Thanks Chris McKee for pointing me in the direction of this piece in one of the Mail on Sunday’s pull-outs. It nor its sister paper the Daily Mail are publications I would normally buy but if Mr McKee thinks there’s something of interest to me I don’t argue so I sent Aidan out to get a copy (I just couldn’t bring myself to be seen buying that!). However, upon locating the article Chris thought would interest me, I had unusually high hopes for it. Entitled “Sorry.. but a diet won’t cure your autistic child,” in many ways it exceeded my expectations (very low) of a health piece published in paper known for categorising not only all known substances but also all human activity into that which causes or cures cancer. Its author is Dr Ellie Cannon, who according to her own website is a “Popular GP” good to know she thinks that’s a priority in her chosen profession personally I’d put qualifications above popularity but what do I know? I’m no ” media medic with a friendly down-to-earth approach to her patients and audience” (at least patients came first).
Dr Ellie (am I the only person who distrusts any Dr Firstname?) does actually offer some balance in her column and is 100% correct: the gluten and casein free diets that parents of autistic children increasingly subject their children to are of NO VALUE. The only people who benefit medically from such nutritional restriction are individuals who are actually allergic to either gluten or casein (gluten is a protein found in wheat and some other cereals and casein a protein in dairy products). The only other beneficiaries of such proscriptive diets are the purveyors of GF/CF foods, supplements to make up for the inevitable nutrient deficit such restrictions cause and the authors and publishers of , to borrow from Kathryn Bjornstad yet again, craptastic books (yes, I am thinking of the professional warrior moms, Polly Tommy[ick] and the other harpies).
Correctly, Dr Ellie asserts that imposing a GF/CF diet can, “lead to a deficit of calories, fibre, calcium and protein [which affects] growth and bone density.” No arguement from me there. She even warns, ” parents looking for advice” to, “Avoid anyone who claims they have a cure for autism – no one does.” Tick! Right again, maybe she reads Autismum? No, apparently not. It’s earlier in the article that I wonder if the “approachable and likeable” Dr Ellie really has much of a clue about autism and her tone really is that of a Mail medic.
I take particular objection to her categorising autism, in the article’s first sentence, as a disease. Would she so easily call a child affected by Down’s syndrome or cerebral palsey diseased? I doubt it. She then, just like any of the Age of Autism or Autism Trust’s negaters of the autistic person as an individual lists all the ways in which autism makes a child less than a ‘normal’ one. “The autistic child,” this woman contends, “won’t speak, refusing to engage or even make eye contact.” Do “they” as autistic children become, very quickly, in this piece, refuse to make eye contact or could it be that “they” are unable to do so, or it is uncomfortable or of limited use to an individual (yes, that’s what “they” are!) who processes information about his or her world and the people in it differently from the prized, unsullied and oh-so-easy ‘normal’ child?
Dr Ellie then tiptoes just like what one of “them” autstics do from the realm of stereotype into that of fallacy. “They…often suffer from distressing bowel habits.” Dr Ellie, show me a kid that doesn’t. They (meaning children) are dirty little beggars who eat and lick all sorts of inedibles and inadvisable-to-lickables and they (children) suck their thumbs, pacifiers, bottles etc, etc, etc and get tummy bugs. There is no credible evidence that there is a higher frequency of bowel pathology in autistic children than any other group of children. This myth is a hangover from Andrew Wakefield’s bullshit papers that, frankly, I wouldn’t wipe my arse with. Autistic children continue to be suseptible to tummy upsets more than their non-autistic peers for some perfectly obvious reasons:
-Autistic children often continue putting icky things in their mouths long after non-autistic kids have stopped doing so (My Little Pwdin also loves licking things like walls, railings, floors, animals…);
-Autistic children often have very restricted diets: here I mean of the self imposed variety. There seems to be a commonality (though not universality) that autistic children often will (as Pwd’s nutritionist once put it to me) “only eat biege”;
-Thumb sucking, pacifier use often goes on longer than with non-autistic children and these are often great breeding grounds for germs.
As if Dr Ellie hadn’t made me angry enough, she goes on to state that GF/CF diets have become the intervention de jour for parents to inflict on their autistic children because, “it has been postulated that in autism and other mental-health problems, [gluten and casein] are not broken down properly…” I don’t often resort to all caps but, now, I feel I must…
AUTISM IS NOT A MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM
Autism, dear Dr Ellie, is a neuropsychiatric syndrome. I will be posting this to the dear doctor’s Twitter feed so, Dr Ellie, should you feel the need to discuss any matter raised here or need someone to explain to you the differences between a mental health condition and a neuropsychiatric syndrome, I am at your disposal.