Can You Guess Which “Autism Expert” Is Posing For Playboy?

So, which “autism expert” is posing for Playboy?

No, it’s not me. But if Playboy ever does a “barely an A after breastfeeding and only mom without a boob job in L.A” issue, I’m the first one on the list.

Surprise: It’s Jenny McCarthy! She’s going to be turning 40 soon so for her birthday she decided to give a gift to all men by getting naked and proving she’s still got it. I don’t have a problem with Playboy. Or porn. Remember, I did just buy 50 Shades. But, I’m sure it won’t come as a suprise to any of you that I do have a bit of a problem with Jenny McCarthy.

Besides the doctor who lost his medical license, Jenny McCarthy is one of the leaders in the perpetuation of the whole autism/vaccination myth.  She was once notorious for her loud belching and farting on MTV, but is now famous for claiming her child got autism from being vaccinated and has been cured. However, as anyone in the medical community will tell you, there isn’t a cure for autism and you can’t get it from vaccinations. There’s lots of treatment options. You can get better and you can show improvements, but we are still looking for the cure as well as all of the complex variables that contribute to its cause.

Jenny McCarthy is to autism as Magic Johnson is to HIV. Both demonstrate what happens when extremely wealthy individuals are diagnosed with a devastating illness. Jenny McCarthy has access to resources and support that plain-folk could never dream of having. Her son has had the luxury to be treated with every type of traditional and non-traditional therapy available. Her resources are inexhaustible. I can’t help but be slightly angered at how misleading it is to other parents and the amount of false hope she helps to instill.

I’m sorry if I am a bit cautious to endorse McCarthy’s views on autism. She’s never had any real fame or fortune until her son developed autism from vaccinations and was cured. To me, it has always seemed like a smart business maneuver. She’s had more media appearances and publicity on the autism platform than she did for anything other venue so I can’t help but be a bit skeptical.

It seems that since the autism/vaccination myth has been debunked about a hundred times, she’s moving on to Plan B. Back to being famous for her burps and her farts as she’s going to be hosting a reality TV show this summer in addition to her Playboy spread.

If there was ever a chance of me being able to take her seriously as a self professed autism expert, well, it’s gone. Is anyone going to be able to take her seriously now? What are they going to ask her now when she appears at an autism awareness event?

Jenny- can you tell us what you think about the recent diagnostic changes in the upcoming DSM V and how do you make sure not to get razor rash down there before the big shoot?

 

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40 Responses to Can You Guess Which “Autism Expert” Is Posing For Playboy?

  1. Ericha says:

    All I can say is……WORD.

  2. Phil A. says:

    She’s an awful person and should be held accountable for harming our country’s children by telling parents (esp. mothers) not to get vaccines.

    Playboy should have said “no” to her photo shoot. They don’t need to stoop to that level.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Phil. I’m not sure if she’s an awful person because I’ve never met her, but I certainly don’t support her views on autism.

  3. Allison says:

    Eh, I can understand the impulse, but I think you’re a bit off the mark here. She shouldn’t be taken seriously because her opinions are based on discredited, fraudulent science, not because she poses in Playboy.

  4. Heather says:

    I so agree that it sets up incredibly unrealistic expectations for everyone else and saddens me that she didn’t use her story and her fame to build a supportive community instead of well, what she did. Ugh.

  5. AutismDad says:

    McCarthy is the keynote speaker this Saturday when America’s anti-vaccine movement meets for its annual AutismOne C0nference in Chicago. The five-day quackapalooza starts Wednesday, and includes a Who’s Who of fraudsters. Organizers stop skeptical journalists and bloggers at the door, and ban any photography and video. That’s largely to protect the cottage industry of testing labs, homeopaths, vitamin salesmen, detox sauna vendors, and other sundry hucksters whose tables line the corridors of the Lombard Westin.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      This post really did make me laugh out loud!

