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NYT OpEd Skewers Jenny McCarthy but Misses the Dish

Like most parents with an autistic kid, I spent the month of April shuttling my kid (in my case, an adult kid but a kid none the less) from therapeutic recreation classes to doctor’s appointments to over-planned “social events”, still maintaining a small career and creating time for the rest of the world out of thin air–you know, superhero shit. Occasionally I would remember “oh yeah, it’s Autism Awareness month. Huh.” I would have organized some sort of charity fun run or thrown a Pampered Chef benefit party but I really hate that stuff. Truth be told, I’m kinda over autism, but like buying a condo or following the Insane Clown Posse, autism is a lifestyle. You can’t just give it up.

As the Autism Lifestyle goes, I was alerted to a nifty OpEd piece in the New York Times yesterday by Frank Bruni that ripped Jenny McCarthy a new one. It pointed out McCarthy’s lies in regard to her public statements about vaccinations and should have been the type of article that Grounded Parents would highly endorse but I found it cringe inducing. Now, I’m no fan of McCarthy’s and I’ve written about her in GP before, but I think Bruni was talking out of his ass, just a little.

It should come as no shock to Bruni or any of his readers that some folks are paranoid and act irrationally based on little or no good information. This is a country that believed duct tape and trash bags would protect us from terrorists. We live in gated communities. I’ve watched poor Nancy Grace nearly spontaneously combust on National TV. Rationality isn’t our strong suit to say the least. So Bruni’s indignance that so many people seem to have given a second glance to a super fox like McCarthy is worth an eye roll, but when he claims that parents need to ignore McCarthy in favor of real science he really lost me.

I would love to see some scientific research that points to a treatment protocol or a medication or a treatment that has more than anecdotal evidence. You know who else would like to see that research? Every single pediatrician on the planet.

I think it’s the smugness…yeah, it’s the smugness that he assumes that there is such real science out there. Now, there are tons of studies involving candidate drugs, candidate genes, and many possible causes and etiologies involving autism, all of this is nothing new. In the 19 years that I have been taking my daughter to developmental pediatricians, psychologists, neurologists and a vast array of allied medical professionals the answer that I hear more often than not is “We don’t know…you could give it a shot…” These are the autism experts, mind you. I have lived in two real concrete laden cities with research hospitals and have been told how lucky I am to get to see these type of experts but they don’t have the type of real science answers Mr. Bruni may think that they do.

In the rare instance when a protocol, say for example sensory integration therapy, is ordered by a physician GOOD LUCK finding a practitioner. There are schools and programs that treat kids with autism but the waiting lists are daunting and if you have an adult who needs job training, get ready for a whole bunch of blank stares from program administrators who will ask poorly worded yet terminal questions like “does this individual have any behaviors?”

But what really torqued me about Bruni’s NYT OpEd was that he infers that McCarthy is less than because she has, to put it mildly, a potty mouth. Ok, to that I say to Mr. Bruni: Go Cheney yourself. If he is upset that a mouthy broad has influenced public health, I think it says a little more about public health than it does about this mouthy broad.

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katiea

katiea

Katie Anderson is a freelance writer and improv theater instructor. Her work has appeared in Alt Daily , HuffPost Parents and Laughspin.com. Anderson has written comedy for Panties in a Twist: All Female Comedy and a weekly live stage show, Second City This Week in Los Angeles. She is currently working on a practical guide for parents and caregivers of autistic individuals to be published sometime in the next few years (get off her back, it's hard to write a book). Katie holds a BA in Psychology from The Ohio State University. She lives with her academic rock star husband, one of her three kids and two very spoiled cats in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @ improvperson.

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