Time to Move On: AoA is an empty, despairing promise

What to do on the first real day of spring break? Sleep in, of course! A lovely thing, no doubt. Then wander over to Orac's to see what off-the-wall comments Bensmyson could leave after the spectacular takedown by Science Mom (thank you; I was also looking at his blog, since the story he was telling didn't jibe with what I remembered reading). Well, proving that truth is no barrier and getting caught in self-justifying no reason, bensmyson continued with a string of posts that boggle the mind. If you're bored, you might wander over and watch the regulars pounce on the inconsistencies.

AoA has its regular rash of nonsense over there. Who believes they're really a "daily web newspaper of the autism epidemic" any more? They're a daily rag of conspiracy theories over various ingredients in various vaccines and a media, government, and medical establishment out to turn an entire generation into sick kids, blah, blah, blah. Do reasonable people listen to them, take them seriously anymore, really?

It's very rarely about autism. They have a formula: Saturdays run a story by a mom claiming to be a heroic martyr to the cause and rail on about how awful autism is and somewhere in there, there's a real kid, damnit! I just have to fish him out of there with the help of course, of products advertised all over AoA's page. Then, during the week, run a bunch of articles trashing various people, companies, or the government. Then, run a piece praising Wakefield. Once a month, send in Jake with a badly thought out research paper. Once or twice a month, send in Handley to badmouth Orac or Novella or brandish a study about monkeys as if the fate of the world rested on it. Umm, then let Stagliano put her foot in the mouth at some point in there. Oooh, then Kirby. Then let Heckenlively back in to write something to prove science and he really aren't on a first-name basis. Did I cover it all?

Shorter recap:  victim, martyr, saint, bad guys making us victims, martyrs, and saints (repeat three times), bad report of science (repeat twice), rail against the evil science bloggers, research paper, sticky blood guy (more bad science), monkeys, they're out to get us, victim, martyr, saint, try-my-product, and repeat ad nauseum.

The latest rash of posts: talking points on the vaccine court's rulings: the judges are out to get us and our vaccine-injured children. We're melting, we're melting. Call the media and say these three things over and over: conspiracy, conspiracy, conspiracy.

Wow, right?

For sheer audacity in believing that the world's out to get them, they win hands down. For complete disconnect from reality, they win.

But, I'll be honest, they're getting more than a bit boring, Like most people, I need an optimal level of novelty to get the dopamine pinging, and they're letting me down with their broken record. They're not constructive. They say they're all about recovering kids, but the proof of that is not in the pudding; they've thrown their pudding out with the empty suitcase that mom over the weekend had.

AoA moves the debate, the conversation, not one iota forward on how to actively help families NOW. How do we help families cope and adjust now? How do we give them real hope, hope based on reality, that their children will grow and develop and learn?

Parents out there struggling need to have alternatives to AoA, Safeminds, TACA, and Generation Rescue. They need to know that with hard work and dedication, that they can help their children find their place in the world, to reach their potential, whatever that potential might be.

Parents need to know that they are not alone and that they need not despair. AoA doesn't do that.

Countering Age of Autism is about more than rebutting the scientifically inaccurate mutterings of the AoA crowd. It's about (yes, with some measure of snarkiness)  accurately reporting of what the science has to say about autism and about being a positive beacon (see the blogroll for over a hundred bloggers who are focused on various aspects relating to autism, all of them non-woo, non-desperation, and many of them by autistic individuals themselves).

So, if I do not attend to what AoA says, if I don't go through the mindnumbingly tedious task of going through most of the bilge put out over there, it's because I believe we've all reached the point where we could simply stipulate, if it's over there, it ain't right. If it's interesting or unbelievably egregious, I'll tackle it, but there are far more important tasks we should be doing.

I personally don't care what you as parents to autistic children think caused your child's autism IF your focus is not on that but is instead on helping your child achieve the best possible life, while not experimenting on him or her. If you're interested in making the world a better place for all those with disabilities and helping to change society to make sure that they are accepted, accommodated, and welcomed as full, participating members, we can work together. If you're deep into the woo and think your child is yours to do with as you please as you bend, fold, spindle and mutilate him in order to get him to fit your preconception of normality, well, I'll be countering you.

We need to offer parents and family members of people on the spectrum an alternative to woo and despair. And we need to do this hand-in-hand with the individuals on the spectrum. We've been trying to do that, my friends on my blogroll and I-- some of them for so much longer than I.

I think we need to try harder, both in our local communities and out here on the interwebz. We need to let our light shine.


Science Mom said...

Bensmyson is, unfortunately, rather typical of the cognitive dissonance that others like him have. It's just not healthy and I simply don't understand the need to so grossly distort reality to fit into some desired scenario, that people would compromise themselves to such a degree. It really is so sad.

Benjamin X said...

The website is really getting closer and closer everyday to marginalization. Their mantra is always that you can't hide the truth and that one day they will all be vindicated. They got it half right.

KWombles said...

Science Mom,

It is sad. And all the more sad when you show them they've altered it and watch them work double time to still the whirling vortex in their minds.

I think they are truly unreachable. So, we have to find the best way to inoculate others from the same mistakes.

Not a student leaves any of my courses, be they English or Psychology without learning about just how wonderfully twisty our minds can be. If we know we are prone to memory errors, self-justifying, confirmation bias, affect and availability heuristics, we may not entirely prevent these errors, but we'll be more likely to be willing to recognize them when someone points out we've fallen to one of them. It should keep us humble.

Benjamin X,
That is, ultimately, the goal; that if they cannot be open to science, if we cannot reach them to get them to reconsider their positions, then the marginalization of their ideas by society is necessary. All while still upholding their essential humanity and recognizing that it is all too easy to hold tightly onto one's ego and rationalize oneself into untenable positions.

Clay said...

I don't know how you do it. I've tried, and I just can't read all that stuff on HuffPo and AoA. I get bogged down in that mire and find myself thinking, "Life is too short!"