Thursday, November 01, 2007

Autism Awareness (Or Lack Thereof) At The Etownian

Khouri E. McGrann is a staff writer for the Etownian Online, an online publication of the Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. In Autism attacks: Addled adults aren’t appreciative the writer offers up opinions on the early screening recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The source of the expertise behind those opinions is not revealed in this editorial in which, amongst other pearls of wisdom, the staff writer informs us that:

The only reason parents should feel the need to test their child at all is a doctor’s reccomendation. [sic]

The author clearly knows nothing of the role parents typically play in bringing health issues to the attention of medical professionals. Our profoundly autistic son is 11 1/2. 10 years ago, knowing nothing of autism, we sought input from our family doctor concerning various behavioral issues we noticed about him and an almost complete lack of any speech. Our doctor said "he's a boy, boys develop speech later". We weren't convinced and our doctor was kind enough to refer us to a pediatrician who, after conducting various tests, concluded that our son was PDD-NOS. That diagnosis was subsequently changed to Autism Disorder and he has been assessed by both pediatrician and psychologist as profoundly autistic.

The Etownian editorial writer then goes on to offer this less than gentle reproach to worried parents:

If parents constantly misread their children’s behavior, then they aren’t appreciating their son or daughter’s unique qualities. They are acknowledging that their baby isn’t like every other baby and assuming something must be wrong, instead of valuing a special, unique offspring. I know I wouldn’t be too happy if my parents told me, “Yes, you were a quiet baby. And you loved color-coordinating your blocks. We thought you were autistic. We had you tested. Twice, in fact.”

To put this in the politest language possible this kind of lecture is a crock. Parents who seek medical attention for their children do so precisely because they love and value their children and have a deep sense of responsibility for their welfare. This "failure to appreciate your child" attack on parents is nonsense, pure nonsense.

But I suppose I should be thankful that the author has shared such autism wisdom with us. After all, were it not for reading this editorial I would never have known that:

Currently, one in 350 are autistic, making it more common than childhood cancer, blindness, and downs syndrome.

Someone should pass that bit of autism knowledge to the Center for Disease Control which erroneously estimates autism prevalence at 1 in 150.

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