Young Scientist's Viral Video Takes on Debate Around Autism and Vaccines

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Meet Marco Arturo. At only 12 years old he is a self-proclaimed scientist, and the latest to tackle the debate surrounding autism and vaccines.

In a video posted to his Facebook page, the youngster took the issue head-on. The two-minute video, titled “Vaccines DO cause autism,” begins with Arturo presenting what he calls a “folder full of evidence.”

Except, as it turns out, the papers that fill the folder are blank.

“I think it might be because there is no evidence to support the statement that vaccines are linked to autism in any way whatsoever,” Arturo says in the video.

The belief that vaccines cause autism is largely the result of a study published by The Lancet in 1998, which claimed autism was linked to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. The Lancet retracted the study in 2010 after scientists were unable to replicate its findings. The study’s author, Andrew Wakefield, lost his medical license the same year.

The controversy made headlines again this March when Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro, whose son is on the autism spectrum, nixed Wakefield’s film “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” from the festival’s lineup.

In the midst of it all, Arturo began several months of research on the anti-vaccination movement.

“I realized that the arguments they used could be easily refuted, and that the actual scientific studies denied anti-vaxxers’ position on the topic,” Arturo told The Mighty. “After that, I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t you make a video about it?’ And so I did.”

His tongue-in-cheek video has already been watched 4.8 million times, racking up an impressive number of Facebook shares, including a repost from actor Ashton Kutcher.

Arturo said he’s been pleased with the acclaim his video has gained so far. “I thought it could be taken as a positive thing by the scientific and medical community as a whole, and I thought it could be a good idea,” he said.

Editor’s note: The headline of this article has been changed to avoid misrepresentation of the story.

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To the Doctor Who Called My Son With Autism 'Unfixable'

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Dear Doctor, 

Remember us? I was the frazzled young mom who waited two hours to see you that afternoon. I’d only slept for an hour and a half the previous night, as that’s all my child on the autism spectrum would sleep. I robotically tried to keep that same child busy while you took your time getting to the exam room.  

When you did grace us with your presence, you accidentally hit my kid in the head with the door. You got to witness a meltdown in full force. I clearly remember you trying to step out. I was over it at that point, so I refused to budge from the door. Yes, I did tell you to talk over the screaming. 

You looked me dead in the eye as you boldly proclaimed my child was “unfixable.” You told me to find a group home for him immediately before I “got attached.” What? Who tells a mom to do something before she gets attached to her child? Newsflash, doctor, my son knows what my heart sounds like from the inside. We’re already attached forever. 

boy playing with trains

The rest of your words were a blur. I heard the word “autism.” I took the brochures from your hands. I heard you say my child would have no quality of life. Autism had “stolen him away from me.” There was nothing I could do now but have another child and get on with my life. I couldn’t breathe as the tears fell freely down my face. You almost stole my hope. Almost. 

No one does better research than a mother whose child is struggling. I spent every available hour at the library checking out books. In a time when Google was new to the scene, I commissioned my husband to find out everything we could about autism. We poured over therapies, costs, diets… anything autism-related. 

We took stock of our financial situation. We literally listed every challenge Logan had that we needed to address and then prioritized what to work on first. We spent hours upon hours filling out applications for services, all while caring for this child. Our family was in survival mode, but that was about to change. 

We stopped listening to doctors who were more interested in telling us how awful our situation was, and turned to others who were interested in helping. We discovered we were smart as well as capable enough to know how to help him. We knew his needs. We researched ways to help him both conventionally and unconventionally. We started caring less about what other people thought and more about what helped our child. 

We remained committed to helping our child with whatever resources we had available. We lost family members, friends and money, but we never lost hope.  We drove clunker cars, skipped meals and sold our belongings.  

You’re probably wondering why we would do that for a child deemed “unfixable.” Let me tell you a secret. He wasn’t broken. He legitimately needed help navigating this world. He needed interventions to make life bearable. He approached life from a different angle. His  brain is wired differently. We had to be creative in teaching life skills as well as academics. 

All that effort culminated this week when that “unfixable” child graduated on time from high school. That “unfixable” child will start college in the fall albeit on a slower schedule than his peers. That “unfixable” child will get his learner’s permit this summer. I anticipate that “unfixable” child being able to live independently within the next five years. 

Instead of telling parents their child is “unfixable,” perhaps you could tell them there is hope. Their child may look different than they envisioned. Their future may seem uncertain. They will want to quit on more than one occasion. What they need to hear from you is that no matter what happens, there is hope for their child.  

