One of the downsides to social media has been the ease with which people can spread misinformation about autism and its causes. One of the upsides to social media: we can talk back.
Personally, I think mixing false hope and bogus science is a pretty evil thing to do to parents and loved ones who are seeking answers about a confusing, complicated topic. Even if the intentions are good, the consequences of spreading misinformation can be damaging in a serious and long term way.
Yesterday on Twitter, I ran into a nice gentleman named Peter. Peter wants the world to know: wireless devices are causing autism!
Well…okay. I decided to have a chat with Peter.
Peter- helpful, helpful Peter- then proceeded to explain that even adults on the autism spectrum like me can benefit from his insights. His goal: decrease the impact that wireless devices are having on the brain. As a result of his efforts, his own children were magically cured of autism! Peter wanted me to know that it wasn’t too late for me to join his cause and “recover” from my own neurological issues.
I have to admit…I was a little curious about how exactly these interventions work.
Wireless radiation? Dirty electricity? What does this mean exactly? Well, Peter was nice enough to link to a video where he demonstrates how to reduce wireless emanations. You might want to get a pen and paper and write this down, it’s pretty complicated. In the video, he takes all of the wireless devices in his home, like cell phones and baby monitors…and he turns them off. And that’s it! Peter says autism symptoms begin to improve immediately.
Yay! I let Peter know that so many things make sense now.
I looked up more info about his first tweet above, the assertion that wireless radiation causes autism. The rationale behind this is, not surprisingly, pretty sketchy. The basic theory is that the use of wireless technology is increasing…and autism rates are rising…therefore the former is causing the latter. Linking two unrelated but concurrent factors is a common fallacy. More importantly: it’s my favorite of all the fallacies. I was pretty excited; it’s not every day you get to break out your Latin from freshman level Rhetoric!
For some reason Peter, my new bestie, stopped responding at this point. Which is disappointing. I thought once I broke out the Latin, we would really start to bond over a shared love of truth and knowledge.
I don’t think it’s fair to target those spreading misinformation about autism…I think it’s mandatory. They have a huge mouthpiece with social media, and they are using it to hurt families and set back our understanding of these sensitive issues. But that same mouthpiece can be used against them. I’m not saying the above discussion is a great example of that…my points obviously go in the “silly” category. I just think it’s important to think about the words we use and the ideas we spread…and it’s important to push back against those doing the most harm.
My final message to Peter: