Saturday, August 4, 2012



For regular readers of my Oughtism blog, in the future it will be divided into two separate blogs, one mainly for parents, teachers and other practitioners interested specifically in autism OUGHTISM and the other will discuss a wider range of issues at greater length as in my previous blog.  For those with greater tolerance for windy commentaries OUGHTISMTOO is probably for you.

I’ve been thinking about Dog Days of summer that is upon us, and wonder whether snakes really go blind during Dog Days like in the legend. Or maybe it’s just a myth based on the fact that when snakes shed their skin they develop a white layer over their eyes so people assume they can’t see (WRONG, DON”T PUT YOUR HAND DOWN BY A SNAKE TO TEST THEIR VISION).  I guess things aren’t always what they appear, like those magical mystery cures for autism that try to pull the wool over parents’ eyes.

Parents of kids with autism and the general public have become wary about science in general and medical treatments specifically.  Problems with environmental pollution and toxins and potentially harmful additives justifiably alarm the public, which unfortunately makes no distinction between companies seeking to enrich themselves selling such material and the vast majority of scientists who have repeatedly warned the public about their dangers.  As far as John or Mary Q. Public is concerned, it’s all “science.”

Some people are very willing to believe physicians are in cahoots with drug companies to take advantage of them, which feeds into their suspicion of vaccines.  Make no mistake, some doctors have behaved unethically in promoting other drug treatments, but parents should attempt to be more rational about this.  Is it really likely nearly all responsible physicians throughout the entire developed world would organize themselves to protect unethical drug companies at the expense of young children needing protection against communicable diseases?   Is it really likely that the medical professions in all of the developed countries would conspire to harm young children? Not rational. That belongs in the same category with alien abductions, the Loch Ness Monster and channelling dead relatives. Makes no sense.

The public generally has no way to distinguish false claims based on no convincing evidence, and treatments or diagnostic methods that have emerged from carefully conducted research.  In general, the news media report whatever appears dramatic, like a new quick and inexpensive brain or blood test for autism (which doesn’t actually exist) or a new “brain” treatment claimed to reverse autism symptoms  (but that actually doesn’t).  The typical TV, internet or print media reports typically provide no caveats whatsoever about the adequacy of evidence for the reported claim.  Sometimes people with dubious credentials publish poorly conducted studies in obscure magazines of questionable scientific legitimacy, in an attempt to create an illusion of credibility. As far as the general reader or TV viewer is concerned, they are all “scientific” and sound the same.  They are not the same. Not at all.  Caveat emptor.  The internet is a cesspool of this stuff.

I strongly encourage parents and practitioners to check a couple of websites about any extravagant sounding autism diagnostic or treatment claims before getting involved:

Association for Science in Autism Treatment

Autism Speaks  Autism Speaks is generally a reliable source, though at times have endorsed treatments with inadequate evidence of effectiveness.  They have never endorsed harmful or risky treatments.

National Institutes of Health

QuackWatch This website is generally on target in alerting the public to scams, but is sometimes intemperate in their characterizations of people they view to be charlatans. 

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