I still pray for you after all these years. I have long since forgiven you. I am grateful you felt it was your job to make me aware of how “unfixable”  my child was, as well as what you deemed the correct course of action. Eventually, I would accept the challenge to prove you wrong. Challenge accepted and accomplished. 

Follow this journey here.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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What I Learned as a Person on the Autism Spectrum After My Train Broke Down

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I was on a local train one day. We had just left the station and were heading towards the next stop when I heard a loud, long whistle. The train immediately began to slow down.

As we came to a halt before we had even arrived at the next station, all power to the train cut out, leaving only the emergency lights. I knew there was a problem. And as someone on the autism spectrum, I was extremely anxious. But the staff on the train were calm. They told us wires were down on the track. Then they said we needed to wait to be “rescued.” I didn’t really know what that meant or how they were going to “rescue” us.

As a person on the autism spectrum, the unexpected can be difficult to handle. I personally need to have a plan in place most of the time. But when the train broke down, I didn’t even know how long I was going to be stuck there, let alone what exactly I needed to do. I felt an urge to listen to some music to help curb my anxiety and then decided against it. I knew I needed to be able to hear information and instructions. I was worried I would have a complete meltdown. So I just held onto my cellphone instead and started texting my friends and family.

My parents were extra helpful. When I told them about the situation I was in, they reminded me trains break down once in a while just like buses or other forms of transportation. My dad told me to just try and stay calm and wait to find out what I needed to do.

Time went by and the staff kept relaying the information as soon as they could. And although the plans kept changing, they listened to each person’s concerns and dealt with them in a professional manner. After a while, I realized I was handling most of the situation on my own. And about three hours after the train broke down, we were finally “rescued” by another train.

Sometimes, I really wonder how much I can do as someone on the autism spectrum. For me, autism can make things a bit difficult. I really worry I won’t be able to handle a situation or will misunderstand what I need to do.

But when the train broke down, I never even had to mention to anyone I was on the spectrum. I learned something important that day. I learned I’m more capable than I thought I was.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were traveling that was either incredibly challenging or where you faced adversity. Tell us how you handled it or wish you had handled it. If you’d like to participate, please check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

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5 Things I've Asked Myself About Having an Autism Spectrum Disorder

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I first found out I was on the autism spectrum when I was 11 years old. I went up to one of my teachers and asked them point blank, “People have always said that I was special, but why am I special?” The teacher asked me to talk to my parents. I sat them down to talk about it. That was the first time they told me I have autism.

Fast forward four years later, after not really ever being curious about learning more about my autism diagnosis, I began to research online about ASD. I began thinking of becoming an autism advocate. I had so many questions. 

Now as an adult, I’ve learned so much about what autism means to me. Looking back, as a part of self-reflection, I wrote out a list of five questions I’ve asked myself about
having autism that I wanted to share with you in the hopes of educating others.

5. Why me?

Today, there is no known “cause” of autism. The truth is, I may never know why I have autism but I’ve learned so much about it being a part of my DNA that makes it a part of who I am.

4. Does autism define me or do I define autism?

So many people look at the label and stereotype of autism and think it defines their loved ones. Like Temple Grandin says though, “see the able, not the label.” Today I say autism can’t define me; I define autism.

3. Why do I have the ability to communicate more easily than some of my peers on the spectrum?

When I was researching the definition of autism as a teen I never knew autism was a spectrum disorder. Today I know that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met just that… one person with autism. Some will find communication more challenging than others. Many will may have strengths different than mine.

2. No one in my family has autism, so why I do have it?

This question came up because for a while I felt so different than my family members because of my “quirks.” But I now know I’ll never be alone. Many of my family members have become experts in ASD to help me in my development.

1. Will autism prevent me from going after my dreams?

When I was struggling as a child I definitely had mixed feelings about this question. For example, one of my dreams as a teen was going to college. Many of my peers would bully me and say I’d never go to college, let alone graduate from high school. When I started applying to schools and got accepted into all 15 colleges I applied to, I realized one of my first dreams had become a reality. It opened a door for me to understand that other dreams of mine, like getting a full-time job, becoming a professional speaker, consulting on films and becoming an author, could also become a reality one day if I wanted them enough. They all came true.

Today, as an advocate, I just want to see all my mentees and everyone in our community get the supports they need to progress and accomplish their dreams. Autism has become a part of my skill set, and we hope we can do the same for others.

