The medicine show is back in town. You know, the one where the self-proclaimed “doctor” sells bottles of cure-all off the back of his wagon to people desperately looking for help for a sickness?
In the old days, the bottle usually contained a mixture of basically nothing medicinal—plus a good shot of alcohol.
These days, instead of parking at the edge of town, the medicine show and its self-proclaimed experts are parked in cyberspace, at the outer edges of social media outlets like Facebook.
And one of the latest miracles has convinced parents to abuse their children by poisoning them.
Administrators of private Facebook groups are, somehow, convincing parents to administer chlorine dioxide—bleach—via mouth, bath, or enema to their autistic children in order to “heal” them, although autism has no medically known cause or cure.
Childhood rates of autism have risen sharply over the last decade, affecting 1 in 59 children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But even in modern times, the old medicine show and its promises prevail, preying on parents desperate to find a cure. According to an article by NBC News, “The parents in many of these groups, which have ranged from tens to tens of thousands of members, believe that autism is caused by a hodgepodge of phenomena, including viruses, bacteria, fungal infections, parasites, heavy metal poisoning from vaccines, general inflammation, allergies, gluten and even the moon.”
Fortunately, two mothers of autistic children, Melissa Eaton of Salisbury, North Carolina, and Amanda Seigler of Lake Worth, Florida, have gone undercover to infiltrate more than a dozen of these groups in order to expose the abuse. Since 2016, they have reported more than 100 cases to Child Protective Services.
Eaton, Seigler, and other disability rights advocates fighting against these dangerous, abusive autism “cures” are finally getting some assistance. According to NBC, “Lawmakers and health advocates have been putting pressure on Facebook and other companies to stop the viral spread of harmful anti-vaccination propaganda and similar health misinformation on their platforms.”
The problem is, for every Facebook group closed down and every cure-all book taken off the shelf, two or three more pop up. And, because of the World Wide Web, the banned information is still available in cyberspace.
Although there is no cause or cure for autism, there are ways to treat it. There is not one type of autism—there are many. Each person with autism has different strengths and weaknesses—there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Intervention can involve behavioral treatment, medications, or both. Once the right treatment is found, they can improve attention, learning, and other behaviors.
To find out more about autism, visit the Autism Speaks website.