Savage on Autism

“[It’s] a fraud, a racket. … 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. … 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. … Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.'”

Can anyone tell me how this guy has managed to stay on the air as long as he has? Can anyone tell me how this guy manages to pull in an audience of 8 million listeners a day and is syndicated on over 350 radio stations across the country? And this isn’t even the most hateful, ignorant or ridiculous thing I’ve heard him say. Only the most recent!

Every time I come across his show on the radio I think to myself, “Nobody out there is buying this nonsense … are they? Everyone knows the joke is on them … right?” But alas, his radio show and books rake in the cash at a ridiculous level.

This guy spews this same venom all over liberals, gays, the ACLU, immigrants, feminists and anyone and everyone else on a regular basis. But attacking kids diagnosed with autism? Methinks Mr. Savage has hit an all-time low.


14 thoughts on “Savage on Autism

  1. yeah, he definitely lacks a bit of restraint there. it’s sad.
    jess and i have had the conversation, though, that it does seem like many cases of “autism” do seem alot like a strong-willed disobedient child. now, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely cases of autism and i believe it exists. but like all things in medicine these days, we just want to stick a label on something and treat it with medicine or therapy immediately. we don’t seem to want to question the root cause…atleast doctors don’t to seem to want to.

  2. While I agree with most of what you just said about Mr. Michael Savage. I’ve listened to his show and he makes Limbaugh look like Mr. Rogers.

    While I don’t agree with how he expressed his views concerning Autism, nor can he back up any evidence to suggest that “99%” of autism cases are false. As a person who works with kids with Autism and a whole spectrum of mental disabilities, I believe there is some validity to his point, albeit grossly stated and exaggerated.

    As a parent, and special ed teacher, and relative to multiple people with autism, I do believe there are those who are very quick to label there kids with disability A or disability B with the hopes of relieving themselves of the guilt of bad parenting. (Or are just plain blinded to it)
    Some forms, of Autism are not genetic and and can be attributed external environmental factors.

    Not all forms of Autism are environmental.

    For those that are, there a so many things parents can do…(and I’m not talking about rich vs poor as Savage seems to suggest), that can eliminate the risk of such behaviors often associated with Autism. This can often eliminate the need to see Doctors and specialists who often prescribe medications that don’t always have a proven tract in helping that child. (a gentle way of saying that these kids often become guinea pigs). These medications often lead to side effects that often cause more problems in the end.

    I can’t talk about it at length here, but there is just a world of uncertainty out there on the part of parents and doctors on how to treat these kids, and more often then not, I believe there are things that can be done to avoid such the need for “treatment.” So, on that front Savage has a point.

  3. Also…

    Using the term Autism is as generic as using the term Flu or Cancer. To paint a picture on such a broad term is kind of silly. That’s why I’m inclined, outside of his over arching point, I believe Savage really doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about.

  4. The trouble with autism is that there are so many levels, and auxiliary behaviors associated with it that it’s difficult to really pin down a root cause. And while Savage may retain some merit in pointing out that “there is no definitive medical diagnosis for autism” that doesn’t negate the fact that it is a problem that 1 in 150 kids in America are facing as “defined.” Genetic, environmental or otherwise.

    And while he may have been using the term “99 percent” as hyperbole, he’ll have to pardon me for yielding to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, rather than him, for data regarding autism:

    “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says about one in 150 children are now on the autism spectrum. More than half, Autism United says, have an IQ that places them in the mentally disabled range.

    I’m in no way qualified to talk from any educated position on autism (just like Savage). So my criticism is more targeted at Savage’s crassness and apparent contempt for parents and children who are dealing with it first hand.

    Cheryl has a good friend who has alot of experience in this field. It would be great if she came by and offered some insight.

    I mean, at least we’re talking about autism as a result of the recent controversy. But that doesn’t redeem Savage for being the blow-hard, hate-monger that he typically is. And in this most recent example, in my opinion anyway, he once again demonstrates his complete inability to approach issues with any semblance of class or dignity.

  5. fyi: nascar has a car sponsored by an autism awareness group and actually had an entire race dedicated to raising awareness for it this month.
    good old conservative folks raising awareness for autism. gotta love it.

  6. I have a background in special education and have taught several students on the Autism spectrum as well as having friends with a child on the Autism spectrum. Autism can range from several disabled to very high achieving (ie Bill Gates). Autism is real. There is a huge difference between bad behavior and autism. Savage’s comment reminds me of those who have said similar things about ADHD & dyslexia not being real.

