
4: Mum realises baby is somehow different, something is not quite right,

And lo! the template it doth predict the story most accurately as we learn that the "usually smiley and playful" child "wasn't making eye contact with anyone and didn't appear to be taking in anything going on around him. It was like someone had flicked a switch in his head" and he "had begun to withdraw into his own, self-contained universe".

Step 6: Mum struggles to get anyone to take her concerns seriously. Her husband might think she's worrying about nothing and that no child of his could possibly be anything less than perfect. All the doctors she encounters are callous and all the other professionals are harsh and unhelpful. Eventually one special therapist or teacher (but not a medic) comes along who understands and for the first time, really listens.

Step 7: After much effort and heartache, Mum is devastated to learn that the explanation for all the child's problems is this terrible curse known as Autism.

The NHS would fail him:
" Left in the hands of the NHS, she points out, Konstantin would so far have had little more than speech and music therapy, ‘neither of which would be giving him the skills that he needs to survive and have a life of dignity. Children on the autistic spectrum need to be taught how to fit into society, and the real cruelty comes from neglecting to do that.’"
My autistic son has never had any form of ABA(TM) and yet he is living a life of dignity. Nor is it cruel to ask that society accepts neurological diversity. 
And here comes the devastation: 
"a developmental paediatrician confirmed what she had not wanted to admit, even silently to herself – her son was indeed on the autistic spectrum. ‘I felt as though my heart was being ripped out,’ Tanja recalls. ‘My mother was with me, thank goodness, and as we left the hospital, I was physically sick. I am a fighter by nature but in those darkest hours I definitely became unhinged.'"
Step 8: Just so we know how hard their lives are, how terrible this Autism thing is, several examples of the child's terrible behaviour are described, the tantrums and self-harm, the strange humming and abnormal interest in trains. This makes the book "gritty" and "unflinching" in the newspaper book reviews and is generally thought of as a good thing.

This child is so very young that Step 9 detailing tales of violence is missing but his strange otherworldly behaviours are outlined:
"his speech regressed and he no longer responded readily to his name", and "in the weeks leading up to [the child's] diagnosis he had begun to walk on tiptoe and repeatedly pull his hair. He also opened and closed doors incessantly and became obsessed by pushing buttons on electronic toys."

Someone cure that child stat!

Step 10: The warrior phase commences. Mum finds out stuff the doctors don't know, or didn't want her to know. She arms herself with superior knowledge, garnered from a motley crew of brave mavericks or comes up with some self directed plan, and goes medieval on the autism.

Step 11: Mum is a lone crusader, challenging authority and staying strong and calm in the face of what to ordinary mortals would be insurmountable obstacles. But Mum reveals the real terror she felt, the depression and anxiety, the tears and sleepless nights, all due to the autism which has seized her child and holds him or her hostage.

"[Mum's] quiet confidence is centred on the conviction that, while there is no ‘cure’ for autism, she is providing the next best thing for Konstantin – a radical, tough-love therapy known as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)." 

"However as she began to seek help, Tanja also realised that she was facing an uphill struggle. In the US, ABA is tried and tested – successive studies have shown that half of children given full-time ABA tuition early enough start school  and many need no further therapy at all. The other half make significant progress, too, reducing their need for special needs support. ABA is endorsed by the American Medical Association and in the majority of US states health insurance companies are mandated to cover ABA therapy. But in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has yet to provide ABA as an option for the treatment of autism. Its official line is that it cannot recommend ABA because a review has found no evidence to support it."
It is true that NICE, after a thorough investigation of the claims and the actual evidence decided not to recommend ABA. But another claim in this paragraph needs to be countered: there is NO evidence whatsoever that 50% of children who receive early and intense ABA ever become "indistinguishable from their peers" (whatever that means). That is an utter fabrication based on a poorly written study from way back in *1987* which combined 40 hours of intense therapy with harsh punishments. Do ethics matter? As I have written before, why are standards so very low when it comes to autism?

And another point to make, when lauding Lovaas as a pioneer, bear in mind that he first trialled his ABA as a gay/trans conversion therapy.