    • Lynn says:

      I used to have the same attitude about alternative medicine. Then my regular doctor was no longer able to help me. So I began to work with a D.O. – a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. They go through the same schooling that MDs do, but they learn more about how to keep the body in balance naturally, and they focus on finding a solution to the problem, rather than covering up symptoms with drugs. They often look further into how aspects of our bodies function together, and have a better understanding of those functions. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still skeptical about some of the “natural” or alternative methods and remedies, and I’m sure some of them have no clue, but don’t knock it til you’ve tried it.

      • Mommy Psychologist says:

        Thanks, Lynn. However, I’m not sure what attitude you are referring to? I don’t have any issues with alternative medicine. In fact, I practice lots of homeopathic stuff in my own home. My issue is with the perpetuation of the autism/vaccine myth. The only evidence for this connection is anecdotal. Any type of studies, alternative or otherwise, have shown that there is not a link.

  6. Lynn says:

    I have mixed feelings about Jenny McCarthy. This is partially due to the celebrity “expert” phenomenon, regarding anything. A celebrity has an opinion, and somehow it appears to have more weight than any regular person’s opinion, no matter how well (or not) informed. On the other hand, this can be a great opportunity to bring awareness to more of the public on an issue that may be somewhat under the radar. For example, Jessica Alba lobbying for the Safe Chemicals Act. She is giving a voice for something that the rest of us regular people can’t.

    The other part of the argument about her “expertise” – no, I would not say she is an “expert” in the sense that an expert is usually a qualified professional in their relative field of study and practice. However, just because someone hasn’t had professional training doesn’t mean that discounts their first hand experience. Anyone can read journal articles and books, and since she is a celebrity, she does have the resources to a ridiculous amount of services and the ability to reach other experts that the rest of us may not. Sometimes a regular person who goes through an experience becomes a sort of spokesperson for others. Take Mary Shomon for example- she has written books and articles, talked to numerous medical professionals and done tons of her own research of articles regarding hypothyroidism (which happens to be the condition I, as well as millions of others, have that is often terribly underrated and undertreated). She manages the about.com site for thyroid disease. She is a patient advocate, and has helped thousands of people with the disease to become well by providing the information she has gathered. That’s how I view Jenny McCarthy. She is a patient/parent advocate for autism. Nothing can be said for those parents and family members who have directly experienced the decline of their children. Imagine how helpless, frustrated and angry they must feel, watching their healthy, happy child speaking fluently and eating everything on his plate, to staring vacantly, not speaking any words, and refusing to touch any food aside from 2 very particular items. This was my nephew.

    To put the events on a timeline, and our human brains have to find something concrete to attribute something like this to, of course it makes sense that a vaccination had an effect on that child. Put yourself in the shoes of the parents. Can you?

    I believe in science. I studied psychology at a research institution. I understand research articles. I also know that studies can be manipulated and interpreted based on how a study is set up. I know that all too often, in fact I think more often than not, studies for a product are not done independently, they are done by the company producing it. That in itself is too often a conflict of interest. One study does not prove or disprove anything. I know that very few studies have been done regarding the safety of all the vaccines we give to children, and especially regarding the safety of giving so many at once.

    I’m not saying I believe that vaccines directly cause autism or other adverse reactions. But I don’t think that research has proven that they DON’T, either. I think it is definitely a complicated issue. I’ve also heard parents say various “natural” treatments worked to help their children. What do we say about them? That they’re making it up? The intention of Wakefield’s study was to look at a possible link between gut disorders and autistic behavior in children. And I’m pretty sure he never actually claimed that the MMR vaccine caused autism. But since the article appears to no longer be available, we can’t actually read it to be sure. The fact remains that other medical professionals HAVE done their research, and do question vaccines. Their conclusion? MORE research is needed, which is actually what Wakefield said.

    This comment went on WAAYYYY too long..sorry about that. Basically, well I just don’t take too much stock in what Jenny McCarthy does. She’s a mom with a voice and a strong opinion based on a very emotionally trying experience. What she does on her own time is her own business.

    • Barnmaven says:

      Lynn, I don’t think there’s a question that some therapies and treatments and diet based or other natural remedies do help people with autism. But Jenny claims her son was “cured” of autism. That he no longer has autism. That he got autism from vaccinations, and the doctor whose research she points to as proof has been discredited completely for falsifying and changing data in his research.

