A Statement from Wendy Fournier, NAA President (National Autism Association)
For the last week, our community has been completely enveloped in the Michael Savage controversy. It infuriates me that this one man has managed to take away so much of our already limited time and energy by forcing us to defend ourselves and our beloved children against his vile remarks. Amen
When I first became aware of Savage’s comments, I immediately got in touch with Mark Masters, the CEO of Talk Radio Network and Savage’s boss. Mark was aware of the comments but had not yet listened to the show. We spoke for a long while and I quickly came to realize that I was speaking to a kind and compassionate husband and father. Mark said that while he hadn’t yet heard the tape, he suspected that Savage was talking about one of the issues that bothers him most, the over-diagnosing and drugging of children in America, and that it was possible that his remarks were being taken out of context. Having dealt with the media and having seen the ridiculous way members of our own community have been edited to look like crazy, desperate parents, I was open to the idea that Mark’s suggestion may have been a possibility. Mark promised to speak with Savage and to give us the opportunity to refute his comments on the air.
On Monday evening, Mark fulfilled his promise and I was able to speak with Savage on his show. Leaving the door open to the chance that he was indeed taken out of context, I pushed my anger toward him aside and discussed with him many of his views about healthcare in America and the sad reality that families affected by autism face. Savage has several problems with the medical community in general that I personally agree with, the most frustrating of which is the over-zealous desire to drug our children.
However, when it came to Savage’s views on Autism specifically, he was completely misinformed and off the mark.
He believes that autism is being over-diagnosed. There may be a relatively small number of children who are wrongly diagnosed with an ASD, but for the most part, an autism diagnosis is not something that is given lightly. Those of us whose children have been through the evaluation process know that it is extensive.
On the subject of diagnosis, our kids are diagnosed based on observation of skills and behaviors. All the while, the medical community completely fails to investigate what might be causing those behaviors. This needs to change. We need research to turn away from number-crunching epidemiological studies and the search for the elusive Autism gene, and start looking from a biological standpoint at the children who are currently affected. She is so right! It may be nice to know for informational purposes, but now what. Now that we have an Autistic child what can be done? Your child may very well meet the current diagnostic criteria for Autism, but what if he or she is really suffering from heavy metal toxicity or auto-immune encephalopathy, for example? Those illnesses are known to cause symptoms of Autism. If your doctor kept digging to find the cause of your child’s neurological dysfunction, you would likely come out on the other side with a treatable illness and hope for the future, not to mention health insurance coverage for treatment. But instead, you are told that your child has autism, there is no treatment, hurry to get on a waiting list for behavioral therapies. If we have to stay in this 'too bad for you, life stinks' mode, progress for these children will never happen. Mainstream physicians need to start recognizing and treating the underlying medical issues that are causing the symptoms we collectively observe and diagnose as autism, only then will we start to make some real progress. My hope is that one day, no child will be diagnosed with “Autism”, that all sick children will be properly diagnosed and successfully treated for the illnesses that they truly suffer from.
Back to Savage and his misconceptions, this one is almost amusing. He actually thinks that having a child with autism opens the door to free medical treatment and services from the government, suggesting that parents might actually push for a diagnosis in an effort to screw the government and our fellow taxpayers. Yep! That's what we are all in it for THE BIG BUCKS! ~ I hope you noted the dripping sarcasm. Those of us in the trenches know that the word “autism” is the last thing a parent wants to hear. Savage’s implied freebies are nowhere to be found. The minute your child is diagnosed, you need to fit yourself with a suit of armor, a shield and a big-ass sword, because you have just taken the first step into a never-ending fight to get the services and medical care that your child needs. Our kids are placed on waiting lists for services that can be years long, our health insurance companies turn their backs on us, and our overwhelmed and under-funded school districts I do feel for our school district. Last year our elementary became the headquarters for Autism in the city. There are other affected children at our school, but with our three at that school alone, I'm sure they felt the need to make that their main district location. force us to fight for even the most basic services to help our kids. The number of families facing bankruptcy and losing their homes to provide their children with the care they need is staggering.
