It’s not just dangerous. It’s insulting to autistic people like me.
August 13, 2019 8:26 PM   Subscribe

Fake autism treatments show the lengths parents will go to “cure” their kids. Bleach is one fake autism “cure” that has flourished online. [Warning: disturbing content]
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (31 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Reyturner at 8:28 PM on August 13, 2019

Oh god no.
posted by schadenfrau at 8:35 PM on August 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

posted by Saxon Kane at 8:45 PM on August 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Even better (worse), the MMS scumfuckers have been running amok in Africa. A couple of them were recently arrested in Uganda for being horrible horrible human beings who forced MMS on babies, to say nothing of the 50,000 older people they've afflicted. A British guy was recently arrested, but let's not forget the (obviously) American "pastor" (of course) who's also involved, Robert Baldwin.
posted by aramaic at 8:59 PM on August 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

I remember reading an article some time ago, probably on the blue, about parents forcing bleach enemas on their children for a variety of "health" reasons (most likely autism was one of them but also as a general cleanse if I recall correctly). And then the concerned parents inflicting these treatments on their children were told by online proponents that the long red bits coming out into the toilet were the supposed parasites when in reality, it was the lining of the intestinal wall. Unbelievably horrifying.
posted by acidnova at 9:09 PM on August 13, 2019 [10 favorites]

posted by supermedusa at 9:14 PM on August 13, 2019

how do we cure the sick fucks who torture their autistic kids and torture their other kids by not vaccinating them because they're so stupid that they think a dead child is better than an autistic one.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:24 PM on August 13, 2019 [22 favorites]

I see things like this and I just want to scream incoherently.

My niece and several of my friends are autistic. They don't need a "cure", they need basic respect.
posted by MissySedai at 9:37 PM on August 13, 2019 [12 favorites]

And then the concerned parents inflicting these treatments on their children were told by online proponents that the long red bits coming out into the toilet were the supposed parasites when in reality, it was the lining of the intestinal wall. Unbelievably horrifying.

how do we cure the sick fucks who torture their autistic kids and torture their other kids by not vaccinating them because they're so stupid that they think a dead child is better than an autistic one.

*Rocco endlessly screaming 'sick fuck' and enacting his bitter revenge* [volume and language warning]

Yea, I know that's maybe a bit harsh for this venue but it came to mind and gawddamnit do I feel like people who harm their kids and risk harm for others deserve some harsh, harsh fucking wakeup calls.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:02 PM on August 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

When my soon to be 15-year-old son was first officially diagnosed as autistic we joined some sort of autism support group (don’t recall which one specifically) who hooked us up with a local “sponsor” family to help us navigate the path of “What do we do now?”

Our sponsor family seemed nice enough at first glance, they genuinely appeared interested in helping us out at a time we were very scared and confused, but quickly things got really weird.

The hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatments they recommended for our son just didn’t seem worth the immense costs for unproven benefits, but seemed harmless enough as a suggestion, if kind of goofy. My wife and I could sort of roll our eyes together at that one and use some of the more practical suggestions they gave us.

Their next suggestion, a procedure they were planning for their own son in hopes it could “cure” his autism, a sort of exchange transfusion where the autistic child’s blood is essentially replaced with that of a typical child, was batshit crazy enough to where we decided perhaps we were better off navigating this journey on our own.

I really enjoy this author’s writing and message, in particular the way she drives home the point that it isn’t just that these treatments are dangerous, but insulting, as if having an autistic child is some sort of terrible result.
posted by The Gooch at 11:49 PM on August 13, 2019 [23 favorites]

This is child abuse.
posted by ichomp at 11:59 PM on August 13, 2019 [17 favorites]

Sarah Kurchak is an absolute treasure. If only her work was not so desperately needed to remind these parents that this is NOT how you look after ANY child.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 12:37 AM on August 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

perhaps we were better off navigating this journey on our own

I nominate The Gooch for the "Understatement of the Week" award.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:23 AM on August 14, 2019 [11 favorites]

I second the nomination of The Gooch!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:54 AM on August 14, 2019

I don’t know why anybody would want to cure me.

I’m borderline employable, have good personal hygiene, and don’t take up room at dance clubs.

Granted, I hum to myself somewhat uncontrollably, but so do bees. And bees are great.

I certainly wouldn’t want to force-normcore my autistic daughter. She’s splendid, if sometimes challenging to get to agree to a car ride. I wish she slept better, but I wish I slept better, too. She lateral thinks like it’s nothing. A superpower, if you ask me.

Also, what’s the deal with the religious people embracing these “cures”? Aren’t they all about God’s swill, and all that? They should trust that the Cylons have a plan.

