If You’re Whitewashing Autism, You’re Part of The Problem

From “better diagnosis” to the idea the autistic brain is “wired differently” to the emphasis on those with extraordinary talents, efforts to whitewash the realities of autism are endless. We’ve been spoon fed a bogus narrative that normalizes autism and most people buy it despite the fact that kids in this country are clearly suffering more than ever, and not just with autism.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that insurance claims for dangerous allergic reactions to peanuts, dairy, and eggs have increased nearly 500% across the past decade. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of Type 1 diabetes in children soared by 60%. Meanwhile, our nation’s children are doing so poorly psychologically, emotionally, and behaviorally that the Boston Globe reported that 500 school children in Massachusetts were arrested last year in what is being called a national trend. Between 2001 and 2009, asthma rates in black children rose by nearly 50%. Between 2011 and 2015, the Denver public school system found itself increasing spending on elementary school therapy services by 244%.

Like the disconcerting increases in autoimmune diseases and allergies, the increasing rates of autism are real too. If you have any true familiarity with autism, you know that there is no way these children would have passed as typically developing before autism became an epidemic. That idea is about as ludicrous as assuming that just a generation ago, parents, teachers, and doctors were too stupid to notice anaphylaxis, diabetic neuropathy, and asthma attacks.

Professing that there has been no alarming increase in autism benefits a number of individuals, companies, and groups, but it certainly doesn’t benefit people with autism. Would pretending there has been no increase in peanut allergies and distributing peanuts on every airplane and sending peanut butter into every classroom like we did in 1980 benefit those anaphylactic to peanuts? Do we have to refer to anaphylaxis as a beautiful variation of food tolerance to be deemed supportive of the peanut-allergic?

The whitewashing of autism comes not only in the delusional declaration that it has always been here, but also the claim that the autistic brain is simply wired differently. Clearly our children with autism are beautiful human beings who should be valued, but not for the reasons the neurodiversity crowd suggests. While they hammer on the unfounded theory that autism is a unique variation of healthy neurological function, there is a growing body of science that is much more grim and sobering.

Immune dysfunction and brain inflammation in autism are implicated in study after study like these:

Brain inflammation a hallmark of autism, Johns Hopkins analysis shows

Clinical clues for autoimmunity and neuroinflammation in patients with autistic regression

Autoimmunity, Autoantibodies, and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Inflammatory Activity in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Neuro-Inflammatory Mechanisms in Developmental Disorders Associated with Intellectual Disability and Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Neuro- Immune Perspective

Cerebral folate receptor autoantibodies in autism spectrum disorder

Brain autoantibodies in autism spectrum disorder

Detection of autoantibodies to neural cells of the cerebellum in the plasma of subjects with autism spectrum disorders.

Systemic auto-antibodies in children with autism

Serum antinucleosome-specific antibody as a marker of autoimmunity in children with autism

Autoimmunity in autism

N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antibodies encephalitis mimicking an autistic regression

Reduced levels of immunoglobulin in children with autism correlates with behavioral symptoms

Complications of heart inflammation, or myocarditis, include dilated cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrest. Pleurisy is inflammation of the lungs and complications include respiratory distress and lung collapse. Inflammation of the liver, known as hepatitis, can cause scarring, cancer, or liver failure resulting in death.

Inflammation of the brain, of course, is no less serious.

In contrast to inflammation of the kidneys, appendix, or spleen, we are told that there is no reason for concern over brain inflammation. That even if our kids are spending the entire day crying, the entire night fighting insomnia, all the moments in between trapped in ritualistic compulsions, and locked helplessly within their own minds, that we need to accept it. And that it is normal. And it has always been here. And that it is part of a wide continuum of healthy neurological functioning that should be embraced.

Excuse me?

I believe most people assume that I feel supported and my son feels accepted when they share articles and videos highlighting the beauty, creativity, and genius of autism. They, along with the neurodiversity movement, including many parents of children with autism and adult autistics themselves, don’t realize they’re pawns in a scheme much bigger than promoting acceptance of people with autism.

