Saturday, April 04, 2009

CBC Misrepresents Autism Disorders, Yet Again

The CBC - Not Aware Of Severe Autism Realities
Misrepresents Autism Spectrum Disorders

If there is an opportunity to present the Neurodiversity, autism is beautiful, perspective on autism disorders the CBC can be counted on to use its publicly funded broadcasting might to help this ideologically driven group confuse public understanding of the seriousness of autism disorders. The CBC is at it again this week helping misinform the public about the seriousness of autistic disorder and the challenges faced by those who aren't capable of granting interviews to diletantte CBC journalists, those who actually live in institutional care and are not "capable of doing things, with a little support here and there". The lazy and incompetent (I am trying to be kind in my choice of adjectives) CBC journalists once again misrepresent the realities and opinions of some persons with Aspergers and high functioning autism as representative of the autism spectrum of disorders.

Fresh on the heels of World Autism Awareness Day, CBC has not one, but two features designed to reinforce the Neurodiversity perspective while ignoring the realities faced by those with more severe autism challenges. As I was driving home from working in Campbellton, New Brunswick this week I was listening to CBC Radio 2 and head that Quirks and Quarks would be featuring the amazing life of an autistic savant this weekend. Quirks and Quarks has previously featured Neurodiversity icons Michelle Dawson and her student Dr. Laurent Mottron. I knew that the Nova Scotia Autistic Self Advocacy Council would be holding an event this weekend including an appearance by the CBC's favorite "autistic" Michelle Dawson so I expected the CBC to be in attendance to promote the Neurodiversity mischaracterization of autism spectrum disorders. The CBC did not surprise.

The CBC in Canadian adults with autism host Halifax conference once again presented the views of the high function adults with Autism and Aspergers without mentioning that those at the severe end of the autism spectrum face lives of hardship and dependency. By all means such conferences are good when they provide useful information about services to help persons with autism. And when they give persons with Aspergers and high functioning autism an opportunity to express their realities. But when they misinform the public, when they exclude the realities of the severely autistic who are unable to be part of the audience at such conferences they are committing acts of discrimination against the more severely autistic members of the autism spectrum of disorders. They are driving from the public consciousness awareness of the challenges facing the more severely autistic, they are in fact suppressing knowledge of the existence of the more severely autistic.

The CBC simply does not present these harsher autism realities. The CBC will not visit the hospitals and psychiatric institutions or the more secure level group homes where the more severely autistic live. The CBC will continue to present, not once, but multiple times, feel good fluff like Positively Autistic as being representative of the full spectrum of autism realities.

When it comes to autism spectrum disorders the CBC is both incompetent and dishonest. As the next decade approaches look for the CBC, in 2010 and beyond, to provide more Positively Autistic style coverage of the autism spectrum disorders. And do not hold your breath waiting for them to provide features on the serious challenges faced by persons with severe Autistic Disorder and their families.

That is a reality of World Autism Media Coverage.

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Charlotte said...

Harold: I feel your anger and frustration. My argument with Michelle Dawson has always been that parents of severely autistic children (me having been one) would give anything for their children to be as high functioning as she seems to be... and the fight 'we' are in for services and treatment is not meant as a condemnation of 'our' children or of them, but rather recognition of the daily reality of their lives. I thank God daily that my children have progressed to recovery but suffer from survivor's guilt -- it is imperative that the public not be lulled into a sense of complaceny by thinking autism 'isn't that bad' because as you know, many ASD children cannot speak for themselves, let alone attend conferences. When I look a photos of my children from the early years and when we talk to them about that period of their lives I am struck by the overwhelming sadness, fear and frustration in their eyes and their actions. Noah has said that before he could communicate he remembers having all the words in his head but not being able to make his mouth say them. I've asked them the question as to whether they are happy to be recovered and they are emphatic in their responses: now they can participate in life and all it has to offer, with an unlimited future whereas before they felt lonely and alone. If the public perception is manipulated into thinking autism isn't "that bad" then it will become harder to motivate the uninformed masses into supporting funding initiatives which includes early intervention classroom integration and long term care plans. It is only through proper public awareness that we can hope to better the lives of all ASD children. Thank you for posting this topic.

farmwifetwo said...