In conclusion, this is all horrible so I can only cope through irreverence.
posted by Construction Concern at 5:04 AM on August 14, 2019 [39 favorites]

Didn't we used to do trigger warnings here? I've been using the internet for almost 30 years and this thread right here is some of the most indelibly gory shit I have encountered. My bad for not noping right the fuck out when I saw the words cure and bleach in the same sentence.
posted by xigxag at 5:26 AM on August 14, 2019 [2 favorites]

Yeah, there was a relatively recent episode of Sawbones about the bleach bullshit. Sawbones is a podcast that often veers into gory cringe territory and regularly visits truly abhorrent history and lately current events, and I listen to it regularly with no problem. But that episode was very difficult to stomach and in retrospect I probably should have noped out of it. This post should definitely have some content warnings.
posted by Mizu at 5:33 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

[Warning added.]
posted by taz (staff) at 5:36 AM on August 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

I wonder what age I'd have to live to before I lost the ability to be shocked by the human race's apparently infinite capacity for harmful credulity.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:45 AM on August 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

From the article:
Much of this panic stems from the anti-vax movement. While there are many reasons parents choose not to vaccinate their children, the American anti-vax movement is fueled in part by privileged white people who have bought into conspiracy theories about the risks of vaccines — one of the most pervasive of which is that vaccines cause autism.
Pondering the truth of this.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:05 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

On the positive side I’ve seen a lot of Sensory friendly times pop up recently and I love it. Movie theaters, grocery shopping, Chuck E. Cheese ffs. My kid is sensory sensitive but not autistic (although his bff is autistic) and it’s really sweet. The world is too noisy anyways.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:30 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

The podcast Behind the Bastards has a two-part episode about the guy behind this.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:15 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've been following Fiona O'Leary's (I'm pretty sure that's her name) blog and she writes a lot about this form of child abuse. I'm no longer surprised at the level of cruelty that some parents have in the name of a "cure". Their rhetoric is disgusting. And the anti-vaxers piss me off more than I can say. These parents who give bleach to their kids should have their kids taken away and be forcibly given bleach themselves.
posted by kathrynm at 9:40 AM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's super-frustrating finding spaces for parents of autistic children* that don't suck. Lots of them are flooded with people advocating unscientific nonsense, a certain percentage of whom are doing downright dangerous and abusive things to their children (which you can report to the proper authorities but nothing really seems to happen, DCFS is not taking seriously "people bragging online about insane fake treatments" as an indicator of child abuse). Or they're overrun with "providers" so that whenever a parent posts looking for other parent discussion/connection/support, they get 47 responses from local autism providers trying to market their therapy center and none from other parents. Then there are spaces where parents are treated as the enemy, because some parents ARE abusive, so some spaces treat ALL parents as if they're necessarily abusive.

Which I think is part of how these horrible "therapies" gain traction -- parents looking for support find spaces where people scream at you that you're abusive simply for being a parent of an autistic child (even if you're an autistic parent of an autistic child!); spaces where you're marketed to by desperate providers who want your money; or spaces claiming to be a "supportive" parenting group where people aren't allowed to scream at you or market to you "because we're all doing our best," but those without exception turn into a space where the worst, worst, most abusive parents reinforce and "support" each other in their abusive therapies because the people running the group think shutting that kind of thing down isn't "being supportive," and if you say "YO, that's child abuse" you get booted from the group. So you end up with "normal" parents looking for support and community and the only places providing it are havens for child abusers that throw out any members who speak up against child abuse.

And if you join regular local parenting groups, you will eventually have the moment where someone says "Ladies, don't you HATE it when you go to the park and there's some mom there letting her child scream at the top of his lungs and not doing anything while he throws a gigantic tantrum? Happened today, it was awful, this kid was the most spoiled child on the planet, he was easily 13 and playing on the playground with 6 year olds and then having a tantrum like a toddler while his mother just LET him, I don't even understand how parents that horrible are allowed to have children" and another mom will say, "Um, that was my child, and he's autistic, he was having a meltdown, we were following his medical protocol, I'm sorry it was disturbing but sometimes it happens" and the other moms will say "Well maybe if that's how he behaves he shouldn't be at the playground" and "Being autistic is no excuse for behaving like that" and "Don't you have a special playground you can take him to where he won't bother normal kids?" (And then all the mothers of atypically developing children ragequit at once.)

Anyway, there's a pretty desperate need for a space for parents to discuss their challenges as parents and get advice and support, that is supportive, but that takes a HARD LINE on antivaxxers and fake therapies and cure-seeking parents generally, and a HARD LINE on respecting the personhood of autistic children, and that isn't completely commercialized. Because right now those are the choices -- "normal" parenting groups where parents of atypical children aren't welcome; commercialized spaces where you get sold to constantly; or "supportive" spaces full of lunatics and child abusers. It sucks.

(*My child prefers "autistic children" to "children with autism" so that's the language I use at their request; other people prefer the people-first language.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:02 AM on August 14, 2019 [16 favorites]

I just wanted to come in and say thanks for the recent posts (including this one) on autism and neurodiversity. As parents of a young autistic child, the journey we are on at the moment is as much about how our family regulates our behavior and approach to understanding our child, as it is helping them interact with others and the wider community. I'm still learning (and trying to listen to a lot of these threads) and the threads have been super helpful.

