Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jenny McCarthy and You

"Why yes, I have heard of Jenny McCarthy.  No, I'm afraid she won't help me, but thanks for bringing her name up."
This is a very typical conversation between myself and some well-meaning person who has just learned Alanna has autism.  It is unfortunate that due to our celebrity worshipping culture the only thing anyone knows about autism is Jenny McCarthy's name.

Jenny McCarthy is a Playboy model who has found instant fame basking in the glow of Oprah's pseudo-science.  She advocates what is commonly referred to as the biomedical approach to treating autism.  In my opinion, most of these treatments are money-making schemes designed to feed off the wealth of parents with autistic children who are desperate for a cure.  It's the same kind of stuff that one might use to "cure" one's cancer - with vitamins and "de-toxification" techniques.  It's also bunk.  Anecdotal stories of a child being "cured" of autism by taking vitamins is not a scientifically controlled study.  Show me the proof it works.  That's where it falls down; no one can show me any proof of the wild claims Jenny McCarthy makes.

Some of you may be thinking, "Just because it's not scientifically proven doesn't mean it doesn't work."  Well, true enough.  Many parents think the gluten-free casein-free (GFCF) diet helps their kids (or in some cases, just GF or CF).  Do I think this diet can relieve digestion issues making children less prone to bad behaviour?  Sure I do.  What about the claim that "opiate" like substances escape into the brain via a "leaky gut"?  Well, maybe.  Research is being right where I live into this very hypothesis.  But lots of parents have tried GFCF with no impact.  So it works for some children to help them, but it doesn't cure autism.  And it doesn't work for most children.   Will we try with Alanna?  I think maybe someday soon, but we're not rushing into it.

Bottom line - if you are the parent of a newly diagnosed autistic child, or suspect your child has autism and they have a lot of digestive issues (chronic constipation, diarrhea, odd stools), you probably can't lose trying GFCF.  But please, don't use biomedical treatments as your first-line defense.  Use something that has been researched for which you can measure progress.  Get a good Applied Behavioural Analysis program going first before venturing too far into Jenny's world.

Sorry Jenny, I'm glad your son is cured.  But I have only so many dollars and I have to use what's proven to be the most effective.


  1. Haha it's ok, you weren't the first or last person to ask us about it. And, we get why you did. :) No worries!

  2. I can totally relate to this post. Jenny does not speak for us. My son is thriving with ABA and speech therapy and floortime. It's too bad the media sensationalizes Jenny and her son's "cure".