Dyslexic Duck and Autistic Anatidae: Adventures into Quackery

Spectrum Bloggers Network‘s Topic Tuesday theme is ‘Quacks‘. I had a think about how I wanted to approach this. The title of this blog is the one idea I had. Perhaps an idea for the future to come back to though. Instead I am going to look at the other meaning of quack:

Quack – a person who dishonestly claims to have special knowledge and skill in some field, typically medicine.

I have seen a lot of this said about various SpLDs including dyslexia. The most recent one I read was about Autism.  

PETA's latest campaign

PETA’s latest campaign

I saw this PETA post on Twitter and snorted at it. I’ve been veggie for half my lifetime through personal choice and I boycott a number of companies due to their animal rights records (as in they don’t care for the rights of animals at all), but this campaign screams QUACK! at me. When I responded ‘This has to be a joke’ PETA replied and sent me a link to their article:

Got Autism? Learn About the Link Between Dairy Products and the Disorder

I understand diet can have different affects on people, however this reeks of PETA’s agenda to convince people to become vegan rather than a benefit to people with Autism. I know, as an example, that E colourings in food makes me hyper. My parents stopped allowing me from eating foods with E colourings when I was a toddler because they couldn’t get me to go to sleep that night and isolated it down to foods containing E colourings. They still have an affect on me now which I find noticeable in myself. I also know that if I eat food that contains spring onions I get extreme stomach pains that feels like and has a similar effect to mild food poisoning. I know plenty of people with problems eating gluten and dairy products, but that doesn’t mean that these foods all have the same effects on every consumer.

So what is my problem with PETA’s claims?

More research is needed

One study of 20 children

A poster campaign based on a theory that has very little research backing it. This is not helpful. There could be all sorts of factors that produced the results PETA are claiming from one study. There could indeed be a link between the two, but full unbiased research should be done into this possibility. The fact that PETA clearly have an agenda on this topic really makes me question the reliability of the cases they mention. A poster campaign based on such little evidence is misleading and gives false hopes to parents working out how to deal with their child’s Autism. If PETA had set up this poster campaign after they had a vast body of evidence to back them up that had been done scientifically and were able to source the papers that backed up their claims, then more people would take this campaign seriously. However, it just comes across as another campaign that clutches at straws while pushing their agenda without any real evidence to back them up.

Groups with agendas come in all forms and religious groups can be equally as guilty of quacking their own beliefs rather than using real scientific evidence. This article from Christian Science: Sentinel puts more emphasis on divine intervention than on the real reason why the author has been able to cope better with his dyslexia.

Dyslexia healed

There are a couple of quotes that really stood out to me:

Furthermore, in 1970 an educational psychologist diagnosed me as dyslexic. For years I accepted that there was really nothing I could do to escape the tyranny of this disability.

God was present the whole time revealing to me that I could achieve more, that I was capable of overcoming the delusion of a slow tongue and a crippled mind.

I think that the negative attitude towards dyslexia was the problem in this case. ‘The tyranny of this disability’, let us look at the meaning of tyranny:

cruel, unreasonable, or arbitrary use of power or control

Dyslexia causes a number of problems which manifest differently in different people. While there are negatives such as issues with reading and writing, there are plenty of positives. One thing I hear a lot of dyslexics talk about is how they adapted skills and worked much harder than their peers to achieve. Although dyslexia affects people in different ways, looking at it with such a negative perspective seems to be holding the author of this article back more than the dyslexia itself. The other negative words that stood out to me was ‘crippled mind’, the definition of cripple:

cause a severe and almost insuperable problem for

‘Insuperable’ means:

impossible to overcome

To me it’s not the dyslexia holding the author back, but his attitude and the lack of help and support he received while at school. While the author credits his achievements as an adult to ‘God’, I think there is a far more obvious reasons to why his reading and writing skills improved:

My parents lovingly helped me to correct my mistakes in reading aloud during the week so that I could do a good job on Sundays.

The more I read, the easier it became.

We bought a second-hand computer, and I found its spell-check feature helpful

I think what this article highlights has nothing to do with the powers of God or religion, but what the benefits are when support is given to people with dyslexia. I have found spellcheck very useful since I started using a computer on an almost daily basis for working, studying or communicating with people. The red squiggly lines have become fewer as I pick up on words that I continually misspelt that I have now learnt how to spell correctly (most of the time!). I have technology on my laptop that reads PDF files and Word documents to me which isn’t thanks to God but to the lovely people who developed ClaroRead! I read a lot more than I used to because I started to find books I enjoyed. A thank you must be given here to J K Rowling, Anne Rice, Chuck Palahniuk and George Orwell here. Their books inspired me to read for pleasure rather than because I had to for school.

My advice would be to not put all your faith into some miracle ‘cure’ for dyslexia. It’s not a tyrannical or crippling disability if you receive the correct help at school or from family members. There are loads of different computer programs that have been created specifically to support dyslexics in their everyday lives! Having faith or belief is cool, as is having no religious belief. Blindly putting your faith into a miracle when there are so many ways to help yourself is just silly! And while this author quacks on about God intervening, if you read it as a whole, it’s not God, but the support of family members and technology which turned his dyslexic experience around along with a book he enjoyed, the Bible. I think I’ll stick with Harry Potter.

So the next time you read about about a miracle cure for SpLDs make sure you read around the topic. Are there other independents backing up the evidence? Does the original article have a hidden agenda e.g. for a moralist group or a company making profits from said cure? Don’t take these articles at face value until you’ve done your own research into it! While the two articles I have chosen perhaps have no serious side effects linked to them, if you do follow what’s being quacked about within them just beware that they have no adequate scientific backing.

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Posted on June 7, 2014, in Education, Topic Tuesday and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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