Oprah’s Autism Special

6 Apr

The Queen of the day time talk shows had a special on autism and I had a chance to watch portions of it while doing some other things. Jane was the one who knew about it and was extremely keen to watch it. I was not so keen, but watched a lot of it anyway, since spring break hasn’t given me a lot to blog about.

I did not see any segments of the Autism Speaks video that she might have shown. However, I did see some of the discussion of parents talking about the heartbreak at their “lost” children and the devastation this disorder has caused for these families. It seems almost every media presentation on autism has to cover the devastating impact of the disorder and the emotional, financial and physical hardship. These struggles do make for good press.

But at the very end of the program, the young father tried to articulate how much he has learned and grown from being around and raising his young son. The other parents all seemed to agree with this, and I thought it was the best part of the whole show, but was the shortest segment.

For sure, autism is mysterious and scary and I wouldn’t exactly wish it on anyone. It is a difficult challenge that seems to just go on and on. I’m glad there is an effort to educate the public about it, despite the fact there is such a rich mix of information and disinformation on the subject. The scariest aspect, I think, is the isolation parents feel from other parents who are raising neurotypical children. Raising awareness can help lessen that feeling of being alone. I remember trying to explain autism to our own family members who just didn’t quite get it. From that standpoint, the exposure is definitely a good thing.

The dissention within the autism world is not a good thing. Oprah had an expert who I hadn’t heard of before, who said the vaccine connection had been largely refuted. When she said that, Jane about jumped out of her chair, saying, “No it hasn’t!” Even within our own house, we’re not of one mind on this. After a commercial break, Oprah allowed a parent to speak to the other side saying that she was convinced there was some connection between autism and vaccinations. I think Oprah handled this very well, which goes to show why she is #1 in her business. But it is disconcerting to see parents and experts sniping at each other all the time.

Just for the record, Jane is convinced there is a connection to vaccines and I am not. I’m not outright refuting her beliefs so much as saying that we don’t know and I’m not going to jump on the anti-vaccine bandwagon whole heartedly without more and better evidence. And anyone trying to convince me one way or another will only hurt their case, so they can just shut up. Argue amongst yourselves, and let me know who wins.

Thank goodness Oprah didn’t delve too much into all the different treatments and “cures” that I’ve had to endure. Save that discussion for a more appropriate forum, like The Jerry Springer Show!

Being the parent of a child with autism is difficult, but it is not hopeless. Far from it, I’ve seen a lot of advances in the education for parents and their children in the past 8 years. If I had to point to one group that is doing it right and is somewhat outside of all the controversial treatments, it is the speech language pathologists. I’ve seen some that weren’t so good but a whole lot more that were sharp, on the ball and performing quasi-miracles. For parents of ASD children my best advice is to find a good SLP and learn from them to do what they do with your kids.

We’ll probably see a lot more in the media since April is Autism Awareness Month. For my part I’m suffering from autism fatigue as I have lived and breathed it for the past 6 years or so and there is just so much out there. For the first time in a couple years, I’m not going to the autism conference. I looked at the programs and felt like I had pretty much seen it all. I know that’s not altogether true, and I did see some programs that were added late that I might want to see. But it is the same weekend as our Special Olympic bowling tournament and I felt like I needed to be there for that. But I’ll keep my eyes open for new information and will pass on any new thoughts/ideas as they come along.



Head over to Kristina’s site for an the Oprah show overview.


I also have an updated review of the latest Oprah material.

12 Responses to “Oprah’s Autism Special”

  1. Kristina Chew April 6, 2007 at 4:30 pm #

    This is a great commentary—I really liked what the father at the end said, too. He was very clearly honest and loving of his son, and could say it with conviction and feeling.

    I hope she’ll do another show.

  2. Samantha April 6, 2007 at 6:08 pm #

    I also caught this show and it was just amazing.

    I thought that for the most part the show was good, the family dynamics with autism is rarely shown and it needs to be. Autism just isn’t a disease, when one person in the family has autism the entire family’s plans and decisions have to revolve around that child and I’m not quite sure everyone else understands that.

    One thing the show should of focused on more was that Autism isn’t a curse. One woman on the show said because of Autism her life was “exploding.” My little brother, 8yrs, turned to me and said: Our life isn’t exploding, this is just normal.

    My brother has autism and sure, there are times where I just want to go see a movie or go to the store but can’t cause I have to watch Spencer… but I wouldn’t want to have a normal brother. It’s taught me so much.

    The show also focused too much on younger children- what about the teens and young adults with autism?

    I think the show was great, but the topic is just too much to cover in one hour.

  3. Erin April 7, 2007 at 1:26 pm #

    Hi Dick.

    I just wanted to let you know how much I admire your strength and your work with special needs children/young adults. As a future special education teacher and a high school student in Georgia, I enjoy reading your day-to-day accounts of your classroom life, home life, and life as a parent to Thomas. You have inspired me to create a blog of my own detailing my experiences with special needs students. I hope you’ll check it out. Thanks for all you do!

  4. Erin April 7, 2007 at 1:27 pm #

    Woops. Here’s the link to my blog: http://futureofsped.blogspot.com.

  5. Dick April 9, 2007 at 7:00 am #

    I hope she does another one, too, Kiristina. I’d like to see her do some treatment things e.g. with Lynn Koegel who did Supernanny.

    Samantha, I totally agree that these autism shows focus entirely too much on pain, anguish and suffering. While it is a more diligent lifestyle than most, it does not have to be hell on earth. It can be good, as that one father articulated.

