Is Asperger's Syndrome due to prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol?

I was reading an article in the Washington Herald yesterday (5/15/06) about a single woman named Mary Geist who lives in Whidbey Island, Washington.

She has several adopted/foster children with disabilities.

The article stated that the "disabilities include Asperger's Syndrome, which causes deficiencies in social and communication skills, often due to prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol".

WHAT?? I couldn't believe it when I read that!

I have been doing a LOT of reading about Asperger's Syndrome since our son was diagnosed (and since I figured out that I have it as well) and not once have I ever read anything about the cause of Asperger's Syndrome being prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol!

I was immediately offended, hurt and indignant when I read the article (as I'm sure many parents were) and right away I sent an email to the reporter, Sharon Salyer, asking what her resource(s) were for this statement.

There is so much mystery and even controversy about what causes Asperger's Syndrome and I felt that Ms. Salyer's statement was doing a
severe disservice to parents of children with Asperger's Syndrome.

It throws inaccurate information that has been stated as fact into what is already a pool of confusion. We don't need that.

In addition it casts a very negative, and very unfair, light on parents who are alreadystruggling, and I mean STRUGGLING, to make it through every day.

As just about any parent of a child with Asperger's Syndrome will tell you, the glares we receive, when our children "melt down" in public places, are withering.

Every parent can read in those glares all the negative thoughts being shot their way, such as:
  • "Why don't you discipline your child?"
  • "Make that kid shut-up!"
  • "You are a rotten parent!"
  • "He wouldn't be acting that way if he was my kid!"
  • "Give him to me for 10 minutes and I'll have him behaving!"
With all that negativity, the LAST thing we need is the public believing that we drank alcohol and took drugs during our pregnancy, and that that caused our children to get Asperger's Syndrome!

It won't matter how strongly we deny it; because it's out there available to be read, and as fact no less, it WILL hurt us. The public will just assume that we (parents of children with Asperger's Syndrome) are lying and that it's the parents' fault that the child has AS.

In a society that already looks down their collective noses at AS parents because the child's melt-down appears to be a result of the parent "allowing" the child to "get away with misbehaving", any type of false information is so damaging, and it needs to be corrected right away.

Well, I am so very happy to report a very positive outcome. The reporter Ms. Salyer emailed me back to tell me that actually she hadn't written it that way; rather it was her editor who made a change to what she had written, and that one small edit completely changed the meaning of the statement.

The way it read before editing:
Their disabilities include Asperger Syndrome, where someone has normal intelligence but deficiencies in social and communication skills, and damage caused by prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol.
I received a couple emails from Ms. Salyer and even a couple emails directly from the editor, Mark Carlson!

They were mortified and distraught over the mistake and they were very, very apologetic.

They let me know that they had changed the article online (the reference to prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol was removed) AND they published a correction in today's issue (05/16/06) of their newspaper.

I'm tickled that they took care of this and I thank them whole-heartedly for doing it so quickly.

When you are doing research on Asperger's Syndrome and you come across something that you think is inaccurate, please send me an email and I'll look into it.

A lofty goal maybe, but maybe together we can stamp out inaccurate publishings about Asperger's Syndrome.

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I'm so tickled that authors have been contacting me and asking me to review their new books for them!

For as much time as I spend researching Asperger's Syndrome this website should have thousands of pages but because my son has Asperger's Syndrome I find that the things I want to work on very often are not the things that I have to work on so I'm still not able to spend as much time on it as I'd like to.

As he heads into adulthood (he turned 18 on Dec 13 and yes I need to update some things at my website such as my home page that says he's 17) I'm finding that I have even less time on my hands as I spend more time trying to master the puzzle of how to help him transition into "life after high school".

That's where Autism Tomorrow: The Complete Guide To Help Your Child Thrive In The Real World comes in. It's a guide to help your kids after high school. You'll find parts of the book will be applicable and some won't depending on your child's current age. Although the title implies "Autism after high school" there is still quite a bit in there about what to do before your child hits "real life". But overall a helpful book.

Please contact me if you'd like to send a copy of your book to me for review. I would absolutely love it!

Fiction, Non-fiction, Auto-Biographies, Instructional books, etc. I'm interested in them all. :) And if you autograph it that would be SUPER cool! ;)