It’s been 12 years since I last lived and worked in the US, and there are times when I realise how far my views have come from the days I, too, saw autism entirely through the lens of the medical model. Reading about how parents are dosing their autistic children with bleach compounds in a misguided and dangerous attempt to “recover” them is one of those moments. Reading through the comments below the article only deepens my sense of despair and makes me worry, as this approach is now spreading beyond the boundaries of the US. Such a lack of understanding of basic scientific principles, and a well-intentioned rejection of what passes for mainstream approaches in the US (i.e. the use of pharmaceutical drugs, also not the way to go but just a different route proposed for the same aim) that leads to abuse. Is it the lack of a coherent healthcare system? Is it the knowledge that having a disability in a country without a decent social care system for adults or social acceptance for being different really does look like a disaster to families? Is the fault of poor science education? Is it the “cure at any cost” rhetoric pumped out by Autism Speaks and other organisations with a similarly high profile?
And why is it that if suddenly parents of children with Down Syndrome were giving their children bleach internally and bathing them in it, there would be an uproar, but when parents of children with autism do so, there seem to be no consequences other than comments on a Web site?