snake oil


The Princess & The Snake (2010)

Autism is trending these days. Well, it’s been top of the pops for quite some time, actually. The more sensational the better, it seems, thanks to neuronormative machinations. Big money is to be made here, so it’s not surprising that the field draws so many quacks and snake oil peddlers. From MMS (which is basically bleach solution) to ASEA water (saline water), to a plethora of expensive dodgy programmes claiming to help “cure” / “shed” / “overcome” / “reverse” Autism, the marketplace is busy indeed.

I can understand that parents, especially non-autistic parents, are desperate. Parenting is not easy by any measure. For a non-autistic parent of an autistic child, finding themselves awash at sea in a realm completely alien to their own, grasping at straws for quick salvation is not unnatural at all. However, what grieves me is, in their readiness to part with money for snake oil, it is their autistic children who will bear the brunt of this folly, the children who will eventually grow up into traumatised autistic adults or autistic adults deprived of their intrinsic worth performing poor imitations of neurotypicality.

The fiercely aggressive and subversive tactics of these 21st century snake oil hawkers is no laughing matter. I recently posted a warning on my official Facebook page about programmes recently emerging in the autism marketplace selling quick fixes. In a matter of minutes, I received a private message, from someone I initially thought was just a curious or concerned parent. It was only later, when the person’s profile faded into thin air (either they blocked me or it was deleted because it was a fake profile to begin with), that I realised what this was all about.


Then, there are parents who do not bother (or perhaps are unable) to read and understand articles written by autistic advocates and researchers.

I recently posted this piece by Ann Memmott on my official Facebook page:

Irresponsible Information: Autism” (click to go to Ann’s article)

I was told that it had made its way to some local autism chat group. A young autistic adult remarked that he could not get past the first few paragraphs, because he was overtaken by fear. Then some parent declared with self-ascribed authority that Memmott was making false claims and merely “seeking for attention”. To which the young autistic adult replied that he was immensely relieved, because the article had made him afraid.

Was this simply because they failed to grasp what the article was actually trying to convey? (I see nothing scary or attention-seeking about the article. To me, it is well thought out and the points logically expounded.) Or perhaps this parent and the snake oil pushers are one and the same? Or both reasons rolled into one?

I shall never know. Nor do I really wish to know. It is far too distressing and soul-depleting for me to dabble in these groupie things: the bullying that takes place in such settings, the pompous nonsense being sprouted, and the sycophantic behaviours of the subjugated combine to form a disturbingly dissonant chorus.

All is not very well in Autism Land. The NeuroNormative Colonial Masters are holding tightly to their autistic subalterns, while the unscrupulous fraudsters weave lies and pseudoscience with unnerving steely determination.

I advocate because of necessity. In truth, that is not my passion. I am a researcher. A scholar, an Artist and Musician. I realise with increasing clarity that I am not particularly gifted at teaching those who resolutely will not learn, and trying to educate the adamantly uneducated is too exhausting a task for me. The combative arena – fighting snake oil and wrestling ignorance – is not my natural habitation. I believe ever more strongly that if I may contribute to the autistic world any kind of graceful redemption, it will be most cogently through the Arts: above and beyond the slugging matches, battle cries and bloodied terrain, there shall persist music, art, narrative, poetry, dance, theatre etc. This is where I want to be. This is where I will be found. Look for me. New work is germinating… Scheherazade will return soon.