I'd wondered if you'd seen the "happy, lucky autism retreat" in Halifax on CBC. I saw it.

Being on the Conservative end of the spectrum myself... I have little to no respect for CBC and it's UNBIASED reporting of the news.


Autism Reality NB said...

Hi Charlotte

I am glad to hear your kids are doing so well. I know of some of the efforts and sacrifices you and Luigi have made to help them on the road to recovery.

In my view the CBC non-reporting of the existence of severely autistic persons and the conditions they live under is beyond incompetent. It is so obvious now that it appears intentional.

Autism Reality NB said...


I like CBC radio for the variety of music it provides. I enjoy classical, blues and jazz and can get more of these on CBC, especially CBC Radio 2.

As for the politics my eyes have been opened by the narrow, one sided, CBC coverage of autism disorders.

Marni Wachs said...

The CBC are remaking themselves obsolete through their narrow focus.

Oh, that should really have been in the past tense.

navywifeandmom said...

I'm sorry that Canadian broadcasting is so one-sided. It really sucks. Last night here in the U.S. they had Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey on Larry King Live again. Now, I know that I don't agree with everything that Jenny says and neither do many of the readers of this particular blog (although I AM doing biomed) but for all the criticism that she and her followers take, I thank GOD that there are people out there who do not present autism in a positive, feel-good type of light and that they are given air time. We NEED to give air time to those who know what a serious problem this is. If there is ONE THING I agree with Jenny about it is that the AAP is NOT listening to parents, nor are they taking this problem seriously. I agree, if all we see is how wonderful autism is, then no, people are not going to want to fund it. They are not going to want to help find a cure for people like my daughter with low-functioning autism who very well may never be able to live without supervision. People NEED to see how devastating severe autism (and even Aspergers) can be to an individual and his/her family.

I have been mulling this over; why do people not want to face reality of what is to come when all these autistic children become adults, why does society only want to see the feel-good, "positive blessings" that autism supposedly brings? I personally think it is because our society is inherently selfish - having a child who is profoundly disabled is something that happens to "someone else". People WANT to see the "pos-autive" crap aired because they DON'T want to think about the possibility of it happening to their own child. They WANT to believe the professionals who insist that things have always been this way and we are just better at diagnosing autism because that is much more comforting than believing the alternative - that autism is increasing and there are environmental factors. Because if they admit that, then they would HAVE to admit that it could strike their own child or the child of a family member or a friend since it is not just "genetic". And the "pos-autive" view of things also is a way for people who do not know the pain of this being able to say "And hey, even if it DOES happen to my kid, I'm watching this documentary and autism isn't that bad; in fact, it's this way cool gift". Because again, that is much easier to swallow than the alternative.

Presenting autism as a rosy little trip to Holland instead of Italy only hurts children like ours. Shame on people who do this, is all I can say. They are enemies of my daughter, nothing less, nothing more.

Besides, if autism hasn't REALLY increased and we are "just better at diagnosing it" and it is such a magical wonderful gift, then why are these people who espouse that view bothering to do autism research at all? If things have always been this way and autism isn't a disease but a way of life, then people who espouse that viewpoint should not need to research autism. Yet they are. They make no logical sense.

Marius Filip said...


You do right to counteract the CBC stance. I friend of mine from the US, one of the few whom I can talk freely about autism, has showed to me some articles from CBC.

I had to inform him about what position CBC has taken so far and I was glad to see he's changed his mind.

But I can imagine there are many others who believe what CBC presents and remain profoundly misinformed about what autism really is.

The greatest cynicism is that Michelle Dawson and the HFA/Asperger's folks who are so vocal in the Neurodiversity crowds nowadays should be THE FIRST to advocate for the same things that you do. That is, for a better life for people with autism, plain and simple.

And if they did that, they'd be truly representative of all the people with autism.

Tony Tamer said...

I think Charlotte should have said, "parents of severely autistic children would give anything for their children to be just a self-diagnosed fake autistic like Michelle Dawson."

Autism Reality NB said...


Michelle Dawson may have been self diagnosed but I am sure that her autism spectrum disorder, whichever one it is, has been confirmed by Dr. Laurent Mottron.

