Toni Braxton’s son is still autistic

I would have blogged about this sooner, but my ISP is Neotel and, as you are probably aware, they’ve been having network problems.
Toni Braxton claims that God made her son autistic as punishment for having an abortion, and that after extensive interventions he is no longer autistic.
The entire “God did X as punishment” idea is one I rejected long ago. The God I was taught about is “slow to anger, rich in mercy”. I feel Braxton should read the ninth Chapter of the Gospel of John.
What I really dislike however, is Braxton saying that her son is no longer autistic.
Just because her son received training on how to pass as neurotypical, it doesn’t mean that he is no longer autistic, just that he has learnt mechanisms to hide it and to cope with day to day life.
I can usually pass as neurotypical. When I’m stressed, or tired, or frustrated, my coping mechanisms fail. The first thing to go is my speech filter. I start talking bluntly, which a lot of my co-workers find hilarious. The next things to go are my coordination and fine motor control. I start staggering. Literally. I walk like I’m drunk.
Braxton’s son is still autistic. The training he received hasn’t changed that, it just gave him skills and strategies to help.

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Suzanne Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, has died

I’m a member of the Facebook group Boycott Autism Speaks.
Yesterday, I learnt from the group that Suzanne Wright, one of Autism Speaks’ cofounders, died on Friday of pancreatic cancer.
As you’ve probably guessed by the fact that I’m a member of Boycott Autism Speaks, I dislike the organisation. I have real problems with its thrust, and methods of advocacy. Suzanne Wright and her husband Bob founded Autism Speaks in 2005 after their grandson Christian was diagnosed autistic.
Autism Speaks bought into the “vaccines cause autism” lie (initially understandable), and continued to support it long after it became no longer tenable. In 2009, Alison Tepper Singer was Vice President for PR and Strategy at Autism Speaks. When the first three verdicts in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings went against the families, Singer took a very close look at the evidence, and realised that vaccines did not cause autism. But when she approached the Wrights and tried to get them to abandon the idea, they refused. Singer left Autism Speaks and set up the Autism Science Foundation.
In 2014, Rob Ring, the then Chief Science officer of Autism Speaks, issued a statement refuting vaccine autism causation. Bob Wright responded with a stilted and ambiguous comment. Then in 2015, Ring’s refutation was expunged altogether from the Autism Speaks website. This was more than five years after Wakefield had been exposed as a liar who cooked his data.
Autism Speaks also constantly pushed the “Autism is a tragedy” narrative. In 2009, it produced a video titled “Autism every day”. “Autism every day” depicted autistics and their families as living a hellish life, thanks to the condition. There was a great deal of anger from autistic self advocates over the video. Unfortunately, Autism Speaks turned a deaf ear to those concerns.
Near the end of 2013, Autism Speaks put out a “call to action” that once again demonised autism and those on the spectrum. The response was immediate and furious. John Elder Robison, the only autistic board member of Autism Speaks, resigned. A flash blog was set up by autistics to counteract the propaganda. Autism Speaks’ response was patronising, condescending, and insulting in the extreme.

Michael Rosen, executive vice president of strategic communications at Autism Speaks, said Robison was the only one who resigned over the post. He said the organization understands that higher-functioning people with autism may have a different point of view about the issue.

“The people who are not sick, not unhappy, and are totally fulfilled and happy with their differences, we totally support them as well,” Rosen said. “We’re not looking to change anybody, we’re looking to support and get services for everyone who needs them.

“What that column had was a lot of empathy for those who are struggling the most. But for those who just need support and services, we work for them as well.”

In other words, “you’re making a huge fuss about nothing”.
The real problem with Autism Speaks is that it consistently refused to listen. It refused to listen to the experts and it refused to listen to autistics. And that ultimately made it far less effective than it could have been. Ironic, considering that “It’s time to listen” was its tagline.

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Dreading the outcome of the 2016 U.S Presidential Election

I’ve been watching the preliminary running in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Donald Trump is the Republican Presidential Candidate while Hillary Clinton will likely be selected as the Democratic one.
I am reminded of a comedian’s (John Pinette, perhaps?) comment on the 2000 U.S. Presidential Race between George W. Bush (Republican) and Al Gore (Democrat).
“George Bush and Al Gore. Wow, what a choice! Would you like your leg amputated just above the knee, or just below it?”
Neither Clinton nor Trump look like good candidates. But while I view Clinton with distaste, I view Trump with fear. And it’s not just because of his ludicrous comments about building a wall or deporting Muslims, or that he’s thrown out his old beliefs to make himself more palatable to the Republican Base. He’s completely Dunning-Kruger.
Politifact fact checked claims Trump made for accuracy. More than half were rated “False” or “Pants on Fire”. In addition, Trump has a habit of ignoring the experts in favour of his own prejudices.
A Trump Presidency would be very bad for autistics in particular. He is a proponent of the thoroughly discredited “vaccines cause autism” theory. If he wins, resources will once again be wasted on researching a dead end.
The problem is, a Trump Presidency is a distinct possibility. First he declared he would run, and people rolled their eyes as he’d said that before. Then he ran, and people thought he’d drop out. Then he started winning primaries, and people believed he’d lose in the later rounds. Then he started winning those, and commenters said that the Republicans would never let him stand. And now he’s the Candidate.
I am hoping that Hillary wins in 2016.

