Monday, November 1, 2010

Mother Warriors by Jenny McCarthy

Mother Warriors: A Nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All OddsThe full title of the book is actually Mother Warriors: A Nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All Odds. After attending a conference on Autism I had a discussion with a co-worker about Jenny McCarthy and her views on Autism. Her name came into the discussion because the morning part of the conference was dedicated to the research and causes of Autism. Jenny McCarthy is kind of known in the Autism community  for her stance on the debate over whether or not vaccines contribute to Autism. She is firmly on the side that there is a link between vaccines and Autism. She also has strong opinions in regards to healing Autism. However, the conference reported no data confirming the connection, nor did it acknowledge the possibility.

I first watched Jenny McCarthy on the Oprah show several years ago before I became a teacher and before I had learned much of anything about Autism. Since then, and especially since I became a teacher of students with Autism, I have wanted to read one of her books related to the topic. I admit, watching the Oprah show scared the crap out of me and made me start questioning whether or not I would vaccinate my future children.

After finishing Mother Warriors and having had several other discussions with co-workers and reviewing the materials from the conference, my feelings are very torn on the subjects of 1.) Do vaccines cause Autism and 2) Can you heal Autism. The book makes an  effort not to use the word "cured", but sometimes it is implied.

Here is what I liked about the book:

  • It shows the dedication of parents to help their children.
  • Jenny McCarthy is brutally honest in sharing her feelings.
  • Emphasizes the brain-gut connection- that what you eat effects how your brain and body are able to function. 
  • Emphasizes the importance of using multiple treatment options and that not every case of Autism is the same.
Here is what I didn't like about the book:
  • It shows no scientific research to validate the claim that vaccines are related to the onset of Autism. A group of parents with similar stories can not count as validated research. However, I will give some credit here to the fact that Jenny McCarthy and the other parents were trying to get research started and that they ran into many roadblocks. 
  • If the vaccine theory was valid, it still would not explain why the number of boys with Autism is significantly higher than the number of girls with Autism. 
  • I do not agree with some of the treatment methods used. 
  • They do not  give enough credit to the use and effectiveness of Applied Behavior Analysis strategies as treatment options. 
  • They give no credit to the use of early intervention strategies.   
Overall, it is an okay book that shares some heart wrenching stories. I tried to read it with an open mind and to understand where these parents were coming from and their frustrations. But, I am a teacher and I like knowing facts and statistics and  they just weren't presented in this book. I will say that I did like the portion of the book in which Jenny describes how when she healed her son's physical ailments that the Autistic characteristics also decreased and that she didn't use the word cured. 

I do have the urge to go back and read her fist book Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism although I am a little turned off and skeptical about the use of the word "Healing". She has also co-written a book called Healing and Preventing Autism: A Complete Guide with Dr. Jerry Kartzinel. I am trying really hard to be open minded about these books. I feel  like a line has been drawn in the sand and the people who believe in the medical/dietary route stand on one side and the behavior interventionists stand on the other. One group seams to be focused on healing while the other is focused on helping and adapting. Can they both work together...that is my question. 

Thank you again for reading, I could have gone on longer and gotten much more technical  but I don't want to scare anyone way. As always with my book reviews, it is only my opinion...and they may change after a little more informed reading, but I will always be honest. 

Congratulations to Crystal from Adventures in Manis-Land, you will be receiving my $5.98 copy of Somebody Else's Kids that I reviewed last week. Please e-mail me your address so I can get it out in the mail soon!



  1. I have seen her on many a talk show and I guess, not walking in her shoes, I can't voice an opinion. There are so many sides to things we could feel like Bettlejuice, with our heads spinning,if we listened to every one. Sounds like a good review though.

  2. Great review and I agree with what you are saying and I think that is the reason she uses the word "healing" in her book title...cause it's like healing a stomach ache or headache. You can't "cure" it because you don't know what caused it and the physical symptons change from one person to the next. Sometimes I think parents and doctors alike are too quick to judge toddlers! My word they are still in the developmental stages and NO ONE is the same so using "standards" that are based on a huge percentile of any given population CAN and WILL NOT work on all toddlers. Austism is a cognitive element and not a physical element so it truly cannot be diagnosed correctly. Healing it (autism), as Jenny tells it, is really her way of changing her expectations of what society told her was "normal". Like's been over diagnosed and medicated when the parents just need to tune into their childs needs and give them the structured environment that they need. Everyone is too darn busy and over stimulated...heck even as adults we have a melt down when we get over do kids...they just hit the wall quicker because they are "little people".

  3. Being open to all methods is always the best way to ensure that each child receives the best possible care as the individual they are. What works for one doesn't for the other. It's no different that students without special needs, each learns and reacts to informatin and stimuli in their own way! One of the only reasons folks are able to read and hear more about Autism is because of people like Jenny who are writing books (as though they are professionals and know what they are talking about) and that is what starts dialog and opens the door /window to knowledge!

  4. Great review, Cortney..don't worry about scarring off anyone..I think your review was thoughtful, smart, and honest. That's all good. Take care,

  5. You did an excellent review. Now if people want to read the book, they can decide their own view of her writings.
    Autism is very scary, and so are the vaccines, but you have to look at the total benefits of the vaccines in the overall picture.

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