It should also be noted that a mysterious Dr. M who was called as an expert witness at her Human Rights complaint proceedings against Canada Post testified that he diagnosed Michelle Dawson as "autistic" although he avoids mentioning any specific diagnosis:

"3. Dr. M.’s testimony about Ms. Dawson

[123] Dr. M. testified that he first came into contact with Ms. Dawson after seeing her on the
television program Enjeux in 2001. At the hearing, Ms. Dawson stated that before the airing of Enjeux, she had tried to get into Dr. M.’s clinic but was unable to get past the reception. It appears
from the evidence that Ms. Dawson went to see Dr. M. in April 2001. At that time, he diagnosed
Ms. Dawson as being autistic. According to Dr. M., Ms. Dawson is considered as a very high
functioning person.

[124] Dr. M. testified that he wrote his first letter for her in 2002. The evidence shows that Ms.
Dawson has been working with Dr. M. for a few years and that they had co-authored articles.
Through his working relationship with Ms Dawson, Dr. M. stated in his testimony that Ms.
Dawson said things as she thought they were, that she has good judgment and takes good
decision. Dr. M. testified that he thought that the decisions that Ms. Dawson took at her work
were good, the reason being that he had never seen Ms. Dawson take a decision that he really
disapproved on a judgment basis. Dr. M. stated that this does not mean that Ms. Dawson can
never be wrong.

The mysterious Dr. M has such a close professional relationship with Ms Dawson that the CHRT felt compelled to address possible concerns about his credibility as an expert witness:

"b) The testimony of Dr. M

[99] At the beginning of his testimony, Dr. M., who is a psychiatrist, was qualified by the
Tribunal as an expert in autism. Dr. M. filed a report as well as three letters pertaining to Ms.
Dawson’s condition.

[100] Dr. M. testified on the nature of autism, autistic individuals as well as on Ms. Dawson’s condition. The credibility of Dr. M. as well as the accuracy of his statements and opinions was not challenged by the Respondent. The Tribunal finds Dr. M.’s testimony highly credible even if the evidence shows that in recent years, Ms. Dawson has worked with him and has co-authored
scientific articles with Dr. M.

Dawson v. Canada Post Corporation, 2008 CHRT 41

It is possible that Michelle Dawson worked with another psychiatrist, another Dr. M and has co-authored scientific papers with another Dr. M.

The truth is that while the CHRT said it would keep the identity of these persons private, they did not and they could not. By identifying Dr. M with such specificity they clearly identified Dr. M as Dr. Laurent Motton. The Tribunal made no mention of the numerous media appearances that Dr. Mottron has made with Michelle Dawson or his assistance in providing an affidavit in support of her application for intervenor status in the Auton proceedings where she sought status to oppose the efforts of parents seeking medicare coverage for their children's ABA treatment of their autism disorders.

Nothwithstanding the CHRT's questionable ruling on Dr. Mottron's credibility,(questionable by failure to mention the media and political activism of both Dr. Mottron and Michelle Dawson) the CHRT clearly identified Dr. Mottron as having diagnosed Michelle Dawson as "autistic" although no specific autism disorder was mentioned.

bullet said...

"Noah has said that before he could communicate he remembers having all the words in his head but not being able to make his mouth say them"

I had to respond to this because to a fairly large extent as a child and still to a large extent now that is exactly how things were and are for me. I'm not talking about just being a little shy, I'm talking about being aged 17 and not being able to ask for painkillers when the family dog banged her head against mine and left me with a very sore head for two weeks. I'm talking about going through secondary school with the same PE kit as I couldn't say I needed a new one. I'm talking about being in labour with my children and unable to tell the midwife I needed stronger painkillers. I'm talking about someone speaking to me and being unable to respond a lot of the time. I'm not talking about a little socially anxious in crowds, I'm talking about being unable to tell my own husband if we're out somewhere that I'd like to get a drink and as for saying if I'm worried or bothered about something there is very little chance of me being able to communicate that. I have said (well typed) frequently to people that it is as though I have a locked door in my head that stops the words getting out. I must stress I am verbal but have such difficulties initiating and expressing that I would be lying if I said it did not and does not impact on my life. And I will stress I'm not trying to belittle any difficulties your lads face or faced, just telling you my own experiences.
Four things have personally helped me enormously. The first is that I have a very supportive and understanding husband who doesn't expect me to be "typical". The second is that I can make the decision to avoid some things that previously caused me difficulties and that I was unable to ask for help about. The third is the internet, I am a hell of a lot more expressive online than in real life. The fourth is that there is more understanding nowadays of the spectrum.
Anyway, as I was saying I hope you don't get the impression I'm trying to say my personal Aspergers is severe because it's not. But just to let you know I can sympathise with the aspect of having the words but being unable to communicate them.

