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Three Smooth Stones – An Autism Fable

Recently, two friends returned from a beautiful island vacation. They gave me a special and certainly unique gift. They hoped to cheer me up after battling a feverish kidney infection. Please let me tell you how three smooth stones completely changed me life…

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Pebbly Beach and Ocean Vacation

 

My friends knew two things about me that helped them find a perfect gift. First, I like rocks and waterfalls. They thought that ocean-washed stones seemed like a close substitute. Secondly, I like knowing planned routines and schedules. Even if I miss an opportunity, knowing the next sequence of events helps me recover and re-plan. My friends explained to me how special these stones are: they keep away tigers!

 

Although doubting the dramatic claims about tigers, I happily accepted these pretty stones. I researched information about these stones, the island, and tigers…but found no data to support fantastic claims. Interestingly, no islander has ever been attacked by a tiger, though. Absent-mindedly, I just slipped these stones into my pocket where they remained until laundry-day.

 

My day progressed as expected, until I went to collect the mail. Is the short walk to the mailbox a window by which a tiger may pounce? Surely, taking these magical stones with me couldn’t hurt, right?

 

Thankfully, no tigers attacked me while getting the mail. No tigers appeared at the grocery store, either. I would make sure no tigers would be around my wife and I when we went to dinner with our vacation-returned friends.

 

We enjoyed lovely meals and talk. At one point, our friends shared news about their youngest son. He was recently diagnosed with autism. Surprisingly, both blamed a recent vaccination for the autism diagnosis! We did not discuss educational or therapeutic supports because the conversation hovered over vaccinations’ alleged links to autism. Before his vaccinations, the boy’s doctors and parents believed him to be developing typically. Nothing we could say could detract from their notion that vaccines caused autism.

 

Stuck on an uncomfortable topic, our friends suggested we talk about vacations and how well I liked their gift! I placed the three smooth stones on the table. “You don’t see any tigers, do you,” I asked with a knowing smile.

 

“You don’t really believe these stones have special powers, do you,” they questioned. I shared undeniable data with them- no tigers attacked me while I carried the stones. My friend is an accomplished attorney, and decided to use logic against my beliefs.

On a napkin, he penned this chart and asked me to complete it:

 

DATA COLLECTED SUPPORTS MY CLAIM? CHALLENGES MY CLAIM?
Are there any peer-reviewed journal articles about stones and tiger-prevention? One article made suggestive links, but was retracted due to procedural errors, lack of replication by other scientists, and ethical motivation behind the written article. No articles found refuting the link between these stones and tigers, but it’s a small sample size. More research is needed to find the link, instead of spent on tiger training and similar “coping” skills.
Were the island sellers motivated to make these claims about stones and tiger-prevention? Islanders affirm their claims, and no stone-islanders were ever attacked by tigers. Stone-islanders income from selling souvenirs accounts for 75% of their collected income.
Did I experience tiger attacks before I had the stones? No, but tiger attacks account for 85 human deaths each year; I won’t be one of them! Humans account for 1% tiger-related deaths, but little data exists about tiger attacks from impoverished tiger-filled places.
Do I feel my life been better since having the stones? Yes, I have less anxiety about tiger attacks, and have a resource that shows how my own faults won’t cause a tiger attack. If I am wrong, then I will always live in fear about what more I could do to prevent tiger attacks. I have too many other factors to consider about tiger attacks, so it’s just easier to believe something without needing more work beyond personal experiences.
How often do I think about tiger-related attacks? I don’t have to spend my time on this worrisome topic, since I have THE answer to stopping the problem. If my claim is overturned, I am left with more anxieties about tigers. Next, what else might ambush me? Will it be my fault, too?

