Today, I was given a link to conservative talk show host Michael Savage's recent broadcast about Autism and what he called its over diagnosis. Less than twenty seconds in and Mr. Savage's ignorance has me seething. I was compelled to write this letter and share it with the Internet.
I appreciate anyone who wants to do something to further the cause of autism research and understanding. You sir, have done neither. I have a piece of advice for you: stick to what you know before running off your mouth.
Last week, you claimed that 99% of those out there diagnosed with autism are 'fakers'. Similarly, you say that if you can't SEE the disability when someone has a handicapped placard, they also are fakers. That's a battle for another day.
You ask why the definition of autism has been changed to include autism spectrum disorders. It's quite simple. Research, research and more research. Those who were classified as 'odd' or 'different' even ten years ago now can receive treatment to better help them understand and assimilate into society, thanks to all that research. That's the hope, anyway.
The medical community is over diagnosing autism? Seriously? Let me give you another situation. Would you say that doctors are over diagnosing cancer? Of course you wouldn't. A generation ago, we hardly ever heard of anyone getting (or being treated) for cancer. Over the last 50, 20, even 10 years, diagnosis and treatments have taken astronomical strides. In our grandparent's day, people would die never knowing they had cancer. Now, cancer is not a death sentence.
My son is a faker, and his doctors have over diagnosed him. So you say. Have you met him? Have you spent more than ten minutes with ANYONE diagnosed on the autism spectrum before you made such a bold pronouncement? Where did you get this data from?
Tell you what, I've got a great idea. How about you come to my house and spend a week with us. No, wait a minute, let's make it two weeks. What do you say to that?
The first week, you can spend with my son, Gameboy, without benefit of any medication that in your expert option has been over prescribed. Then the second, he'll resume his medications. This way, you can go back to your listeners and back up your statement.
I'll clue you in on what your days will be like, just so you're not coming into this completely blind. A typical day with a child on the autism spectrum:
You will awaken way too early to find that Gameboy has raided the pantry or fridge. Typically, he will eat a whole bag of hamburger buns, a half bag of cereal, a bag of corn chips or most of a bag of bread around 5:30 or 6:00am. As a result, we don't have these items in our house very often. It sucks to try to make sandwiches or burgers.
Next, you'll fight him to brush his teeth, wash his face, change into clean clothes and take his medication. Oh right, the first week, you won't have to worry about medications. Gameboy will start his first round of badgering you to let him play games-that is, if he hasn't already snuck the games into his room and hidden under the bed.
Next, he'll complain that he's starving. Never mind the fact that he ate 6 portions of cereal, or 8 buns or something else that isn't suitable. He expects you to make all his meals Previous experience as a short order cook might help here.
Any time you tell this child "no", he'll whine loudly, state "But I wanted" or "NOOOOOOOOO" or "You said I could..." even when you didn't. No amount of talking rationally helps here, he'll still whine and complain until you scream loudly that he's going to lose more game time or tell him that he has to go to his room.
He's only this way because we're so permissive, right? Tell that to my neighbors who hear him crying all day long, and me or my husband yelling. We believe in corporal punishment, so that argument won't work, either. Your absent father statement doesn't fly either-my husband does more than his fair share in child rearing in this house.
Let's move to lunch. Don't forget his medication. Oh, good luck figuring out something he'll eat. Autism spectrum children are known for their extremely picky eating. We're lucky, Gameboy will eat a larger variety of foods than most, but much less than the average child. Factor in that many ASD kids also have food dye allergies and it makes meal prep interesting if you aren't a diligent label reader. Luckily, what's in our pantry is 99% appropriate for Gameboy.
By this time, you will have probably begun to notice how much he talks about games. All. Day. Long. Everything pertains to games. You and Gameboy probably will get along great, since you both monologue on topics nonstop, frequently things you known nothing about. Telling him to knock it off doesn't help. This is where his OCD over rides everything else. He has to finish saying what he's started to say and will drive you crazy. Oh wait, he's a faker, so I guess it won't bother you much, right?
