With few exceptions, parents want the best for their children. When it comes to their children’s health, it can be hard to figure out what that is. For parents of children who have been diagnosed with autism, it can be even harder.

A diagnosis of autism can bring fear, uncertainty, and doubt, and doctors don’t always have the time, or don’t make the effort, to deal with these issues properly. Into this void of information step the anti-vaccination autism “advocacy” groups. These presumably well-intentioned but misinformed people use emotional anecdotes and celebrity endorsement to recruit parents at their most vulnerable. For the fear, uncertainty, and doubt, they provide false hope of a cure, confidence in unnecessary and sometimes dangerous medicine, and certainty that it was something done to them, not something they did. Ultimately, they delay acceptance of their child’s differences, and instead encourage parents to try magic potions (or diets, or medications) that they promise will miraculously make their child normal. (Oh, that treatment didn’t work? Try this one, just swipe your credit card here.)

I don’t like these groups. They sell false hope, often literally. They put children and their communities at risk. So I want to fight misinformation with information. And as much as it might be entertaining to read Orac, I doubt blogs like that are much help to parents who are coming to grips with their child’s autism. Recently, I found a blog, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, that’s explicitly directed at these parents, written by parents who have been to the dark side and back again. Here’s a post that they wrote on how to help navigate the world of autism groups. They also have a book based on the blog. (No, I haven’t read it. Med students aren’t allowed to read for fun.)

This blog post was inspired by a post on The Panic Virus blog, whose author wrote a book on the anti-vaccination movement. It’s a book that I’d very much like to read, when I finally have free time again.

Published on 27 January 2012 and tagged as
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