      Jenny may have a lot of information about autism and could be considered a subject matter expert – but only if she actually managed to promulgate scientifically valid information and based her “expertise” on good research.

      • Lynn says:

        Perhaps, in her eyes, her son was “cured.” While I have read some things that say the accusations against Wakefield may not have been entirely true, I definitely agree with you. One cannot use one article that only very loosely correlates 2 things as the basis for any argument.

      • Mommy Psychologist says:

        Well said. While I was in graduate school I did a bunch of research on some of the more alternate forms of treatment for autism for a paper that I was writing. There are certainly some non-traditional forms of treatment that do result in improvements for some kids with autism. It’s much like any treatment approach in that sometimes things work for one individual quite well, but don’t work for another individual. There’s nothing wrong with advocating for these approaches. However, I think it’s so heartbreaking for her to go on a national platform announcing that her son has been cured. Then you have parents who end up in my office saying, “but please? Can’t you cure my son?” In my mind, false hope is almost worse than no hope at all.

      • Lynn says:

        Thanks- I really did think it had been completely pulled.

      • Mommy Psychologist says:

        It’s important to look closely at these results. They are strictly correlational. Although regression was used, they didn’t control for all of the confounding variables. Also, it’s extremely important to note that the Wakefield study was done by himself without IRB approval. Any reputable research is also governed by an ethics committee to make sure that certain parameters are followed. As somebody who has completed numerous studies myself and teaches statistics, you can manipulate statistics to get whatever kind of result you would like if you know what you are doing. And Wakefield, clearly did. Here’s another great article you might want to check out with lots of good resources: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/radical-behaviorist/201002/the-autism-vaccines-myth-the-impact-the-media

        • Carolyn says:

          As a fellow engineer once told me (in reference to a company trying to sell us equipment) “Statistics: Lying with numbers”…

    • Heather says:

      What you’re ignoring, however, is that more studies HAVE been done, and they pretty much HAVE proven that vaccines [alone] don’t cause autism. If they did, statistically significant data would have come out already. Of course, there are medical reasons why certain people shouldn’t get vaccines, but it is for their protection that everyone else MUST. (Hello, Herd Immunity!).

      Should we keep questioning and keep studying the components of vaccines and everything related to them? Of course. I don’t think the parents who tell stories of their kids regressing immediately after the MMR shot are lying. But I don’t believe that science [when done properly] lies either. We don’t know what causes autism, and we have no way of predicting if a child will be afflicted (vaccine or no vaccine). But we *do* know what happens when [otherwise healthy] families “choose” NOT vaccinate. People die. So, that’s why I vaccinated my daughter. And yes, I’ll admit that I held my breath a bit those first few weeks after MMR.

      Celebrities like Jenny McCarthy (and Mayim Bialik for that matter, who refuses to vaccinate her children: http://www.wired.com/geekmom/2012/05/mayim-bialik-disappoints/ ) are encouraging policies that put lives at risk, and I can’t condone that, no matter how much I sympathize for the plight of autistic children and their families. Let’s put our energy towards finding the REAL cause and REAL treatments.

      • Mommy Psychologist says:

        Check out my comment to Lynn. I provided a link to a great article you might like. One of the things I said to her is that Wakefield conducted his research on his own without the consent or the monitoring of the IRB. Institutional Review Board. Given that, everything about this study and his research is questionable. Also, the results are purely correlation and not causal despite the claims that were made in the media. Big difference between a correlation and a causation. And we are taught from our first statistic class, that in regard to statistics, you can find a correlation for almost anything if you know what you’re doing with the numbers.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Eh, I made it a point to lose track of the autism/vaccine thing. I know at one point it was some thing about mercury in the vaccines, but mercury was taken out of all childhood vaccines and most adult ones years ago. Now is it something about triggering immune response? Who knows.

