One day I was looking at Autism hashtags on Twitter trying to find people like myself and to find out what people are saying about Autism. I have never met another Autistic person, so Twitter afforded me a unique opportunity to correspond with like-minded people. I got the chance to talk to people from all backgrounds who all had similar and very different experiences to myself. I got to talk to Autism campaigners, educators and parents about what it is like for them to be Autistic as well as have Autistic kids, friends or partners.

This was very enjoyable for me.

I got to open up about my life and vent out my frustrations about my Autism. I made friends with people I would never have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. I met some great people who made me feel better about my life and opened my eyes to a whole other world. But then I found the dark side of this corner of Twitter and I was appalled by what I saw.

The dark side of Twitter

Since 1998 there has been a prevalent pseudoscience around Autism and Vaccines that began with a study in the British medical journal the Lancet. The study reported a link between Autism and vaccines and stated that the MMR vaccine, a vaccine against the disease’s mumps, measles and rubella caused Autism in children. There are many problems with this report as only twelve children were used in the study, and the man responsible for the report, Andrew Wakefield, is now completely discredited.

It has been shown through follow-up studies, this time using hundreds of children that Wakefield’s evidence was falsified.

According to the Modern Medicine Network, the former doctor Wakefield lost his licence and the study was retracted from the Lancet. It was also found by the general medical council that Wakefield was guilty of medical misconduct and unethical behaviour.

He would perform unnecessary invasive tests on children and had serious conflicts of interest. But the damage was done the idea that vaccines are dangerous spread like wildfire and is now killing children worldwide.

The consequences of fear

Global vaccination rates have fallen sharply, and the results are being felt.

According to the World Health Organisation, cases of measles rose from 5,273 in 2016 to 23,927 just last year. This is being felt acutely in countries that have the lowest vaccination rates like Italy, Ukraine and Romania. Other countries like Germany and France have lower numbers, but people are still dying in their hundreds. There are also complications for people who survive the infections of these diseases. Blindness, deafness and brain damage are the non-lethal effects and many of the people affected are children.

The industry of fear

Despite all this evidence, people are still convinced that vaccines cause Autism and they are resolute in defeating this invented monster. My experience with this is from the Twitter hashtags #EndAutismNow and #VaccineInjury.

These are only two of many that demonise vaccines and Autism. Personally, I am offended, and I am angered by all of this because the people spinning these lies are taking advantage of ill-informed parents and putting their children at risk. Now every hack and quack are saying something or other causes Autism, and fear is being spread around Autism. They are pushing a narrative that Autism is a terrible disease and it needs to be cured. I do not need to be cured. I am different, but I do not have a disease - curing Autism is like curing dyslexia or homosexuality.

What is wrong with Autism?

The evil of this movement has been compared to the evil of eugenics as well as the German programs of sterilising mentally handicapped people in the 30s and 40s.

I am sincerely afraid of the direction this is going in and I believe people like myself are being discriminated against but in a new and pernicious way, by making people believe that they are helping and curing something terrible. Autism isn’t terrible. I admit I have had problems, but I’d rather have Autism than measles, mumps or rubella. I like to give the example: If vaccines really did cause Autism what would be wrong with that?

The fight back

I feel like I must defend my existence to these people because if it was up to them I wouldn’t exist. In fact, many people who have Autism wouldn’t exist, including the actors Paddy Considine, Dan Ackroyd, and comedian Hannah Gadsby. We aren’t a burden if you don’t make us one. We need to turn the conversation around to accepting Autism not curing it because as I have shown, this particular cure gets people killed.