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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Ransom Notes Campaign is over (but negative media and representations are relentless as I accidentally catch Dr. Phil)

Our petition worked. Thanks to everyone who came aboard to sign the petition against this campaign. The Ransom Notes Campaign is over. Here is their public statement.

However, as I write this, I am watching another "horror" show about autism on Dr. Phil, which demonizes an autistic boy. One mom talks about how the "divorce rate is so high" with autistic children (which is unproven), and how she wishes her child would die before her so that she wouldn't have to worry about what might happen to him when he dies. Sounds eerily familiar to Allison Tepper Singer's wish to drive over the George Washington Bridge with her autistic child, and which she said with her autistic child in the room.

Dr. Sears is on talking about recovery. The video of the autistic kid who has "fully recovered" scoring the touchdown is on. That mum is proud. Again, best if your kid can be a champ, as Dr. Phil insinuates -- better if all autistic kids can become normal. I'm giving you a play-by-play here. Now parents talking about how autistic kids can be abused by teachers -- yes that unfortunately can happen by people who think autism is just a set of behaviours or who are impatient. I wish we could focus on understanding autism in a show, rather than the horror. Where are the autistic adults?? Why weren't they interviewed on Dr. Phil??

I just want to remind people how the Autism Speaks video said many of these things -- the divorce rate stuff, the murder, how hard it is. I want to repeat how when one thing is said, it is repeated in the media (especially by sensationalists like Dr. Phil). It gets repeated by parents. It gets obsessed about. People believe that autism is just a nightmare. It gets repeated so much that people cannot fathom not believing it. So, it must be true.

So much so, need we remind you of the abuses and copycat murders that transpired after Autism Everyday was aired. As a friend mentioned recently, we never hear about Katie McCaron through Autism Speaks. They just don't acknowledge her.

I propose that we all send a letter, once again to Dr. Phil, to thank him for "trying to help," but to at least provide a more balanced view of autism and help us also celebrate the achievements and lives of autistic people, while we also address our challenges. Next time he does a show, it should be full of autistic adults and those of us who are also happy, and coping, with our autistic children.


Blogger Maddy said...

Sounds like a great idea to me.
Best wishes

This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"until blogger comments get themselves sorted out.

6:00 PM  
Blogger kristina said...

Please sign me on.

Here's Autism's Edges responding to another show on autism on Dr. Phil.

8:45 PM  
Anonymous Aspiegirl said...

Hi Kristina and everyone else.

I saw that show on the boy Alex awhile back and was so upset. I wonder it this is a repeat. I actually sent the only letter I have ever sent to a show. I wrote this to DR Phil. (I saved it) I know more now on my own autism than I did then but figure I would share the letter as written with no fixes. I would probably word it much different today.

Note: They never did write me back.

The letter I sent to Dr. Phil Show:

My Opinion of The Dr. Phil Show

I watched the Dr. Phil Show about HFA/Aspergers, and I thought it was somewhat OK -- but they really focused on behaviors only and not the "other aspects" enough. It was that way at my house sometimes but not all the time.

I also feel that they have a way of only focusing on the behavior of the person with the disability and not the behavior of the other family members. The boy was acting out, but they also showed clips of the parents screaming at him.

I feel that all members of a family should be accountable for behaviors and that it is stressful for "everyone." I don't understand why they can point out the inappropriate behaviors of the disabled person and not point out the inappropriate behaviors of the other family members. This one sentence has been the fight of my whole life.

Validation helps. That is what parents need to learn. Yelling doesn't. I have been screamed at when having meltdowns and during the meltdown have screamed back at others. Why can't I scream but they can?

I do know that screaming at someone with HFA can cause the brain to be more over-stimulated than it already is and can lead to an escalation of the behavior.

I know the parents are stressed out, but for some reason the disabled person with brain damage always seems to be targeted as the cause of the problem. People should recognize that the person with a disability did not choose to be born with a damaged brain.

If a person with a disability is put on the spot as the blame for everything, he or she is really hurt. The person starts to hate himself for not being able to live up to all those expectations. How can he if he has brain damage?

It can be upsetting when you are disabled watching others focus on only that and not their own issues. I felt the entire family needs to work on issues. The parents need to talk calmer to the boy, and the boy needs to be taught techniques to calm down when he is over-stimulated, which is exactly what I am learning to do right now. This includes intervention from a weighted vest to learning to back away from activities when overwhelmed.

They did show the brain scans from a normal brain and a brain of someone with HFA/Aspergers, which was good for informing people that the issue is "neurological" and not a choice.

In general, people don't yell at persons in wheelchairs, but they do yell at those with disabilities who "look normal." Both disabilities are neurological, but the treatment towards each is so different.

The show only focused on behaviors and did not cover all the other aspects of HFA/Aspergers. There is much more to people with HFA/Aspergers than "behaviors."

To be blunt, watching the parents cuss out the boy and no one pointing that out p*ssed me off. But I was able to keep a possible meltdown under control -- because I almost had one.

I was a little worried to share my opinion because parents may think I am ignoring their needs, although I am not. I am trying to focus on everyone's needs and feel for both the parents and the person with HFA/Aspergers.

There is a reason that Clay states in his book that when working with autistic people, patience is required.



Please note that I feel that DR. Phil had the families best interest in mind and I do not feel that this opinion is a direct statement against Dr Phil it is just my viewpoint on the over all way that people treat people with "invisible" disabilities.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous fw2 said...

I refuse to watch these shows.

Dh said there was one on Tues night about a woman with 7 kids and 4 had autism. I didn't even look up at the tv so I have no idea what the title was.

I told him not to put it on.


8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No shows were as bad as the ones with Jenny McCarthy. Hopefully she'll crawl back under her rock.

5:34 PM  
Blogger aspiemom said...

I didn't see that one and am glad I didn't.

I would LOVE Oprah (I don't watch Dr. Phil) to interview Temple Grandin.

Or better yet, interview some normal folks. You know, the one who have to pay everything out of pocket and have 3 mortgages. And deep in debt so that their kids can have therapy.

And yes, interview a person with asperger's who is in the work place now.

Really, REALLY good post.

BTW, my name is Chrisd and I came here through Autism Bloggers. I have an 11yo w/asperger's syndrome.

Have a wonderful holiday.

12:26 AM  
Blogger tahirih said...

I think sometimes it is hard to appreciate the possibilities inherent in experiencing the world in a different way but I listened to a presentation by a deaf percussionist, named Evelyn Glennie yesterday and I think she manages to convey this idea in a unique and eloquent way. For those who would like to see her amazing presentation, go to

I tried to make the connection between the content of her presentation and my experience in playing with/being with young children with autism on my recent blog post at
but really, it is enlightening just watching this woman and then thinking about how limited and limiting terms like "disability" are. She is evidence (as are all the unique and amazing children that I know) that the world is richer for neuro and biological diversity.

1:24 AM  
Blogger Elissa - Managing Autism said...

Sadly it seems that hysteria and the negative 'stuff' is what sells best... and even more sadly, is what becomes common belief and 'misunderstanding' because of it...

6:11 AM  
Blogger geosaru said...

aspiemom - THANK you for pointing that out. I'm being raised in a poor family and, even though I had nightly tantrums, fights, self-injury, and all those other negatives, we never could afford any fancy therapy, my parents would just try to have patience and help me through stuff. I am today quite happy, though I really wish the school would have acknowledged earlier my need for speech therapy. Grade 12 is too late to help me as much as I need it.

2:38 AM  

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