    I suspect there is a strong desire to blame the not-so-nice aspects of life on forces that are not within our power – Big Pharma, government, demons, city tap water, whatever. It’s painful for people to admit that they may have instigated the not-so-nice (there’s a recent study floating around on a correlation between obesity and autism rates – it’s correlational, but it might be an interesting read), or even worse, that things just plain happen for no fair reason. It makes some people question the notions of God (see: problem of evil), and it gives some people a sense of powerlessness.

    As much as support is needed for parents – resources, telling them everything will indeed be okay – I think we need to remember that kids with autism are going to grow up to be adults with autism. A large chunk of those adults go to college, work, date, marry, and have kids themselves (and advocate for kids with autism!). Recognizing that and trying to provide better support for being an adult diagnosed with autism in what comes off as one very strange world could be a good thing.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks so much for this, Elizabeth! If there was a love button to push, I would push it.

  8. Heather says:

    I’m confused — did you USED to take her views on autism seriously and only now, that she’s posing for an adult magazine, you are having your doubts? ;-)

    I don’t have problems with celebrities being advocates for causes, but Jenny LONG since crossed the line when she single-handedly (and loudly) pushed scientifically FALSE information out to the public, which contributed heavily to the anti-vaccination hysteria that has been KILLING kids and adults alike. People have been HURT from her accusations. I can’t forget that easily.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Lol! I should clarify. I NEVER took her views seriously on autism. I did however hope she would advocate for further research on autism like she promised to do at one point.

    • Lynn says:

      What people have died from her information?

      • Heather says:

        The fear that vaccination causes autism has convinced parents of otherwise healthy children to NOT get their children vaccinated. This has lead to the re-emergence of diseases like whooping cough and measles. And yes, people have died, particularly infants too young to be vaccinated.

        http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2012-05/D9UMG1SO0.htm

        So yes, this kind of misinformation leads to parents making poor decisions that have inadvertently lead to deaths. This is why vaccination falls beyond the realm of “personal choice” because it puts infants, elderly, and those with medical reasons that prevent them from getting vaccinated, at risk of contracting deadly diseases.

  9. Rach says:

    Oh good lord. Really? :sigh:

  10. Thom Petersen says:

    You forgot to mention how her son was cured. Of course it wasn’t from years of therapy, it was because of a gluten-casein free diet. I’m sure this diet has helped some kids who have problems with gluten and casein intolerance. I know my son had problems with barley, when I stopped giving it to him it stopped him from screaming in pain 20 minutes after eating the barley. All of his other autism characteristics remained, I even tried a gluten-casein free diet after I noticed my son’s problem with barely, but like before no other changes happened. Our doctors and therapists strongly urged me not to continue with the diet since it can cause more harm than good. I switched back and again no changes. Unless Jenny’s son only really had a gluten-casein intolerance, I don’t know of any other Autism expert who claims the diet is a cure.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Thom. There are always instances of individuals who have success with certain treatment approaches, but as you know, there isn’t a cure for autism.

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  12. Sue Bennett says:

    It’s amazing how many people are “experts” have written about what they believe causes or doesn’t cause autism who have no experience with it. I’m not a fan of Jenny McCarthy but I’ve been running an autism website for over 12 years. There is plenty of data indicating that a nutritional program can make a huge difference in the outcome in autism. There was also an epidemiological study conducted from 1998-2002 for all children born in the U.S. whose findings indicated that infant boys vaccinated with the Hepatitis Vaccine at birth were 4 times more likely to develop an autism spectrum disorder. There are also statistics on the increase in incidence in autism being a direct factor for the parents living down-wind from a coal-fired, mercury spewing power plant. The data is there, along with thousands of “anecdotal” stories from parents whose children were developing normally until they received a specific vaccine and started regressing. It’s easy to take shots at Jenny McCarthy and use this to take away from some scientifically validated data that show a strong correlations between shots, mercury and autism.