My friends said that I seemed “obsessed” about their simple gift. They said greedy islanders tell grand stories just to make a sale of cheap souvenirs. They pointed to a lack of scientific research on the tiger-prevention topic; I countered by saying it’s a small sample size, and that I never encountered a tiger nor peer-reviewed literature against my claims. I also proposed my belief that somehow, in some way, our governments must be engaged in suppression campaigns about the truth. Of course- it’s cheaper to buy tiger-prevention stones than pay for medical bills related to maulings, so big business and medicine must plays parts, too.

 

My wife diplomatically interrupted. While she agreed that no scientific claims support my beliefs, she cannot deny my experiences. She added that if my friends ruined the “magic” of the smooth stones, I would be left with less hope. Was that the insidious purpose behind their gift?

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Three smooth stones prevent tiger attacks – Why isn’t this getting more news coverage?!?

 

My world needs predictability. These stones do more than prevent tiger attacks- they give me peace of mind. If a tiger inexplicably attacked me, at least it wouldn’t be my fault, because I carry these three smooth stones. Consequently, I don’t accept any personal responsibility for preventing tiger attacks. In some way, I have THE answer to preventing tiger attacks. Imagine if we mass-produced these stones- how many tiger-related deaths could we prevent each year?!? Nobody believes my ideas unless I provide research  showing a statistically-significant link that I already know exists. Don’t ask me how or why these three smooth stones work- they just do!

 

…and you have no right to challenge my claims!

 

You have no right to challenge my personal experiences or those of the tiger-free islanders. What does it matter if I lack empirical evidence- I’ve already suggested  government + big business + medical community conspiracies. My wife lends her observed experiences that match mine. Can you name any other links between the stones and a lack of tiger attacks? If you don’t have professionally-researched articles to  counterbalance my arguments, please just accept my own claims. Right now, you can offer me no greater solace than I have from believing three smooth stones prevent tiger attacks. How cruel must you be, to demand more scientific facts or challenge personal experiences? Isn’t living with the threat of tiger-attacks enough stress for me to carry?

 

Back at the dinner table, we found ourselves at another uncomfortable impasse. I asked my attorney-friend if they planned to sue the hospital or vaccine manufacturer for causing their son’s autism. America remains an actively litigious society – we aren’t too far removed from million-dollar lawsuits over spilled hot coffee. Anti-vaccination stances might support a class-action lawsuit against the purveyors of autism-inducing vaccines. Frequently, televised commercials offer to take legal action against other medical procedures gone awry, so why not autism?

 

My friends suggested how I mistakenly applied spurious relationships between the three smooth stones and a lack of tiger attacks. Spurious relationships are mathematical constructs to determine causality. Too many other variables could factor into my stones’ alleged power to rebuke tigers. Why fix something that’s not broken?

Next, I asked my friends to consider the same table when assigning blame to vaccines for causing autism. Quickly, I sketched my own chart by following similar example:

 

DATA COLLECTED SUPPORTS VACCINE LINK? CHALLENGES VACCINE LINK?
Are there any peer-reviewed journal articles about vaccines linked to causing autism?
Were any claimants motivated to make any links about autism and vaccine links? What does the rest of the professional community think about any claims AND claimants?
Did your son experience any autism traits before having the vaccine?
Is your life better by having a child…with autism?

(Person-first language encourages me to use emphasize the CHILD/person above the diagnosis.)

How often do I think autism and vaccines, or personal  responsibilities as a loving caregiver for a loved one …with autism?

They politely folded the napkin and placed it in a pocket. Next, we enjoyed a light dessert with our friends, and concluded the evening happily.

 

…without tigers and without blame.

 

If you must reply to this conversation, let’s agree to keep tiger-preventions or tiger-cures as the main topics. Autism diagnoses account for 1.4% of the population. Tiger attacks KILL 1% of its respected population. Autism doesn’t kill people, but tiger attacks do. Let’s focus more attention on finding a cure to tiger related attacks and deaths.

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Find some stones! You’ll need ’em to present any beliefs you have about autism and/or tiger-related attacks.

First, you’ll need to find yourself some big stones…

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