    Thanks for stopping in, Erin! I stopped by, but I have issues commenting on Blogger blogs. We need a lot, lot more folks like you to get in the special education business! If you hang around long enough, I might be able to get some volunteer helpers in my room and write about it. I’m working on it.


  6. Laraine Keogh May 29, 2007 at 11:10 pm #

    Hi my name is Laraine and I am watching the Oprah show on Autism.
    The expert who says the vaccine connection is largely refuted only has to look at the statistics since they were introduced.
    More and more children who are born normal end up with autism.
    The drug companies and the doctors don’t want to stop the vaccines
    as they make a lot of money from them.
    As for the expert who has 2 children with autism she needs to pull her head out of the sand and really look at what she gave her 2 children, I bet they were born normal.
    My first granddaughter had the vaccines and now has Turners Syndrome which the experts say is because a chromosome is missing, standard answer, but the other grand children didn’t have any vaccines, because their father researched them and refused to let them have them and they are all perfectly normal.
    I think these experts have a lot to answer for, and we are so ignorant and believe everything we are told. Do we really know what is in these vaccines????
    In my day we didn’t have all these vaccines and the number of children with Autism was not like it is now.
    Very concerned grandmother.

  7. Debbie Gonzales August 8, 2007 at 5:43 pm #

    I also saw the show. Kudos to Autism Speaks. My husband and I have two children with autism. We different agree on a few statements or opions that were given by the parents. We take both our children on family vacations, train,car ride or plane. You can’t go throughout life saying, What if? I have the attidude when it comes to my kids, let’ try, give them the opportunity to show us, give them the experience. It is alot of planning when going on a vacation or outing, but it is so worh it. I take my kids everywhere and always have, market, bank, community events, Disneyland, park,etc. Most of our community knows our kids, Justin and Brandi. Justin is 12yrs. old and Brandi will be 9 in September. Justin is very high functioning and Brandi is severe with no language. We have to handle each one differently. My children teach us something new all the time. Patient is a major one that they have taught both of us. They teach us to look at life in the moment and appreciate the smallest thing. We are very proud of Justin and Brandi. It has been an amazing journey and will continue to be so. Justin is in a general education classroom, has been involved with student council, been in the school’s plays and was student council vice president. Brandi is in a speacial education classroom, but is mainstreamed in general education for math and science. She uses a device to type on with help at her forearm to communicate in school. She also uses one at home, but with support touching her shoulder or trying on her own.
    They are both lovable children and can make anyone smile. I have participated in training in our school district to teach about autism to teachers, instructional aides and other school staff members. I know how it feels to have a child on the spectrum at two different levels.
    Brandi and Justin are aware of their autism and we try to be as positive as we can. We tell them, you are Justin and Brandi first, your autism is only a psrt of who you are. We always point out to them the things that they can do well. Justin and Brandi are happy with mom and dad. We are a lucky family. Debbie and Gilbert Gonzales

  8. Tara. G. August 18, 2007 at 9:52 pm #

    I really enjoyed the show Oprah did on Autism but I wish she had talked about the high scale Autism’s more. You see my Nephew has Personality Development disorder which is on the high scale of Autism. I really want to learn more about it. I also want to know more about how to take care of kids like this a bit more so that maybe in time I may be able to help with my nephew. He also has Bannayan-Riley-Ruvulcaba Syndrome (genetic) among other things I would like to learn more if there is anyway I could LOL Unfortunately the only reason I was able to watch your show on families living with Autism was because I was at my friend’s house I do not have cable. But Thank-you for putting it on. Take care and God bless

  9. Tara. G. August 18, 2007 at 9:54 pm #

    Oh no I meant he had Pervasive Development disorder sorry my bad

  10. Dr. David Lipman July 17, 2008 at 12:36 pm #

    There is (and always has been) a lot of confusion as to what Autism and the Autistic Spectrum Disorders are. This starts with a significant problem with the way Autism is classified; Autism is considered a ‘mental disorder’. Since it has been classified as such since the 1940s, most physicians learn little to nothing about it. Its classification further breaks down Autism to be; an impairment in social interaction, repetitive behaviors and problems communicating. With these ‘defining characteristics’, it is no wonder that these children are placed into a structured special learning environment accompanied by behavior modification with little to no medical intervention.

    I understand Autism to be a biochemical and neurological problem that alters the way the brain and body develop, and eventually results in the social, behavioral and communication problems that these individuals experience. These characteristics are symptoms, and the result of a multi-system breakdown that went undiagnosed!

    We have let an entire generation of children slip through our fingertips and it is time to mobilize and get them back.If the top three defining characteristics were; under-connected brain circuitry, chronic gastrointestinal dysfunction and underlying autoimmune/inflammatory processes, we would see a very different treatment criteria established for Autism! In fact, based on the research, these three things are the true problems of Autism which eventually lead to the cognitive impairments.

    I will be hosting an event in which my colleague, Dr. Michael Gruttadauria will be sharing some important information regarding some ground-breaking news in the treatment of Asperger’s and Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

    A free teleconference is being offered on August 14th at 7pm est.

    Please go to:

    http://JustAskDrMike.com to register for this extremely informative event.

  11. Nicole July 24, 2008 at 10:52 pm #

    When you say autoimmune it makes me think one of my son’s pre Aspergers diagnosis was PANDAS. I now womnder if his extremely high ASO titers could have had ny connection to Aspergers? Especially after I read all the controversy around the PANDAS diagnosis.

    Just a thought.


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