We're still in summer break here, so at this point, you might want to get him involved in an activity. A swim? A ride on a bike? Oh, yeah, there's a related diagnosis, Dysgraphia. See, many ASD children have gross and fine motor skill issues.
At 12, his handwriting is laborious and slow. He doesn't have the coordination to swim or ride a bike. His still has training wheels and I can't tell you the last time he even tried to ride his bicycle. Besides, he'll bug you for the video games-even when he's been on restriction from them for two weeks and doesn't get them back for another week. He'll drive you so crazy talking about games that you'll tell him that asking for them one.more.damn.time. will get him another day of punishment each time he asks you.
Why's that? Because his disorder prevents him from having any impulse control. He'll do something, knowing full well he'll get punished because HE CAN'T STOP HIMSELF FROM DOING IT. Yeah, I know, I'm a lousy parent and I don't know how to set boundaries. That's why I'm inviting you here for two weeks, because you are the expert! Right?
Somehow, you'll get through dinner. Should be easy, right? It's the calm before the scream and cry fest that is bedtime. I'll tell you, it's the same song and dance every night, so you'll hear such great nuggets of joy as:
"I'm not ready for bed"
"I'm not tired"
"But I don't want to"
"I HATE BEDTIME"
All of these will be yelled at top volume, over and over, in a screechy whining that makes Veruka Salt seem like a pleasant, well mannered young lady.
If you do succeed in getting him into bed and the lights out, your job won't be done. He'll sneak into the bathroom with a book until you send him back to bed. He may snag a hand held video game and hide under his bed with it. He may try to sneak out of his room to get other things to bring in until 3:00 or 4:00 am . That's because, he, like all those other so called fakers, has a sleep issue, too. He's on two medications for his sleep issues, but they mean he may get six hours of sleep instead of four.
You'll see that it's not as simple as saying we parents are too permissive or that his psychiatrists are just diagnosing this disorder so that we can get federal funds. Do you know how much a month SSDI he is receiving, with our household combined income last year of under $30,000? Take a guess, Mr. Savage, since you're such an expert.
Are you ready for this? $105.00. Yes, that decimal is in the right place. My husband had been unemployed, and Gameboy's check went from $79.00 to that huge sum. I'm funding my Hawaiian vacation with that kind of moolah, wouldn't you say? That amount didn't even cover his medication copays.
Then there's the eight months that we either had no insurance or insurance that didn't cover his prescriptions. We spent $1200 to $1300 a month on those medications. Medications that you don't think are needed, because he's faking. Milking the government, you say? Heck, the subsequent financial tailspin of paying for those contributed to my foreclosure this year. I didn't ask the government to bail me out of that, thanks.
We're not even going to get into the fact that at 12, he's aged out of daycare programs. Problem is, he's got the emotional maturity of a 3 year old, so it's not good to leave him alone for long. His father and I haven't enjoyed many of the luxuries that most parents do. We don't go out, because we don't think the average babysitter can handle him.
Heck, some days, I don't think even I can. I sometimes think that maybe he should be hospitalized so that he doesn't become a danger to himself because of that lack of impulse control. Then again, that would be milking to government, too, wouldn't it?
So, Mr. Savage, we're ready for you. I'll put the boys bunk beds back together and have them share a room. This way, you can have your own room while you're here. You won't be needing a hotel room, because parenting (even for two weeks) is a 24 hour job. I'd suggest you rest up before getting here, because you won't get any once you're here and doing a better job and dealing with my son and exposing his fakery.
Since you're such an expert and want to HELP children legitimately disabled by Autism, this is the perfect opportunity for you to put your money where your mouth is. You know so much about ASD, it'd be a joy to gain your insights and wisdom on a personal level. Perhaps you can even do a remote from our house while you're here, kind of an "In the Trenches Look at a Child Faking their Autism"? Wouldn't that help your ratings?
Mr. Savage, I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Just give me a little heads up of when you'll be here, I do need to carve out some time to get the room ready for you.