Thursday 18 January 2018

'I am on the autism spectrum... we're different, not disordered' - Mum who was diagnosed at 42

Case Study: Fiona O'Leary

Awareness: Fiona (centre) with her children, clockwise from back, Dillon (24), Romy (9), Phoebe (7) Sienna (9) and Vito (12)
Awareness: Fiona (centre) with her children, clockwise from back, Dillon (24), Romy (9), Phoebe (7) Sienna (9) and Vito (12)

I was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum at age 42. It did not come as a surprise as I had suspected this most of my life. Two of my five children are also autistic, and I can see myself in both of them.

There is a bias in diagnosis, and often it is not picked up in females - autism is so often viewed as a male condition. This is not true and we are now seeing an increase in female diagnosis.

Females can be adept at mimicking and masking autistic traits, but they still need the same recognition and supports as their male counterparts. I believe gender should not be a criteria when seeking a diagnosis; it should be based on the individual presenting. We are all unique and different on the spectrum.

April is Autism 'Awareness' Month. We would really like to see acceptance for autism in our society. Awareness is important, but acceptance is paramount. We are different, not disordered.

Yes autistic people have challenges, and some of us need more supports than others, but we want to be appreciated and understood just like everyone else in this world.

Autism is often described as a disease, epidemic and even a tragedy.

Autism is NOT a disease, it is a neurodevelopmental condition.

Language is extremely important when we are discussing autism, and words like 'disease' and 'tragedy' only deliver harm. Science is clearly showing us that autism is primarily genetic in its origins and has existed for at least a number of centuries.

The increase in numbers that we are seeing is down to a better understanding of autism and better diagnostics. We are meeting more and more adults on the autistic spectrum as a result of this better understanding.

Many parents of autistic children are discovering that they are also on the spectrum. Sadly, there are people out there who are spreading misinformation. Autism is a profitable condition for quacks who peddle bogus 'cures'.

This quack industry is huge and ever growing, and we are seeing thousands of autistic children being experimented on with unproven and unregulated products like the toxic bleach product MMS, unregulated blood product GcMAF, Chelation and much more. The anti-vaccine movement, which is led by discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield, plays a huge role in this quack industry.

Parents are still being told that vaccines, especially the MMR vaccine, causes autism - even after Wakefield's study regarding this was proven to be fraudulent and he was stripped of his medical licence in 2010. Wakefield released a propaganda film, Vaxxed, last year and his movement is gathering support in many countries including Ireland. Autistic people are being exploited by this movement, which refers to autistic people as 'vaccine injured', 'toxic', 'brain damaged'. Autism has been likened to the Holocaust by this movement.

The parents who believe in this anti -vaccine rhetoric also believe that they can 'recover' their autistic children.

Many of these parents give unproven and unregulated products to their children. Autistic children are forced to take dangerous products like the bleach product MMS, the side effects of which include vomiting, seizures, fevers, pink urine, shedding of intestinal lining, hair loss and even death. This is happening all around the world and some 'professionals' have been known to endorse this abusive practice, along with many other experimental and unproven treatments.

I want my children to grow up in a world where they won't be viewed as 'vaccine injured' or labelled as having a disease. My children are not sick, nor are they guinea pigs for the many quacks out there who are claiming to be able to 'cure' them.

They are wonderful and contribute so much to this world.

We need to give autistic people a sense of self-esteem rather than a sense of worthlessness.

The fact that we have to campaign to have our basic human rights recognised in 2017 is unacceptable.

Every autistic person has the right to not be abused. The right to equality in education and employment. The right to meaningful inclusion, to be an integral part of all discussions about our lives and our future.

The awareness bells will ring in April, but please do not be alarmed.

Rather hear our voices, see our worth, and listen to our message of acceptance.

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