When it came to autism related news for January 2018, reports were coming in from all over the place (literally). With international autism headlines stretching all the way from Canada to Hungary, this month’s post looked to be a global celebration of all things autism.

That was, until some very serious news hit the front pages on the internet this week, and as such, I have to issue a warning that today’s post is not all praiseworthy and positive. Some people may find one of the articles within the ‘Developing Stories Within the Autistic Community’ section particularly upsetting. If you wish to avoid this entry, I have clearly labelled it with multiple asterisks. However, despite its distressing nature, I would recommend reading it, as it is an issue which our community has probably not seen the last of.

Here is the round up of autism related news for January 2018 (as always, news has been sectioned by importance and links to the full stories can be accessed by clicking on the bold red titles after the bullet points).

Developing Stories Within the Autistic Community:

  • The blue badge parking policy could be extended to include people with autism: According to reports, people in England who are autistic or have dementia, may soon be given access to a blue parking badge under new government proposals. This comes as great news to autists who are affected by anxiety and sensory issues, as it can potentially give them the confidence to go out more. As now if the unforeseeable does happen, they have an escape pod waiting nearby to rescue them.
  • Autism diagnosis rates have slowed down in America: In January many news sites reported that, according to a survey carried out by ‘The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network’, autism rates in America had ‘stabilised’. These articles are somewhat misleading as they suggest that the number of people with autism is declining, when the reality is that there are, probably, still thousands of undiagnosed American autists out there, due to the current diagnosis process and criteria. As unlike the UK, autism diagnosis in America must be paid for (and it ain’t cheap).
  • Parliament discussed people with autism in the criminal justice system: On January 30th, the subject of people with autism and the criminal justice system was debated by the British parliament (and as always there was a thrilling turn out of what looked like about 5 people [sarcasm intended]). During the debate it was stated that, although in most cases autistic people are the victim of crimes and not the perpetrator, in the event that a crime has taken place then misunderstandings between both the autistic person and the police officers resulted in unnecessary escalation of the situation.
    Key points which were mentioned during the debate included: 42% of officers are not happy with how they had interacted with people with autism in the past (although, I’m not sure why surveyors have chosen to use ‘happiness’ as a scale of measurement) and that the Scottish government are already revising their autism strategy to deal with similar issues.
  • ***Autistic children are being given bleach to ‘cure’ their autism***: Over the past month there have been many reports of parents giving their autistic children Miracle Mineral Solution (or MMS) to ‘cure’ them of their autism. MMS is nothing new and in the past has been marketed as a ‘cure’ to everything from AIDS to Autism. However, the reality is that the chemicals which make up MMS (citric acid and sodium chloride) are the same basic ingredients which go into making industrial bleach.
    I’m not going to go into much more detail than that as The National Autistic Society has already issued a statement which is better than anything I could say, and explains how wrong it is to give children (some as young as 2) bleach to cure something that doesn’t need to be cured. As always, I’m going to try and look on the bright side of these awful events and say that, luckily as of yet there are no reported fatalities regarding this situation, and, thankfully, it looks as though, in response to these terrible reports, action will finally be taken to make the sale of MMS illegal.

The Autism News ‘that happened’ (and I have nothing else to comment):

Like a warning not to touch a hot plate when eating at a fancy restaurant, here is the news that you likely missed, forgot or didn’t process when you first heard it. By no means are any of these articles less important or interesting than the ones previously mentioned, however, I personally believe that all the news featured here has either already been well covered or I have nothing of merit to add.

Naming and Shaming Articles on Autism:

This month’s naming and shaming article on autism is both taken from Twitter and about Twitter. In particular, discussing how the infamous right wing idiot Peter Sweden (real name Peter Imanuelsen) has managed to utter yet another malicious remark with little to no consequence.

Although far from the most controversial thing Peter Sweden has ever said/done, on January 25th, Sweden posted a comment on to his Twitter account which claimed that vaccines are made from dead babies and cause autism (see below).

(Photo Credit: Twitter)

Rather unsurprisingly, this comment became a subject of disdain amongst the autistic community (and everyone else with half a brain), not only due how offensive it is but also because of the factually inaccuracies of his comments:

  • There is no scientific proof linking Vaccines to autism
  • The closest vaccines have ever come to containing dead babies is 55 years ago, when a vaccine was grown using the cell lining from a fetus (something which was only done once and, as a result, is said to have led to multiple advancements in cures and defences against illness).

Despite causing almost universal disgust, Sweden’s comments are far from original and he certainly won’t be the last to try and make these connections. But what worries me most about the post is that Peter Sweden’s Twitter account is verified – something which to some will lend his comments a level of credibility they do not deserve.

Peter Sweden is a disgusting human being and, as such, has not only been banned from monetising his YouTube videos, but has also from having a PayPal account ‘due to the nature of his activities’. To most this would be a clear signal to stay away from anything Peter Sweden related. however, Twitter seem unaware of the danger this man and his views represent, as despite multiple complaints being made against him, Sweden’s account is still verified.

This highlights a larger problem which I have noticed on Twitter, regarding how difficult and how long it takes to remove hate speech and harmful people from the social media site. Although this is definitely an argument for another day (and probably another person) I feel this incident presented a key opportunity to discuss this issues.

What’s New for Autism in February 2018:

With that somewhat sour note out of the way, now it’s time to look ahead to the month of love and discuss what’s to come in February 2018.

  • Autism and Anxiety Conference: On February 1st 2018 Bristol held an Autism and Anxiety conference to discuss different support tactics to help those of us on the spectrum who suffer from anxiety. I am aware that this news is late in coming to you, but I have chosen to include it nonetheless, at it lets people who do want support for this condition know that these events are out there.
  • Temple Gradin to speak in Redding: On February 22nd at the Cascade Theatre in Redding, Autism legend Temple Gradin will be giving a talk on a variety of subjects including: autism, animal welfare and even cattle herding. Tickets are currently sold out, but for those lucky enough to go, this will surely be an event like no other.
  • The Living Autism Conference: From the 6th–13th of February, the city of York will be hosting multiple courses for people within the autistic community and will feature talks from autism champions: Manar Matusiak and Ronnie Pindar.

Carry on the Conversation:

So you may have noticed that my ‘what’s new’ section was pretty much a string of autism conferences. I’m assuming that this is due to most autism charities, groups and members of the community preparing for autism awareness week in March. However, if you do know of any upcoming news for February feel free to comment below and I will aim to include it right away.

As always, I can be found on Twitter @AutismRevised and via my email: AutisticandUnapologetic@gmail.com.

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Thank you for reading and I will see you next Saturday for more thoughts from across the spectrum.