And yes I fess up that at the start of our journey I think I said something super bone-headed to my wife like "so kiddo has autism - so we go get a brain-scan and work out what is wrong and then go solve it, right?". Sigh. We've managed to drown out a lot of the woo-woo therapies that people promote to "treat" autistic people (and Christ - bleach - WTF!), but oh my how many people come out of the wood work with random things. My favorite at the moment is people saying - without any other context - "Have you heard about stem cells?". My canned response is now "yes, we tried a few store brands of stem cells, but my child doesn't like the taste - too crunchy". It's amazing how many people think that is a legitimate response....or ask if we could just put them into a smoothie or yogurt or something.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:27 AM on August 14, 2019 [6 favorites]

Anyway, there's a pretty desperate need for a space for parents to discuss their challenges as parents and get advice and support, that is supportive, but that takes a HARD LINE on antivaxxers and fake therapies and cure-seeking parents generally

For what its worth, the best parent support groups we've found on social media (generally - not just for neurodiversity issues) have been groups (or sub-groups often) for parents who have undergone / going through fertility treatment. I think its because many people who go through that process pretty quickly get used to the fact that there is a lot of bullshit advice given - both inside and outside the medical community and you need to get informed and ask a lot of questions, you learn to expect disappointment but celebrate success, you learn that you need to support others as well as yourself, that what works for one family doesn't work for another, and that there is no quick easy button answer. Not all that applies to neurodiversity, and there is still a lot of misunderstanding as you would expect in any internet collection of people. But just saying those groups (for whatever reason) seem to have a much higher signal / low noise ratio and be very supportive of neurodiversity in kids and helping their parents from my observation.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 10:53 AM on August 14, 2019

The bleach thing is horrifying.

I am part of an online group for parents of autistic kids in my community, and thankfully I have never read anyone advocating for this kind of abuse. The moderators shut down all vaccine talk, as well, and providers are not allowed to participate unless they are a parent of an autistic child. There's a natural tendency to promote autistic perspectives within the group, too: autistic parents participate and their comments usually receive a lot of positive engagement. Links to essays/videos by autistic folk are frequently posted. It's not a perfect group by any means -- there's still a fair amount of woo that slips through but I think that's the case for every online parenting group out there. Mostly lots of talk of meeting sensory needs at home and in community spaces, school issues, extended family issues, practical safety considerations. There's a lot of positive posts of parents delighting in their children. There is a lot of talk about the stress that families are under, but usually parents are expressing frustration about a lack of quality childcare, lack of quality school supports, lack of family support or understanding. Every so often a "I hate autism" statement comes through, and a lot of the other parents push back against statements like that, while also acknowledging the first parent is under stress and needs real support.
posted by stowaway at 12:51 PM on August 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

We found some of this ugliness pretty much as soon as Lil' Monday was diagnosed. No one has dared suggest any of this to us directly, though. I think any peddlers of woo don't want to be the unlucky lightning rod.

It takes all of us some time to accept that our lives are going in a different direction than we expected, and reorient. This takes time, and it's not easy. But as parents, our kids are always going to be different -- and make our lives different -- than we expected. Parenting in 2019 really should be considered some kind of extreme sport anyhow. So, as responsible parents, we collect our thoughts, do some research, do some planning and adjust course. When you bring somebody into the world, their course is more important than yours.

The lack of empathy these parents have towards their children is astounding. They haven't done the most basic research about autism, because it's not important. The illness obscuring their perfect child will be stripped away, so why bother understanding it? It's as though they love the idea of their child more than the one they actually have.

Imagine how devastating it must be to realize your parents feel that way.

If there's one thing I can do for Lil' Monday, I want him to always understand that he's loved.
posted by TheHuntForBlueMonday at 1:43 PM on August 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

Even if I won't immediately go out and get him the new robotic Lego droid set.
posted by TheHuntForBlueMonday at 1:44 PM on August 14, 2019 [5 favorites]

Some people use religion to gain power and control, and the bleach feels like a deeply twisted expression of power and control. That's the only reason I can think of. I mean, lots of people are sick fucks, but there's usually some sort of motivation. Anti-vaxxers piss me off so hard and this is so much more malevolent. Child abuse comes in degrees, this is at the attempted murder level.
posted by theora55 at 4:42 PM on August 14, 2019 [3 favorites]

and then there is me, saying, "welcome to Darwin: welcome to evolution."

The local hero where I live is David Walsh, who is/was part of a syndicate which did the inverse mathematics to get good money from gambling. He is spending his money on adult amusement (cf. entertainment)

He has written about the outlier/survivor process

I look at my children - and a HUGE part of development is - how do I survive as AN INDIVIDUAL. Let's be honest - an ability to EXCLUDE - allows development

So autism - or "the spectrum" - could well be how you survive. And could provide the critical framework
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 4:26 AM on September 4, 2019

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