SAVAGE: Now, you want me to tell you my opinion on autism, since I'm not talking about autism? A fraud, a racket. For a long while, we were hearing that every minority child had asthma. Why did they sudden -- why was there an asthma epidemic amongst minority children? Because I'll tell you why: The children got extra welfare if they were disabled, and they got extra help in school. It was a money racket. Everyone went in and was told [fake cough], "When the nurse looks at you, you go [fake cough], 'I don't know, the dust got me.' " See, everyone had asthma from the minority community. That was number one.
Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? 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."
Autism -- everybody has an illness. 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.
I had no intention of addressing the whole Michael Savage issue here or anywhere else, mostly because what he said was pretty clearly stupid, but also for the simple reason that autism isn't my issue. I occasionally have disagreements with parents of autistic children, and in most cases it boils down to the fact that Schuyler is not autistic. Her condition does not in any way manifest itself like autism, not even her lack of speech, and my beliefs in how she should be cared for, how I refer to her condition and my expectations for her future are completely different from theirs. I have the utmost respect for these parents, and I like to think that the fight I bring on Schuyler's behalf will benefit them just as much. But still. Not my fight, not directly, anyway.
But then I followed a link that was showing up in my stats, and I found a discussion of Savage's remarks on a parenting forum. I found the link back to my blog, and to my irritation, it was in a post by someone who, while disdaining the manner in which Savage expressed his opinion, nevertheless defended his point about how kids are supposedly being over-diagnosed with autism by pointing out that Schuyler was originally misdiagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. You may be reading this blog for the first time right now, as a result of following that link.
So let me say a few things briefly and clearly. First of all, yes, it is true that Schuyler was misdiagnosed, by the Child Study Center at the Yale Medical School, with Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS, or as I liked to call it, for its vague and unhelpful description, "PDD-WTF"), an autism spectrum disorder.
But I also think it's important to note that Schuyler's actual condition, Bilateral Perisylvian Polymicrogyria, is extremely rare, with perhaps as few as a thousand identified cases worldwide, and without the MRI that Schuyler eventually received, there was no way to identify what her monster really was. It was unlikely, even at Yale, that anyone was going to immediately get it right, particularly without a brain scan. Furthermore, we pushed for more tests when that diagnosis felt unsatisfactory, and those tests were granted without any resistance because her doctors agreed with us. Her misdiagnosis only stood for a few months, and was suspect from the beginning.
In other words, I don't think Schuyler's misdiagnosis is very helpful anecdotally. Are children being diagnosed prematurely with autism spectrum conditions? I have no idea; my kid isn't autistic, and even when she received that diagnosis, I don't think anyone ever seriously thought she was. I can't speak to how autism is being identified by doctors.
I do think, however, that it is important to realize that yes, autism is a serious, legitimate medical condition and one that affects thousands of families in ways that I can't even begin to fathom. Furthermore, I can't imagine there are really non-deranged people out there who believe otherwise. If there are people out there ready to put forth an intelligent argument in defense of that position, Michael Savage is not one of them. He's a buffoon, and I'm pretty sure he knows it.
Having said that, I don't believe he should be silenced for expressing his opinion. Typically, free speech only truly requires our democracy's defense when it is denied to the assmonkeys of the world; logical or popular positions (and why are they so rarely one and the same?) can usually take care of themselves.
Still, it's nice to know that sometimes the marketplace responds appropriately.