That Shouldn't Happen: The Just World Fallacy and Autism

Everyday, we hear about tragedies, some that hit too close to home for comfort, and our reactions...

Heaviness: Euthanasia For Expediency

It's all over the internet now, the story of the twin brothers in Belgium who were deaf and going...

What's the Harm: When Reality and Wishful Thinking Clash

I'm digging around for posts people have written on what to say/what not to say to autistic people...

Facilitated Communication: Same As It Ever Was (Same As It Ever Was)

In the past couple years, I’ve written over a dozen articles examining facilitated communication...

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Kim WomblesRSS Feed of this column.

Instructor of English and psychology and mother to three on the autism spectrum.

Writer of the site (where most of these articles will have first appeared) and co-administrator

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The semester is all over except for finals week, so this weekend and next week will have me busy grading all the papers I assigned. It's good work, busy work, and nice to see how much stronger writers and thinkers my students have become through the course of the semester.
Recently, two posts of Lisa Jo Rudy’s at have garnered the disdain of loyal AoA (Age of Autism blog) readers. Anne Dachel felt strongly enough to write a lengthy post about the upcoming tsunami (The AoAites are nothing if not consistent in their descriptors) and Rudy’s questions concerning whether working towards making our children normal is a worthwhile goal and the funding of our children’s education and therapies.
A new study was released today in JAMA which looked at, in part, mitochondrial DNA overreplication in a sample of ten autistic children between the ages of 2 and 5 and ten matched controls.  Giulivi et al. found that 5 of the 10 autistic children and 2 of the control children had mitchondrial DNA overreplication.

In the comments section of a previous post, the question was raised of how autism is diagnosed in the samples being studied. This new study allows an opportunity to look at how carefully the sample is selected and controls matched to the sample.
Over at the Autism Blogs Directory, we have over 400 blogs and websites representing a diversity of views and opinions on autism and what it means to the individuals who have it and the family members who must cope with the challenges of raising autistic children. We have parents and autistic individuals who are firmly convinced that vaccines cause autism. We have staunchly pro-science bloggers. We have folks who believe in god, that everything happens for a reason, and that autistic individuals are sent by god to teach us; we also have atheists, agnostics, and lukewarm Baptists, I'm sure. We have parents who are deep into biomed, parents who medicate, parents who don't, and all the ranges in between.
It seems a silly question to ask, given the self-evident answer: we know that all beliefs and opinions are not equally valid. Obviously, it's important to acknowledge that the person who believe something believes it to be true, but it doesn't mean it is.

The reason I raise this question is that most of us in the skeptical community patently reject the assumption that all "truths" are equally valid. What matters is evidence. Where there is no clear answer, rather than assuming a position of absolutism regarding "truth," we tend to adopt a "wait and see" approach or an honest "I don't know" approach.

This is not the case in most areas. Truthiness is often more important than truth.
It seems like many autism-related sites have ads on them for our kids, promising all sorts of results. How do we evaluate the claims of these products and prevent ourselves from (1) wasting precious financial resources, and (2) putting our precious children in harm's way? There are some key things that one can look for that indicate woo and pseudoscience.

We don't have to be experts in a field; we just have to know how to evaluate claims and evidence.

Look at this ad located at the Autism File: