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Autistic Laughter? Conor's Laugh Is His Own, It Is NOT An Autistic Laugh

Posted May 31 2009 10:14pm
Jumping the sharkis acolloquialismcoined byJon Heinand used byTVcriticsand fans to denote the point in a TV show or movie series' history where the plot veers off into absurd story lines or out-of-the-ordinary characterizations. .... The phrase refers to a scene in a three-part episode of the American TV seriesHappy Days, first broadcast on September 20, 1977. In the third of the three parts of the "Hollywood" episode, Fonzie (Henry Winkler), wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, jumps over a confined shark whilewater skiing.

Wikipedia, Jumping the Shark

Autism researcher and anti-ABA activist Michelle Dawson, has joined with William Hudenko, a clinician and researcher who presented a paper recently about the nature of autistic laughter, in arguing for the existence of a uniquely "autistic" laughter. I do not pretend to have read the Hudenko paper. I admit I do not have any inclination to read a paper that attempts to categorize autistic versus non-autistic laughter. The attempt to establish an " autistic laugh" is nothing more than an exercise in stereotyping, unacceptable in today's society when stereotyping based on race, age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or physical disability.

My son Conor, diagnosed at the age of 2 with PDD -NOS, subsequently changed to Autistic Disorder as the development gaps between him and his chronological peers widened significantly, is a great joy in my life. As I typed this comment on the upstairs computer Conor came into the room with a great big Conor smile on his face to hang out with Dad. He knows how much I enjoy his presence. He knows that his presence makes me happy. Conor's smiles and laughs are his and his alone. They are not part of some imaginary " autistic laughter" stereotype dreamed up by autism researchers and ideologues.

When I commented on my own observations that Conor's laugh is genuine, that he laughs out loud with others and when he is in a room by himself watching a favorite video my comments, about my own son of 13 years, were dismissed by the ever arrogant ... and in this case out of touch with reality ... Michelle Dawson as being " anecdotal":

Replacing autism research with the anecdotes, assumptions and certainties of autism advocates (if Mr Doherty says so, it must be true) would I'm sure be popular with autism advocates.

Ms Dawson's use of the phrase "autism advocates" is actually code for parents of autistic children but since she doesn't want to appear anti-parent she uses the expression autism advocates sarcastically, a tone which permeates most of her writings.

I fully support scientific and evidence based approaches to understanding causes, treatments and hopefully some day cures, of autism spectrum disorders. I reject categorically though the attempt to stereotype all autistic persons as having the same personalities, even the same laughs. I do not believe in the existence of an "autistic laugh" which is not scientifically proven at all but is simply assumed to exist by Ms Dawson.

Some parents may look to Michelle Dawson for guidance about how to raise their autistic children, or how to understand them, but I am not one of them. And I absolutely reject , as pure unadulterated nonsense, her unscientific opinion that parents can not understand and interpret their own child's laughter. After 13 years of living with, caring for, and having fun with Conor I know his laughter is genuine, I know it is real and infectious, I know how much joy his laughter brings me each and every day.

Parents are often told that valuable, and limited, public resources should not be wasted on further research of possible vaccine autism connections ( Despite statements to the contrary from Dr. Bernadine Healy, Dr. Julie Gerberding, Dr. Duane Alexandre and neurologist and successful vaccine autism litigant, Dr. Jon Poling). I suggest that valuable research dollars should not be spent trying to establish the existence of a unique "autistic laugh".

As a parent, as a human being, I do not need researchers to tell me what the smiles and laughs on of my son Conor pictured above mean. I have experienced them. In interpreting such everyday human expressions parental experience is more than just "anecdotal' it is first hand evidence, just as the pictures above are evidence. Can anyone see the pictures of Conor above and tell me that he is NOT genuinely smiling and laughing? Do you really need a research study to interpret and understand what Conor is feeling in those pictures?

Autistic children and adults need research into serious issues. William Hudenko and Michelle Dawson have jumped the shark with their " autistic laughter" nonsense. Valuable research dollars should not be scattered in their misguided waters as bait for the shark.


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