Alas, pretending autism is a gift doesn’t demonstrate acceptance any more than pretending a peanut allergy is a gift. Calling brain inflammation and immune dysfunction beautiful isn’t support. Acceptance of people with autism, who are each inherently valuable and beautiful in their own right, means acknowledging the actual research, not mindlessly parroting whitewashed folklore.

~Ashlyn Washington



26 thoughts on “If You’re Whitewashing Autism, You’re Part of The Problem

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  1. Hooray! Thank you for this analysis of the crazy talk of the “neurodiverse” community.

    Recently NPR asked for stories from autism families that may have had interactions with Generation Rescue. While we did not know if this was setting out to be a hit piece or fair journalism, the facebook post was bombarded with the usual hate speech from the neurodiverse community who were then lamenting why NPR didn’t contact them, didn’t ask them.

    Well maybe they read your facebook posts insulting parents, calling them grotesque names, and being absolutely hateful, and lacking in human compassion. One comment even said, “Oh great, this is going to turn into a cry fest of parents complaining they will never hear their child say “I love you”. Ouch, how cruel is that? Besides, NPR did not put out a call to Generation Rescue detractors, they were asking for personal experiences.

    It did occur to me however, what these people are really asking. They criticize parents for trying alternative methods of treating their children while asking you to ask them for advice, as autistic adults themselves. So apparently they DON’T think it is bad parenting to take advice from a self-diagnosed autistic adult on facebook with no credentials, history, or established business that we don’t know from Adam….but using grant money from Generation Rescue for a board certified physician…is bad! Equating autism and gut issues…bad, despite the fact the CDC has acknowledged the same and advised doctors to look for and treat these co-morbid conditions.

    They complain about “alternative” treatments while they were silent as thousands of us were told by mainstream physicians to institutionalize our children. Nature abhors a vacuum, so without treatments offered through mainstream medicine, parents will seek out treatments on their own. Without agreement among mainstream medicine as to treatments, protocol, and more, no consensus, parents will seek this out on their own.

    They complain about therapies such as ABA while they remain silent as schoolchildren are abused, isolated, restrained, or even murdered out of callous disregard for their condition. Schools write our children off and say, “what do you expect Mom, he has autism” not a peep while they attack parents helping their children learn.

    There is no other condition in the human experience that demands we consult with adult sufferers before deciding on our own path of treatment. Cancer, Alzheimers, diabetes, lupus, down syndrome….not one of these demands we talk to an adult with the condition and go with their reccomendations for treating our loved one. It is simply outrageous and would be asking us to accept Alzheimers as simply another way of being, a normal condition of neurological diversity. Hogwash.

    They demand to be included in any and every organization remotely associated to Autism while they post nothing but hatred and insults on social media and wonder why no one would invite them to share their opinion.

    The one thing I will say is that many accuse them of not having autism, of self-diagnosis, or self-proclaimed autism as they are articulate and functioning independently in society. I am not so sure, they are severely disabled in the area of human empathy and compassion a common weakness in Autism, so whether it is autism or not there is certainly an official diagnosis of some disorder involved here.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So you are essentially saying if an Autistic is proud of who they are, if they are reluctant to hear when they are likened to a disease or aren’t normal they are brainwashed?!
    You do realize that people, in general, are allowed and even encouraged to accept and love themselves?
    Trying to convince someone, like myself, that our loved ones are damaged and are part of an ‘epidemic’ isn’t helping or ‘curing’ anyone.
    Years ago many people were called crazy , quirky, or weird if they didn’t fix into that nice little box called ‘normal’. Autism along with many, many mental health disorders weren’t recognized or validated.
    Now we have more awareness but still are fighting for acceptance.
    It’s cure talk and blame that makes the fight harder. MMS and other quackery is being sold as ‘cures’ because everyone is looking for something to blame.
    And then there’s the whole ridiculous notion of how much easier those whom love with high functioning autism have it so much easier. Pssh.

