Holly Robinson Peete: Autism Style, Towards Clarity and Grace

I wish Jenny McCarthy would use her celebrity to fight for all autism families who need support. It's infuriating when she promotes her extremist viewpoints as majority autism community opinions, when she sullies autism parents' reputations by belittling mainstream doctors and scientists, and when she uses intimidation and fearmongering to divide our community. I resent her campaigning for "recovery" as the only worthy autism goal, her refusal to advocate for all families with autism. I really wish she had the compassion to be a hope bearer for all our children.

Thankfully, Holly Robinson Peete is more than willing to speak up for the rest of us. And she has done so graciously -- applauding Jenny's spunk and tenacity -- while declaring that it's time to "share the spotlight with other often overshadowed issues that profoundly impact [autism] families daily." What a relief to read unflinching statements like:
"....so many likely will never be "recovered" and nothing, I mean nothing, makes a parent feel more guilty than thinking you could've "fixed" your kid but... well you didn't or couldn't afford to..."

"...the fact that African American, Asian and Hispanic children tend to be diagnosed much later than other children (sometimes 2-5 years later) is extremely concerning and needs more attention."

"Autism is not a divorce mandate."

"The face of autism is changing. Our children grow up. Understandably, every parent stresses about what will become of their child with autism in adulthood."

"Autism Advocates Who Actually Have Autism: What a concept! ...  I've had some ask me to be very mindful about my language when speaking about autism. For example, several have said to me they cringe at the word "cure." Many have expressed that they feel this was their destiny, that they were born this way so stop trying to "cure me." Whatever our views or personal agendas, we have to respect that."
How refreshing, how delightful, to hear a real autism advocate's voice in the Huffington Post!

Ms. Robinson Peete's article is especially appreciated because it comes on the heels of a typical HuffPo Jenny rant. In Who's Afraid of the Truth About Autism, Ms. McCarthy went into full spin-and-attack mode, attempting to re-inspire her believers after an avalanche of formal, high profile decisions destroyed several pillars of the long-derided vaccines-cause-autism theory. (And mere days after Jenny's HuffPo piece, three additional rulings found no link between autism and vaccines.) The Who's Afraid... post is full of standard, inflammatory Jenny accusations such as:
"Who's afraid of autism recovery? Perhaps it's the diagnosticians and pediatricians who have made a career out of telling parents autism is a hopeless condition."
Well, I am afraid of celebrities who use their influence to peddle unsubstantiated and extremely expensive alternative autism "recovery" claims to frightened parents whose children who will mostly not be helped.

Parents need calm, rational advice to help them avoid such "autism cult" thinking. To reassure them that it's Jenny and Co. who consider "unrecovered" autism hopeless, not the other autism professionals and parents -- we're too busy rejecting any kind of "hopeless" thinking, too busy supporting our children, too busy fighting for their rights, for their visibility, and for their acceptance, quirks and all.

I think Holly Robinson Peete may get what our autism families need. I really hope so. And I look forward to seeing just how high she can raise that beacon of hope.


As of this writing, Jenny McCarthy's Who's Afraid of the Truth About Autism post has over 3,000 comments. Here's one of the keepers, by jim65, whom I'd like to thank for summarizing my own thoughts so clearly:
...[antivaccinationist commenters], this is for you. You may really *feel* like you're rallying around a just cause. You might really *want* to be making a difference.

You're doing it wrong.

If you want to get involved in autism research, then go to school, get an education, and get in a lab. If that's not what you want to do, then leave the science to the scientists, and get involved in your local autistic community. Volunteer. Donate. Raise general awareness. I'm pretty sure you mean well, but the fact is, all you are doing is confusing the folks that don't know any better, dividing the community as a whole, perpetuating a myth, and putting thousands of children a year at risk because their parents bought some of this bad science from someone like you who sounds like they know what they're talking about.

P.S. I swear I will write about our My Baby Rides the Short Bus KQED Forum interview and readings later today!


  1. i do wish the MSM would pay attention to Ms. Robinson-Peete alot more. But I guess she is not blond enough, but is a typical autism-mom who has no wacked-out theories to defend. I too am glad HufPoprintedherarticle. It's about time someone paid attention to the real issues surrounding the autism community.

  2. I Like Holly, she has a lot to say. She's passionate about Autism but in a good way. She seems to truly care about people and her cause and she never points fingers of blame. She's more like, "Oh Well. We'll just have to deal."

    That's my kind of woman. As hard as it is sometimes, that's who I'd prefer to aspire to be like.

  3. I aspire to be less hot-headed and more like Holly, too.

    My wish is that Jenny would both open her heart to all our kids, and also back down and stick with "this is what helped my son, this is what seems to help *these* children with autism." Few deny that co-morbid conditions like digestive issues can exacerbate autism symptoms. But neither those conditions nor vaccines define autism.

  4. Sullivan (who, like you, I know in real life) writing at Left Brain Right Brain, links to this post


    Two of her points I found particularly important:

    #4 -- the lag in diagnosis & treatment for African American, Asian and Hispanic children

    #7 -- There are many adults with autism, some diagnosed in adulthood.


Respectful disagreement encouraged.