    While I believe that most diagnosed with Autism are real there are some that may be missed diagnosed or not really have autism. My mom who has 40+ years as a special educator has often mentioned how sometimes young children who are from deprived backgrounds will be mis-diagnosed as mentally retarded and/or autistic. Also there are some children that have a diagnosis because that is what the parents want. One of my profs in college talked about how certain labels become trendy and there are just some people that want their child to have that label. Either as an excuse for poorly behaved children, to work the system for perceived benefits or in some cases to get sympathy.

    Shane, you mentioned the IQ thing and that brings up an interesting point. One of the problems with Autism is that it effects interpersonal communication thus making it difficult to get an unbiased test. For anyone with a moderate to severe disability IQ tests can be off by as much as 20 point (2 or more standard deviations). I have been diagnosed with moderate dyslexia and severe dysgraphia. My IQ tests in the above + range. If I am given a performance based test the results are considered invalid because of the severity of my disablities. If I am given a verbal test it is considered unbalanced because it is testing my strength. It has been estimated that a test using both performance & verbal is off by at least 10-20 points. So if it is hard to get a good IQ test for me imagine what it is like for a person who has difficulty communicating.

    BTW, I have written quite a bit about disablities and understanding disablities on my blog.

  7. wow. as a mental health professional, i find this disgusting. now, the huge spike (and it’s massive) in the diagnosis of autism and it’s cousin aspergers in recent years has led to a lot of questioning as to what has happened, and asking “why is this happening?!?!” i personally think it has to be related to how screwed up our environment is, the food we intake and all the chemicals and hormones in it, the vaccines we have our kids get (and the ones they promote women to get on tv), and on and on and on. and i think it goes beyond just autism & aspergers, i think a lot of the malfunctions that we humans are experiencing these days are a direct result of these factors, from my anxiety to the millions of cases of depression that are diagnosed daily in the average person. our brains have been f’d, basically.

  8. I’m just going to throw out there that there has been some concern about a possible links between vaccines and autism. While this link is often associated with the mercury that used to be contained within vaccines, I for one am still skeptical about recent studies denying the connection. Enough so that my wife and I are very careful when the doctor says that it’s time for shot A or shot B because this connection has yet to be resolved.

  9. Timothy & Chris,

    I would like to know how much of the increased occurrence of Autism is related to the change in the standards for diagnosis. According to DSM the standards have been broadened to include an autism spectrum and onset after the age of 5.

  10. That’s a very good question.

    Before I attempt to answer your question from a layman’s point of view, I’d like to put in my two cents about the DSM. The DSM (or The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is an ever changing manual. Almost to the point where it’s almost relative. I always find it interesting that the DSM is the mental health community’s bible, yet…they’re constantly changing it. Now, some of that has to be changed in light of new medical research, but other things in the DSM are often changed to fit social and political norms. Without grossly changing the topic here, a diagnosis that was completely eliminated from the DSM was homosexuality. Regardless of your view on that subject, it was taken out because the mental health community refused to dare label that as some kind of disorder (because of social ramifications). The result, homosexuality cannot be treated by a licensed mental health professional, at all. So, say for instance, you struggle with homosexuality, and want to be treated for it. A doctor could treat symptoms of depression maybe associated with homosexuality. However, if a psychiatrist was to treat homosexuality directly, they would be breaking the law, even though the patient consents to such a treatment.

    How does this relate to Autism? If diagnoses are eliminated, then what does that mean for diagnoses that are broadened? If the term is broadened in the DSM, it widens the scope of the legal treatment a doctor can perform on a patient if the diagnosis is perceived to be some form of Autism.

    Simply put…more kids are probably getting treated for Autism because the DSM allows them to do so.

    So, to answer your question Dee, the change in standards, I think probably has more to do with trying to treat kids at an earlier age to head perceived diagnoses off at the pass. The real problem being, in my opinion, is doctors really can only treat the symptoms they see in the children. Some less blatant (not less severe, just less noticeable) mental disorders really can’t be fully diagnosed until a child is a teenage or young adult because the brain is ever changing.

    So kids may be receiving unneeded medications that alter the brain during their crucial development years. I see a lot of kids in my classroom whose symptoms have more to do with their meds that they previously had taken rather then symptoms of their perceived diagnosis, go figure.

  11. Chris,

    Don’t get me started on the misuse of meds for kids. I had a student with a very severe seizure disorder. She spent most of her day in the Learning Lab with me not because she needed extra health but because someone had to constantly watch her. She could not do any physical activity because of seizures. Turns out she didn’t have a seizure disorder. It was the medication.

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