Sunday, July 27, 2008

Radio jock’s words about autism send local man flying

As soon as Wayne and Shea Adair learned about the words spoken by radio “shock jock” Mike Savage about autism on July 16, the couple knew they too needed to take to the air.

The Adairs are parents to six chidren, including a 4-year-old son with autism. Wayne, who is a full-time dad and part-time pilot running a small business flying advertising banners over Reno, and Shea, a nurse at Renown Medical Center, were angry when they read the transcript of Savage’s comments in an e-mail from the Reno Autism Information Network.

“As soon as I read my e-mail at work I called (Wayne) and said, ‘OK, we have a banner to fly,’ ” Shea said.

In his broadcast, Savage called autistic children “brats” and that the condition is the “illness du jour.” He said autism is the result of bad parenting.

So, Wayne put together a few choice words of his own that he pulled behind his plane across the sky above Reno and Sparks on Wednesday.

“My son has autism. Mike Savage is an idiot.”

“Guys like Mike need to use their mouthpiece for positive change,” Wayne said outside the hangar where he keeps his plane at the Reno-Stead Airport. “But he’s using it for propaganda. He’s trying to shock people and he did.”

"This shock jock guy can reach 8.2 million people across the nation,” Shea said. “We can reach at least a few thousand.”

Wayne said Savage’s “ignorant comments” have resulted in a positive backlash. The National Autism Association demanded an apology and some groups called for Savage to be fired.

“Autism is a very serious condition that greatly impacts the lives of those affected,” said NAA board member Lori McIlwain in a written statement online at “Many children with autism experience tremendous physical pain from underlying pathologies, which accounts for the screaming this person callously dismisses. To have an uneducated opinion about autism is perfectly within one’s right, but to earn a living by shock-value exploitation of children’s suffering, while suggesting they should be called ‘idiots,’ is disgraceful.”

On his own Web site,, Savage posted comments in his own defense: “My comments about autism were meant to boldly awaken parents and children to the medical community’s attempt to label too many children or adults as ‘autistic.’ ... Just as some drug companies have overdiagnosed ‘ADD’ and ‘ADHD’ to peddle dangerous speed-like drugs to children as young as 4 years of age, this cartel of doctors and drug companies is now creating a national panic by overdiagnosing autism, for which there is no definitive medical diagnosis!”

Wayne said that if there seem to be more cases of autism it is because other mental illnesses are finally being properly put in the category. He also said that in order to be diagnosed as autistic, a neurologist and a behavioral psychologist both must agree on the diagnosis. According to the NAA, there are five disorders under the Pervasive Development Disorder umbrella, which include Autism, Aspergers, Rhett’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and PDD-NOS (not otherwise specified).

Wayne described his own son’s condition as “not high-functioning, and not severe.” He said that when he saw at a conference in Seattle what other parents of autistic children deal with it made his own son, Wayne, Jr., “look like a cakewalk.”

He pointed to his own family as proof that Savage’s comments about autism being the result of bad parenting are false.

“If I was a lousy parent, (all of my six children) would be messed up,” he said.

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