Step 12: The intervention phase commences. The child gets older and matures, hopefully with lots of love and good education as well. But the intervention is credited with effecting a miraculous cure.

Step 13: The story ends by recalling just how far they have all come and how it would never have been possible without x,y or z (ABA, the companionship of a Golden Retriever or certain biomedical treatments). The child is said to be normal or recovered, as measured by a place in the Valhalla of this type of autism parent - mainstream school.

So this child, aged just three years old, is undergoing seven hours of ABA tuition, five days a week. Instead of calling social services the Daily Mail asks that we donate to her charity so that yet more little autistic kids will be subjected to the same. "‘He is using every ounce of his brain to do the work and, by the end of the day, he is exhausted,’ says Tanja."
I do not admire or condone this.

But lets see how if the template still holds:

"'...the transformation has been astounding.’ Before starting ABA, Konstantin had become so unsettled, he was incapable of sitting still to eat, read or watch TV. ‘If you took a toy away from him, he’d scream for an hour, and when he woke at night, he howled the house down,’ says Tanja. ‘Within a week of starting therapy, he was making eye contact and engaging again, and within a couple of weeks he was toilet trained, which I had begun to think would never happen.’ Eighteen months on, he is content and compliant and plays happily with his sister"
The child is only three years old! How much of this can be attributed to ABA and how much to natural progression? My son is 14 and can do all sorts of things he couldn't manage when he was 2! Also, I strongly oppose any treatment that has "compliance" as a goal. Too many disabled people have suffered as a consequence of early compliance training.

I have decided though that my template though needs another step:

Step 14: pay now or pay later!

This step is exemplified in the following horrible paragraph:
"ABA is undeniably expensive. A full programme, whether carried out at home or in one of the handful of ABA schools in the UK, requires intensive teaching for up to 40 hours a week, 49 weeks of the year, and costs £45,000 annually, ‘which sounds a lot, but it is less than the £150,000 to £200,000 a year costs of residential care for young autistic adults once they become too big and aggressive to live at home,’ Tanja points out. (A recent study by the London School of Economics and Political Science estimated that autism costs Britain £32 billion a year, more than heart disease, strokes and cancer combined – making it the nation’s costliest medical condition.)"
"Too big and aggressive to live at home"! What a revolting statement. This sort of argument is particularly galling. There will be a high cost to provide appropriate lifetime support structures for some autistic people, and so what? Early ABA for all will not change that. People are entitled to the help they need as citizens whether they have a disability or not. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities points of the problems of  "putting a price tag on the basic human rights for a significant segment of the population".
Furthermore, "it is actually good economics to ensure that disabled persons are able to live up to their potential. When there are no obstacles in their way, disabled persons are employees, entrepreneurs, consumers and taxpayers, along with everybody else."

The article ends:
"For Tanja, life may no longer be whimsical and carefree, but it has resounding purpose. ‘I believe there is a reason why Konstantin was given to me,’ she says. ‘He is the most sweet-natured and loving boy and he is living proof of what can be achieved. If he can deal with the challenges of autism, then so can I. So every day, we carry on and we count our blessings.’"
Life has purpose for all of us. Being mother of a disabled kid makes you no more special or worthy than anyone else. I count my blessings everyday too. I just wish that the sort of autism-mum story exemplified by this article would no longer be given a platform. It's beyond time to amplify the voices of the real autism experts, the people who are themselves autistic. 

17 Nov 2014

"Autism-Sucks" Parents Dominating Jerry Seinfeld Autism Analysis

Before reading this post read  Paula C. Durbin-Westby's recent blog post on media framing of autism stories and the real harm this is causing to autistic people. 

Jerry Seinfeld by David Shankbone via Wikipedia 

And once again, the parent of an autistic person is given space in a newspaper or magazine to spout off about how awful their lives are, what "real" autism is like and crucially, how dare Jerry Seinfeld claim he has anything in common with their lost and damaged offspring.

