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Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Internet and Autism

In a special issue of the journal Ethos, Roy Richard Grinker writes:
The mother devoted to learning as much about autism as possible can read scientific articles on the Internet, and more of them, long before her pediatrician will. This
egalitarianism of knowledge has two sides. Information is accessible, but it is often difficult to discriminate between different genres. A blogger’s opinion and a scientific article may have equal weight to an average Internet user. But while doctors tend to access scientific articles, families, aided by the media, tend to access anecdotes, many of them convincing testimonials about unproven therapies. The celebrity becomes more of an ‘‘expert’’ on autism than the scientist. It is indeed extraordinary to hear, as I did, a television advertisement for CNN’s ‘‘Larry King Live’’ in which King said, ‘‘Is there an autism epidemic? Join us tonight with comedian Bill Cosby and singer Toni Braxton.’’