Dear Joshua Coleman,
Something that has always bothered me a lot about the antivax camp is how it is common for you all to not only believe vaccines cause autism but insist that you are working FOR the autistic community with this mind set. Just this week, you insisted that you love everyone, including people on the autism spectrum, but you hate the autism and want the person recovered, cured, or you want to prevent autism from happening in the first place.
You can watch the video on Twitter here and on Facebook here.
Newsflash: If you hate the autism, you hate the person.
Would you like to know why I say this? Because, I have read a great deal about autism and talked for years with people on the autism spectrum. And I have a child on the spectrum. I have friends on the spectrum. I have friends with children on the spectrum. I teach children on the spectrum. I know that adults on the spectrum almost universally see their autism as part of who they are and they like who they are. They don’t want to be cured. They don’t want to be prevented from existence. They want to be accepted. I know my own child wants to be accepted for who she is. I know the children I work with want love and acceptance. Autism is part of the very being for autistic individuals. Science tells us vaccines do not cause autism and the autism community is telling us they want to be accepted for whom they are. Antivax ideas have been debunked again and again. It is not for us in the neurotypical world to judge them. We must listen to them and accept them.
From an essay on The Mighty:
But in “curing” autism, they’re removing every part of me that’s autistic. Take that away, and I’m not me anymore! My autism affects every part of who I am. It colors all my experiences.
Persons on the autism spectrum do not see themselves as a person WITH autism but as an AUTISTIC person. This is why you see so many persons on the spectrum using Identity-First language.
From an essay on The Autism Self Advocacy Network website:
In the autism community, many self-advocates and their allies prefer terminology such as “Autistic,” “Autistic person,” or “Autistic individual” because we understand autism as an inherent part of an individual’s identity — the same way one refers to “Muslims,” “African-Americans,” “Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer,” “Chinese,” “gifted,” “athletic,” or “Jewish.” On the other hand, many parents of Autistic people and professionals who work with Autistic people prefer terminology such as “person with autism,” “people with autism,” or “individual with ASD” because they do not consider autism to be part of an individual’s identity and do not want their children to be identified or referred to as “Autistic.” They want “person-first language,” that puts “person” before any identifier such as “autism,” in order to emphasize the humanity of their children.
So, it is with great sadness that I say to you, Joshua Coleman: you are wrong. You are wrong in comparing autism to cancer. You are wrong in believing your antivax protests are for the benefit of autistic persons. You are wrong.
For those of you who don’t know Joshua Coleman, let me introduce you. Josh lives in the Sacramento, California, USA area and has two sons. His first son, Otto, woke up paralyzed one morning at about age 12 months. At some point, Josh started to believe his son’s condition resulted from a vaccine injury. He has been an active antivax campaigner ever since. He travelled with the Vaxxed movie team for a long time, on their bus, as a videographer.
Lately, Josh has been organizing protests to vaccines where he and his friends dress up in costumes or printed tees and use signs he created to protest at events like ComicCons or Immunization Conferences. They also like to protest celebrities, like Kristen Bell and Jimmy Kimmel, who stand up for immunizations. He has been to San Diego Comic-Con and numerous other events. He calls his protests V is for Vaccine and has set up a website to show the public how to make the protest signs. Of course, I have already addressed how the signs not factual.
Recently, he created a live post on Facebook where he tells us that autism is an injury and a disorder. [scroll up for links] He tells about an encounter with a person “in the neurodiversity movement.” He says “the neurodiverse are people on the autism spectrum who believe that having autism is just like being black or Chinese.” “It is not really an injury, it is just like, it is normal, that autism is normal.” “I believe and most people believe that autism is, quote, a disorder, it is an injury, it is an impairment.” He goes on to say how just because he wants to stop autism from happening he does not hate autism. Rather, he feels that autism is like his father’s cancer: you can love the person and still hate the health issue.
Back to you, Josh. Let’s go back to the Autism Self Advocacy Network, which is a large group of autism supporters, advocates, and actually autistic individuals, none of whom you have ever actually met.
One argument I encountered in one of the more cogently-written papers in favor of person-first language expostulates that because cancer patients are referred to as “people with cancer” or “people who have cancer,” as opposed to “cancerous people,” the same principle should be used with autism. There are some fundamental flaws with this analogy, however.