First out of the blocks on November 10 it was teacher of creative writing, Marie Myung-Ok Lee in Salon telling us all that "Jerry Seinfeld’s not helping: Celebrity autism claims distract from reality and research." Two days later we had Peter Holley writing for The Washington Post: "For some parents of autistic children, Jerry Seinfeld’s self-diagnosis was ‘a slap in the face." Holley hilariously depicts the awful, anti-vaccine organisation Age of Autism as an autism news site! He quotes infamous extremist Kim Stagliano and Theresa Cianciolo, another mum of an autistic child who are both vexed with Seinfeld.

You may think that two articles on this matter would be enough. You'd be wrong. This morning I encountered a third which follows exactly the same formula. This time it's Roger Alpher in Haaretz: "My son has autism, Jerry Seinfeld does not." All these articles follow aspects of the Autism ArticleTM template.

In all three articles Seinfeld is accused of diminishing their version of the reality of autism:

From Salon:

"To veer to the other end of the spectrum, the sporadic — but steady — news of overwhelmed parents killing their own children warns of a crisis building in our own homes. Many of these cases have been mothers, but before we explain it away, as it has been, with gendered suggestions of mental illness, attention seeking, etc., let’s also remember this story about a father — and high-ranking former Bush official — who shot his autistic 12-year-old son in a murder-suicide inside their suburban McLean home."

"Our own family’s out-of-pocket expenses of raising a child with autism average $20,000 to $30,000 a year — as it has, very consistently in the last 10 years — including schooling, legal fees, therapies, childcare, which puts us exactly in the CDC’s estimate of $21,000. If the high rate of autism isn’t disturbing to you, consider that the cost to care for and house a severely autistic adult for life easily exceeds a million dollars, not to mention forgoing the tax revenue, etc., if the person could participate fully in society. Taken in aggregate, the CDC tells us, “the societal costs of caring for children with ASD were over $9 billion in 2011. And I haven’t even begun to address the emotional costs, of having a child who can’t speak, connect, one that might be a danger to himself and others."

"these public faces of autism will allow society, and more important, policymakers, mentally off the hook. You can have autism and get a Ph.D.! It helps you write jokes! Your charming quirks and aggravating behaviors are now explainable.
"It’s only a matter of time before another child is killed, and we won’t even remember their names. We need to call autism what it is: a public health emergency, no less deadly and devastating than Ebola."
Phew! So to summarise, real autism makes parents kills their children, it's an emotional and financial burden, and it's worse than Ebola. Now that's a hell of an attitude. Ebola has killed over 5000 people in West Africa so far and the WHO estimates that over 20000 cases are likely by the end of this month. But hey, that's away over there in Africa so it hardly matters. Also murder apologism is not something that Salon should give space to.

And on to the Washington Post and their view of real autism, as opposed to the quirky fun and fashionable autism Seinfeld has diagnosed himself with:

“My kids’ lives are irrevocably altered by autism and not in a good way,” 

“Autism is a neurological condition that requires a clinical diagnosis based on serious behaviors and issues and challenges. It’s a medical diagnosis, not a personality or a gift.”

“Jerry, if you think you have autism, come over to my house for a night, and we’ll show you what it’s all about.”

“When your child gets an autism diagnosis, it’s devastating. Your life is now over. Your life is your child’s life, and you are forever bound by that diagnosis.”

“It is generally a slap in the face to thousands of parents who have to deal with a child who is non-verbal or severely impacted by autism to compare those children to Bill Gates or any other famous individuals, even of those individuals display some of the minor characteristics of a major condition,”

While Holley ought to have sought out an alternative parental view to those of Stagliano and her ilk, he did interview 2 autistic adults who provided a bit of balance to the piece though the views of the "autism sucks" subsection of parents were given prominence.
One thing that is especially troubling is the assertion that the diagnosis means your life and that of your child is over- that's an appalling claim especially after the recent high number of murders by parents of autistic children. And that's something that ought to have been challenged by the journalist.

