LEARY'S BRAIN VS. THE AUTISTICS
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October 15, 2008 --
DENIS Leary should brace himself for hate mail from the parents of kids diagnosed with autism.
In his new book, "Why We Suck: A Feel-Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid," the joke-slinging "Rescue Me" star writes about the brain disorder:
"There is a huge boom in autism right now because inattentive mothers and competitive dads want an explanation for why their dumb-ass kids can't compete academically, so they throw money into the happy laps of shrinks . . . to get back diagnoses that help explain away the deficiencies of their junior morons. I don't give a [bleep] what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you - yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both."
The Autism Society of America responded: "For Mr. Leary to suggest that families or doctors conspire to falsely diagnose autism is ridiculous . . . [His] remarks reflect the same misconceptions of autism being caused by bad or unemotional parenting that were held over 50 years ago."
Why does this hurt me so much?
You would think with all that we have to endure that Leary making some not so original or funny or even marginally informed rant would roll right off. But it doesn't. Because all I can think is that, while Michael Savage is widely considered to be a jerk, Leary is well liked (I like him) and his stupid words are going to incite someone one day to think that my son is just stupid and lazy and that his narcissistic parents should have paid more attention to him and use all that as an excuse to treat him like crap.
I am not even that mad at Leary. The unoriginalality of his comments, and the fact that he is just basically repeating himself comically (this being just being the most recent iteration of his 'I'm an asshole, you're an asshole, let's all drink and smoke and fight until we get cancer and die' shtick) makes me see this comment as not one from the heart (considering the comic has shown that he has a heart with all his charity work) but that he got stuck writing one night and had a deadline and decided to use our sick kids as filler.
The thing that has made Leary's insult comedy acceptable, is that, both in his standup and in his shows, it has always targeted people who actually were pretentious assholes, he has always included himself in the category of asshole, it has always been clear that his public persona is a product of his own self-loathing and that he was always willing to suffer the consequences insulting people. Because those pretentious assholes could, and would, fight back.
But now he has targeted sick children. (Worse, sick children who don't have the verbal acumen that he does to defend themselves.)
And the people I hold responsible for that is the medical profession that refuses to publicly identify children with autism as 'sick children'. I am sure Mr. Leary knows nothing about our kids inflammatory bowel disease, nothing about their neuro encepalopathy, nothing about their viral infections, nothing about their fungal infections, nothing about their autoimmune disorders, nothing about their mitochondrial dysfunction, nothing about their metal poisoning and nothing about the metabolic disorders associated with autism.
It is AAP and CDC's job to investigate illness and educate the public on said illnesses, but every time a health professional gets on TV and utters the ignorant words, "Mysterious disorder, no know cause or cure" they make one more Dennis Leary, one more Michael Savage, one more jerk that has decided that he is going to excoriate us lazy, stupid, negligent, selfish parents and teach us a lesson by giving us a public tongue lashing to whip us into shape.
And they allow this to go on and on, for more and more kids to get sick, for more families to have professional insulters add insult to our injury, for untold numbers of children miss out on interventions that would dramatically improve their lives, all so they can maintain the denial that they are causing most of this damage.
So to the AAP I say again... what is your plan?
How long are you going to let this go on? How many lives will you let be destroyed before you take responsibility for the damage your blind love affair with endless vaccination, antibiotics, psychotropics and Pharma money is doing to a generation of children and their families? Are you hoping for a full return to the Bettleheim era where autism moms all wear a scarlet "A" in public and you are completely exonerated at their expense? Or are you perhaps hoping to be able to up the ante and replace the phrase "Refrigerator Mother" with the phrase "Münchhausen Mother"?
Do you understand that this is the kind of thing that trickles down from your "Mysterious disorder, no know cause or cure" bullshit?
How bad are you going to let this get?!
And where is our Edward R. Murrow to ask AAP and CDC the question:
As far as Leary goes, no need for me to shame him as he will probably be getting the message in many forms today about just how wrong he is. I hope that like Savage, someone reasoned and patient will give him the chance to learn what autism really is as Wendy Fournier of NAA did when got in touch to try educate him. I hope that unlike Savage, Leary will listen and realize how much potential damage his words can do to our children and take them back. But bottom line, he is a comic, so he is supposed to be a screwed up middle-aged man stuck in adolescence and saying whatever will get the class to stop what they are supposed to be doing and paying attention to him. And I am reasonably sure he would freely admit to that.
The source of this lie about our children begins with the AAP and the CDC (who are supposed to be the responsible grown-ups here) who will not acknowledge our children's medical problems, apologize for the part they had in creating them, and treat them.
Until they do, and until comics like Leary understand that our children are physically sick, be prepared to hear things like this every few months. And be prepared to have to fight back every time so we don't loose the ground we have gained.
You are a funny and clever man and you have been grossly misinformed about our children. This comment was beneath you, both morally and comically. You have made me laugh for two decades now (I even saved your last two appearances on Craig Ferguson because you two are so damn funny together), but this rant was not not funny or clever or true. Not just was it stale and unfunny, worst of all, it was not just a benign failed joke. You are tearing down the work that mom's like me have been doing for the last fifty years to try to get doctors to properly examine and treat our kids by giving power to the falsehood that autism is the result of bad parenting.
In addition, when you paint autism parents as 'crackerjack whack jobs', you make it harder for me to get doctors to take my reports of his physical symptoms seriously and get my son the medical treatment he needs. Because contrary to your belief that there is some sort of collusion going on between parents and doctors, the opposite is true. Our pediatricians could not be less interested in our kids. We are begging them to actually physically examine our kids and treat their physical symptoms, rather than labeling them, slapping a bottle of ritalin on the counter and tucking them away in psychiatric treatment.
You have no idea how hard it is to parent a child with autism and do right by him. Please stop making my job harder.
This is about as hurtful to us, parents whose whole lives are wrapped up in healing our children and bringing them back from this miserable disorder, as it would be to you and those families you care about if someone of your prominence had said that the firemen that died in the WTC were too stupid, lazy and self-involved to dig their way out of the rubble after the building collapsed on them.
So I am going to wrap this up and get back to digging my son out from under the building that collapsed on him four years ago. I hope that you will take today and muster up some humility and listen to those who will be letting you know how they feel about what you have said about them and their children.
But before I go, let me introduce you to my son. This is Chandler Taylor, a little boy that you have called stupid and lazy and told him that he can't speak normally because his parents were not interested enough in him to make sure he could.
He is beautiful and valuable and loving and is so bright that he taught himself to read when he was three and can do third grade math. His life is hard and right now he is working his ass off to function in a first grade classroom with his typical peers. It crushes me that you would believe otherwise of him and teach people to see him as lazy and stupid.
Ginger Taylor, M.S., A.M.