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Feeding an evil narrative

Sorry I haven’t posted for over a month. Life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes.
I learnt about this noxious video from Orac and Matt.
I’ve been having problems with embedding, so here’s a direct link to the video in question on YouTube. The woman speaking in the video is Polly Tommey, one of the most longstanding supporters of Andrew Wakefield, and a fervent believer that vaccines cause autism. And what she says in the video is as evil as hell.
She says that she will not judge any parent who murders their autistic child.
There is a narrative, a poisonous, hateful narrative, that holds that autistics have such awful lives that it is acceptable, sometimes even an act of mercy, to “end their suffering”. Sadly, it’s a belief that is still all too common. Parents who murder their autistic children typically get far lighter sentences than those who kill their neurotypical children. When a news story about an autistic child being killed by his or her parents runs, there will be comments saying how difficult it must have been for the parent. Tommey’s comments feed this evil viewpoint. And yes, it is evil.
All lives have challenges and hardship. I know this personally. I have a life that is difficult in part because I’m autistic, yet it’s a pretty good one. It certainly could be better, but it could be a lot worse too. And I’m going to continue living it.
Which brings me to my second point.
Only one person can decide whether a life is worth living: the one living the life in question. Parents who murder their autistic children take it away from them and arrogate it to themselves. They declare that their children’s lives were not worth living. If you do not see just how wrong this is, I cannot help.
At Left Brain Right Brain, Matt wrote some very powerful things about this. I’m going to quote his words here because they are just so spot on and apt.

All people with disabilities are created equal. All have a right to life. A many are murdered. Why don’t you stand with them? Why do you stand with those who murder?
The phrase “parental rights” doesn’t exist in the Constitution. As a parent I am not endowed with the right to chose life or death for my child. Until you understand that, all your “freedom” rhetoric is, frankly, just a bullshit public relations effort.
When you refuse to judge, you enable. You make it just that little bit easier for parents and other caregivers to murder.

Quite. And Thank You Matt.
I have #ALifeWorthLiving.

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Happy belated blogoversary to me

A little over six years ago, I created my first blog on the iBlog platform. My first proper post on that blog was put up on the 29th May 2010. The tagline for my blog was “A blog on Autism, Anti-antivaccination and life by a South African Autist”. So much has happened since then. I hope you will indulge me, dear readers, as I take a look back.

In January 2010, I was googling news stories about autism when I saw a news story about a doctor named Andrew Wakefield. He had been charged and found guilty of a number of offences by the UK General Medical Council. Curious, I searched more. I soon found that there were two opposing viewpoints. One side viewed Wakefield as a hero who had been destroyed for threatening the status quo. The other side viewed him as a dishonest liar who had finally got what he deserved. The first side was loud, shrill and lacking in evidence. The latter was calm and backed up their arguments with irrefutable facts. As I continued reading, I came to view the latter side as correct.

I soon found out about a world that astonished me, and not in a good way. There were people who viewed vaccines as dangerous and far more harmful than the diseases that they prevented. To them, Wakefield was a hero. In 1998, he had published a “Case Study” of 12 children that seemed to suggest that the MMR Vaccine caused autism. By 2010, his work had been thoroughly discredited. Large studies investigating the supposed link had turned up no such correlation, and Brian Deer had revealed not only that Wakefield had multiple conflicts of interest, including being paid by a lawyer to find evidence for a class action lawsuit against MMR, but also that the data in the study pointed away from a link so Wakefield cooked his data. Despite incontrovertible proof of his dishonesty, they still championed him.

I got angry. Eventually, I decided to add my voice, and so I created African Jungle. Some commentators couldn’t read the iBlog domain, and because they wanted to read my work, asked me to create another blog. On November 1st 2010, I set up a blog on WordPress. “African Jungle” was taken on WordPress, so I named my second blog “Autism Jungle”, gave it the same tagline, and copied the posts I’d already written across. After that, all posts I wrote were copied to both blogs.

