January 9, 2009

Autism and The “Celebrity” Circle

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This post is in response to an email I received from a friend!

I’ve been asked about my thoughts regarding the passing of John Travolta’s beloved first born, Jett, and I believe I was asked because there is broad speculation that he “had” autism.

It is hard to wrap my mind around this situation (i.e. put any energy into whether or not he “had” autism) because of all the unpleasant comments that have been traveling ’round the web since his passing.

“Anyone who has seen that boy.. and has a child on the spectrum can see it. Scientology continues to do a dis service to children with autism.”

“Many people that belong to cults (Scientology,Christianity, etc.) are willingly ignorant about many things.Autism is only one of them.”

“Autism United, a national group representing 15,000 parents, urged the Travoltas to become advocates in a statement Monday. The release repeated the claim that Scientologists view autism as nothing more than a “psychosomatic” disease.

The boy is dead in a potential case of CRIMINAL NEGLECT — and this is “none of our business”? Should we decommission Child Protective Services while we’re at it?”

“Seizures, he clearly had seizures. They KNEW he had seizures, they even gave him minimal treatment at one point. The abysmal fact is: the wealthy Travolta’s chose to let their son live with untreated seizures. Thats just not fair to Jett, RIP.”

“If a non-celebrity takes their child off medication and the child dies, there are usually serious consequences for the parents! Maybe our country’s love affair with movie stars is blinding us to the real story here?”

“I am also heartbroken over the tragic death of this young man. More so, I am saddened and outraged by the fact that his parents allowed him to suffer unnecessarily throughout most of his life. Epilepsy requires ongoing medical treatment.”

“John Travolta’s brother Joey thought Jett had autism.  John and Kelly have long denied suggestions that Jett had autism, saying instead that he suffered from seizures brought on by Kawasaki Syndrome.”

There was also a video out that claimed it was “proof” to Jett having autism and not Kawasaki Disease.

Here is the video poster’s comments regarding it:

“If you watch him you will definitely see he is special needs. A seventeen year old does not usually need to be lead by his father and guided by the shoulder by a handler. You will also note to 100 mile look and slack facial features. If you go 1:20 left you will see two kinds of stimming, the rocking and him watching his hand while moving it. Definite signs of autism.

Now the question of his special needs is out, and you can see how nervous John and Kelly were about this, the question is what treatments, good or bad has he had from this Scientological parents?

I posted this on IMDb but it was deleted twice, make that three times.”

And here’s a real zinger from the St. Petersburg Times.

Millions of people have seen the video on TV and the Internet, but to Dana Ando of St. Petersburg the scene seems familiar. She watched it several times and recognizes the distant look, the hand gestures, the parents’ protectiveness. In the paparazzi video she saw Cameron, her 10-year-old autistic son.

“A parent like me can spot an autistic kid a mile away.”

Google has created so many “experts” that I almost feel as if I no longer need to consult an actual professional… traditional or otherwise!  I say… who needs ’em!?!?!?  I’m getting my own Ph.D in Research from the University of Google!!!  WOOHOO!

Anyhoo…

I’m not condemning these folks for speaking their minds.  It’s not like I’m over here, carving their names onto candles, invoking the spirits, dancing around in my birthday suit while cursing them to goodness knows where.

Not me!

But I am shaking my finger at them… saying, “for shame!”

Toni Braxton took a few years to come out about her son’s autism, yet no one condemned her for not speaking out sooner.

So what!

Holly Robinson Peete spoke out when she was ready, and yes, she did receive some slack for not doing so in accordance with the almighty Law of the Great Internet!

So what!

Excuse me, but where exactly is it written that celebrities have to share every aspect of their lives with us?

Do we not already receive eyefuls and earfuls about them whenever we read the papers and tabloids or listen to news and gossip columnists?

I’m confused as to why the public feels they’re entitled to more!

John and Kelly just lost their son… their baby, and it seems as if a witch hunt has ensued.

It is appalling to read comments stating that they are the ones who actually caused his death.

I mean, really!  That’s a pretty fucked up and hateful thing to say.

The death of a child is a tragic event that, sadly, many parents face every day.  But to shamelessly blame a parent for that death is despicable, especially when there isn’t any proof of negligence or abuse.

So, celebrities aren’t allowed to die naturally???

Ridiculous.

One thing that doesn’t shock me in all this is the fact that folks are ripping the Church of Scientology apart… again.

I know of a lot of celebrity Scientologists who have kept their religious beliefs to themselves. Meaning, they’re not on screen talking about it.

But thanks to Tom and some of his “outspokeness“, Scientology remains a “religion” to be “questioned”.

A person’s right to practice their religious beliefs is no longer a right?  Based on what I’ve read these past few days, one would think just that.

And since when did I need a celebrity to speak for my son?

There are thousands of parents, ordinary folks just like me, speaking out every day on behalf of our children, and we seem to be doing just fine sans celebrity endorsements.

When I hear folks ranting about celebrities “doing their children an injustice by being silent”, it really makes my skin crawl.  (Thank goodness for homeopathy, or I’d have a serious problem on my hands.)

I chose to be vocal about my son’s diagnosis, but doing so was not required of me.  Had I remained silent, would it have been fair to accuse me of negligence or abuse?

The notion is preposterous!

Now before you go callin’ me a nobody as in “I ain’t famous”, I’m still a parent… just like John and Kelly and countless others.

People need to stop and think about why The Travoltas chose Anthony, FL (that “teeny” place they call home, just outside Ocala) over Hollywood.

Perhaps, while these same people are sitting around processing this tidbit of info… maybe, just maybe, the airwaves will clear long enough for this family to mourn.

Jett and John Travolta
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UPDATE:

The Travoltas recently announced that Jett had autism, and some of the responses going around the net are downright shameful.

I ask again… where is it written that you HAVE to advocate and be OUTSPOKEN about your life with autism… simply because you’re a celebrity?

With so many Americans crying about their privacy being violated due to the government’s desire to keep tabs on us, does this delicate situation not warrant the same respect?

Should I now go knocking on every door of every celebrity and ask if their children has autism? And if so, should I also declare that since they’re famous they must now speak out for our community?  After all, it’s their DUTY, right?

It doesn’t make any sense.

Not every parent of a child with autism is outspoken, nor do they publicly advocate.   There are no puzzle ribbons displayed on their cars; their children do not wear t-shirts that say, “I’m not naughty. I have autism.”; they’re not actively blogging about or for our community.  So what gives?

Why are The Travoltas expected to do more when so many are “guilty” of doing the same?

If the shoe was on the other foot, how would you feel… being berated by people who do not know your life; being publicly scorned “for not doing more” for your child; or being called “negligent” or “abusive”?

We all have our reasons for how we decide we’re going to live with autism.  Some of us are very vocal while others prefer to remain silent.

We make our OWN choices…

Leave this family alone… haven’t they suffered enough?

Whoopi said it best during a recent taping of The View, “It’s none of your business until someone wants to make it your business.”

PREACH, Whoopi!

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