I don't know what it's like to be autistic. I don't know what it's like to raise an autistic child. For this knowledge, I have to rely on others, and there are plenty of talented bloggers out there who write about these experiences all the time. What I do know is that there is a cadre of autism "activists" out there who do a great disservice to people who do know something about these experiences.
One such example is Dr. Jerry Kartzinel, who co-wrote Jenny McCarthy's latest monument to her own idiocy. "Dr. Jerry" is infamous among many parents of autistic children for this quote:
Autism, as I see it, steals the soul from a child; then, if allowed, relentlessly sucks life's marrow out of the family members, one by one.
First, this may indeed resonate with many people. Having a family member with a chronic illness or developmental disorder sometimes breaks a person or a family. I'm not sure what he means by "soul" but in this case it would appear that he means that part of a person which interacts with others in a way that we approve of. Autism is a protean disorder, and regardless of its manifestations, different parents have different experiences with their autistic children. Some parents perceive their profoundly disabled children as having a rich "soul", and some may see even mildly disabled children as being "soul-less"---which is sad and unfortunate. From my read as an outsider, I see parents of autistic kids struggling to raise children whom they love as much as any "normal" child, and who they do not in any way perceive as soul-less.
It's not just that Kartzinel insults the dignity of autistic persons and their families; he also has a terrible mis-understanding of autism, its causes, and its treatments:
Kartzinel adopted a child and says that after the mumps, measles and rubella vaccine, his son developed symptoms.
"I did research. The child had a lot of diarrhea. So I was wondering 'I wonder if gluten, like Celiac's disease is causing this diarrhea,'" Kartzinel said. "Remove gluten, which is that elastic protein. And his diarrhea improved. I removed dairy and all of a sudden I had a child who was sleeping through the night. I started cod liver oil and all of a sudden I had a child making eye contact again."
This anecdote (very similar to Jenny's) is a damned poor basis for making recommendations to others---but that doesn't stop him. His pediatric practice is devoted to implementing his bizarre and discredited beliefs about autism.
Dr. Jerry is a fine example of everything that is wrong with the autism "movement". Rather than approach this spectrum of developmental disorders using the best tools we have (science), he makes it up as he goes along, applying faith-based methods, writing books, and making really lousy friends. What he practices isn't medicine---it's religion, and bad religion at that.
Who's soul should we be concerned about, Jerry?