I first decided to post background information on the MMR-Autism Controversy. Due to Wakefield, thousands of families went to Vaccine Court in the US to seek compensation. The petitions were grouped together under the Omnibus Autism Proceedings. Six candidates (Michelle Cedillo, Yates Hazelhurst, Colten Snyder, Colin Dwyer, Jordan King, William Mead) were selected to be test cases. If they won, the other families would have their cases expedited. They didn’t. Instead, they lost devastatingly, with Special Masters George Hastings, Patricia Campbell-Smith and Denise Vowell commenting extensively on the paucity of the evidence and the incompetence of the expert witnesses. Cedillo, Hazelhurst and Snyder appealed, with the courts upholding the Special Masters’ rulings. Hazelhurt and Cedillo appealed further, with their appeals also failing.  After this, parents in the OAP began requesting voluntary dismissal of their cases.

In July 2010, my original car, a secondhand VW Citi Chico, was destroyed in a crash. I bought a secondhand VW Polo Classic, a vehicle I regret buying. Two hugely expensive services, one at 60,000km and the other at 90,000km, have soured me on Volkswagens.

Professionally, I earned both the ISTQB Advanced Test Analyst Certificate and the ISTQB Advanced Technical Test Analyst Certificate.

In 2010, some well meaning but misguided individuals proposed a Communication Shutdown on November 1st in support of autistics. This was folly, as many autistics use IT to communicate. In response, autistic bloggers and Twitter users responded with “Autistics’ Speaking Day”. I joined, and have posted every year since.

I’m an avid filmgoer, and sometimes post on the films I’ve seen. In 2015, I saw both the worst (Pitch Perfect 2) and the funniest (Spy) films in my life. I also went to see a cricket match at The Wanderers.

I also attended a funeral.

I voted in 2011 and 2014.

I went to see Tori Amos in November 2011.

Also in November 2011, I was involved in an argument with MJ, who is a father to three autistic girls. He rudely accused me of minimizing and marginalizing his children. I was so angry that I decided to reveal my true name. Prior to that, I had gone by Jungle.

I’ve read and posted about people from history who may have been autistic, including William Bligh and William McGonagall.

Polio is almost extinct.

I learnt about the pseudoscience that is facilitated communication.

I had a letter to the press published.

I have posted about quack cures, including the shocking use of sodium chlorite.

I posted on the sad death of canoeist Graeme Anderson, killed by rabies.

A Lower Court in Italy ruled that the MMR Vaccine caused autism, a verdict that was later overturned.

I saw snow fall.

I went on vacation to Portugal.

I’ve repeatedly heard that the world was going to end in a few months’ time, only for nothing to happen each time, including December 2012.

PETA is still telling lies about milk consumption causing autism.

Antivaxxers dreamed up a lie about vaccines causing SBS.

Autism Speaks showed that they were still completely tone deaf about autism.

I swam the Midmar Mile.

I have read far too many stories about autistics being murdered by their parents.

I have seen the political and economic situation in South Africa deteriorate to the point where I am seriously considering emigrating.

I have seen the antivaccine movement go from a still formidable force in 2010 to a shadow today.

I was almost hijacked.

I bought a new computer at the start of 2015 and upgraded the OS to Windows 10.

In my street, Iola Ditcham’s body was found in her house after she’d been dead for around two years.

I presented to the Special Interest group in Software Testing.

My blogging has decreased in frequency, but I hope my quality remains high. I am now one of the most read bloggers on iBlog, with African Jungle regularly appearing under the “Most Popular” list, and often in the top spot.

Happy blogoversary to me.

Posted in Anti-antivaccination, Autism Awareness, Background Data, Life, Work | 2 Comments

Bravo to the Ford Motor Company

The Ford Motor Company has teamed with the Autism Alliance of Michigan to hire autistics in the Product Development Department. The press release is here.
Bravo, and Thank You Ford.

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Lawsuit against Gardasil dismissed

Last week, Special Master Lisa Hamilton-Fieldman dismissed a suit brought by two sisters, Madelyne and Olivia Meylor, that the Gardasil Vaccine had caused them to suffer premature ovarian failure. The two plan to appeal the verdict. Madelyne suffered irregular periods before she received the vaccine. Olivia received it before her first period, which occurred when she was 15.
Merck was asked for comment. There was a key sentence in their response.

A medical history of POI has been reported by a small number of trial participants who received GARDASIL or placebo; the number of medical history reports of POI is similar for GARDASIL and placebo recipients.

In other words, this looks to be a case of chance.
Reading their stories, I can’t help but be reminded of the course taken by the parents of Michelle Cedillo, one of the test cases in the Omnibus Autism Proceedings. They introduced video of Michelle at 15 months to show she was fine before the vaccine, only for an autism expert to show that she was already showing clear signs of being autistic, and that her parents were unconsciously adjusting their behaviour towards her. Both Meylor sisters had period problems before receiving the vaccine. The Cedillos appealed, with the verdict being upheld twice. I feel that the same will happen to the Meylors.

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