Over on the daily embarrassment known as Age of Autism, editor Dan Olmstead has decided to launch a personal attack against Kathleen Seidel. In the hit-piece, he attempts to draw imaginary lines between Kathleen's career path and resulting ethyl mercury exposure, with the fact that she is the parent of an autistic person.
It is de rigeur to find this type of (poorly done and factually erroneous) attempted character assassination on AoA, as past "victims" have included anyone from respected researcher Nancy Minshew, to vaccine expert Paul Offit, to Drs. (and parents) Joyce Chung and Roy Richard Grinker, among many others.
Kev has already explained the foundational level of ineptness displayed by Dan Olmstead in writing this most recent diatribe, by explaining that the supposed ethyl mercury exposure that Mr. Olmstead has 'accused' Kathleen of never actually happened. No need to rehash that point again, as I'm sure Mr. Olmstead is appropriately ashamed of his blind leap to conclusions by now. Or perhaps not, since Mr. Olmstead seems to have made a career of this type of dot-connecting without fact-checking.
What I want to address is the common content of the comments on that post. Aside from the expected "GO DAN!" style of comments, there is a recurring theme there of agreement on something that Mr. Olmstead brought up in his attempt to discredit Kathleen.
Mr. Olmstead's piece uses the following quote from Kathleen Seidel:
"Excuse me. Did it ever occur to [vaccine mercury critics] that someone might object to having their family members labeled as inherently toxic?"
as a springboard for his counter-argument:
"Well, they might object, but that doesn't have any bearing on the truth."
And the commenters to the piece really dig in to this concept, with comments like:
"There is absolutely no logic in saying that it is offensive to imply that a child is poisoned. Poising is something that happens to someone.Poisoning is not a trait one is born with. How can you "offend" someone by stating or hypothesizing that an event happened to someone? Ridiculous!"
"And "toxic" is not an insult -- it is a possible explanation which, when treated, can sometimes result in substantial improvement in quality of life -- health, social skills, cognition..."
"What an ostrich attitude, construing concern over treatment of a medical malady instead as a social gaffe. I know toxic people, myself among them, and have no problem applying or wearing that label."
"Is Kathleen Seidel Toxic?
What else could explain her aggressive, obsessive, hateful demeanor.
Somebody toss this woman a DMSA, please!"
I had to throw that last quote in as a perfect example of what connotations the word "toxic" carries in today's vernacular.
Having read these comments, I think perhaps I can offer One Dad's Opinion - not to be confused with "the Neurodiversity movement" (if anyone has a membership list for the ND's, I'd love to see one) - on why it is so important to not refer to our children as toxic when they are not.
Toxic is defined as:
k s k)
1. Of, relating to, or caused by a toxin or other poison: a toxic condition; toxic hepatitis.
2. Capable of causing injury or death, especially by chemical means; poisonous: food preservatives that are toxic in concentrated amounts; a dump for toxic industrial wastes. See Synonyms at poisonous.
This, then, is the set of parameters folks at Age of Autism are setting for our children. They would have you believe that, in the immortal words of JB Handley, "There is no such thing as autism. Autism is just a mis-diagnosis for mercury poisoning." Words that JB - founder of Generation Rescue and Age of Autism - has never retracted.
The logical extension of this statement is quite simple:
Toxic is bad
Non-toxic ("cured" or "recovered") is good
Since they also take the position that autism is condition resulting from toxicity, then of course:
Autistic is bad
Non-autistic is good
Now I'm not going to sit here and say there is nothing bad about the condition of being autistic, as different individuals experience the challenges and disabling aspects of autism in different ways and it would be foolish to sugarcoat those aspects. And it is certainly not my place to speak for anyone else on this topic. But I have a serious problem with autism being approached from a de facto position that it is a lesser circumstance.
This position requires the view that autism is inherently negative, and that elimination of the condition of autism (i.e. toxicity) is the only worthy goal. Recall that autism is defined as a life-long disorder. There is documented improvement in some young children - some even "moving off" the spectrum altogether - but no "treatment" oriented toward resolving the hypothesized toxicity component has been shown to have been more effective than placebo. So often it has amazed me that, among the parents who go down the road of hard-core buying into the "toxic child" mythology, so little thought is given to the life-long impact of their particular brand of PR on those people who will remain autistic and require community supports throughout their lifespan. The mantra seems to be, "I recovered my kid, aren't you ashamed that you haven't even tried?" Which equates in my mind to, "My kid is better off than yours because he/she is less autistic than yours".
Are these people unable to conceptualize how the "toxicity" view of autism would dictate how educator and service providers may view the individual? Imagine an IEP meeting - "How is Kim this year? Still poisoned? Oh, that sucks ... I guess we'll have to support her again. When do you think she might be detoxed?"
And let's just say that the PR machine (all style, no substance) that is GR and AoA succeeds in their very expensive and cult-like "selling" of the toxic child paradigm to the general public. What, then, of the autistic teens, young adults, and adults that are out in the community - participating as is their God-given right? Will they be met with sad looks, hushed conversations just out of earshot about the poor "toxic cesspool" that is the autistic person? How, exactly, does this world-view engender dignity for the autistic person? You know what? It doesn't. It just doesn't. And it saddens me that people like Mr. Olmstead - himself a person who is NOT a stakeholder in the autism community - devote their efforts to entrenching the public in this erroneous and harmful paradigm. And it saddens me that, as he spirals downward into the rabbit hole of quackery, bad journalism, and harmful mythology, he feels the need to try to drag good people - the latest being Kathleen Seidel - down with him.
Shame, Mr. Olmstead. Shame.