Oprah’s Other Autism Special

24 Sep

My little blog was puttering and sputtering along until the other day traffic spiked up all around my post on Oprah’s previous special.


Sure enough, the queen of daytime did it again with Jenny McCarthy and Holly Robinson Peete as guests, telling their stories.  You can read all about it and see pictures on Oprah’s site.  Since I totally missed watching it, that’s where I had to go to get the scoop.  So those of you looking for more on that show can go there.  Then come back if you’re interested in my take on what I read.


First off, I’m all for more awareness about autism.  The more people know, the less fear they will have.  Hopefully.  Those people with disabilities (especially those you can’t see) are the last ones to really benefit from the civil rights movement.  And making fun of people who are different is still a favorite pastime.  So getting some exposure with the likes of Oprah should be a good thing.


This was definitely a more cutting edge show than her previous special done last spring, as her guests really did push harder towards the various treatments and did not dodge the vaccinations and biomedical controversies.  Jenny McCarthy was all about the diet and the mercury in vaccinations.


As a mother, I think it might be fair to characterize Ms McCarthy as intense.  She has always been intense about everything she has ever done.  When she posed for Playboy all those years ago, she was no young naive little girl.  She was driven and deliberate, and utterly conquered using her brains as well as her body to propel her videos into the #1 spot, which I’d never heard of any Playboy video doing before or since.  She then tried her hand on TV, which had a mixed degree of success.  More recently I noticed her on Weight Watchers commercials, looking as fabulous as ever.


So what’s this got to do with autism?  Not much, except she has parlayed her son’s autism into a book as well as her own educational business.  I know she likes helping people, just like she seemed to enjoy being naked for Playboy.  But I’m not having as good of a feeling about her leveraging her son’s autism into another business venture as when it was just her body for either Playboy or Weight Watchers.  But maybe that’s just me. 


Ms. McCarthy’s story is a good, compelling story and it does give a lot of hope to a lot of parents out there who are struggling.  I do give her some credit for attempting to put her initial disclaimer of not being a doctor (nor having played one on TV), not being an interventionist but just a concerned mother out front.  But I don’t think anyone really heard that part once she got into the diet. 


Wait…is Weight Watchers GFCF?


I liked a lot of what she presented in terms of her own life, her struggles with doctors and her marriage. 


I think the appallingly high divorce rate among parents of children with autism is an area that simply has not been dealt with at all.  At least a little light was shown on it here.  Perhaps I will shine more light on it later.


Holly Robinson Peete


I didn’t see her but liked what I read of her and about her.  Her and her husband have a foundation dedicated towards the treatment and cure for Parkinson’s disease which claimed her father’s life just a few years ago.  Their (Holly and Rod) approach was to not be extremely public about their son’s autism.  But they were extremely proactive in seeking a variety of treatments that included the diet, floortime, ABA and speech and OT. 


My impression just by reading the two different accounts (and the questions and answers in their own words) is that Holly is motivated and driven but at the same time is more balanced in her approach to autism.  Her son has a sibling, which helps with socialization but also helps take some heat off the autistic child’s issues.  Ms. McCarthy only has the one child, and this can lead down a very unbalanced road, not that there’s anything wrong with that in and of itself.


I also think Holly has more balance in that she had the Parkinson’s foundation as a cause already and didn’t fall into the black hole that the autism world (as a cause) can quickly become.  It can consume every bit of energy and time and effort that you can shovel into it.  And it always begs for more.  There’s always a new megavitamin, a new therapy, a new chemical, a new threat, a new promise and new something or other that promises hope on one hand and inflicts guilt on the other if you decide you don’t want to do it.  I’ve written about the black hole before.


I think the single best move for Oprah to make is this next spring, during Autism awareness month, to have a panel consisting of adults who actually are on the autistic spectrum.  This would add some balance to where she went this fall in her focus on the parents. 


I sort of lurk around the edge of the spectrum, myself.  I’ve been to conferences where I sort of felt a certain kinship with a lot of the guys who claimed to be/have ASD.  It wasn’t a happy realization by any stretch. That may be one reason why fathers struggle so mightily with the issue beyond other disabilities; it hits a bit closer to home perhaps.   


There was a brief clip on Oprah’s site showcasing views by Rodney Peete on being a father.  I also noticed that several women had asked about how to get fathers involved with their autistic sons.  I may speak directly to that later.  But in the meantime, welcome to all you new folks searching for info about Oprah’s autism special!






7 Responses to “Oprah’s Other Autism Special”

  1. Kristina Chew September 24, 2007 at 8:07 am #

    Maybe she’ll start a new GFCF line of Weight Watchers…… Good overview, thanks!

  2. malingering September 24, 2007 at 1:13 pm #

    My friend’s blog went insane after the Oprah thing. And all of the defensive agenda pushing crazies came out of the woodwork. My head is spinning and I don’t even have an autistic child.

  3. Erica September 24, 2007 at 4:42 pm #

    Hi Dick,

    Glad to see your new post. I haven’t watched the Oprah episode myself, so thanks for your description. I found Autism Diva’s take on it interesting/entertaining as well. You should check out the message board on Oprah’s website. There are 45 pages of comments. Here’s the link:

    I’m still hoping you’ll email me soon. (See my comment on your RTI post).


  4. Dick dalton September 25, 2007 at 10:43 am #

    Glad you liked it, Kristina! I’m sure if there was money to be made, WW would do the GFCF thing. Maybe that will be Jenny’s next book.

    I saw the ruckus, Malingering and your friend can have it! I’ve went back and forth with the various biomedical homeopathic guilt-mongering folks before and it’s pretty futile. If enough people believe it, it must be true. It’s like some sort of religion.

    Which is why I’ll leave the Oprah forums to Oprah. I can’t do email from work, Erica, and since it seems like that’s where I’m living…I’ll see what I can do later in the week. Thanks for commenting!


  5. Erica September 26, 2007 at 6:25 pm #

    Thanks Dick! I look forward to hearing from you.

  6. Jo November 23, 2007 at 11:36 am #

    thanks, dick, i have been thinking about a book project “Children with autism and the men in their lives.” would love to know your thoughts on that or perhaps collaborate. i have never written a book before but this topic has made its importance known to me as i see my sister (she has an 8 year old PDD NOS) struggle with her divorce and then her trying to find a man in her life, and then after finding a man, watching how both he and my sister handle the “parenting” aspect of their relationship (not impressed). I see his role as so important I just wonder if men could have a forum or have something out there that calls to them. your thoughts?

    ps. personally i was a bit dismayed at jennys’ joking plea for someone to help her out by “watching the child overnight” implying, well, you know what. For many, that single plea may have outweighed the first part of the show where you see her working SO hard to play “cars” with her child. I feel she took the mothering out and put the sluttiness in, and sanctioned it. I have no problem with wanting companionship but it can be taken too far, and the main point of her message might have been better. And she did say SO many good things about Jim Carey, maybe he could contribute to the book.


  1. Oprah’s Autism Special « The Life That Chose Me - September 24, 2007

    […] also have an updated review of the latest Oprah […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: