Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What a week!

This tiny blog's traffic has quadrupled in the last week, all thanks to the Michael Savage controversy.  Lots of hits from those wanting to see who his sponsors are.  Some are from the sponsoring corporations, which is sort of interesting.  Maybe they want to see which way the wind is blowing.  

This is how the wind blows.  When Jimmy was diagnosed three years ago, the rate of diagnosis was 1 in 166.  Not too long ago, that rate increased to 1 in 150.  Over diagnoses?  Consider this: not too long ago, a clinician was evaluation Jimmy.  We were talking about the explosion of diagnoses and I asked her if Jimmy would have been classified as something else before the autism explosion.  He said it was possible that he would have been labelled mentally retarded, even if the data (namely his cognitive ability) didn't support it.  She pointed out that while autism rates had risen, that MR rates had fallen - autism became better defined and more appropriate labeling and diagnosis occurred.  Some have called it a diagnostic substitution phenomenon

The end result is that more children are diagnosed.  Listen, mental retardation is a quantifiable diagnosis.  There are IQ tests.  You can look at the results.  If you score about a certain level, you are "normal."  If you are below a certain level, you are "MR."  I am sure the assessment is more nuanced, but at least it is something people understand.  Autism isn't as well defined as that yet, but that makes it no less real.  Certainly not to families dealing with it.

I don't know what the end game of all this is.  Do the parents give enough hell to the sponsors to have them pull advertising?  Enough to get Michael Savage fired?  I don't know.  It's a hell of a commitment for parents and supporters to do who are burdened (not how I look at it, but for a lack of a better term) with taking care of these kids.  But what the rest of the world really doesn't realize is that parents of autistic children are first and foremost advocates for them.  We spend our lives try to explain who they are and why they are the way they are.  We spend our time in their schools, making sure they get services they need in settings they can handle.  We fight insurance companies to get them the care they need.  And when we have nothing left, we fight some more.

I don't know what will come of all this, but I think of all groups he could have picked to attack, the motivated and dedicated parents of autistic children was probably the worst.

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