Oprah Winfrey has made history again. This time it was a show on autism. Not just another show but one that every parent who has a child with autism can use as a guide.
Hopefully some philanthropist -- perhaps Oprah, herself -- will have millions of copies made and hand them out like samples for physicians to pass on to their patients. Kind of like pharmaceuticals, although the only side effect would be outrage at what has happened to so many children harmed as a result of the current autism epidemic.
Sixteen years ago I left a neurologist's office after my son was given this baffling diagnosis of world class proportions. I left in tears but without any hope or useful advice. Boy, could I have used a copy of today's show back then. True, they didn't know in those days what they know now. But it has been a long time coming. And even today not every parent gets told the whole story.
Oprah, start making those copies. Please!
There were no scientists, social scientists or medical "experts" on Winfrey's latest and most courageous autism show on Tuesday. Just two mothers. Okay, they were not just any mothers. They were Jenny McCarthy, the actress, author and renowned beauty and Holly Robinson Peete, who had the remarkable good sense years ago to marry the football star Rodney Peete. But autism is, sadly, a great equalizer. The first thing any mother hears when presented with the diagnosis is that her child will be unable to communicate and hence live a life of isolation without choice.
But there are choices. And there are plans of action. And there are ways to celebrate so much that is wonderful about kids with autism, while helping them deal with the symptoms that are not-so-great. McCarthy and Peete made that crystal clear today. They also drove home the point that "something happened" to create this epidemic of one in 150, emphasizing that the vaccination connection must be investigated further -- and properly. Too many parents have noticed that their children regressed into autism after being vaccinated -- and we do know that toxic mercury has been used as a preservative in vaccinations for years. We also know that the number of prescribed childhood vaccinations has multiplied substantially. Meanwhile medical authorities have dismissed and shamed parents who bring this up.
McCarthy noted that she is not against vaccinations but that when it comes to medicine "one size does not fit all."
"My science is Evan," McCarthy said about her son. (He has improved significantly from bio-medical measures often pooh-poohed by the medical establishment.) "He's at home."
The two women added that although not every kid with autism will be cured, it's more than worth trying. And every kid with autism can be educated.
It was stunning to hear Holly Peete say about her son; "We were kicked out of a school because they said he was unteachable."
If her kid can get kicked out, whose kid is safe?
And so, the women urged other parents to "beat down doors," and be as vigilant as possible in demanding an appropriate education for children with autism. In other words -- mine -- give your school districts a chance but remember that every day lost is a day without education. If necessary, storm the barricades.
Peete spoke about her marriage succeeding under these most difficult of circumstances. McCarthy spoke about hers failing -- and about the way Jim Carrey has apparently become a great autism "dad," to her son, albeit not a biological one. The actress added that the best gift anyone can give a financially stressed couple, or a single parent, dealing with autism is free babysitting, preferably overnight. (Memo to autism parents: When you get that free babysitter, go to the next Jim Carrey movie.)
My only endnote is that none of this would have happened so spectacularly on television if it wasn't for a woman named Katie Wright. Months ago, on an earlier and generally far less gutsy Oprah program, Katie Wright stood up to a pediatrician in the audience and told her that when it comes to autism it was time to start listening to parents. And that started the television balls rolling.
If you don't know who Katie Wright is, please look her up. And look up all the parents who came before her, too.