Toni Braxton’s son was not cured of autism and it’s irresponsible for her to say so
A few days ago, Toni Braxton claimed that her son had been cured of autism. There is no way that what Braxton said is true because there is no cure for autism. While early intervention and therapy can certainly help individuals on the spectrum live productive lives, autism is a lifelong condition. By claiming otherwise, Braxton is not only spreading misinformation, she is damaging the autism community in multiple ways.
While being interviewed on Access Hollywood, Braxton said: “My youngest son, everyone knows, suffers from, or I should say, suffered from autism.” When asked to explain, she added “I’m one of the lucky parents. Early diagnosis changes everything. I will tell you this. I will shout it from the rooftops. My son Diezel is off the spectrum.”
First of all, by implying that all parents need to do to “cure autism” is get an early diagnosis and enroll their child in the right programs, Braxton is essentially blaming parents whose children haven’t been “cured” of autism. It’s 2016 and I’d like to think that we’ve gotten past mother-blaming, which was unfortunately a common belief decades ago when the refrigerator mother hypothesis first gained traction.
Second, the idea that autism can be cured before adulthood is not only completely false, it is also damaging because it gives the public the dangerous impression that autism is only a childhood disorder. There is already a tendency for the media to focus on children with autism and forget about the millions of adults living with autism, which has created the misconception that autism is a childhood disorder. This fallacy has resulted in there being far less support for autistics once they reach adulthood, a tragic state of affairs because transitioning to adulthood is a time when autistics need a lot of support.
This is certainly not the first time that celebrities have been irresponsible when talking about autism. For many years, Jenny McCarthy has spread misinformation by repeatedly claiming that vaccines cause autism and convincing many parents to go along with her in refusing to have their children vaccinated. This not only hurt those with autism but caused dangerous outbreaks of diseases such as the measles. Later McCarthy made a similar bogus claim that her son had been cured of autism.
Celebrities have a responsibility to be informed when speaking about important issues because they have a lot of influence on what people think and can impact the lives of those of us with autism. We need to urge more celebrities to speak about autism in an accurate and productive manner and we need to call out those celebrities who spread false information.