    Those whom love their children for who they are, imperfections and all, are now being told they are ‘whitewashing’ autism.
    I’m a proud mother of two Autistic children and any ‘whitewashing’ I do is because I choose to see them as absolutely delightful, loving, living human beings who should be proud of who they are, where they’ve been, and where they will go in life. I choose to see them as people whom deserve every respect given to the ‘normals’ of the world.
    They aren’t damaged. It’s this world and people whom judge that are damaged.


    1. Absolutely we should be proud of who our children are. We don’t have to pretend that brain inflammation isn’t the hallmark of autism to do that. I have a typically developing child with anaphylactic food allergies. I am so very proud of him, but you would never hear me railing on how proud I am of him and how beautiful and wonderful he is *because of* his food allergies. There is literally no other condition in which we equate the person solely with their diagnosis. Our kids aren’t their diagnosis. Truly I am sad by how many parents of kids with autism not only believe lies, but parrot lies designed to prevent the truth from seeing the light of day. It is a bit difficult to argue with the list of PubMed studies, no?


    2. I love how some people assume many autistic children even have the ability to be proud. I promise you children with high functioning Autism do have it easier. Go speak to parents with low functioning children and do a little bit of research. Go into a classroom with low functioning kids who cannot even go to the bathroom alone, who suffer with seizures, who have no ability to speak. People with high functioning autism and who have children with high functioning autism need to sit down. People with high functioning autism get a future, get to plan for college, get to meet and have friends and they get a whole neurodiverse crowd that rallies around them. These kids have interests, abilities, hobbies, the list goes on and on. My family gets to plan for when there is no one left who understands him, we get to research nursing home type facilities for our children that will keep them safe after we are gone. We get to live with financing any myriad of contingency plans. Guess what….we get the added bonus to be terrified of what might happen to him because our kids are victimized and cannot tell us what happens to them.

      My child cannot talk….there is nothing beautiful about that
      My child hasn’t slept in 7 years and neither have I….there is nothing beautiful about that
      My child doesn’t play…..there is nothing beautiful about that
      My child doesn’t imitate….there is nothing beautiful about that
      My child has no interest outside of his TV shows or IPAD….there is nothing beautiful about that.

      My child is wonderful and if love and acceptance could give him these things he would have been doing them all on a typically developing schedule. Make no mistake, I love him but I am scared for him, I fear for him, and I will protect him and help him in every way I can. I am not delusional about him and will not condition others to think this condition needs acceptance or normalization in anyway.


  3. I agree with everyone’s comment except Janet Mann who seems not to understand the difference between a condition and a child. She, most likely has 2 children who are functioning and probably verbal and mostly able to care for themselves. The article, “If You’re Whitewashing Autism, You Are Part of the Problem,” is a wonderful article and I am so glad to read it. It is validation for my care and concern.


  4. Autism sucks whether it’s due to environmental, genetic causes, or both. Inflammation has always been a primary suspect as it is has for decades in reasearch for schizophrenia and dementia. This is not new. Call it autism, call it chronic encephalitis, call it mitochondrial, call it dorsal prefrontal cortical blindness, it’s all the same. It’s still primarily a kid named … and his/her parents. Antipsychotics are anti inflammatory agents and this is well documented. Clozaril and seroquel have the greatest anti inflammatory effect


  5. Completely agree with the author. Not only the “Neuro Diversity” advocates are whitewashing and trying to normalize Autism, but also the establishment is trying to glorify the autism as a ‘gift’ or something every family must have! Not only that, they are trying hide real numbers of Autism rates, now 1 in 36 in America. Already the families with Autism children are under a lot of stress financially, emotionally and physically. The states and counties are struggling to provide services for newly diagnosed. I will not be surprised if Autism becomes a single most reason for destruction of American families, marriages and society.


  6. Live one afternoon in my house and you will not see autism as a beautiful, quirky new aspect of diversity we must celebrate. I don’t celebrate it. I’ve sat in doctors’ offices recently trying to get them to take my child’s spiraling down the toilet in the last year seriously, and as a signal of underlying physical dysfunction. I’m told it’s just anxiety. Or it’s the way autism runs. They’re wrong, and I know they are. Why celebrate a condition that gives the medical community, our school system, and society at large a free pass to write our kids off? That they are what they are, and you should be proud? If we celebrate it, then we don’t have to ask the hard questions as to why it’s happening. People don’t have to look under that dark, scary rock and hear the answers that are not only inconvenient, they’re absolutely terrifying. I LOVE this article.