What have you asked yourself about your autism diagnosis? If I can ever help be a soundboard you can reach out to me anytime on my Facebook
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This blog originally appeared on KerryMagro.com.

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'Po' Director John Asher Hopes Movie Authentically Depicts Autism

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Filmmaker John Asher operates on one principle when choosing his projects.

“You shouldn’t be making the film unless you have some sort of first-hand experience about what the story is about,” Asher says.

That wasn’t a problem for his latest project, which he produced, directed and edited. “Po” follows a recently widowed dad (Christopher Gorham) and his sixth-grade son (Julian Feder), who’s on the autism spectrum, as they learn to live without a wife and mother. Patrick, who goes by Po, is an inquisitive, imaginative boy who struggles to express his grief, and his newly single father David attempts to cope by immersing himself in his high-pressure job.

For Asher, “Po” is somewhat of a passion project. His own son Evan is on the spectrum, as are the sons of screenwriter Colin Goldman and lead actor Gorham and the daughter of composer Burt Bacharach (whom Asher met by chance on a cross-country flight). The trio and their colleagues made it their mission to make “Po,” which is based on a true story, as authentic a depiction as possible.

“Every piece of dialogue that Po had and every movement that he did was thought out and deliberated on,” Asher told The Mighty. “We really didn’t want it to feel forced, and we didn’t want to do things we’ve never seen an autistic child do before. We wanted to stay true so people who are not affected by autism can learn something from watching this film.”

Asher hopes his efforts to incorporate his son’s attributes give viewers a bit of insight into what autism is like. Actors Julian Feder and Christopher Gorham and director/producer John Asher on the set of "Po."

“The movie is, for me, about teaching acceptance and about love — that love supersedes everything,” Asher said. “But on top of that, it’s to educate people who aren’t aware of what parents and what children of autism go through on a daily basis.”

Though the film still awaits its official release, it’s screened well, winning best picture awards at film festivals in Albuquerque, Houston (where Feder also nabbed a Rising Star award) and Palm Beach. The cast and crew received two standing ovations at the world premiere in Panama.

Still, Asher says “Po” has a difficult fight ahead of it.

“[A movie’s success] just has to do with where society is emotionally at any given time,” he told The Mighty. “That’s why making movies is a risky proposition because you never know the mood of the general public when you release a film. It’s a hard terrain right now for little movies.”

For Asher, the making of “Po,” which he has been involved in since 2005, was never about money.

“It was kind of a love letter to my son, to let him know I am aware of what he is going through, that I love him and care about him more than anything in the world.”

Follow “Po” on Facebook and Twitter.

The Mighty reviewed an advance copy of “Po” for this article.

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Ford to Launch Program Aimed at Hiring People on the Autism Spectrum

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Update: Ford Motor Company announced it will expand its pilot program in 2017 by hiring an additional 12 to 24 people on the autism spectrum. 

Ford Motor Company, in partnership with the Autism Alliance of Michigan, is launching a program designed to help people on the autism spectrum gain on-the-job work experience with Ford.

The program, called FordInclusiveWorks, is set to launch on June 1 and will match people with roles in Ford’s product development division. The program will last between 30 and 90 days, a Ford spokesperson told The Mighty. All participants will be paid for the duration of the program.

“Individuals with autism bring a unique set of talents to our business,” Felicia Fields, Ford group vice president of human resources and corporate services, said in a statement. “We recognize that having a diverse and inclusive workforce allows us to leverage a wider range of innovative ideas to make our customers’ lives better.”

The program, funded by The Autism Alliance of Michigan, is the first of its kind for Ford. It will create five positions designed specifically for people on the autism spectrum. According to Ford, participants will gain experience in the company’s vehicle evaluation and verification test lab, logging and prepping tires for test vehicles. Jobs that, Ford states, require a “great deal of focus” and “high level of attention to detail and organization.”

Ford plans on using this program to evaluate participants for future positions within the company. Completing the program does not guarantee a job. Instead, those who successfully graduate from the program will be entered into Ford’s standard recruiting process.

“We are truly excited to be collaborating with Ford on this pilot program,” Colleen Allen, president and CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan, said. “For so many individuals with autism spectrum disorder, getting and keeping a job is a challenge. Often, companies lack understanding of the unique characteristics associated with autism, which can be challenging, and unfortunately this can lead to perceptions of a poor fit for the individual and coworkers.”

Those interested in the program can apply through Ford’s career portal.

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