The Canadian Government made an announcement today (November 8th) that is purportedly significant. On closer inspection, I don’t see anything about which to get excited.
After a bunch of lawsuits, a public relations embarrassment that lead to the creation of a national website in the early 2000s, finally with the help of a turncoat MP who sold out the entire autism community while his son received science-based treatment, the Canadian government has announced the creation of an academic chair in autism. What is the expertise of the person who is going to fill the chair? Is it someone who is on the cutting edge of treatment research? Is it a researcher who is pushing the envelope when it comes to adding to the body of knowledge in the one area that has the most data, applied behavior analysis? No.
The person whose expertise is supposedly promising that it merits an academic chair is Jonathan Weiss, Ph.D, an assistant professor at York University. The website indicates the following as areas of specialty for Weiss:
- Families in distress,
- Asperger’s and “cognitive therapy”
- How to teach graduate students this area of expertise,
- Caregiver’s perspectives when failure has occurred and the kid winds up in the hospital.
Not only is this chair worse than useless for any parent with a child suffering from autism, but the absence of a relevant researcher in this field is a slap in the face of any parent with a child who is afflicted with genuine, debilitating autism (as opposed to Asperger’s syndrome).
Why should we be surprised? This chair is supported by The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This is the Government of Canada’s health research investment agency and the same folks who fought against families in the landmark Auton Case at the Supreme Court of Canada. The CIHR claims that it’s mission is to “create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system.”
In fact, based on this choice for this academic Chair, one could argue that the CIHR’s true mission appears to be to make sure that academics in Canada don’t actually come up with innovative treatments because then the government would have to pay for them. Instead, they agree to have researchers who are not going to be innovative for children who really need it, but rather, study us, the parents, because that’s far easier.