Marni Wachs said...

To NavyWifeAndMom,

I appreciate your comments.

I wanted to ask you what you thought of Dr. Bernadine Healy. I think following her is the answer - for all of the groups who advocate for more and better science on the vaccine/autism question to get behind her.

She should be the US Autism Czar that I have read that President Obama is going to be appointing. She is a progressive harmonizer just like the President. She is liked by all, except the extremely polarized, and neither extreme is productive (at best), and are likely detrimental to making collective progress.

I watch the US information because I have come to the conclusion that Canada is in such a deep sleep, as evidenced by the CBC's alleged journalism. Canada is asleep to the potential vaccine/autism link in a subset of children, and it's an impossible uphill battle to even reach the point of common sense, the bottom rung.

Now it's time for the non-mainstream people to not do what the Paul Offit's of the world do - to not act in the interest of progress. They need to check some of their personal interests at the door for the sake of unity and progress, IMO. Just like Jim Carrey said that presenting the case to act in the interests of children for LESS PROFIT is a tough sell at a board room table! And the non-mainstream should not be hypocritical.

The progress made in the US is being closely watched and admired by those in other countries who have an open mind, or are as Harold has written "are undecided" ie those that are not joining in the Canadian national autism trance.

Dr. Healy for Autism Czar!

navywifeandmom said...


I agree; she would make a great autism Czar. I don't think she would let extremists from either side cloud her judgement when researching this.

C'smom said...

AS the parent of a 4 yr old with PDD NOS, I am somewhat conflicted by some of the responses here in a forum that is supposed to support all families with autism spectrum disorder- it's almost like if our child isnt as disabled in the moderate to severe end of the spectrum we are the orphan children and "portray autism in a bad light"? -

Autism spectrum is like a ranbow with alot of diverse needs and presentations ... it's bad enough its somewhat that way in the system but to hear it among parents is rather disheartening :(

My heart goes out to those with children of classic autism the effects on a family are staggering.. My sister is profoundly disabled and my daughter has her challenges but they are more subtle - however for her her life will probably not be "normal" if there is such a thing ...and for me as a parent with two so called normal older children its heartbreaking...The problems with the system are not unique to one end of the spectrum or the other we need to work together for change not compare booboos and who deserves more :( Maybe its pms but this didnt set well with me at all...

The public has no idea what its like to deal with parenting a child with autism - the rat race of diagnosis and day to day changes that even the treatment makes- since becoming involved with Early Intervention , ABA etc Thankfully my daughter has thrived and as a parent I am so grateful to have had that available and covered by the province but once she turns 5 it seems our children drop off the radar unless you have the private insurance to cover costs...

- I dont wish to be harsh on one hand and agree with the other but no the CBC coverage was not reflective of the entire spectrum and that should indeed be addressed - However to always portray only the worst does not always help our situations either- News should be factual and balanced...

Granted I am new to this - our diagnosis was only this past spring and only came after I was extremely persistent with my family doc in getting her to see a pediatrician... with much eye rolling and poopooing from family freinds and doctor that I was being silly and overreacting as a mom- Moms always know their kids and I wasnt wrong. I am sure many of you as parents would nod that you ran into roadblock as well along the path...

As a newbie I apologize for speaking my mind but it seems to be ok for the rest of the bloggers... I simply ask for inclusion not exclusion- as a newbie maybe I dont have the political bugs worked out yet or rules of etiquette so fresh eyes etc may point out how things could be taken ...

i have read alot of your posts in past as a non member and today I joined google to be able to reply - your posts affect ppl and I thank you for that...