Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nerd Alert

Confession: In school, I loved being assigned a book report. Most likely I groaned along with the rest of the class and added a dramatic eye roll when the teacher gave out such an assignment to keep up appearances, but secretly inside I was already planning exactly what book I would read and how my report would look.
Bigger Confession: I still have the materials from several book reports done in grade school, including a semi-famous (in my mind) one I wrote...and performed (don't ask) for the entire fifth grade on "The Bridge to Terabithia."

Now that I have confessed my nerdiness to blogworld and all of you are wondering why and how I performed a book report....I want to share my own little blog book report about Jenny McCarthy's book "Louder than Words."

If you have ever read any of Jenny's books it is apparent she is quite intelligent and significantly different from the spastic blond she portrayed on MTV's Singled Out (back in the day when MTV played music). Her writing is blunt (often times to the point of being crude...but it fits in this case), emotion-driven, and speaks to the core of every Mommy's heart. She chronicles her journey through her son's diagnosis of autism at the age of 2 1/2, conveying how incredibly frustrating and heart-breaking such a battle can be for a parent and a child.

An early diagnosis of autism is crucial because there is a limited amount of time in which a child with autism may be significantly helped (notice that I said "may"....not everyone responds to treatment, regardless of age or intervention level.). Jenny speaks directly about trying to pull her child "out of the window" by finding early aggressive treatment. Through tremendous amounts of research, Jenny finally found a combination of ABA therapy, diet, , and supplementation that has significantly helped her son.

Enough synopsis. Get the book. Read it. You will learn something.

The message of this book has stuck with me in the days since finishing it, mainly because I am quite interested in autism spectrum disorders and because I think we have an epidemic on our hands that is largely ignored by the medical community. I completed graduate school a little over six years ago with a degree in Clinical Child Psych. Guess how much of that time was spent discussing autism....about half a class period total. This was not because I was in a shady program (which I wasn't), it was because six years ago ADHD was the main thing on the radar and autism rates were still about 1 in 3000. Today they are 1 in 150. A school psychologist I worked with while teaching said that during her PhD work in the 1980's, her class was told they would likely never work with a child with autism because it was such a rare disorder. Today she finds herself bombarded with students with autism.

The main reason Jenny McCarthy's book really spoke to me was because she talked about healing her son's autism. Healing...not curing...people with autism is a powerful idea. Autism may be reversible in some kids, when treated early and aggressively (why it works with some and not others remains a mystery). For four years, I worked closely with three kids in particular who were labeled as having "high-functioning autism." Those kids struggled almost constantly to navigate life, their families struggled (all three sets of parents are now divorced...some from a second marriage), and I struggled to teach them. There were improvements made...some more than others....but the road was long and difficult every day, sometimes every hour. A notebook currently resides in my attic of one little boy's (not so little now as he entered the seventh grade this year) journal to me about his daily fight with the demons of autism that resided in his head. It is powerful writing...sometimes spoken in jibberish or pictures...that demonstrates the neurological warfare that is autism

So what's the point of this post (other than to confirm my nerd status by writing a book report by choice). I am not proposing that you need to place a check in the mail to Cure Autism Now or begin researching a cure for autism in your basement. I am not speaking out against vaccines, preservatives, environmental toxins, or mercury levels (although I do have opinions on all of these....most of which were different just three years ago). I am encouraging you to educate yourself because autism is not the vision portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man" is an issue deeply affecting our society.

Oh yeah...and read the book. It was good. I liked it.

The End.


margk said...

As a mother of two boys, I will tell you that I have paid very close attention to autism over the past 6 years. I may sound ignorant, but I do not believe in the flu shot. We delayed our second son's vaccinations and through my own research and visits with the nutritionist, I believe a lot of us are causing our own health problems by not being informed of the foods we eat/feed our children. I asked our doctor recently what her theory was on why the numbers are so high and she said that autism was always there, it was just diagnosed incorrectly. I think that is completely bogus. The medical community needs to wake up and start listening to the mothers/scientists/nutrionists. I hate to be paranoid, but I will breathe a sigh of relief when Nicholas reaches his 3rd birthday.

Phillips Family said...

Great points, Margaret! I do not think that the main reason there has been an increase in autism is because of faulty diagnosis either. I totally believe in the mind/gut connection (what we eat affects our brain and health) and really am starting to pay very close attention to the things in our food.

Kelly said...

Having a boy has made me much more aware of anything in the media that is autism related. It's very strange that the #s are so high for boys. I've seen Jenny McCarthy on several shows promoting the book and have been very impressed with her honesty and passion.

I haven't researched enough of the information to have a real educated opinion on the causes. Sadly, the more I read the more worried I become. So, I'm trying to find that balance of being aware/educated and making good decisons for my son, but at the same time, not living in fear.

I'm stressed just saying it! :)

Kelli said...

It's interesting to me that so many more boys are affected by autism than girls. Is there a reason?