Finally, let's look at what they say in Haaretz:

"When Seinfeld is interviewed, he maintains eye contact, distinguishes the important from the trivial, ignores distractions, and speaks to the point. He doesn't lick his hand or interrupt the interviewer with a question that reflects a level of understanding like that of a 5-year-old.What can one say? On the spectrum, a great life."

"But Seinfeld’s nonchalant self-diagnosis is a joke of sorts at the expense of my son, Yotam. While Seinfeld preened with a little autism on television, I sat with Yotam in our living room, together with a social worker. Yotam is 19, but incapable of being responsible for himself. "

"For parents, the diagnosis of their child as autistic is a terrible blow. For him and them, lifelong. Parents of autistic children suffer from high levels of tension and anxiety. And that’s in the best cases, where the children are high-functioning."

My son is autistic. That a famous man has stated that he thinks he shares some characteristics with people diagnosed with autism affects us not a jot. Autism comes in different flavours in different people. While it is often difficult to adapt to the idea of parenting a disabled child, the diagnosis of autism does not have to be devastating or a terrible blow. It can be the first step to knowing how best to support your child. I also reject functioning terminology as it can ignore talents and skills as well as diminishing difficulties and needs. These parents do not speak for me or my son.

Dear mainstream media, we've heard enough now about how it's unfair for Seinfeld to be in anyway linked to autism. Can you now start to change the dialogue, open it up to more autistic people, let them tell you what they need to thrive and listen when they point out harmful practices and narratives. These 3 stories you've published help no one and add nothing. You have power and in my opinion, a responsibility to help people like my son. Stop diminishing him.

28 May 2014

What kind of people commit violent crimes?

Last week two of the most beloved and significant people in my life were victims of a violent crime. Their home was violated. It was a vicious physical and verbal attack. I shake with anger when I think of what two grown men did that night to people who are only ever kind, helpful, supportive and loving to their family and neighbours. It shakes you to the core when something like this invades your family. I want to do the impossible; turn back time and stop it from ever having happened. The people I love will recover from the physical assault. It will take longer for the psychological damage to repair. They have their family, friends and community around them giving support in any way they can. I can't express how grateful I am to these good people for what they are doing to help. I hope the police catch the perpetrators- they are dangerous men who ought to be locked up where they can't hurt people for criminal gain. I never use the word scum to describe humans but for them, it fits.

In the past few days, certain sectors of the media have claimed (with no evidence to back their assertion) that autism is linked to violent crime. No folk, it's not autistic people we need fear, it's abusers, scammers, bigots, zealots, entitled and over-privileged arseholes, thieves and thugs. They're the people who will do whatever it takes to gain what they want and to hell with the hurt and damage they cause other people, the people who really lack empathy. Autism is not a crime.

2 May 2014

Post for #BADD: Stop Excusing Murder

Trigger warning for discussion of child murder. Please call your emergency services or local crisis support number if you need immediate and urgent help.

Samaritans UK 08457 909090
Samaritans Ireland 116 123

This is a post for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2014.

Disablism means discriminating against people due to their disability. It's unjust and unfair. Disablist attitudes abound in our society and worsened in the past few years as a result of robust campaigning by certain political parties and media outlets depicting disabled people as lazy, scrounging cheats.

Disabled lives are accorded less value than the lives of people not currently disabled. This even applies to children. I've been appalled over the years by the steady stream of news stories about parents killing or attempting to kill their disabled children. And each time the tragedy of a life lost is portrayed as understandable because, after all, the dead disabled person was such a burden. The parent who killed the child is described as devoted, loving and most of all, long-suffering.

Last week it happened again. In England, 4 year-old Olivia Clarence and her 3 year-old twin brothers, Max and Ben were found dead in their home and their mother Tania has been charged with their murder. The 3 young children were killed while their father was abroad with their older sister.

