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.