What a Difference a CEO Makes
(these) behaviors were just about as common 30 or 40 years ago. The recent explosion of cases appears to be mostly caused by a surge in special education services for autistic children, and by a corresponding shift in what doctors call autism.
Autism has always been diagnosed by making judgments about a child's behavior; there are no blood or biologic tests. For decades, the diagnosis was given only to kids with severe language and social impairments and unusual, repetitious behaviors.
What caught my attention was not just the content of this story—the same observation about autism prevalence has been made many times before. Rather, it was that MSNBC.com was where I first saw the article posted. Yes, I'm talking about the erstwhile lair of Bob Wright, former NBC chief fired in February for blatantly abusing his corporate position to hype Autism Speaks, who never met an autistic person he didn't think should have been eugenically "prevented."
Not only was the story posted on that website, which is a considerable improvement in itself from the sort of autism reporting that appeared there last year, it was Sunday's featured article. Moreover, the page did not display the "silent epidemic" propaganda link that, until recently, infested all autism-related stories on the site.
I'm surmising that the new management at NBC is coming to the belated realization that if there are indeed two million autistic Americans, many of whom did not have any diagnosis as children and grew up to be wage-earning consumers who are integrated into mainstream society, it's not the smartest corporate strategy to offend this significant number of potential viewers (and their families) with bigoted stories characterizing them as a plague and a burden.
That should have been a matter of common sense (and basic human decency) from the beginning, but I'll give NBC my congratulations for finally getting it right.