Cancer is a disease that ultimately kills if not treated or put into long-term remission. There is absolutely nothing positive, edifying, or meaningful about cancer. Cancer is not a part of a person’s identity or the way in which an individual experiences and understands the world around him or her. It is not all-pervasive.
Autism, however, is not a disease. It is a neurological, developmental condition; it is considered a disorder, and it is disabling in many and varied ways. It is lifelong. It does not harm or kill of its own accord. It is an edifying and meaningful component of a person’s identity, and it defines the ways in which an individual experiences and understands the world around him or her. It is all-pervasive.
Joshua, spend some time talking to actually autistic individuals outside your Vaxxed movement. You will see that there is a huge difference between how antivax parents talk about their children and how autism advocates and provax persons talk about autism. Visit the The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism and learn from people who are autistic and/or have autistic children and KNOW vaccines do not cause autism. You could also learn from the Ed Wiley Austim Library, from which the narwhals derive.
You will also see that autism is a spectrum. Sure, there are some people on the autism spectrum who have very high needs and have not been taught to use the potty and have not been afforded the benefit of assistive communication technology. Some of them use aggressive, socially unacceptable behavior as a means of communicating frustration and confusion and anger. They do this likely because nobody helped them find another way to communicate, not because this is what autism is like. With assistive technology, picture symbols, or sign language, they could learn to communicate. They could even learn to use the potty but it takes effort. It takes therapy. It takes patience. Special Education teachers, like myself, can help. Most persons on the autism spectrum don’t meet your stereotype of autism. Most persons on the spectrum can communicate and are potty trained and do not bang their heads. (Note: these are typical stereotypes of autism commonly used in the antivax community.)
Most people on the autism spectrum fall in the levels 1 or 2. 31% of those diagnosed on the autism spectrum also have an intellectual disability. One third are non-verbal which means they have very limited verbal abilities but can learn to communicate with technology and/or sign language. Many autistic adult bloggers are “non-verbal” but communicate just fine with technology.
Here is a look at the three levels of autism:
Most autistic persons fall in levels 1 or 2 but you seem to only talk about level three and even then you only seem to speak of the most highly disabled persons. I feel the autistics you know likely did not have very good therapies as children. That is a tragedy. Most autistics, including my own child, are not like your stereotypes. My child requires some support, occasionally substantial support, so I would call her a 1.5. The vast majority of persons on the autism spectrum fall in levels 1 or 2. Those in level three very often have co-morbidities (other diagnoses) which affect their abilities.
You do not speak for my child. You do not speak for the autism community. You speak only for antivaxers who irrationally blame vaccines for autism.
Your words are hurtful.
Your words are harmful.
You hate autism. And, you also obviously hate people on the spectrum.
Please, spend some time learning what autism is like from the point of view of the actually autistic. #actuallyautistic will help you find them.
Learn. Grow. Be a better person.
27 thoughts on “Dear Joshua Coleman, if you hate the autism then, you hate the autistic person.”
Beautifully written! It’s sad anti-vax ringleaders like Josh don’t seem to understand much about autism. Or he simply doesn’t care.
Parents who’s children were neurotypical and suddenly regressed immediately following a routine vaccination for one or more pathogens would disagree with you . They “lost” their children and were left with someone different who suddenly banged their head on the wall , had screaming fits or violent fits and needed to be restrained, no longer made eye contact, talked or fed themselves. Please don’t assume your experience with autism is the same as everyone else’s . That’s why it’s called a spectrum. Try reading this article to a parent who’s kid regressed and will now need round the clock care forever. It won’t go over well.
That is not a thing. Those are children who had missed signs of autism and didn’t get the help they deserved. It is so insulting to pretend you lost your real child when they are right there and need your help.
There is a saying that if you meet one autistic person, you have met just one autistic person. They are often all different for various reasons. And it is not because of vaccines. There is an ongoing study that is finding all sorts of reasons for the neurological variation: https://sparkforautism.org/discover/
I would love to have our family included to find out if my son’s history of seizures, genetic cardiology issues and level 2 autism are all related. But he is over eighteen, so he has to do the signing up. It is not going to happen.
This is why I encourage others to sign up. It is a bit more proactive than demonizing vaccines.
