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I was so dismayed to see Jenny McCarthy in the Sun-Times today, featured once again as the face of autism. As the mother of two daughters with autism, Ms. McCarthy in no way speaks for nor represents me. In fact, I know many parents with children on the spectrum, and they are frustrated with the way Ms. McCarthy always skews the autism conversation to vaccines. We have also been horrified that she has described autism in her son as the "the loss of soul in his eyes" (Louder Than Words) As parents of children with autism, we must fight the prejudice every day that our children are somehow not complete human beings. Her perspective and statement perpetuate a destructive myth that those with autism do not think or feel. The reality is our loved ones with autism think and feel deeply; it is just more difficult for them to give expression to their thoughts and feelings.
Furthermore, Ms. McCarthy advocates dangerous, unproven, and incredibly expensive treatments for children, all of which are based on the false premise that vaccines cause autism. She continues to support Dr. Andrew Wakefield despite the revelation that he falsified study results, put children at risk by performing unnecessary procedures, and consequently lost his medical license in England. Generation Rescue and Autism One are both organizations whose prescribed treatments are based on the vaccine hypothesis. The article in the Sun-Times is an advertisement for her organizations and legitimatizes practices which the entirety of the medical establishment, including the CDC, AMA, APA, and NIH, have all completely denounced.
Raising a child with autism is about sacrifice and challenges, but it also about joy. It is about the inherent worth of our children, their many hidden gifts, and the way they enrich our lives and make us better parents, better people. It is about the hard work that real parents do with their children on the spectrum, day after day, while we work full-time at jobs that are not glamourous, do the laundry, cook the meals, clean the house, and raise our other children as well. It is not about some miracle "cure" because there is none, and we do not see our children as ill or deficient, just wonderfully and uniquely themselves as God made them.
Life is not meant to be perfect. You love the children who are entrusted to you, and you find ways to make their lives as joyous and productive as possible. You don't torture them with unproven and dangerous treatments in a futile effort to turn them into the child you wanted. I believe when a parent cannot accept and is so unhappy with a child, that child feels rejection in every cell of his or her being. The truth is that our children can only make progress when they are accepted and loved unconditionally just as they are. My girls have made amazing progress through love, education, encouragement, and acceptance.
Finally, when it comes to the soul, our children have deep souls, ones that drink in the world even if they cannot express all they see, who love deeply even if they never speak the words. As parents, we have to look outside of ourselves and what we wanted to see who our children really are.
In the future, please consult an autistic person or real parent when you want to write a story about autism, and please refrain from being party to a group that perpetuates damaging myths that our children are less than fully human because of autism. Our children need to be defended because they are vulnerable and sweet, and as parents, we need to educate the world about the worth of our children, a worth that is not diminished by autism, no matter how severe it may be.
Link to the Sun-Times article:
Author - Parenting Girls on the Autism Spectrum -Overcoming the Challenges and Celebrating the Gifts.
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