Sunday, 3 March 2013

In Need of Woo-Less Help For Parents of Autistic Children

I don't usually complain about my personal life on this blog, but today was rough, really rough.

Both my wife and I likely picked up a bad cold from our son, who has apparently completely gotten over the one that's been dogging him over the past week.

His cold has been responsible for much lost sleep for us and him both but today he was fine and we're entering into the worst of our own infections.  It's a den of plague and suffering at the household this weekend.

To make things a little worse, my son is on the Autism Spectrum.  We love him dearly, but it can be a real challenge to our nerves dealing with him sometimes.  Just imagine the usual battle of wills and arguments that three year olds present on steroids. And he's full of near-hyperactive energy and bored while we're having a hard time keeping our eyes open. Today was a test of will.  For a brief moment I thought of the support groups out there an how parents who believe in a god cope.  Is it easier for them?

A simple search for autism and prayer brings up Autism Sunday which we just missed by a couple of weeks.
Autism Sunday, also known as the International Day of Prayer for Autism and Asperger syndrome, is observed annually on the second Sunday of February.
This seems like a fairly innocuous event.  Although the prayer achieves nothing whatsoever, it's nice to know people are at least meditating on the problem and focusing in on it.  One can only hope that some people take the next step and do something substantial rather than believing a simple prayer is enough.

But then things start taking a turn for the worse with this article at Pat Robertson's 700 Club, MIRACLE Indonesian Boy Healed of Autism.
"I thanked God because He was starting to heal William," Hilda says crying. "I was so joyful. He began to understand when we would call him. And when we would ask him his colors, he answered correctly." 
William quickly progressed to the point where he was able to attend a regular school with children his age. God had healed him of autism!
I'm happy to hear this boy is doing better now, but what does this do for others with this problem? If only God could be a more effective cure for all those other children with Autism.  I guess he works in mysterious ways.  At the end of the day, it's woo.

Then there's the Child of Destiny website.
JACK AND REBECCA SYTSEMA are both ordained Christian ministers who have been involved in international prayer ministry since 1993. They have also been involved with many autism groups over the past several years.
On their page Autism Strategic Prayer Network, they call upon people to pray daily to get God to help scientists out in finding cures and treatment strategies.
Because we believe so strongly in the power of prayer, we at Children of Destiny are now working to compile a list of people who feel called to pray for what is going on in the autism world. This network of people, who will be known as the Autism Strategic Prayer Network (ASPN), would be receiving periodic, as well as emergency, emails asking for prayer for important issues, events, and occurrences related to autism. 
Our goal in forming the ASPN is to identify and network intercessors who feel particularly called to pray at this level, and to make a significant impact in the world of autism through the power of prayer. The three main prayer objectives we focus on are:

1. That any and all causes of autism be exposed and recognized by those in authority so that the epidemic of autism is stopped;
2. That God would give strategy for how to best help those with autism medically, educationally, and spiritually; 
3. Those who are affected by autism would have all the necessary medical, educational, and spiritual resources available to them.
I know, I know.  What kind of lousy messed up God would even bring Autism into this world and why would he need such insistant prodding?  But I am not tempted to point out what a dick head he is.  Instead, I can only see that, as Christian ministers, this is what they have to lean on for comfort and support.  This is their support network when things get tough.  Of course it doesn't help and does nothing concretely for their goal, but it's not about that.  It's about community and shared suffering and challenges.  It's a shame it has got to have so much woo.

Then there is the insane den of woo that is Autism One.  It decks itself out as being a legitimate scientific convention and forum for parents to have access to the latest in therapies.  But it turns out to be a forum for self-serving entrepreneurs to peddle unscientific, abusive and dangerous so-called treatments for Autism. Downright dangerous woo.

But what's my point here?  My point is, it would be nice to have an organization out there to help support parents of children with Autism who are skeptical and rational.  Those of us who are not prone to jump onto the woo and religious bandwagons and for whom these crutches that people often reach for in times of utter desperation are no better than smoke and mirrors.

Fellow skeptics, humanists and atheists, lend me your ear.  Does such a group exist?


  1. No woo - have you heard of gluten/autism connection? Google gluten autism, and check it out!

    If you are a thousand miles ahead of me, here . . . sorry.

    My Hugs' symptoms have improved since going gluten free.

    Best to you . . . <3

  2. Do you follow 'I Speak of Dreams'? I think she'd be a great resource for you. If I'm not mistaken she's one of the authors of 'The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism'. Here's her link -

  3. I don't believe I've heard of this! Thanks so much, I will add her to my reading list!


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