Autism Reality

A Shout Out for Heather Doherty Writes

I am pleased to give a shout out for my wife, Heather, and her brand new blog site Heather Doherty Writes:

Apart from being a mother to two sons, one of whom is profoundly autistic, and working at the UNB Law School Library, Heather has found time to resume her education completing a BA (English), a writers program at Humber College and written a novel Goody Bledsoe which has been published by Oberon Press. Fortunately her husband (me) is a heck of a nice guy, easy to get along with … etc etc etc.

February 17, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Sweet Surrender – Autism’s Siren Call

“In Greek mythology the Sirens or Seirenes (Greek Σειρῆνας or Acheloides) were Naiads (sea nymphs) who lived on an island called Sirenum scopuli. In some different traditions they are placed on Cape Pelorum, others in the island of Anthemusa, and still others in the Sirenusian islands near Paestum, or in Capreae (Strab. i. p. 22 ; Eustath. ad Horn. p. 1709 ; Serv. I.e.}. All locations were described to be surrounded by cliffs and rocks. Approaching sailors were drawn to them by their enchanting singing, causing them to sail into the cliffs and drown.”

– From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Parents and families of children newly diagnosed with autism will face many daunting, at times overwhelming challenges. As the father of a soon to be 11 year old boy with classic Autism Disorder I have dealt with those realities for the 9 years since my son was diagnosed at age 2. One of the more seductive challenges that parents will face is the siren calls of those who oppose any effort to treat, educate or heaven forbid change an autistic child for the better. Do not listen to the sirens’ call.

The sirens will outright mislead you and tell you that autism is not a disorder or a disability, that it is simply another variation in the human condition, neither good nor bad. They will beguile you with tales of how autistic intelligence is simply different, perhaps even better, than the intelligence of those whom they label as NT or neurologically typical. The sirens will tell you not to mourn for your autistic child, to accept your child’s autism; the will even tell you to find joy in your child’s autism. They will encourage you to accept your child as he or she is and not to seek to change your child.

The sirens will not talk about such realities as lack of communication, self injurious behavior, or lack of awareness of potentially life threatening dangers posed by automobiles or broken glass. The sirens will not tell you that some autistic children are sent home from neighborhood schools sometimes in handcuffs or that they are sometimes housed in criminal detention centers for youths because no decent facilities exist in which autistic youths and adults with severe behavioral issues can reside. They will not talk to you about autistic adults residing in mental health hospitals.

The attraction of the siren’s call is the attraction of sweet surrender. If a parent is told that their child’s autism is a beautiful thing, a joy to be embraced by the parent it will be easier to let go, to give up and to refrain from taking on the enormous challenge of doing the best that can be done for your child. It is not easy to raise, care for and educate many autistic children. It is absolutely one of the most rewarding tasks a parent can face but it is challenging, stressful and costly. It would be easy to give up and let go. The sirens would encourage you to give in, hug your child (as though you don’t already anyway) and not try to change your child with proven effective methods like Applied Behavioral Analysis.

Don’t listen to the sirens’ call. Do not squander your child’s opportunity to learn, grow and develop to the fullest extent possible. Give your child the intervention he or she needs now. The sirens are not responsible for raising your child and providing him/her with the skills necessary to survive, prosper and enjoy life. That is your responsibility. The time to teach and reach your autistic child is NOW. Do not squander it on the sirens’ foolishness. They will not be there to help your child when help is need. They will not help teach him/her to speak and read and brush his/her teeth. They will not be there if your child breaks windows and mirrors with his hands, bites his wrists, gets sent home in restraints or goes off to reside in institutional care. These are not exaggerated claims. They are realities that occur. And the best way to avoid them is to help your child now with proper evidence based intervention provided by properly trained service providers. And learn how to apply those interventions in the home yourself on a 24/7 basis.

Do not listen to the sirens. Love your child, embrace your child. But fight your child’s autism and do the best you can for your child.

February 17, 2007 Posted by | Applied Behavior Analysis, autism disorder, autism education | 12 Comments

Dear Conservative MP’s – Please Vote FOR Autistic Children

M. Allen, B. Casey, G. Keddy
P. Mackay,R. Moore, G. Thompson
F. Manning, L.Hearn

Dear Honourable Members of Parliament

As Conservative Members of Parliament you will probably be directed to vote NO to Charlottetown Liberal MP Shawn Murphy’s private member’s motion calling for a National Autism Strategy including amendments to the Canada Health Act to help ensure that, regardless of where they live in Canada, autistic children will have access to government funded early interventions which are evidence based and proven effective in dramatically improving their lives. Senior members of your party have indicated that constitutional jurisdiction precludes endorsing this proposal. With respect, I think you all know differently. Cooperative federalism has long ago rid this country of self imposed timidity in the face of challenges which although originating in fields within provincial jurisdiction reach across provincial boundaries and abilities limit all Canadians. Without cooperative federalism there would be no Canada Health Act to begin with and Atlantic Canada would look much different today and not for the better.

The truth is that 1 in 150 children in YOUR riding, based on Center for Disease Controls most recent estimates, have some form of autism spectrum disorder. Autism, despite movies about individuals who have accomplished great feats, is, for most persons with autism, a debilitating disorder marked by very limited communication skills, aggressive , even life threatening, self injurious behaviour and a life of institutional care. Many of the 1 in 150 children with autism disorder in your riding will be confronted by these realities.

I have a son with classic autism disorder who is described by his pediatrician as profoundly autistic but I choose to speak of some of these painful realities because I believe that his life and others like him can be improved dramatically by facing these realities and providing evidence based treatment and education. Hugs are good, but hugs are not enough. Kind words are appreciated but kind words work no miracles. Evidence based interventions, supported by literally hundreds of serious studies, will dramatically improve the lives of the autistic children in your riding. But such intervention is expensive and requires government funded assistance to ensure that all children receive this medically necessary help.

Although your party will undoubtedly instruct you to vote no, I ask you to vote your conscience on Shawn Murphy’s national autism strategy motion. Atlantic Canadian conservatives have historically shown both independence of thought and action and a keen social conscience. From Robert Stanfield to Richard Hatfield Atlantic conservatives have not been reluctant to help those who most needed help. I ask you to consider that tradition of social conscience and help the autistic children in your riding by voting YES to Shawn Murphy’s private member’s motion for a National Autism Strategy and amendments to the Canada Health Act.


Harold L Doherty
Fredericton NB
Conor’s Dad

February 17, 2007 Posted by | Applied Behavior Analysis, autism, autism disorder, autism interventions, Canada Health Act, national autism strategy, Shawn Murphy | Leave a comment