Note to “Autism Experts,” My Child is Not Part of an Epidemic

And He is Not in Recovery

It is Autism Awareness Month, and while I look forward to the month as it can help open the eyes to so many as to what Autism actually is, I dread it just as much as the words epidemic and recovery are passed around faster than a hot potato.

Autism is NOT an Epidemic

A fellow bloggy friend, Andrea, recently shared on Facebook how much it upset her to see the media constantly throwing out the word epidemic when referring to Autism and with good reason. You see, by definition, one could certainly call Autism an epidemic when merely looking at the surface. But when you take the time to consider that there is more awareness now than there was even 10 years ago, along with the fact that doctors are changing the defining terms of Autism, any numbers produced about those affected are nothing more than theoretical.

Let’s take my son, Matt, for example, in his nine years of life, we have gone through the following rounds of diagnosis

15mo — We were told that we simply did not know how to discipline our toddler and we were handed a printout on how to parent properly.

3yr — The doctor didn’t even know how to deal with him, and only spent five minutes with him before referring us out.

3yr — After a one-hour “play” evaluation the “official” label of choice was Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), and family therapy was suggested.

5yr — The doctor’s response was, “On the Autism spectrum with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and ADHD tendencies,” but I don’t want to diagnose officially because your insurance just dropped a patient of mine after diagnosis. WHAT?

7yr — Still on the Autism spectrum, leaning more towards Aspergers but “I can’t diagnosis it as that, as current talks will remove that diagnosis in a year” with suggestions of possible brain damage from a febrile seizure at the age of 11mo.

Here is where I stopped trying to find an exact “reason” for my son’s quirks and struggles and decided that as his mother I obviously understand him much more than any doctor who is flopping into the latest “label” craze ever will. It is our own experience that leaves me firmly feeling that there is no epidemic, just a society that still does not understand what they are dealing with or what they should do.

You Do NOT Recover from Autism

I read an article this morning titled “Can Autism Diets Help Recover a Child From Autism?” by Julie Matthews, “a leading autism nutrition specialist.” Before I even made my way into the first paragraph, I knew this article would grate my nerves from that one little word, recover.

How is it that so-called leaders in Autism research can tell me that my child can recover? Recover from what, being himself. The worst part about this article is when you get down to paragraph five

“Pursuing recovery is not about “curing” autism. Pursuing recovery is about believing in and taking action toward improved health and healing. The term “recovery” is best explained by esteemed autism organizations such as Autism Research Institute and Generation Rescue, the use of this term is intended to convey the extent of the possibility that exists for these children–to reach their potential of health and happiness — whatever that may be. As Jenny McCarthy analogy explains, while you can’t be cured of getting hit by a bus, you can recover. Indeed, thousands of children have, and are, recovering from autism.”

When I teach my non-autistic children how to be productive members of society, how to add and read, how to be healthy in their everyday lives they are not recovering, so why is that when you carry out the same actions with an Autistic child they want to call it so? I do not agree with the term and rather dislike it, but not as much as I dislike the analogy of Jenny McCarthy. I realize she has helped to raise a fair amount of awareness for autism, but I would hardly compare my child’s Autism to him being hit by a bus.

Just writing this has me teary eyed because it reminds that even at a time when awareness is so prevalent, there is still so much misunderstanding going on. So I would like you to head over and read a blog post from Logan, an 11-year-old Autistic boy. He is amazing and the so-called “leaders of autism” could learn a lot from him.

2016 Update:

It’s been four years, and my now 13-year-old son is no more part of an epidemic than he was then. We’ve found ways to make some things easier, but some days are still hard. He’s still learning, like all kids, how to navigate this world and what works best for him. No recovery needed!