    • Mommy Psychologist says:

      Thanks, Sue. I certainly appreciate your perspective. There is correlational evidence, however, correlation does not equal causation. And when you run lots of data as is the case in large scale studies that you mentioned, you can find a correlation with almost anything. You have to actually run a controlled research study that controls extravenous variables as well as other confounds in order to be considered scientifically validated. In this case, there has not been anything that has shown a relationship. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

    • Allison says:

      I think this is the study you cite about the Hep B vaccine.
      DOI: 10.1080/15287394.2010.519317

      But I don’t see the four-times value you cite; they say the “Unadjusted, weighted odds ratio” is 2.8 (and in the abstract they say threefold). Can you help me understand what the “Unadjusted, weighted odds ratio” is? When I do the math in a naive way, I get that vaccinated boys were twice as likely to have an autism diagnosis, so it must be some statistical thing I don’t understand…

      (Looking at Table 2B)
      Vaccinated boys: 9/1267 = 0.007 diagnosed with autism
      Unvaccinated boys: 22/6114 = 0.0036 diagnosed with autism
      0.007/0.0036= about 2…

      Also this is of note: “Our finding suggests an association;
      however, a large-scale, case-control study of
      two U.S. birth cohorts, i.e., one of children
      born before 1999, and the other of children
      born during or after 2003, when the last lot of
      TCV expired (CDC 2009), would be necessary
      to compare birth cohorts with and without
      thimerosal-containing hepatitis B vaccine
      exposure.” … but as far as I can tell that hasn’t been done yet.

      Finally, I just read the abstract on this guy (because *ahem* I’m supposed to be thinking about something else), but you may find it interesting if you haven’t seen it yet (and if, like me, you’re into cellular biology):
      DOI: 10.1080/02772248.2011.580588
      A new-ish review on how Hg harms cells.

      • Mommy Psychologist says:

        Also, look at the sample sizes between the two groups. The vaccinated sample is 1,267 boys and the unvaccinated sample is 6,114. The sample sizes are completely skewed. You can’t compare two groups whose sample sizes are so different. They haven’t controlled for sample size in their analysis. Does that make sense?

        • Allison says:

          I’m not sure that they haven’t controlled for sample size, because I don’t know what the formula for the unadjusted, weighted odds ratio is. I’d guess it has something like that in it.

          Also, the p-value has a lot to do with sample size; theirs for this result is about 0.037- not great, but not terrible either, as I understand it.

          • Mommy Psychologist says:

            I’m pretty sure that the odds ratio is a measure of effect size and I’m not sure about the “weighted” part. I think I’m going to have to pull out my stats book when I get home and see.

  13. Chris Mallon says:

    Jenny. You are disgusting. You are foul. You do not go through what REAL autism mums do. You have a nanny, a cook, a personal trainer etc. There are those of use who survive on 2hrs sleep a night for years and years!

    There isn’t an over-abundant amount of victim mums, sure there are a few, as there are in the non-special-needs community. Most autism mums are warriors, but they are quiet warriors.They live through the meltdowns and stimming and anger and even violence. They live through the appointments, the having no social life. the missed opportunities, the inability to afford treatments. The GUILT!

    We are the mums who spend all day with our child, not bimbos with questionable senses of humour who don’t SEE that posing nude in playboy, with an unshaven bikini line, IS attention seeking of the worst kind. Your child will be so embarrassed when he grows up and is mocked for it, especially when he learns it was ‘for him’ and ‘for autism’.

    And for the record, if a child will backslid into autistic behaviours as soon as you remove his therapeutic settings, they aren’t ‘cured’, they are well-managed. Cured implies a definitive biological change that is permanent. Cured, quite simply is forever. And short of brain surgery you cannot change a person’s reaction to stimulus permanently.

    How very dare you to imply that everyone gets help through a victim mentality. Most people get isolated from their community, ostracised. They don’t get ‘free meals’, I’ve never heard such a ludicrous claim. Who on earth would cook everyday for a neighbour?

    And apparently she made this ‘finding’ based upon two autie-mums having a good rant about their days. Well, to that I say, don’t ALL mums rant at times? Isn’t it normal to express what is difficult? It is only ‘human’ to discuss your problems and discover how you feel is normal! It is how we discover what is normal and what is abnormal in our children and parenting.

    Life is a case of self discovery, allow us to express our concerns without being labelled as a lover of attention/ a ‘victim mum’. In her case the only victim here is her son.

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