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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dear Crystal Engler

Also posted on LJ. Edited for grammar

This is a response to the post on the Age of Autism that Crystal Engler wrote called United We Stand, Divided We Fall" on August 2, 2009. Or, as her blog has titled "Don't Fuck With Me Fellas, This Ain't My First Time at the Rodeo".

Dear Crystal Engler,

In your post, you ask about the "great divide that sets the autism community apart", stating that you don't want to fight, and want us all to get along since we are all working in the best interests for autistic family members. To quote:

"On various levels, we're extremely different. But at the root of it all, like it or not, we share something. We share autism. No matter our differences, we should cast the weapons aside and ceasefire for the "greater good." By that, I mean the health and welfare of the autism generation to come."

This is very admirable. I hate fighting too and dislike the conflict in the autism community. Autism can be very challenging, both for the parents and family members, and for the children. The old saying "It takes a village to raise a child" comes to mind. As a community, we should be working together.

However, as an ND, I do feel compelled to point out the reasons why there is a conflict. This is so that you can understand "the parents who blast those of us who are working for a recovery", and those whom you did not acknowledge in your article, the autistic people who also embrace Neurodiversity. This is so that you can understand where we are coming from, as the first step to overcoming conflict is understanding.

The main and obvious difference is our beliefs in what causes autism. Basically, it is a difference between believing that vaccines and/or toxins/heavy metals causes autism and that genetics causes autism. Your side believes autism is a physical illness, we believe it's a natural wiring of the human brain. I'm very sure that we are both very much aware in the particulars, so I won't go into great detail about this.

To me, this belief is not an issue of conflict. At least, it shouldn't be. It is a belief. It is like comparing the different beliefs in Christian churches. One church believes that communion bread and "wine" actually becomes the flesh and blood of Christ once swallowed. Another church believes that it is a metaphor, but acts as a reminder to the sacrifice that Jesus gave for them. While maintaining different beliefs, both churches are still Christian.

The point I'm trying to make from the above example is that we need to focus on precisely why we each believe that the others' belief is wrong. So stepping past the differences in causation beliefs to the result of these beliefs. This is what most likely causes "many anti-biomed parents who are hell-bent on trashing Jenny McCarthy and others like her" to post the "foaming at the mouth" and "ranting" blogs you mentioned.

The result: the actions we take in our beliefs.

Now, I don't doubt that you, Crystal, or any other "biomed" parents, love their children. Of course you love your children. That's why we all are working so hard, and why both of our sides are so heated in this conflict. We want our precious children to be happy. We want them to be healthy. We want them to be safe. We want to help them learn, to grow up as good people and live long, happy lives.

The difference is "How" we go about this.

In your article, you describe "mixing a month's worth of supplements for my son's biomedical interventions" in your kitchen, while your "hands bled from crushing hundreds of supplements" and wearing protective equipment. The question you ask while doing this is "How far would you go to recover your child?" and you answer yourself with "Me? I'm going all the way."

You portray the image of a valiant, courageous and determined mother, who loves her child so very much to put everything she has into "recovering" your "physically ill" son.


We watch as you mix those supplements, donned in your protective gear, as your hands bleed. We watched as Francesco Martinizi died in an HBOT chamber explosion, HBOT being a treatment also used to help "recover" autistic children. We watched as Abubakar Tariq Nadama died from Chelation. We watch as many parents write articles and blog entries that describe their lives as being a complete nightmare, blaming it on autism.

And we ask, "How does this help an autistic person?"

This is the question that we are always asking "How does this help an autistic person?" When we look into the various resources, when we read studies (both the ones you claim to suppose your beliefs as well as the ones that support ours), purchase expensive therapy tools, pay for expensive services and find sometimes complicated ways to teach and help our children, we ask "How does this help my child?"

We ask "How does this help an autistic person" when autism is compared to cancer and diabetes, especially in response to our own posts, articles and blogs. You have done this, in particular:

I'm going to explain my side of the story once, and only once. This is why I do what I do. This is why I'm a biomed mom. I recently read a blog entry from a ranting ND. I pictured her foaming at the mouth, saying something about accepting our children the way they are. Shouldn't we be happy with our healthy kids? Remember the "up" side of autism.
Oh, that's special. Is there an "up" side to childhood cancer? What about juvenile diabetes? Yes, I believe my son's autism stems from the vaccines. He's physically ill. Chronic viruses, bacteria, yeast, heavy metals...you know the list.

This is what we do, what we ask, when we read articles such as yours, when we read comments and blog posts of biomed parents who slander and insults us, and who do, actually, publicly rave on a regular basis "about how neurodiverse mothers should be fighting for their children."

We ask "How does this help autistic people?"

That is the judging line in which we hold all treatments, therapies, accommodations, supports and tools up to, including your "biomed" supplements and whatnot. And we find your "biomed" treatments to be very lacking.

You see, the difference between our beliefs have lead us to different attitudes about autism, which then result in our different actions towards autism. While you, as loving parents, do everything you can to "recover" your children from being "physically ill", we as loving parents and individuals do everything we can to help our children and fellow autistics to overcome and navigate around the particular challenges we have. Yes, we have a common interest, which is autism, but other than that, we share very little.

So, if we are to both "cast the weapons aside and ceasefire", we need to be able to have resources that we can offer each other and share. While your professed desire to end the conflict between the two sides is very nice, a serious attempt to unify the community would be able to point out the qualities and resources that each side can offer to the other. After being able to understand each other, mutual offerings is the next step.

Therefore, Crystal, the question is this: what can each side offer the other?

signed with hope,


  1. Corina,

    This post is beyond excellent. Thank you for such a calm and measured rebuttal. You've done a beautiful job.

  2. Thank you. I try my best. It wasn't always easy to remain calm, but it is true that people respond a lot to tone, so I hope that although our two sides don't agree, that at least understanding can be achieved. Of course, I'm an optimist about this, but hey, someone has to try.

    my alternative title to the entry is "This may not be your first time at the Rodeo, but I live here".

  3. Corina, that was so well said and beautifully written. Thank you. I too am an optimist and have so much hope. I do hope that we can all find some common ground somewhere. It would be a start.

  4. I like the alternative title; might not have set the same tone. :-)

    Understanding would be good and mutual support for the challenges each person uniquely faces. I guess I'm an optimist, too!

  5. heh, yeah, the alternative title was fun, but I really wanted to keep this calm tone, since they claim that all they see is raving mothers. Now, I twittered this directly to Crystal; the question is whether she'll read it.

    And thanks kathleen!


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