I recently started reading a book I picked up at the local Border’s during their going out of business sale, and there is a part about halfway through the book that has really been bothering me for a few days now.
The book, Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and The Search For a Cure, by Dr. Paul A Offit, M.D. reviews several theories about the causes of autism and the “cures” pioneered by some doctors. Dr. Offit presents each case with solid facts, and uses sound science to show how the theories were rather misguided. I am just past the halfway mark in the book.
On page 132, Dr. Offit, while writing about one parent’s efforts in helping the public better understand autism and autistic individuals, shares an example of the way that far too many people felt (and may still feel) about autism. Alluding to the debunked belief that the preservative thimerosal in vaccines (he had already showed how mercury was not responsible for autism in children), recounts the following from Boyd Haley, who was giving a lecture about thimerosal causing autism (the quote is Haley’s):
“So one cow drops dead from mad cow disease and the government spends millions of dollars trying to figure out what’s going on. Well, here we’ve got this epidemic of mad child disease and they’re not doing a thing.”
This is from the same guy that called autistic children “damaged.” You can imagine that I was completely floored when I first read it. In fact, I had to read that part 3-4 times to make sure I read it correctly, and even tonight I cannot believe what I read and shared.
My feeling is that Boyd Haley is one of the lowest, most despicable people on earth. How dare he refer to my daughter as “damaged” or having “mad child disease.” That this “man” can use such terms about anybody and be able to sleep at night baffles me. If I were that insensitive, my hope is that somebody would pound some sense into me in a hurry. Now, I am not advocating that anybody harm Boyd Haley at all. I think that he has something seriously wrong in his head and needs professional help. I would love to be able to meet him and give him a piece of my mind, and let him know that I feel he is an idiot.
At several points in reading this book, I have found myself laughing at how quickly people will follow bad science; I have found myself shocked that doctors would cause parents to not get their children vaccinated; and on page 132, I found myself angry at someone for comparing my daughter to a mad cow. I have not finished Dr. Offit’s book, but I am glad that he put so many examples of misleading science into a book; I am thankful that Dr. Offit uses a more reasoned approach to his work than did the doctors that offered up such false hope to parents. I imagine that page 132 will not be the last page that will have an example of something that will upset me greatly. I would encourage any caregiver or family member of someone with autism (or Asperger’s) to read Dr. Offit’s book. If you are one of those people that sees an autistic person as “damaged,” please re-think your position. Kaitlyn is not damaged at all; she is an indescribable gift in our lives.
To Boyd Haley, I hope you have sought the mental counseling you need to realize that autistic people are not “damaged” or afflicted with a form of mad cow disease. I hope that you are getting the professional help you need. You, sir, are the damaged one.