Savage also thinks that greedy lawyers are somehow involved, looking for ways to milk the pharmaceutical companies for families who claim that vaccines caused their child’s regression. He is completely ignorant to the fact that manufacturers are protected from all liability on vaccine injury claims thanks to the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. I tried to point this out to him, but he pushed on with this false assumption. What I didn’t realize until hearing the show later, was that my phone line was completely muted when Savage was speaking. There were several times when I tried to interject and disagree with him, and I was simply not heard. This is misleading and my silence could be interpreted by some of his listeners as agreement. I’m not happy about that. We learned about how that works also with our Larry King interview.
Savage’s producer asked me to have several other guests from our community standing by to be interviewed during the show. I did that, and not one of them was included. Not that big of a surprise really. Just seems to be a part of media's "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality. And it looks like some don't care if our children are the ones bleeding. The callers who were put on the air appeared to be hand-selected to participate in the show with the sole purpose of allowing Savage to backtrack and basically cover his own behind.
Savage claims to be an advocate for children’s health. One might think that instead of ranting about bad parenting, he would be questioning why we have so many sick children in this country. Coinciding with the increase in recommended vaccines, we’ve had an increase in chronic diseases including Asthma, ADD, ADHD, Juvenile Diabetes, and yes, Autism. Why do our government health agencies refuse to compare the overall health outcomes of vaccinated versus unvaccinated children? Why do they continue to inject our babies with substances that are known to be toxic to the developing brain and immune system? Why is our government being allowed to treat an entire generation of children like lab rats, by requiring an ever-increasing number of vaccines and conducting absolutely no safety studies on their cumulative effects?
Last night, I received an email with a link to a new website, savageonautism.com. He’s got a website for this now? On this site, there is a link to an audio clip of my discussion with Savage. It noted, “Savage speaks with Wendy Fournier, President of the National Autism Association who says that she has much common ground with Savage”. Again, misleading. I do not appreciate the implication that I am in any way on his side and I will not be used as a pawn in his attempt to backtrack on his comments. I contacted Talk Radio Network about this and the reference was promptly removed.
Mark Masters from TRN has offered to air public service announcements on their nationally syndicated shows in an effort to educate listeners on the reality of autism. For that I am very grateful. I hope that it will undo some of the damage that has been done. I hope that they follow through on their offer. We've had a number of 'offers' that were never fulfilled.
That damage is very real, and it frightens me for our children. I just got a phone call from a 74-year-old lady from California who was literally screaming at me, saying that we are a bunch of hysterical mothers who refuse to discipline our kids. She could barely catch her breath, and she’s calling us hysterical? I ended up hanging up on her and she’s called back 6 times already - that’s how fired up and anxious she is to criticize us as parents and the children we love. This is the damage that Mike Savage has done, And I for one, will do my best to help reverse his damage also. whether he meant to or not is completely irrelevant. There are people out there who are taking his words at face value and his message is one of hate.
To the fine people who are sending me hate mail about freedom of speech, you can stop. I’m all for it. You can say anything you want to in this country, but if you choose to attack our kids, be ready to defend your comments. Ditto!! We’re already suited up and are getting pretty good at wielding our big-ass swords.
In closing, I have listened with an open mind to Savage’s claim that he was taken out of context. My personal conclusion is that he was not, he’s lying to us. There are several reasons why I don’t believe him, but I keep coming back to one very significant quote. Savage claims he was talking about the “misdiagnosed”, not kids that truly have autism. But during his deplorable rant he said, “What do you mean they scream and they’re silent?” He was talking then about children who are silent, children who are non-verbal, children who are severely affected by autism, children like my beautiful little girl.
Michael Savage, take your father’s advice. Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Whether you actually meant to hurt suffering families or not, the simple fact is, you did hurt us. And for that alone, you should man up and apologize.
Wendy Fournier, PresidentNational Autism Association