Louder Than Words: Jenny McCarthy
Like “Let Me Hear Your Voice“, this is one of those books which has a reputation that precedes it and is almost infamous within the autism community. I do not know if McCarthy was the first celebrity to publish a book about having an autistic child but she has certainly been one of the most vocal. So what’s this book like then?
I ended up writing what can only be referred to as a free-flow rant whilst I was reading this book. It frustrated me that much. I think we are supposed to sympathise with McCarthy and see her as a brave and passionate advocate for her child, but that is not the impression I end up taking away from this book. I am not saying it is not horrible to watch your child go through seizure after seizure with no-one seeming to do anything that helps – it must be heartbreaking for a parent. However, McCarthy just comes across as an annoying, condescending, perpetual victim who is vile to people around her.
She bullies people into doing what she wants, joins the school of Google Diagnosing (which of course is always right in these sorts of books) and treats religious interventions like the figurative Holy Grail whilst dismissing all doctors or medical professionals (apart from the ones that completely agree with her) as brain dead idiots. Which I suppose is a necessary course of action if the claim is that your child was healed with alternative therapies.
McCarthy’s reaction to everything from Evan’s seizures to his autism diagnosis and every little thing is so extreme. If we are to take her words literally (and why wouldn’t we since she wrote them) then she is constantly running out into her garden or into the street screaming with rage, joy, misery, or some combination. If I was her neighbour, I would move house.
There’s also the scenes that are mandatory for this sort of book such as the raising concerns about vaccines only to be shot down by an aggressive GP. Again, not saying that there aren’t some horrible GPs out there (because there are) but why do all of these abusive doctors who shout and swear at their patients seem to be the doctors of autistic children who go on to “recover”? Then of course there is the immediate turnaround once she starts her alternative therapies – Evan starts speaking in four word sentences after being put on a new diet. Seriously?
Like most books in this vein of parent biographies – McCarthy is insanely judgmental of parents who do not agree with her. Yes, those woe-is-me parents are annoying, but a mother who is genuinely considering something as dangerous as chelation therapy is in no position to judge anyone else. Speaking of chelation, of course she also sees a DAN! doctor and gets supplements and then Evan improves more than any autistic child within the clinic, again like always.
On a side rant, she also brings up a frequently argued about point. That there is a lack of money going into Autism compared to leukemia or childhood AIDS. Well for one, that is because Autism rarely kills people. Additionally, all parties within the autism community complain about the lack of money going into autism research – whether it’s for diagnosis, or interventions, or for autistic adults. However, in my experience it is far easier to find information, resources or strategies for autism than for other special educational needs or disabilities. Which is good for me – it helps me a lot when it comes to both my own life and my working life, but it must be tough for people with other conditions or disorders. Anyway, my point being that yes we would all like more money and research for areas of autism, but actually autism is very much in the spotlight at the moment and actually does get a lot more attention than other conditions.
Getting back on track, I’m sure you already know how this book ends and that’s even without knowing about the McCarthy family from the news (to be fair, I’m not in the US so my exposure to them is limited) – of course Evan gets so much better and could even lose his diagnosis. We all saw that coming though I think.
No – it’s just another parental biography that follows the same outline: problem, diagnosis, end of the world, alternative therapy, practically cured. The author is not sympathetic at all and the book just isn’t pleasant to read.
Value for money?
If you wanted to subject yourself to this then to be fair, it’s not that expensive coming in at £4.99 for the Kindle Edition (that was the only set price I could locate on the UK Amazon). I just wouldn’t recommend subjecting yourself to it for any price.