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First Published Thursday, 24th July, 2008.

Long Island autism activists plan to take part in a San Francisco protest Sunday of radio show host Michael Savage’s remarks on autism. Hundreds of activists and parents of autistic children are expected to gather outside Savage’s home base radio station, KNEW, to call for his ouster.

Among them will be State Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington); the protest’s organizer, Evelyn Ain of Oyster Bay; and John Gilmore of Long Beach, executive director of Autism United.

“We’re gathering a lot of people from all across the country to rally and continue putting pressure on the company that syndicates this gentleman to remove him from the air,” said Johnson, who has introduced legislation to get a count of autism cases in New York State.

“Everyone is so outraged about it,” said Ain, mother of an autistic son and publisher of a magazine on autism. “Honestly, I think we’re going to have over 1,000 people.”

Savage stirred a national brouhaha with his July 16 comments that autism is a “racket” and a “fraud,” and that “in 99 percent of the cases, it’s a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out,” and blaming the children’s behavior on fathers who don’t tell them to “act like a man.”

He later insisted that his remarks were “taken out of context,” and that he wasn’t targeting genuinely autistic children. He said he was criticizing doctors and drug companies for over-diagnosing children out of greed, as well as “fakers” hoping for extra benefits.

In an interview published on an online site, wnd.com, linked to his Web site, he said he’d attacked the “falsely diagnosed cases, the misdiagnosed and the outright fraud artists through a bold parody.”

Parents of children with autism and milder disorders like Asperger’s syndrome were not convinced. “He backed off a little bit in recent days, but he did say what he said,” said Joanna Jaeger, board president of Parents Helping Parents, a San Francisco-based group for parents of disabled children.

“His attitude that he’s doing us a favor by exposing this fraud is ridiculous,” she added. “People are not rushing to join this club because it’s so much fun, or because you get a big gift bag upon your child’s diagnosis.”

An estimated one in 150 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, which range from severe to mild disorders in communication and social behavior, and in many cases include retardation.

In New York, Gov. David A. Paterson yesterday signed into law a measure facilitating regular screening of toddlers and children for autism spectrum disorders.

He vetoed a bill, similar to Johnson’s, that would have funded a count of autism cases because of cost. The state relies on a voluntary registry.

Source:  http://www.newsday.com/news/printedition/longisland/ny-liauti245775335jul24,0,6373273.story

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