Wednesday, April 2, 2008

World Autism Awareness Day

I went to the United Nations today to a panel discussion on "Global Awareness of Autism: Challenges, Responsibilities and Actions." Bob Wright, a cofounder of Autism Speaks said "no country can afford to stand by and watch it lose 1% of their male population" to what once was a rare, isolated mental illness.

The State of Qatar sponsored the event and Riz Khan, a radio host from Al Jazeera, moderated, making this a true world event. Paul Shattock, of the World Autism Organization in England, spoke about the stigma of autism in different countries. He remarked
"In England, we have always had a secret admiration for the quirky, the different, the maverick, the person who behaves in a cool way" and contrasted that to America where people shout in the supermarket 'why don't you look after him' and 'why don't you control him.'
But, he said it was getting better in the US in fact he heard a joke on a commercial: a 12 year old autistic boy spoke for the first time and said "THIS DINNER IS TERRIBLE." And his mother said "You spoke. You have never spoken before." And the autistic boy said "Well, everything has been okay until now."

I thought Paul's comment was particularly good for my blog, which is all about nutrition and the power of food to heal...even in the form of a terrible dinner.

Some good news: The American Academy of Pediatrics has announced it will be partnering with Defeat Autism Now in order to diagnose and treat patients more effectively. I heard about this at the UN today. This is truly a groundbreaking step by the AAP who has previously regarded DAN and the biomedical treatment it offers as a fringe movement but offered no alternative. This dialogue is a move which could possibly turn the tide on this growing epidemic, as my new favorite blog, Journey to Crunchville, noted. I don't know how it happened, but miracles do happen...just when you least expect them.

WHAT TO DO: If you or someone you know has been affected by autism go to Autism Speaks to get info and the IAN Project to accelerate the pace of autism research. EVERYONE should try to appreciate the "quirky, the different, the maverick" in ourselves and our children.


journeytocrunchville said...

I would have LOVED to go to this. And I think the points you make about gluten and some of the autism spectrum disorders could be very very spot on. Just as I am witnessing so many children being mistakingly diagnosed as having ADHD and other diseases who simply were chemically sensitive to dyes and preservatives in their food. At this point I don't have any reason to suspect gluten intolerance in our family but should new symptoms arise you can bet it would be the first (along with dairy) to be tested and eliminated. I believe most of the diseases we deal with are at some level (current or previous) related to our diet.

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