Monday, March 1, 2010

McCarthyism

Time magazine recently ran an article about Jenny McCarthy, the mom I love to hate.  She's taking a step back from her anti-vaccine crusade, instead advocating for further research on the subject.  I agree with a scientist quoted in this article: 22 studies have shown no causal relationship between vaccines and autism, and it's time to put our research dollars into other areas, like genetic causes or environmental triggers.

I love this part of the story:
In McCarthy's world, there is scientific truth and there is emotional truth. There is the fact of a mother looking into her son's eyes and knowing something has gone very wrong and the fact of about two dozen studies showing no link between vaccines and autism. There is the truth of the parents and the truth of the doctors. And she believes that some truths are more equal than others. "She's a mom," says her boyfriend, actor Jim Carrey. "That's what she is. That's her truth." It all sounds so reasonable, expressed by the charming, gamine Jenny McCarthy. And this is what makes her dangerous.
As they say, you are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.  This Time article says that something like 20% of American kids are not getting the suggested roster of vaccines, inspired by McCarthy's movement, and diseases like measles and mumps are reappearing for the first time in decades.  I think McCarthy has been irresponsible in her use of her public platform.

But as much as I love to bash her, McCarthy is quoted saying something I believe is a truly important point: "certain therapies work for certain kids and they completely don't work for others."  This is totally true: a spectrum disorder requires a spectrum of approaches.  I wouldn't be surprised if 20 years from now we discover that many of the individuals we have shoved under the autism umbrella actually have been experiencing a variety of diagnoses, caused by myriad genetic abnormalities and/or external causes.

We're finding this even today: the most ironic revelation from this article is that there is even debate as to whether McCarthy's son had autism at all - they say his symptoms (like seizures) seem more indicative of Landau-Kleffner syndrome.

I also learned a new phrase from this article: "Curebie community" - the camp of parents who believe they can cure their children of autism.  I am not a Curebie.  I believe autism is as much a part of a person as his skin color or heritage.  I could adapt to life in the Middle East or a rural village on the Indus River, but I'll always be a white Jew from New York.

I wish Jenny McCarthy's family luck with their journey.  I admit I know nothing about Landau-Kleffner syndrome.  Maybe it is curable. Maybe the hyperbaric oxygen chambers, chelation, aromatherapies, electromagnetics, and spoons rubbed on her child's body have actually cured him of Landau-Kleffner.  But I wish she would stop misinforming and misleading gullible, hope-filled parents of children with autism.

2 comments:

  1. i think differently
    i think she has informed people of some things we may have not known about
    i dont think there is a cure but i know alot of what has worked to help her son has helped my son but in no way cured him
    and if it wasnt for her speaking up about thing my son wouldnt be at the point he is at today so i give kmuch thanks to her but i agree some things work for osme people and not others
    so i hate when people bash her for tryin to get her story out
    but i dont feel like you bashed her at all
    im just sayin soem poeple do
    we all have our own opinions thanks 4 listening to mine :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, I'm contacting you on behalf of Autisable.com, a blogging site dedicated to raising awareness and encouraging discussion about the challenges of autism, aspergers and ASD. We are interested in syndicating your blog on Autisable.com. Please contact joel@autisable.com for more information if you are interested in adding your blog to Autisable and reaching even more people with your story. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete

Keep it civil, people.