I first read about this awful crime via an article in The Independent with a headline describing the woman subsequently accused of murder as a "devoted mother". On social media outlets, people rushed to defend and explain Tania Clarence's actions. The justification as far as they are concerned, is that the dead children all had type II spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic condition that can cause fatal respiratory problems and shorten life expectancy. This is just a small selection of tweets about the case. Try to imagine how they would read if the murdered children did not have a medical condition or disability:

Especially vile was the follwing tweet from a South African MP:

I and many others retweeted this with criticism which caused her to think again about what she had written. A few days after posting it she deleted the tweet and apologised for having offended people saying she didn't mean it and that she's a nice person. I'm glad she apologised but that doesn't make up for an MP thinking it was correct to share that awful opinion in the first place.

There's a Mumsent thread in which the mother accused of murder is accorded nothing but pity with posts on the "terrible" and "intolerable" burden she had faced, and in which she's referred to as a  "Poor, poor lady...hope she's getting the support she needs."

On a post on Irish site The Journal some are attempting to justify the murder of 3 children aged 3 and 4 years old with comments such as, "The children all had genetic life limited conditions . Maybe she wanted to end their suffering. No one knows what it is like to watch your children dying." and "Unless you can walk in the shoes of a mum with a sick child, let alone three sick children, you cannot possibly judge her actions."

I do not need to walk in anyone's shoes to know that murder is wrong. These children had their most basic human right taken from them. What happened to them is cruel and despicable. It is no less wrong than if they were typically developing little kids. When people explain the murder of disabled children as resulting from caregiver burnout or limited service provision, they are putting blame on the victim. Many if not most crimes are committed by people in desperate situations and those criminals don't have countless supporters asking us "to walk in their shoes" and "not to judge". As Paula C. Durbin-Westby wrote (on the all too frequent murder of autistic children by their caregivers),
"No one finds it necessary to defend people who murder because they are poor, stoned, broke, or in other difficult situations. And they certainly don't blame the victim. And they don't ask you to walk in the murderer's shoes. And they don't tell you to shut up if you won't."

So I will continue to judge and to work towards a society in which disabled people are respected not treated as burdens and disability is recognised as part of the human spectrum of experience.

29 Apr 2014

Ryan Movie Maker

I asked Ryan if I could write a blog post about him and as long as he didn't have to write anything himself he was happy enough. So I'm going to try to tell you about my boy and think the best way is to share some of his creations.

He has always loved films and PC games and has been fascinated by all the different characters. He has learnt so much from wanting to find out more about his favourite characters from Disney films, Thomas the Tank Engine and even Kinder egg toys. He learned to type, read and write because he wanted to be able to Google their names, he learned colours and numbers from Thomas and his Friends. In the past few years he's become fascinated by cinema and is working on a few feature films of his own that he's convinced will be shown in our local cinemas at some stage. We go see a film together at least once a week (and thank the stars for the Cinema Exhibitors Card allowing his carer free entry) and he knows and is known by almost all the staff. In one cinema they even arranged for him to visit the projection room a couple of times. He takes photos of each screen after the movie ends and knows in which screen of which cinema on which date and with whom he saw every film he's ever seen.

Ticket for Ryan's forthcoming Minecraft movie

He's also kindly detailed running order of ads and trailers for the benefit of the cinemas and has a poster letting us know who else is involved in this work of creative genius:

Most recently he's been animating a Minecraft movie in association with Pixar. The boy thinks big! He's even adapted the Pixar logo to fit.

He has also invented a load of new characters and has been making films about their trials for a while too. My favourite thing about these folk is the "wiki" style character breakdowns he created (click each picture to read):

All about King Elton

All about Malcurtis Eves

All about Zunarmny- best bit of this is his dislikes ;-)

He definitely prefers the bad guys, I mean look at those lists of personality attributes! I've had to explain what they all mean lately so we've had lots of talks about character and how people think, feel and behave. It's all very high concept stuff but when he asks the questions, he's ready to learn.

He spends hours working on these and I am quite happy to let him indulge in his hobby. I love how he draws the characters and then creates their Minecraft version:
I enjoy the detail he inserts in his images, most of which seem to focus on sword fights and desperate battles! 

That's Robin Hood 3D (Ryan's alter ego) fighting the evil Zunarnmy- IN HELL!!!

