Michael Savage Attacks Autism

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If you haven't heard the news, Savage called autism a "fraud" and a "racket." He stated, "...I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is."

Savage continued his tirade by stating, "What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, ‘Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.'"

When I first read his remarks the first thought I had was that Savage doesn't have a clue. It made me angry to read his comments. I tried to rationalize that he is, after all, a "shock jock." He is, as they say, entitled to his Freedom of Speech. To me, however, this is stepping way over the line of freedom.

I started thinking and I realized that Savage has most likely never spent an hour, let alone a day, with an autistic child. His accusing an autistic child of screaming and being silent, which he attributes to not having a father around, leads me to believe he has heard the symptoms of the screaming and the silence but he has no idea in the world what this truly translates to in the real world.

There were more than a hundred comments responding to Savage's attack on autism, on one blog I read. They made me even more disgusted. Forty-two per cent of the people felt he should be fired while fifty-six per cent agreed he had the right to say what he did, due to his freedom of speech. Two per cent didn't care one way or the other. Some of the first comments I read (I only read the first few as they made me realize how ignorant some people really are when it comes to autism) said there should be a debate on the matter of autism. Another said it has become a du jour just like depression, ADD and Autism. Another writer expressed their opinion that Savage was only guilty of using the number of 99% (apparently, had he used a number the writer agreed with then they would have totally concurred with Savage). Several of the authors indicated that it was Savage's right to say what he felt as he was simply expressing his Freedom of Speech.

Savage broadcasts to more than 350 stations. His listeners (I am proud to say I am not one of them) were given a negative point of view toward autism. It reminded me of the negative attitude given parents of autistic children when the "refrigerator mothers" was a popular belief. Remember how many people bought into that theory and for how many years?

A number of people have once again called for Savage's firing. Since he has been guilty of other controversial broadcasts, on other subjects, in the past, in my opinion he will never be fired. However, he may lose some advertisers which are the sole to his show. One major company, Aflac insurance, pulled their ads from the Savage show. They made a statement that included, "...we found his recent comments about autistic children to be both inappropriate and insensitive." My hat is off to Aflac for standing up and taking a strong position.

Savage commented on his web site that "My comments about autism were meant to boldly awaken parents and children to the medical community's attempt to label too many children or adults as ‘autistic.'" I can't help but wonder what he means by labeling too many children or adults as autistic. Since he used the term 99% of autism is "fraud" then what percentage does he choose to use? What does his picking a number out of thin air represent? What makes him a spokesperson on autism? Savage also wrote that he had a severely disabled brother who suffered and died in a "snake pit" of a "mental hospital." Therefore, Savage says he knows, " first hand what true disability is." Does anyone know the true nature causing his brother's disability? It surely couldn't have been depression, right? We would need to rule out ADD. While I am sorry that Savage's brother had a seemingly miserable life I question how Savage can say his brother's condition was more severe than 99% of those diagnosed with autism?

I invite any of you to do some further research on Savage's commentary on autism. I would really like for you to post your comments on this matter. Now, after my blood has cooled down a bit, I will sign off.

Jack E. George is the author of two books (The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Educational Center and Call Me Pete). He has taught regular education and most recently, special education classes, specializing in autism, in California. Jack has a Master's Degree in Special Education. His third book: The Autism Hand Book scheduled for release in 2009. www.jackegeorge.com

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