Listen for the key to conflict resolution

April 4, 2008
By: Tim Heston

I was going to write about the economy, but something I was watching on TV last night really stuck with me. My wife grabbed the remote control from me and sat down to watch Larry King's interview with Jenny McCarthy, who is the mother of an autistic son and has just written a book about the steps she has taken to help treat her son.

This doesn't really relate to the world of metal fabricating, but I think there's a lesson to be learned. The lesson is more about personal interaction and civility, but I'll get to that later.

McCarthy, like many other parents, believes that her son's autistic behavior resulted from an aggressive vaccination schedule that most children now undergo. The vaccinations trip something in the children's genetic makeup, according to this group, and the children begin to regress in areas of social interactivity and verbal and nonverbal communication. For more on the development disorder, check this out.

Our interest in this subject stems from our son being affected by some of these same issues that are commonly referred to as part of the "autistic spectrum disorders." To be honest, it's probably more fair to say he has shortcomings in establishing and maintaining relationships. Then again, he's only 9. But I distinctly remember the day his preschool teacher said she worried that he might be autistic because he didn't look her in the eye when he talked and he showed an obsession with trains.

The outstanding services of our local public school system have helped my son tremendously with his school behavior, and we believe a switch to a gluten-free diet, as a result of being diagnosed with celiac disease has helped to improve his ability to focus over the years.

Actually, McCarthy might have gotten into topics such as a gluten-free diet being one of the steps taken to help her son battle his autistic symptoms, but her appearance turned into a bickering battle, reminiscent of CNN's "Crossfire." She was joined on the talk show panel by two physicians—Dr. Harvey Karp, a fellow at the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Dr. David Tayloe, president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics—who don't believe that autism is linked to children's vaccinations. Instead of a level-headed conversation, McCarthy's passion got in the way of a civil discussion. To read the transcript, visit here.

The remarkable point is that McCarthy is not anti-vaccines. She just wants to push the discussion on the schedule of these vaccines. Do we need all of them, and do we need them injected into children so early?

My heart goes out to all of those parents of autistic children. It's a lifetime of love that helps these kids prosper despite their genetic shackles. And I'm sure that McCarthy and other parents will push the discussion about possible autism causes and treatments farther than it has ever gone before.

I just hope time is saved with more positive interaction. That's the point I wanted to make. Sometime over the past several decades, loudness and ridicule supplanted civil debate. You see it in presidential debates and on cable news shows. I don't think you see it too much in families because political discussions in most of these environments are verboten.

Here's an idea: Listen. Perhaps common ground exists, and that can be used as a foundation to build a suitable action plan or resolution. Here's another idea: Show respect for the person you might be disagreeing with. For all the people on television that have all the answers to the world's problems, the earth still holds plenty of room for improvement. Perhaps we can stop wasting so much energy working against others and spend it more productively working together.

Wow. I feel like Oprah must feel like on a daily basis.

FMA Communications Inc.

Tim Heston

Senior Editor
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