Thursday, February 01, 2007

An Interesting Take on "The View" Autism Episode

By now many of you have heard that Rosie O'Donnell, one of the hosts of "The View," arranged for the daytime talk show to produce a show on autism earlier this week. (You can see information the show posted here.)

Barbara Fischkin, a writer and mom of a 19-year-old son with severe autism, wrote a down-to-earth essay about her life in reaction to the show. Without a note of self-pity, Fischkin touches on both the challenges her son and her family face -- and by extension many families around the country encounter with access to limited services. You can read her essay via The Huffington Post, by clicking here.

In her essay, Fischkin recounts having to stop on a family trip in New York City to help her son change his clothes. A cop drives by, stops. She tells him: "Autism. Toileting accident." The officer drives away. Quickly.

Fischkin writes:
In a symbolic way that is what it felt like when I watched The View this morning. That Rosie was looking at the problem and then, speeding away from the real issues involved.

She didn't talk about the controversy over the causes of autism; a controversy that is so central to the notion of an epidemic and the hope for a cure. Is it the mercury in vaccines - not the vaccines themselves, that is not what anyone is saying - or some other environmental toxin?

She noted how expensive it is to raise a child with autism. But didn't say why. Not in any substantive way.

And by raise, did she mean "raise" or "educate?" Did she mean it costs school districts a lot of money because so many of them -- ignoring studies, anecdotal evidence and common sense -- spend a fortune busing their kids miles, even hours away, when they could be educating them for less money and with better efficiency in local schools.

Sometimes miles away means an institution. And institutions, whether they are good ones or not, cost a lot of money.

Or did Rosie mean it was expensive because autistic kids break a lot of things?

Or because they often need new mattresses?

Or because they throw things down the toilet?

Or because neither the school districts, nor the local or state or federal governments subsidize to enough of an extent what most parents really need to keep going: A meaningful rest on a regular basis and money to pay and keep the really good teachers and aides who work when the school day, or the school subsidies, run out.

Well Rosie did say she could do many more shows on autism.

I hope she does.


Anonymous said...

Response to Ms. Fischkin: Parents of autistic children shouldn't rely on Rosie O'Donnell--a cue-card reading celebrity--, or her ilk, for information on the causes, costs, treatments, or epidemiology of autism. Parents need to consult with educated providers, read a boat load of information, study the science and statistics behind the causes/treatments, and so much more! Then you have to look back down at your child and figure out what's best for him/her! Even when you think you're making *informed decisions* about your child, your child throws you a curve and you set out to do it all again! Even talking to other autism parents can be overwhelming as there are some strong, and I mean STRONG, and often times, misguided opinions on how best to "raise" or "educate" your autistic child. Don't you think the producers of The View were aware of the controversy behind the theoretical causes and treatments of autism? The View is an entertainment venue and it allowed for what the show's 40-45 minutes (minus commercials) was limited to: raising awareness and keeping the scare mongering out of the discussion.

Anonymous said...

Autism Mutt, you make some really good points. While I do find it disappointing that the View did not even mention the fact that there is a ton of controversy regarding possible causes of autism (and therefore missed the chance to educate the public about this key fact), it is important (as you say) to understand the inherent limitations of such a show. It's no "Nightline," that's for sure -- nor was it ever intended to be. At least the View took the time to help raise awareness about autism by highlighting the experiences of several children and their families. It's not a bad place to start.

Michael Goldberg said...

Thank you both for your comments. No one episode of a popular culture show will cover much; it is an awareness program for the general public.