Where I Disagree with Rodney Peete

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Rodney Peete is the husband of Holly Robinson Peete and the father of two autistic kids. Mrs. Peete recently wrote a blog post on the Huffington Post that was fairly reasonable. It was also promoting her family’s upcoming books.

Mr. Peete has a book out, Not My Boy, and there is an excerpt at the Today Show’s website as

Facing the trauma of autism diagnosis
Former NFLer Rodney Peete writes about his son’s condition

The choice of the title, “Not My Boy”, is not one I would make. The picture on the cover makes it clear that he is not saying, “This child is not my boy”, but I’d still have picked something different.

The excerpt on the Today Show’s website has a section about vaccines. Too bad. I bet there are big sections of the book that don’t dwell on vaccines at all. Mr. Peete isn’t as bad as, say, Jenny McCarthy in terms of quantity of misinformation and his approach is better. He is still not well informed. As in, “The symptoms of mercury poisoning look an awful lot like what children with autism suffer”.

For the record, autism is not at all like mercury poisoning. I’d suggest people who want to explore this idea talk to toxicologists, people who have experience with those who have mercury poisoning. DAN doctors (who don’t treat actual cases of mercury poisoning and have little or no training in toxicology), actors and football players are not my first line for medical advice.

That said, I probably would have skipped discussing this if that was all. A title that’s, well, not so great. Information that’s, well, not so great. One line I read, though, sticks in my mind. This one line is why I am writing this. Keeping it in context for the moment, in talking about the early years with his son before the autism diagnosis, Mr. Peete writes:

We asked our pediatrician what was happening with R.J., and he acted as though what we described was no big deal. He reminded us that boys develop differently than girls. Growing up isn’t a straight line, he said. He’d catch up just like Ryan had pretty much caught up with him physically.

I see now that we were willing to accept this because he was telling us what we wanted to hear. There was nothing wrong with R.J. He was just going through a phase, a temporary setback that he’d recover from before he started school in the fall. We were overjoyed when we found out that Ryan and R.J. had been accepted into our top choice for preschool. The teachers there were well trained and compassionate, and we expected that they would help R.J. learn more social skills and encourage him to make friends.

I thought that trying to keep up with the other kids would be a huge motivation for R.J. to snap out of whatever phase he was going through. Maybe once he was around the other kids he’d start to do what they did. That would help with speaking too, I thought. If R.J. really was a member of the Robinson-Peete family, there wasn’t anything that could have prevented him from talking. Our pediatrician confirmed everything I had hoped about how getting R.J. out into the world would be a way to break his isolation.

And here is the statement out of that that bothers me:

If R.J. really was a member of the Robinson-Peete family, there wasn’t anything that could have prevented him from talking.

I’m certain I have written and said things I don’t want my kid to hear or read someday. I believe the above statement is supposed to tell us Mr. Peete’s feelings at that time and his opinion has evolved. It probably reads well to other pro sports players. But, assuming his thoughts have evolved, I wish Mr. Peete had made that evolution more clear.

I just can’t imagine thinking, “if my kid were really a member of the family…” for a kid that young. I guess if an older kid (or adult) is doing things that are harming others, yeah, sure, not part of the family.

I thought that sitting for a few hours to think it over would result in the line making sense and I wouldn’t be writing this. I was wrong.