People with autism deserve better

I am extremely disappointed with the response of your paper to the calls for a retraction and apology regarding the wildly inaccurate article written by Dr Tony Humphreys (Feelgood).

You say it is his opinion and he has a right to have it aired. My son was born 14 weeks premature in 2006, he has autism spectrum disorder... or autism, which Dr Humphreys implied was a myth. In the first few weeks of my child’s birth, he struggled to survive but against strong odds, he did and he thrived.

As loving parents, we went to every appointment we were offered with specialists to monitor his development, and we followed all recommendations while surrounding our son with love. When our son was diagnosed in 2010 with ASD, we knew we had a hard road ahead. We did not know how hard the road would be and how much of it would be caused by bureaucratic red tape, but the alternative for us could have been a lot harder, knowing the difficulties and disabilities that some extremely premature children endure.

ASD is one of the conditions associated with extreme prematurity — that is not an opinion, that is fact and I can provide the references for that in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Dr Humphreys referred to one book to support his theory of the cause of autism. He also referred to Professor Baron Cohen’s work but just to state that “they assume autism is a scientific fact”. Autism is a scientific fact, in so much as many disorders are idiopathic, that is they have not pinpointed the exact cause but the existence of the disorder is accepted.

Would Dr Humphreys refute the existence of Meniere’s disease or Alzheimer’s as an extreme example? Dr Humphreys’ piece was blatantly wrong and has caused huge outcry in our growing circle of those living and working with people on the autism spectrum. Shame on your paper for also using the backlash as a means of self-promotion of your having garnered awards for campaigning for the rights and services for people with an intellectual disability.

You say you regret and are sorry for the hurt you have caused, we can live with hurt.

We love our children and will suffer any hurt for them; it’s the damage you have caused to people with autism and those of us who try our best for them by publishing unfounded opinion that is so hard to take.

Sara McSweeney

Leamlara

Co Cork

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