  7. We are part of a family that has shown strong autistic traits in members who are now long gone. To be clear, this is not the “spending the entire day crying, the entire night fighting insomnia, all the moments in between trapped in ritualistic compulsions, and locked helplessly within their own minds” that you talk about. This is the high IQ, low social skills, poor communication, emotional basket case side of autism we used to call Asperger Syndrome. But it is there and it is real. We have a dark joke in our family that “Neurotypicals are getting vaccinated out of jealousy.” There is some correlation with autoimmune problems, but it is not consistent. And so we wonder if there are really two (or at least two) kinds of autism. One is more natural, maybe even the “different kind of normal” people talk about, and the other is pathological, iatrogenic autism. One paradigm that makes a lot of sense to me comes from the book of Amos in the Bible. He says, “You forced the Nazirites to drink wine, and you told the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy.'” A Nazirite, for anyone who does not know, is someone who takes a vow for a time to not drink wine and not cut their hair. And so I see people who are more sensitive to chemicals (and to social rituals like cutting hair) and people who are more sensitive to the spiritual. My wife likes to say “Everybody gets 200 points. Some spend them evenly on intellligence and social skills and the other normal characteristics. Some spend them all on one thing, like IQ.” But maybe this paradigm explains why our modern world is creating so many autistics. They were sensitive the whole time.


  8. I love this article! This can correspond with most issues too such as obesity. Whitewashing a problem is definitely a good way to avoid diagnosing the underlying cause and fixing it. There will unfortunately never be a cure for autism in our lifetime because of how massive and controlling the pharmaceutical industry is. It’s just never going to happen. So the people who are complacent with their children being diagnosed with autism (most likely the high functioning ones) will always be the ones whitewashing because let’s face it, doing research and treatment outside medical protocol and guidelines and the frustrations of trying to find answers alone is exhausting. If they give in to the diagnosis and are at peace with it, they will whitewash it to make it easier on themselves. It’s very therapeutic to be “okay” with your child’s disability and say it’s “beautiful” because life is just easier that way.


  9. I’m late to the party, but this is the first article I read to accurately convey the dark reality of autism. As an Aspie, the whitewashing of all autism disgusts me. I am not Bill Gates or Temple Grandin and I have no wish to be. I have a crippling neurological disease. My docs insist it is genetic. I will never believe that as long as I draw breath. I was NOT born this way. That is convenient fiction to escape the truth that I was made this way by the medical industry.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am a psychiatrist, and mother of a child who has autism AND has huge challenges AND huge gifts. The diagnosis “autism”, to me, is a very strange name without much specificity or any single known etiology.. his “autism” means “something is not right and I don’t know why or how to fix it” YET my son is NOT defined by “whatever is going wrong”. I want to help him resolve “whatever is going wrong”. I want to ease his suffering. I STILL adore him and nurture and celebrate each and every one of his talents and gifts, DESPITE the fact that I want to resolve his suffering and challenges. His “autism” is NOT the reason he’s brilliant. He’s brilliant because he’s brilliant. I organized a conference celebrating nurturing strengths and talents early on, empowering the gifts early on, BUT I also attend conferences where I’m seeking answers for “whatever is going wrong”. I’m not sure why it needs be one or the other in these forums. Why can’t we all come together and agree that “autism” is a MISNOMER that does NOT define the problem effectively at all, because there’s not ONE problem. There are thousands of problems. And yes, lots of strengths too. None of the problems or strengths are attributable to “Autism”.. autism to me = more questions, no answers, and lots of politics. It’s hard enough raising kids who suffer. Can we not come together with some compassion. I seek HELP for his severe challenges and HELP/nurturing for his unique strengths, because I want those strengths to carry him in the future. I don’t think that seeking medical help or educational nurturance makes me either a bad parent or a deluded “ whitewashing” insensitive person. Thank you for allowing the conversation


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