Monday, March 8, 2010

Singled Out: My Thoughts on Jenny McCarthy

Jenny McCarthy used to be synonymous with Playboy. You would always see her well, naked. Or mostly naked. Now, Jenny McCarthy is pretty much synonymous with autism and finding a cure for her son, Evan. She has her own website , which is full of information and intervention (specifically biomedical intervention) tips to help lessen or potentially "recover" from autism. 

From what I have gleaned from others in the autism community is that Jenny is a saint,  she is amazing for what she has done, she had turned her world around and has focused on her child, she is a champion of attempting to green our vaccines, she is an expert in her field,etc.

I would say all of that is true. I applaud her for bringing autism to the forefront of American minds. She felt the "shame", like we all do, that there was something wrong with our children and yet we didn't know what the cause was. We as parents of special needs children all go through this very confusing and sad phase. Jenny spent hours on the internet, scouring through hundreds of websites for symptoms that Evan had and what they could mean. Her marriage eventually crumbled, but found love and support again with actor Jim Carrey, who she has called, "the autism whisperer" for his ability to reach Evan on a different level than anyone else could.  She has brought into question the need for the number of vaccines that children are innoculated with. She is a crusader for the cause and is a warrior.


I do not subscribe to all of Jenny's issues, which I will explain why.

You can "recover" from autism:

I don't believe it can be completely and utter recover. I think even if you are able to lessen or almost remove all "symptoms" of autism, that you will always have it. 

We need to "green our vaccines" as they cause autism in kids:

The CDC  has said that the evidence to conclude that the thimersol used in vaccines cannnot be attributed to autism in children. Dr. Andrew Wakefield's infamous report on the link between autism and vaccines was recently retracted. Jenny and Jim Carrey made a statement saying that the retraction was due to the bullying of Dr. Wakefield by "Big Pharma". They say that there  was another study done by Dr. Wakefield on 14 monkeys, some of whom were given the Hep B vaccine and that those who were innoculated with it suffered "the loss of many reflexes" vital to survival. 
I think that they give perhaps a few too many vaccines too, but I tend to be on the less medicine the better side. However, I am not anti vaccine. I would much rather have my child protected than unprotected. Vaccines used to be administered in their raw state, meaning, exposing you to the actual virus and having you build up an immunity. Vaccines are not perfect. Some of us can have adverse reactions to them, but that is an educated risk that we take every time we are administered one. I think that any study that has such a small group of test subjects (10 children and 14 monkeys respectively) cannot be indicative proof of a theory as a whole. 

Jenny is an "expert" on autism: 

She's an expert on Evan, that is true. She knows everything about him, all of quirks, his triggers, his symptoms. But, she is not a doctor. She is not a psychologist. Her methods of "recovering" her son will not work for everyone. I don't think that the DAN! protocol is the be all end all of autism therapy treatments. I believe that any intervention or therapy should be as non invasive as possible and should not hurt any one. I personally feel that IV or any other type of chelation is dangerous in my book. I don't judge her for her choice, I choose not to make that choice for my child. I also feel that once you've met one autistic child, it's only one autistic child. Not every therapy works the same nor should be applicable to every single autistic child.

I'm not drinking the Haterade on Jenny McCarthy. I think that she has taken a bold stand to be in the forefront of autism and she definitely has opinions about what works and what doesn't. I just don't agree with all of them. And that's okay. I felt the need to make my opinions on that particular side of the coin of autism. In the Time article, it says that she has given parents hope, and I think that's true. Alot of parents with special needs kids feel like they need to live in a cave and not bring their kids outside, for fear of being attacked by the angry mob of people who don't understand autism. I think that is a legitimate fear and one I have had many times. Jenny let them know that they don't have to be afraid and they should fight. I think that is a great message. But I don't think that her solution is the right one or the only one.  You should find the solution that works best for your child and your family. Whether that is equine therapy, swimming with dolphins, chanting, aromatherapy, throwing plates against the wall, as long as you're not hurting yourself or someone else I'm okay with it. You should not be ashamed if you're not doing chelation or the GFCF diet or not have your child in a protective bubble. But do something. I'm not cool with people not getting help in some fashion, not reaching out to the community (which is awesome), that you can do it on your own. You can, to a degree. At some point, you're going to need a hand and please, accept that hand even if you don't need it then, ask if you can use it later. 

As Edith Ann says, "And that's the truth..."

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  1. I think Jenny could be doing a lot of good. And I think she still might; she changes her mind a lot. But I also think she's giving false hope to families who need real support -- not just those treatments which she happens to believe in, endorse, or sell. She also needs to be far more balanced in saying "this is what worked for my child but it may not work for yours." And her aggressive dismissal towards scientists and doctors who disagree with her is reprehensible.

    Also, the "too many vaccines" argument is misleading. While the number of recommended vaccines has increased from 7 to 14 in the past 30 years, the number of actual immunological components (bacteria and virus proteins) contained therein has actually DECREASED from 3,000 to ~150. (This information is from

    Anyhow. I agree that parents of kids with autism need to be inspired, and need to act. But the most important thing they need to know is that there are many possibilities when it comes to autism, and many paths. I recommend sites like and books like Gravity Pulls You In instead.

  2. Rebecca Wortham3/14/10, 9:14 PM

    Thank GOD for you and your ideas! Sometimes (well, most of the time) I feel that my husband and I are the ONLY parents in the entire state of Alabama who do NOT subscribe to the vaccination/wheat and dairy free/chelation hype. We have 5 sons, and 2 of them have autism, and we drive 5 hours each way just to go out of state to Tennessee and have our sons treated by Vanderbilt because they do not subscribe to the blame hype either. My husband and I have tried about a million different "support" groups in Alabama, yet each time we go, and even though we're both highly educated and know how to follow the rules of group-think, we wind up being attacked or ridiculed because we don't believe that vaccinations caused or contributed to our sons' autism. We seem to be the only ones in the groups NOT standing in line waiting for a government hand-out and placing blame on the government for our sons' disorder! Interestingly enough, our son Joshua is verbal and had vaccinations, and our son Benjamin is non-verbal and never had a vaccination. There blows that theory! :) Anyway, we feel blessed to have Vanderbilt by our side and we look forward to the day when we can move closer to their world-leading facilities. And we feel blessed to know that there are others like you out there and that we don't have to wear a McCarthy teeshirt to be accepted into the mainstream ASD society. :) THANK YOU! Mother of 2 Spectrum Kiddos, Rebecca Wortham

  3. @Squid: I agree with you about the false hope premise. I think it's a pretty poison pill that is far too promising of what it can truly deliver than what it does deliver.

  4. @Rebecca: There are so many factors that can attribute to autism. I don't blame the government for my son's Asperger's. I don't know who to blame and I'm not about to blame anyone. I think it's genetics with a side order of environmental factors. But I never claim and never will claim to have the answers. And yes, please count me in on the team of folks who don't follow the popular "group think" and that they know it all because they do not. Bless you and doing what you know in your heart is right, not what someone else tells you they think is right.