I've spent more time than I probably should reading AoA's posts and comments, and obviously outing the glaringly stupid bits on Countering Age of Autism. Between AoA and the woo-crowd at Huff, I've noticed, especially as I read multiple posts by the same individuals, some similarities besides the woo-silliness.
These parents, yes, fall victim to the availability heuristic, affect heuristic, and confirmation bias, that is a given. They are also prone to group polarization since AoA allows very few dissenting posters on; it appears to me that they let a token few on so that they can devour them. Overall, AoA isn't interested in dialogue or the exchange of scientific information.
AoA appears to be firmly engaged in helping these parents remain in victim-hood. They offer clear answers: vaccines did it. And if not vaccines, then the toxins in our environment, but it was probably the vaccines.
So, with a victim-hood mentality, the promise of recovery, and a clear bad guy to blame, AoA continues to foster dissatisfaction: with the government, with the medical field, with society for not believing them, with other parents with autistic children who don't follow them down the rabbit hole, into the abyss.
It doesn't help that these are also for the most part individuals who do not have a sound scientific education or critical thinking skills under their belt. But, these conspiracy parents are not all scientifically illiterate. Bright, well educated people with scientific backgrounds can also go down the rabbithole.
What it boils down to, I think, is pain and a person's coping skills. How do we react when we are in pain, physical or mental? Do we shut down, do we rage, do we cope, do we adapt? Not everyone has good adaptive coping skills. Not everyone has a positive attribution style.
If a scientific study were undertaken on parents of autistic children, would we find that the parents who blame vaccines for the autism have less adaptive coping skills? Would we find that their attribution style was negative? Some people need certainty in order to function. Blaming vaccines offers that certainty. It doesn't seem to move them past the rage, and I think that's AoA's fault in large part. There's no money in folks accepting and moving on. Which people could do, even if it were vaccines, if they were acknowledged and assisted. AoA doesn't do that. Doesn't offer support. It continually stirs up the pot. It agitates for no other purpose than to keep itself alive.
If AoA cared about parents it would move beyond and offer articles that focused on coping mechanisms, behavioral therapies that would help both the parent and child, would offer book reviews on autism books, would invite the experts to write and participate on the site.
It would offer a forum for encouragement, for suggestions. It would offer support and a moving away from victim-hood.
That AoA does not says everything.