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There are no parents whose children suddenly regressed. That doesn’t happen. They missed early warning signs. Head banging and violent fits are a sign of frustration. That is not autism. Any disabled person could do that if their needs are not being met. It is a form of communication. Eye contact is overrated. Not being able to feed oneself has nothing to do with autism. Talking is overrated. All autistics can learn to communicate.
Try understanding autism before you post about it.
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“Eye contact is overrated. Not being able to feed oneself has nothing to do with autism. Talking is overrated.”
Which is apparently okay dokay with cerebral palsy. There was even a television show about that called “Speechless”, which was unfortunately not renewed. Though I have met a few with CP, and like autism it is a spectrum.
By the way, as a “typically” neurological person I also hate the looking at the eyes bit. I temporally lost my hearing in first grade due to an infection that was missed due to moving multiple times as an Army brat, so I learned how to read lips. After that issue was dealt with, and I had to repeat first grade, I tend to watch lips, not eyes. I get called out on that once in a while. When I explain my history, they then understand.
Just an FYI folks: if you are conversing with someone with a hearing aide, like a grandparent, do not insist that they look you in the eyes. Come on! That is just common sense! It also means you should not assume anything.
“And I have a child on the spectrum. I have friends on the spectrum. I have friends with children on the spectrum. I teach children on the spectrum.”
No epidemic then, is there? Sarcastic eye roll.
“Science tells us vaccines do not cause autism.”
The statement “vaccines do not cause autism” relies almost entirely upon studies focusing on one vaccine – MMR – whilst ignoring the rest of the vaccine schedule. So how is science telling us anything if the studies haven’t been done?
It’s easy to find evidence that the vaccine/autism studies have not been done for vaccines apart from the MMR.
For example, during IOM’s 2011 review of vaccine safety, it was asked by HHS about the relationship between autism and the DTaP vaccine. The IOM couldn’t find a single study supporting that DTaP does not cause autism.
The IOM therefore concluded: “The evidence is inadequate to accept or reject a causal relationship between diphtheria toxoid–, tetanus toxoid–, or acellular pertussis–containing vaccine and autism.”
Ironically, the CDC uses this report as evidence that “there is no link between vaccines and autism”.
There is no autism epidemic
Vaccines do not cause autism
It would be to your benefit to stay current on research.
Actually there are several that have nothing to do with the MMR. In fact, there was a meta-study that took in all of those: Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies
Then there are all of the studies done using the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink. Go look them up, there are several published every year.
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“Actually there are several that have nothing to do with the MMR”.
Then why is MMR mentioned 41 times in this study and no other vaccines are named apart from generally in the introduction?
They were. You have to actually look at the papers being reviewed, and learn how to read a table. One hint is the table where the letters “Hg” indicate papers with thimerosal, because that is the scientific abbreviation for mercury. Perhaps you should learn how to read a paper.
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“Thimerosal” is mentioned 28 times, “mercury” is mentioned 9 times and “Hg” (which is mercury) is mentioned twenty times.
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There are many very good studies concluding autism begins in utero.
50-100 years ago, educators never saw anyone neurodiverse. They were excluded from schools. If they had severe disabilities, they were institutionalized for life. If they had level 1 disabilities, they were excluded from school and lived a marginalized existence
Life is better now!
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It’s important to remind ourselves that science is constantly changing, the scientific consensus of today may well be considered flawed science in 10 years time. In 2019, vaccine research is still in a primitive state, it is kept that way as any type of high-quality studies are perceived as ‘unethical’, leaving scientists with their hands tied as to which type of research they can carry out. The ‘safety’ of vaccines is currently only backed up by studies which don’t use real placebos, the vaccinated v unvaccinated one is not allowed; ‘unethical’ is the reason given. However, some independent researchers have performed small-scale studies like this, their findings being that the unvaccinated individuals are healthier, with lower rates of asthma, epilepsy, eczema and less neurodevelopmental problems.
Epidemiological studies are rightly criticized as being both insufficient and easy to deceive people with. A classic example of epidemiological studies being abused is the one of the Tobacco Industry using them for years to convince the public that smoking cigarettes didn’t cause cancer. Now the vaccine industry have taken the baton and is using the same techniques to defend and promote vaccines.
