Well Being

Mirrors, Love and Jenny McCarthy

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That's what autism is about, right?—-mirrors, love, and Jenny McCarthy. Not exactly, you say……..

This is a post about autism though the three subjects listed in the title might suggest otherwise. True, if it is make-up, romance or former Playmates that you wish to read about, you need look no farther than the columns to the right of this post, to the blogs on beauty, dating, or celebrities: For better or for worse, this blog tends to discuss topics of a painful nature, of an academic persuasion, and on controversial topics (“what causes autism?”).

When the subject is autism, big news items are potential novel treatments—such as oxytocin, a hormone that helps women to both give birth and to breast-feed, and that also (as a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article notes) plays a “critical role…in sexual pleasure” (hence its being called the “love hormone”), and also new studies about the workings of the brain, such as that on mirror neurons, which are a type of brain cell that seem to be involved in abilities such as empathy and in perceiving another individual's intentions. (Though see also an article in Slate that explains what the myth of mirror neurons gets wrong about the human brain.) Even bigger news: Eric Fombonne of Montreal Children's Hospital at McGill University at a May 4th news conference saying that

“It's clear there is no evidence of mercury poisoning in autism.”

Fombonne and his colleagues at McGill took hair and blood samples from over 150 children, half with autism and half not and (as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes) “found no difference in the mercury levels between the two groups of children.” He also had some strong words to say regarding the “detoxifying” treatment, chelation:

“A child died as a result of chelation not too long ago,” Fombonne said. It is important for parents to pay careful attention to the bulk of the scientific evidence, he said, and not potentially do harm to their children based simply on mistrust of the scientific establishment.

A PedMed article on chelation highlights the controversy surrounding a treatment that “bears the government's seal of approval for detoxifying the body, most often after an industrial accident or environmental exposure to hazardous materials”—–it does not have such a “seal of approval” for treating autistic children who are not (as one doctor is quoted as saying) “‘metabolic train wrecks.'”

They are children needing to be taught, as children are, and in the ways best suited to their particular cognitive, sensory, and other needs.

Saying that children need to be educated first and foremost seems like a fairly innocuous statement to me—-though when I stated this in a previous post, I realized that, in autism circles, such a statement can lead to various comments of ire and angst being fired off, perhaps because such a statement de-emphasizes biomedical treatments and a biomedical understanding of autism. Accordingly, before anyone fires off anything in this vein, remember, this post is in part about “love” and, via the mention of mirror neurons, empathy. One has one's views on what the right kind of teaching methodology (ABA; RDI; nothing in particular) is, whether or not a child should take psychotropic medication, whether autism can be “cured,” etc., and can we take the perspective of those who think opposite to us on these topics?

And, this post is about Jenny McCarthy: The May 3rd People.com reports that McCarthy's 5 year old son, Evan John Asher, is on the autism spectrum and her book, Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism, will be published in September:

McCarthy added that she has come to understand why she was given an autistic child, because, she said, “I am willing to talk about it, and go deep with the emotional feelings.”


“I just want moms … who have children out there with autism … to know that I am coming back in a few months with this book, and I am planning on using my big, giant, controversial mouth to blow the lid off a lot of things related to autism to give moms hope,” she said. “It is so needed.”

Concerning what kinds of “things related to autism” might be in her book, some hints can perhaps be found at McCarthy's website Indigo Moms. Some topics discussed are:

  • Measles Vaccine Undeniably Linked to Autism
  • Autism, Probiotics and an Ideal World (which links to a website about mercury poisoning from vaccines and dental amalgams)
  • The purple eagle gemstone
  • Finding out if your have indigo or a crystal child
  • Angel Connection (Jenny's blog notes that there are fora on her website to discuss “angels, healing, conscious parenting, or cute uplifting stories about your own angel at home.”)

Yes, some of those topics are in direct contradiction to statements made by, for instance, Eric Fombonne, earlier in this post. But this is, as mentioned earlier, a post about autism and if there is one thing I have learned about life with autism and research and claims about autism, it is that a lot of contradictory statements get made—sort of like when you look in a funhouse mirror and you see yourself, distorted. Sort of the way love can ache when you are (as McCarthy and I are) the mothers of autistic sons who both struggle too much, and whose every small accomplishment (Charlie said “cold water” on his own this evening) are so tremendous.

What is the purpose of all that research being presented at IMFAR other than (from the IndigoMoms website) “helping our children shine”?

Mirrors, love, and Jenny McCarthy. Maybe that is what it's all about, after all.