I'm sharing just 2 of his more recent creations. First we'll see Merida battling the evil Lord Elton:


And let's end with the grisly demise of one of the bad guys: 

So that's a snippet of what Ryan has been at when he's working away on his laptop. I don't know what what he'd be at now if he wasn't autistic- but that would mean the Ryan I have and love wouldn't exist so I really would never want to find out. 

2 Apr 2014

Action not Awareness for Autism

It's World Autism Awareness Day and autism is all over the papers and radio. Some of the stories are great such as this by Fiona O'Leary, an Irish self-advocate explaining why she opposes the Light it Up Blue campaign and seeking an end to negative rhetoric:
"Any research that will bring positive benefits to people on the autistic spectrum is welcome. However, the propaganda used by Autism Speaks is instilling fear and hatred about a condition that is struggling to find acceptance in society."
Some stories attempt to tug at the heartstrings such as the story of a 9 year old girl who wrote in school about her dearest wish- that her 4 year old brother be cured of his autism. In her letter she describes her brother's sensory issues as well as the efforts those who care for him are making at improving his communication skills using Grace App. The little girl comes across as very insightful and caring. It seems to me that she uses the words "cured" and "healed" as shorthand for educated and parented so as to help him to have the best life possible. It's just a shame that the media have jumped on her story as though autistic kids' lives are a tragedy and the only way to help them is to seek a cure.

According to a local autism charity, every council in Northern Ireland is Lighting Up Blue as is Channel 4 News (belying their reputation for thorough research and a good understanding of the background to the stories they report). Have we lost the battle to separate autism activism from the corporate blue of the despicable Autism Speaks?

Then last night BBC aired Horizon, "Living with Autism" presented by Uta Frith, which gave more insights into how autism researchers interpret their findings than on how autistic people perform in their Sally Anne and dancing triangle tests. In every instance the autistic way was coded as impaired, less-than. The language of the programme was inherently pathologising. It worked best when autistic people themselves had the chance to talk- though even then their words and actions were put into context by Uta as to how they differ from "ordinary" people. I liked it a lot less than I expected to.

However a nice thing happened as the show started, my son, my darling Ryan (aka Duncan) came in to say goodnight. I told him I was watching a programme about autism and he said, "Oh autism! I love autism. I'm the autistic boy!"

Ryan with his beloved Granda. 

And that's what matters most to me. My child is autistic. He's here to stay and I need to work to make the world a safer and better place for people like him. That's why I want ACTION not bloody awareness for autism. Yesterday on twitter someone called for a cure for autism as he has seen autistic people locked up for decades in hospital, wiped out on anti-psychotic meds and unable to care for themselves. This doesn't motivate me to find a cure- but to act on behalf of the people who are being treated inhumanely. These people need freedom, they need action to help them communicate better, people who listen to them, and support to experience more of life. Autistic people need better education that doesn't stop when they turn 18 or 19. They need decent paid jobs, places to live with only as much interference from service providers as they need. They need the right benefits to get by, opportunities to engage in sports and hobbies. My boy will be moving into the adult care system in a few years. I'm just starting to look into what options exist and it's heart sinking. I'll do what I can to shake the system and every time we make progress, then call on the media to aware the heck out of whatever has been achieved.
This is what I will battle for and I'm not going to be fighting alone.

28 Mar 2014

Please Don't Light up Blue for Autism

You mean well. I know you hope that by persuading your local council to bathe your town or city's most significant building or monument in blue light, that you are doing a good thing. You have bought into the notion that increasing "awareness of autism" will help your autistic children. But do you know where the notion of "light it up blue" originated? Are you aware how people who are themselves autistic feel about this particular campaign?

April 2nd has been marked as World Autism Awareness Day since the late 80's and in 2007 it was adopted by the United Nations. Light it up blue came along later; in 2010 it was set up by Autism Speaks, a huge and disreputable USA-based organisation. Autism Speaks seeks a world without autism, it does not support autistic people, but bullies and silences them. Autism Speaks regularly makes outrageously hurtful and damaging statements. Many in the autistic community call for a boycott of the organisation.

