April Fools — It’s “Autism Awareness Month” Again.

Filed Under (Activism, Autism and The Media, Autism and Vaccines, Critical Disability Studies) by Estee on 03-04-2009

April Fools of the month on Larry King tonight: Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, Jerry Kartzinel and JB. Handley (of Generation Rescue) — yet again in the “name of autism” or to “wage a war” on it as it were, are STILL purporting their vaccine hypothesis — which, really, is no longer deserving of being in that category, since it has been disproven over and over again. The “bulking” of vaccines or the “schedule” — all of it — are, according to science, not the cause of autism. Yet science doesn’t seem to matter in all of this. People do not matter in all of this. Not the people who matter, anyway.

Jerry Lewis was recently heralded at the Academy Awards regarding his work “for” people with disabilities — a man who used these words in a recent response to criticism of his annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon: “If it’s pity we’ll get money. . . . Pity? You don’t want to be pitied because you’re a cripple in a wheelchair? Stay in your house!”

Yes, a man who continuously spoke in derogatory terms about people with disabilities and dehumanized them stood proudly receiving his Oscar amidst the beautiful people at the awards. There was no mention on how the disability community for years has protested Mr. Lewis and his telethons. There was no reference to the pain and harm he has caused them. The fact that Lewis used the kids (they went from being “Jerry’s kids” to adults who turned up for those protests and were kicked out by Jerry) was veneered and forgotten with smiles and gowns. Celebrity trumps the hard work of science (when it works hard), dialogue, debate, justice and intellect. Celebrity fails to question more often than not as exhibited yet again by Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey.

I was somewhat relieved for a moment to see Carly, the fourteen-year-old non verbal autistic Toronto girl who types. She should have had more time on the the show along with other autistic individuals like her. I am always much more interested in hearing the perspectives about simply “being wired differently,” because it is in learning how people are wired differently where we can appreciate that people can take in the world and learn on many different planes. And if that can happen, people can also contribute to the world in different and more rewarding ways as well.

CNN has not yet taken the bull by the horn the way the CBC did in its show “Positively Autistic,” (see it on the side bar in this blog). CBC did not want non-autistic doctors talking or journalistic narration in order to trump what autistic people had to say about themselves because that was the point and it is too often overshadowed.

CNN ought to take its cue, at least from the perspective of that particular documentary, from the CBC and from autistic people. I have been thinking for so long now that as much as we have medical and health components dominating the news, we should have a show on how society views difference (which would include disability) and has medicalized people who are different from whatever norm has been established at any particular point in our history. What’s the purpose of information if we do not look at it through a variety of lenses? What’s the point of medical research if we do not apply any ethical standards or reflect continuously on what it means to be human?

I meandered the Autism Hub to see if anyone else has yet written anything on the torrid experience of watching these shameless celebrities sounding really idiotic, trying substantiate their claims with quacks who call themselves doctors, namely, the infamous Dr. Jerry Kartiznel who calls our children “soul-less.” Again, such programs revolving around “Autism Awareness Month” make me afraid.

But it’s a nervous kind of laughter. Autism Awareness Month simply reminds me every year that no matter what we do, no matter hard hard we work in trying to make people aware that autistic people are simply people, that IGNORANCE still SPEAKS loudly attempting to drown the real voices of autism.

While I am not autistic, I am a parent who will remain relentless in positioning myself against such ignorance.

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About Me


ESTÉE KLAR

I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.