Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Clinic Notes: Is Savage Right? Are Children with Autism Just Brats?

Nationally syndicated talk show host, Michael Savage said on his July 16 radio talk show "I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is. What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.' " Savage concluded, "If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, 'Don't behave like a fool.' The worst thing he said -- 'Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry.' That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That's why we have the politicians we have."
Well, you can imagine the response of parents with children with autism and the autism support groups. Autism is a neurological disorder and there is impairment in communication, sensory processing, and other neurological processes. Children with autism need multiple services such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), speech, Occupational Therapy, and often medication. Autism also has a genetic basis. Certainly autism is more than brat behavior; however, some children with autism are noncompliant and do not follow directions. Often in our clinic one of the first ABA programs we run is following directions. Sometimes this is related to autism and sometimes noncompliant brat like behavior. But even after these children are compliant and not tantruming there are many behavior left over that are related to autism and the usual parenting techniques do not work. Parents of children with autism who have heard Savage's remarks have all told me one thing. They would like Savage to spend a day with their child with autism.

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