Me and Leo and The Doctors

(I am talking about autism pseudoscience, not saying, "Yes, they're real.")
[image: Screenshot from the TV Show The Doctors, with me gesticulating
next to B.J. Freeman, a white woman with silvery shoulder-length ombre hair.]
I was on TV show The Doctors earlier this week, and was so glad to have the opportunity to speak out against bogus, dangerous autism treatments. I was glad even thought it meant talking about all the crap we put Leo through when we didn't know any better—which is why I co-founded Thinking Person's Guide to Autism: so people can learn from me, and not make the same mistakes for lack of guidance. (What you cannot see in the video below, alas, is that I was wearing Star Trek socks in honor of being on the Paramount Studios lot.)

[video description: A segment from the TV show The Doctors, with me talking about autism
pseudoscience, and then Dr. B.J. Freeman talking about ABA therapy while I grimace.]

The show started out by exposing MMS/bleach enemas as an autism "treatment" for the abusive scam that it is, and I'm glad the hosts pointed out that if you're afraid to talk to your doctor about something you're considering doing to your kid, that should be a red flag. Then I spoke about how I fell for autism pseudoscience (sigh), and how misguided such approaches are. Here's my quote that they used:
"Every step of it perpetuating the fear and the stigma and the misunderstanding that autism is treatable and curable when autism is how your brain works." 
[image: Spreadsheet of the bogus autism supplements Leo was on in 2003,
projected on a screen behind the four hosts of The Doctors TV show.
A superimposed title reads "Dangerous Autism Treatments Exposed?"]

The show even displayed the spreadsheet of supplements and other crap that I let that carpetbagger DAN! doctor talk me into using on Leo. And about which I was pissed off, even at my most circa-2003 hopped up and credulous. Here's the actual document, if you want to scrutinize and roll your eyes more extensively:

All the supplements Leo's DAN! doctor had him on. Sigh.
[image: Spreadsheet of non-evidence-based supplements for
"autism" treatment, categorized by type versus dosage and
other factors such as "tastes like shit," above a corresponding
photograph of the bottles of supplements themselves.]
And then I got to talk about how awesome Leo is, which is always great. And even better, the show's doctors and experts mostly focused on how autism is neurology so "cures" are misguided and not helpful, that we need to focus instead on helping autistic kids be their best selves.

And then the segment turned into a group paean to ABA therapy, which made me visibly roll my eyes (they caught THAT on tape) and slow clap, because pretending like ABA is the best and only medically-approved way to help autistic children is not only not true, but is disingenuous given how much ABA gets called out by autistic people and allies as a ... dangerous autism treatment.

Dr. B.J. Freeman of UCLA, the woman next to me in the screenshot and video above, was their ABA expert, and even though she's fought against autism pseudoscience and is largely responsible for clinical recognition that sensory issues are central to being autistic, she did not address critiques of ABA in any way. (And yes, anyone who's been following along knows that Leo is in what is formally called an ABA program, so I'm working on a post—because while there are so many good critiques available, I've yet to see an analysis that tackles ABA's fundamental dangers to autistic kids, addresses why it is near-universally endorsed, and helps parents navigate those problems while doing right by their autistic kids.)

The experience of listening to doctors who seemed to care about autistic kids' welfare got me thinking about Leo's own doctors, and how great they are, and how much he has grown with them. The photo below was taken earlier this week, of Leo and his ophthalmologist Dr. Kim Cooper, who is the greatest. She has been working with Leo since he was three, and he has gotten to know her, and her office routine, and the procedures he will go through. Dr. Cooper is careful to avoid any unnecessary procedures, and often takes extra steps to accommodate Leo, such as examining his eyes with hand lenses rather than via machine, if that's what works best for him.

Leo and Dr. Cooper are friends
[image: Leo and Dr. Cooper, a white woman with glasses and short brown hair, 
in an ophthalmology exam room, smiling at each other.]
Obviously Leo has matured as well, but the fact he and Dr. Cooper have grown and learned together has made a huge difference in my son's ability to get good medical care.

I'm glad mainstream TV doctors are doing better by autistic people like Leo, even though they still have a lot to learn. And I'm glad Leo has so many good doctors in his own life.


  1. Anonymous1:35 PM

    That spreadsheet sure doesn't reveal any tendencies towards bappiness or possible genetic influences. ;)


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