The questionnaire on autism blogs I wrote about earlier (and if you can, offer to complete one yourself) made me think about something I take entirely for granted in my life, the many and varied autism blogs I read.
I was asked to rate how helpful I have found such blogs as a source of information and support in raising an autistic child. I had to answer truthfully that the blogs I read have made a tremendous difference to my life and my knowledge of autism and how to best raise my son. I have never thanked all of you who write these blogs. You write fantastically well, thoughtful and thought provokingly. You explain, challenge, advise, illustrate, unearth, advocate and amuse. I have had many of my thought processes utterly revolutionised by your words. The changes didn't stop with my attitude to autism and disability, I began to think and learn more about all sorts of societal privileges and assumptions on the value of life. By following your work on promoting good standards of science and the ways in which quackery has become embedded in autism discourse, both in causation theories and in the treatments offered, I have thought more about evidence, ethics, and the scientific process than I did in 6 years of formal scientific education at universities.
The first autism blog I remember reading was Left Brain/Right Brain. It was started by Kevin Leitch and was an amazing resource. It still is, and now it has evolved to a group blog with several excellent writers offering up regular posts on autism research, the rise in dangerous autism quackery, the legal tussles and advocating for rights and accommodations. I soon came across Amanda Baggs awesome writings on Ballastexistenz and the sparkling wit and elegant prose of the much missed Autism Diva. She might not be writing these days, but her blog is still a fantastic resource to dig into. Obviously I can't discuss fantastic autism blogging without mentioning the women who share an enviable ability to dissect mountains of data and writings and do a great job of keeping in check the people who claim to know what they're talking about when they really demonstrably don't, autism researcher Michelle Dawson and super librarian and "mere mother ... and housewife" Kathleen Seidel.
I could go on for pages but will limit this to just a few more of the people who have made the biggest difference to my own life. Bev who blogs at Asperger Square 8 is someone I have praised many times for her pictures that say so much so clearly and simply, and who has recently added a few wonderful videos to her site. Kristina Chew has been blogging for years about her son and regularly offers her educated and insightful assessment the latest autism story in the media. She now blogs at change.org with Dora Raymaker.
Orac from Respectful Insolence often blogs about autism quackery, in particular the vaccine causation nonsense and the dangerous quack treatments sold to vulnerable parents by charlatans only interested in the profit margin. I think however, Orac would much prefer it if he never had to write another autism post ever again.
My new favourite blog is The Gonzolog which combines all the things that make blogs great; intelligence, passion, humour and well argued opinions.
Finally, 3 men writing blogs I love to read; Ed at The Standard Review, Mike Stanton's Action for Autism and Steve's One Dad's Opinion. Heck, all the autism blogs listed on my sidebar are bloody brilliant and I can't eulogise all of them.
I wrote on the questionnaire that one of my aims for my blog and that of my blogging friends who have autism and/or parent autistic people, is to confront the ignorance and misinformation that is so prevalent abut autism. This is discriminatory and unfair on people like my son so I hope to show that having a child with autism does not mean the end of a happy family life, and that he can learn and grow without any bogus therapy. I am also intent on challenging the spread of quackery that abounds in autism.
I said that blogging is useful publishing platform that anyone with an internet connection can access, so it's a great way of reading the thoughts of ordinary people around the world, and of connecting with professionals. Once you figure out who talks sense and who is full of hot air and worse, then it's a great way to connect.
However, I forgot to mention the toxic posts of the people who promote the quackery whole heartedly, the damage they do to individual children whose parents follow their advice and inflict the unproven treatments on them as well as the negative and skewed portrayal of autism they promote.