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Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion

Posted Nov 07 2008 2:57pm

Dr Mike Fitzpatrick’s new book ‘ Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion ’ is now available (Amazon: UK, US, Canada ). Just as I did for Paul Offit’s Autism’s False Prophets, I’ll give this a short review and a long review.

The short review: Holy shit, this book is good. Go buy it.

OK, so the long review. I got my copy when I was but a few ten’s of pages away from finishing Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science and try as I did I simply couldn’t resist putting Ben’s excellent book aside for the duration it would take me to read Mike’s book. Ben can rest easy in that it took me only a few absorbed and fascinated hours to read Mike’s book and I will thus be back with him shortly.

Mike starts with an overview of what is to come through the rest of the book – a subject delineated overview of the last ten years or so of attempts to defeat autism.

Mike’s son (who coincidentally is the same age as my own) is introduced and we hear of the abject lack of options given to parents in the early 90’s.

The clinic staff were all sympathetic and courteous, but they appeared to have no practical suggestions…...We did not return.

It was at this time that Mike came into contact with two names, now steeped in the autism alt-med industry: Paul Shattock and Bernard Rimland. Shattock liked GF/CF and Rimland liked mega-dose vitamins together with anti-oxidants and also the GF/CF diet. However:

I read the papers from Sunderland and San Diego with great interest…...To say I was disappointed was an understatement. What immediately struck me about the writings of Shattock, Rimland and their colleagues was that, rather than indicating an innovate approach at the cutting edge of medical science, they revelaed a retreat into the byways and cul-de-sacs of the biological psychiatry of the 1960s and 1970s.

Then, later on, Mike discusses the beating heart of this book – the delusion itself:

I have become increasingly concerned at the damaging consequences of the quest to ‘defeat autism’. The movement that has advanced under this banner on both sides of the Atlantic seeks to redefine autism as an epidemic disease caused by vaccines or some other, as yet unidentified, environmental factor. Despite the lack of scientific support for this theory it has acquired the character of a dogmatic conviction for many who uphold it, in the face of all contradictory evidence.

Mike makes no bones about the fact that he considers (rightly so in my opinion) the quest to ‘defeat autism’ to be damaging on numerous levels. It is damaging financially to parents. It is damaging to relationships. It is damaging to children’s health. But most of all, it is damaging in the attitude that the crusade itself expresses towards autistic people. Mike, I am delighted to report, quotes extensively from Frank Klein and Jim Sinclair and makes nice mentions of Autism Hub bloggers at various times.

To me, this is an ‘autistic friendly’ book. Parents are not given any empowering pity just because they are parents and the voices and opinions of autistic people are given equal space to those who are not autistic. Mike does not try to pretend that everything is rosy in the garden of autism but he does most definitely portray the need to defeat autism as damaging. This is a must read for all parents and all people involved however peripherally in the field of autism.

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