How can this mess be sorted out? What we really need is mechanistic studies and at the cellular level. Of course this won’t be viewed as ethical in humans, but we can still use animals like sheep and mice etc, studying behavior and overall health outcomes, then perform post-mortems on the animals to investigate the mechanistic effect of the vaccine and to discover which of the vaccine ingredients remain inside the body.
Surely everyone can agree that we deserve far better science, as what is currently being offered is unacceptable, and it would be inhumane to force such products onto a population, in violation of the Nuremberg Code. We also need to consider if the same industry who conspired to trap us in an opioid crisis can ever really be trusted as the guardian of public health? The key driving forces of a for-profit pharmaceutical industry are not compatible with such a responsibility, as we can see from catastrophe they have caused with antibiotics; trying to sell as many as possible without thinking or caring about the long-term repercussions of antibiotic overuse. Now we see the same with vaccines, overloading the schedule with all kinds of injections which have never been tested in combination or against real placebos, and some of the substances within still having an almost unknown or an inadequate safety profile. There is also currently no effective way of tracking how the recipients of vaccines do in the following months and years post-vaccination, so if they are diagnosed with asthma, epilepsy, MS, eczema, peanut allergies etc it most likely will never be linked with the vaccines which could have caused it; one doesn’t tend to find what one doesn’t look for.
The industry is scared, as they know if high-quality research is allowed there will likely be serious consequences, with powerful individuals being held responsible, reputations ruined and with a colossal total sum of compensation required. Could it possibly be that the real reason for the push for forced vaccination is to remove the unvaccinated controls from the population; their superior health being the smoking gun of the failure of vaccine science.
Again, if you are not satisfied with the several dozen epidemiological studies, the Vaccine Safety Datalink studies and the more recent ones from Dr. Michael Mina of the Harvard Center for Communicable Diseases, then get them done yourself. Just design a study that conforms with the Belmont Report, get a grant for funding and go do it. Unfortunately you cannot get a grant from the Dwoskin Family Foundation after the divorce.
Plus you could now go visit Samoa and ask the locals there what they think of measles. That would be much more productive than parroting the AAPS, a politically conservative organization that pushes conspiracies: https://americanloons.blogspot.com/2014/04/1000-jane-orient.html
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Samoa? You might want to ask yourself why the measles death rate in Samoa is 100 times the rate of death that occurred before we even had a vaccine. In the 60s before the vaccine, the average death rate was 1 in 10,000. In Samoa it’s 1 in 67.
Also why have they stopped genotyping new cases? By genotyping, it was established in the DIsneyland outbreak that 30% of of the people affected had the vaccine strain.
Why are all the important questions being ignored, oh yeah, because they can’t be blamed on anti-vaxxers.
The death rate in Samao is the result of parents fearing the medical establishment and using traditional medicine until it was too late for medical doctors to save their children. If they had gone to MD at first sign of measles, their children would likely be alive. Tragic.
No, you are confused about the Disney outbreak. All the real measles patients had wild measles. Some patients were separated out from the outbreak as they had the mild, non-contagious, post- vaccine rash. The real measles patients had the severe, contagious, wild measles rash. That is how genotype testing is recorded.
Claims made without evidence can be safely ignored without evidence.
Also, it is not in California so has nothing to do with Disneyland. That argument is trite and very wrong: https://respectfulinsolence.com/2019/12/04/measles-outbreak-samoa/#comment-419352
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In Samoa, there are over 70 people dead from measles, many of them young children. Also the vaccine used their is Priorix vaccine, which is not used in the United States of America (which is where California is located). You must be so proud to conflate information and the havoc it caused: https://theconversation.com/measles-in-samoa-how-a-small-island-nation-found-itself-in-the-grips-of-an-outbreak-disaster-128467
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Antivaxers have stooped to heretofore unimaginable depths over this Samoa outbreak. It has been literally shocking.
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Sorry, tired from helping a relative move today, it should be: “Also the vaccine used there is the Priorix vaccine, “
Or you can join this research: https://sparkforautism.org/discover/
Your choice. Because science does not care about your opinions.
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I don’t rely on industry studies. I look at independent science. Good think there is a great deal of it. There is no autism epidemic.
“There is also currently no effective way of tracking how the recipients of vaccines do in the following months and years post-vaccination,”‘
Not sure which country you are in but we have the vaccine safety datalink in USA. It is a good system!
I don’t engage in conspiracy theories
Reblogged this on Autism Candles.