Blue is the corporate colour of Autism Speaks, that's it. Blue is not associated with autism for any other reason. When you lobby to light up blue or you "wear blue for autism" you are demonstrating your support of Autism Speaks the organisation, not of autistic people or their needs.

Autistic people and their allies are trying to get the word out about how damaging the light it up blue campaign is.

I ask that you take their views seriously and stop lighting up blue.

24 Mar 2014

Autism Biomed Bullshit Booming in Ireland

I didn't expect that the promoters of uncontrolled and unethical experimentation on autistic children would be allowed to sell their services on RTE TV. Thanks to Suzy (who alerted me to all this stuff) I was able to catch the Morning Edition show of 21 March (segment starts at 57 minutes) when USA-based Great Plains Laboratory boss William Shaw was interviewed as an "expert in biomedical interventions" along with Karen O'Connor, boss of home-grown organisation The Child Development Centre. Shaw wasn't challenged despite claiming that they had "reversed" autism in many children with their treatments. The RTE reporter provided no balance or probing of these claims- just bovine acceptance. William Shaw's lab is one of those places where quacks send samples of urine and blood to be tested for the terrifying toxins that proper doctors and real hospitals can't find because they aren't using dodgy testing systems. The Child Development Centre provides some proper therapies like speech and language therapy and occupational therapy as well as rubbish like biomedical and craniosacral therapy and its shiny website contains a page full of jolly testimonials. There's no price list but I bet it all comes with a high price tag. 

The TV show, as always with these things, showed a mum telling the miraculous story of her son's escape from the clutches of autism (tendencies) via music, biomedical therapy and craniosacral therapy. "Two years later," claims the reporter, "he's really reaching his true potential." Two years is a long time, and autism is developmental delay not developmental stasis. The Child Development Centre is being credited with all that slow, natural progress the child made in this lovely infomercial courtesy of RTE. 

The RTE-plugged conference- Quacktastic.
Today FM also promoted the Child Development Centre and their conference in an interview as bland as that on RTE. A mother describes how her perfect son was all of a sudden diagnosed with autism and "turned to a stone" but then they went to a herbalist and the Child Development Centre and were able to "bring him back" and now "he's not lost any more." He never was lost.

Hey Irish media, how about when you have a story on autism or some other condition, you seek out a person who has that condition. If you want an expert on autism, talk to an autistic.

Neither was I expecting to read a circa 2007 article on quack autism cures in the Irish Times a few days ago. Dear Maud this one is truly terrible. It (again) features the mother of an autistic kid who claims that following a particular regime rid her child of teh autisms. This time it's the services of Natasha Campbell McBride's and her GAPS diet that are being promoted and Geoff has written a wonderful post detailing just a few of her outrageous claims and dubious and potentially dangerous practices.

This article follows the tried and tested Autism ArticleTM template as described below.

Don't stray from the template- sure who wants to know about the reality of life with autism!

It really astonishes me just how closely Adrienne Murphy sticks to the template I wrote in 2008!

But it's 2014 and we should not have to keep having these discussions. I'm tired of dismantling specious claims by unscrupulous hacks. Autism is nothing like that described by Murphy in the Irish Times. Autism is a genetically-based human neurological variant and NOT "the result of a complex intermeshing of degenerative diseases and comorbidities, largely created and exacerbated by environmental factors."

Autistic children are NOT "fully recovering" after biomedical treatment. Autism is not a disease though some people may have medical conditions as well as autism for which they must obviously receive proper medical treatment.

Murphy describes herself as "a lay expert" in autism yet fails to understand the most basic explanation for rising diagnoses.

Yet there's a final insult in the closing lines of the article: "Adrienne Murphy will be joking about autism as one of the performers in Stand Up For Humanity! Activists do Stand -Up Comedy for Charity."
After the disablism and inaccuracies of her article, I think it's for the best that I'm too far away from Dublin tonight to attend.