Friday, June 27, 2008

Being Indigo: Not just foolish, Its Dangerous

If you are familar with current autism news, then you probably have heard of the New Age Indigo/Crystal Children. And what are Indigo Children? According to this site they are:

"extremely powerful children, whose main purpose is to take us to the next level in our evolution, and reveal to us our inner power and divinity. They function as a group consciousness rather than as individuals, and they live by the" Law of One" or Unity Consciousness. They are a powerful force for love and peace on the planet."

Most of us would recognize this as a bunch of twaddle and move on. However, there is a problem here and that problem is that children with autism and ADHD are often said to be Indigo Children. As the author of the site quoted above makes clear:

"In my book "The Care and Feeding of Indigo Children", I wrote that ADHD should stand for Attention Dialed into a Higher Dimension. This would more accurately describe that generation. In the same vein, Crystal Children don't warrant a label of autiem. They aren't autistic! They're AWE-tistic!"

However, this idea, has at least one well known advocate,
Jenny McCarthy. This individual is a mother of a child with autism and is already known to advocate for alternative biomedical therapies for autism, on top of being independently famous.

Some in the biomedical autism community have been slow to acknowledge that Ms. McCarthy is in fact a believer in the Indigo Children concept. But, Ms. McCarthy herself,
makes it clear that she is a believer. Perhaps they have observed that believers in this idea seem to be fairly tolerant of differences in children. However, there is an inherent problem here. My fellow blogger Joseph, excellently describes this problem:

"But wait, if the child is a highly evolved Indigo, why does he need biomed treatment?"

Fair question, I would think......

However, the most disapointing aspects about the biomed movement are not the flat out denialist concerning Jenny and this New Age belief; it is those who make excuses for it and/or say it doesn't matter. They claim that this is a religious belief and is therefore inviolate.

This is a vacuous and dangerous position. It is dangerous, because of the misinformation it supplies about children diagnosed autism.

"The diagnostic criteria for autism is quite clear. It states that the autistic person lives in his or her own world, and is disconnected from other people. The autistic person doesn't talk because of an indifference to communicating with others."


"Crystal Children are quite the opposite. They are among the most connected, communicative, caring and cuddly of any generation. They are also quite philosophical and spiritually gifted. And they display an unprecedented level of kindness and sensitivity to this world. Crystal Children spontaneously hug and care for people in need. An autistic person wouldn't do that!"

From this I conclude two things.

1) The author has never actually read the diagnostic criteria for autism, as the
criteria say nothing of the sort. Instead one hears about the "own world" bit from those offering a rather simplistic explanation to the lay public.

2) Goodness knows which children the author observed in order to offer this conclusion, because even a very minimal observation of a variety of children with autism would quickly show it to be false. Many children with autism certainly express affection, even profound affection for their family, although if it is not always expressed in a typical fashion.

This misinformation isn't just incorrect, it perpetuates the myth of the child with autism as "The Person Alone". It is a step backwards into the dark ages of autism knowledge. It also has the ability to influence and mislead others in the type of dealings they have with people diagnosed with autism.

The fact that this is a religious belief, doesn't change the fact that it is dangerous and unscientific. The issue isn't whether one can believe in the Indigo Chidlren Idea, or any other sect that teaches a perjorative view of people with autism, but whether one should.

This is as true for the Evangelicals who get it into their head to try to excorcise the "demons" in a child with autism, to Scientology beliefs concerning the Travlota's child with autism, to Martin Luther calling a likely autistic child a "massa carnis" (souless flesh) and advocating that he be promptly strangled.

This was all based on the deeply held beliefs of certain people, as it pertained to autism. It was religion, something that most of us have and that most us put on a pedestal. But it was also, stupid and harmful. Religious beliefs do not free us from criticism, nor should it. This is something worth remembering I think, when we reflect on why the Indigo movement really isn't such a good thing for people with autism.