Have you noticed that people either love Jenny McCarthy or hate her? Frankly, I didn’t know who Jenny McCarthy was until a friend suggested I Google her after she saw my daughter spinning and avoiding social contact more than 3 years ago. (At that point in our life we were still in denial; how dare she suggest my perfect daughter have autism!!)
It was a few days later when I finally asked my husband if he had heard of her. Of course he had… but it was from her MTV days and the description of that Jenny McCarthy certainly didn’t describe the woman my friend suggested I look up. I put it behind me and we continued on with our life.
My friend kept passively implying that Sahara had many characteristics of autism. I was seriously annoyed that this person has obviously reading into the many traits that were “just Sahara” to us. This feeling was only confirmed when the pediatrician said, “some kids just don’t talk until they are six years old… they just have delayed speech. She seems fine to me. Come back in six months.”
I do admit I had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. (This feeling began when I was pregnant with her… I chalked it up as typical fear that an expectant mother experiences.) It wouldn’t be until she was 3 ½ that we finally yielded to this maternal feeling to have her tested at the Public City School’s Special Needs Preschool. At the IEP meeting, I hit a brick wall. How could I have not seen any of this? She had delays in everything… socially, physically, cognitively, fine motor, gross motor…! I think I cried for 2 days straight, then pulled MY big girl panties up and became proactive. I knew it could be easy to fall into a poor me attitude and lose more precious time or advocate for my child!
I have to admit that it would be another 9 months before her formal diagnosis. That was the second time I felt like I hit a break wall. However, this time instead of grieving I went to the library and got Jenny’s book, Louder than Words. I read it in less than a day…I kept reading passages out loud to my husband, who, honestly, seemed annoyed by my correlating our daughter to Jenny’s son. However, I shamefully admit that I felt relief that we didn’t experience the medical conditions Jenny described.
Louder than Words allowed hope to trickle in my essence for the first time since the beginning of our autism journey. If anything at all, Louder than Words gave me hope that I didn’t have to accept what the Psychologist reported to us, “most of these kids grow up not being able to live independently, don’t have productive jobs, or participate in a intimate relationship including friendships.” Honestly, this statement is what fueled my fire. In the beginning I was out to prove her wrong, and then I found Jenny saying that this attitude was wrong…
I am not saying I believe everything the DAN Doctors, Jenny McCarthy, or other biomedical supporters say, but I am saying that to stomp out any ounce of hope in a parent is wrong. I have had medical professionals tell me that if you followed biomedical treatments, like chelation, you are putting your child at risk for death. I have read statements from the medical community and from parents that debunk Jenny McCarthy based on her “play boy” history and inability to act. Really?!?! How can we base the validity of her claims based on her professional career?
I don’t care how bad of an actress she is in your opinion— there is no correlation between that and her ability to spread the word about vaccination safety and autism. The only button this pushes in me is that no one is talking about the vaccines containing thimerosal that are given to expectant mothers. I once had a nuerologist suggest our daughter’s condition proved that there is no vaccination/autism connection because she isn’t vaccinated…. what about the two shots of RhoGam I recieved during her pregnancy?!?!
Could that be why during her pregnancy I had this uneasy feeling something was wrong? Or why she would not make eye contact while nursing during infancy? Or why she slept for unusually long periods of times after birth? What about her 5 month old picture that she has Down’s Syndrome features? That the geneticist and neurologist couldn’t find a biological reason for the autism?
Another mom on Twitter once said that people like Jenny, who are focused on cures, are instilling false hope upon mothers who are more worried about staying status quo…. She implied that we need to except out plight and cope with it. I rebuke that! Hope is what a mother with a child with autism most certainly needs, hope is what Jenny McCarthy and the biomedical field offers. Hope is what allows us to sleep a few minutes each night.
Sadly, I may not be able to afford all of the modalities Jenny has provided for Evan, but I can give my child hope for a brighter tomorrow on the other side of the spectrum. It is not whether or not Jenny McCarthy is a good actress, a playboy or in a relationship with Jim Carrey— It is about a mother whose journey is touching the lives of a nation facing a pestilence among our youth. And if for a moment, you can be inspired that your child may lead a productive healthy life, then by God, let the woman inspire you and speak for the thousands of children who cannot.