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Thinking Autism seminar in Maidstone was picketed by autistic protesters

A clash of views over "treatments" for autism led to a seminar for parents of autistic children being picketed - by a group of adults with autism.

The Thinking Autism charity had organised a seminar at the Marsham Street Community Centre in Maidstone, charging £10 a ticket for parents to attend. The programme was advertised as including "wonderful professional and parent speakers sharing their knowledge, experience, and simple nutritional tools to help improve negative autism behaviours and symptoms and make a positive difference to your child’s health and quality of life."

It was attended by 30 parents.

The speakers were to include nutritionist Diana Wright, speaking on giving autistic children a gluten-free, casein-free diet, Leonid Rozman advocating using Tui Na massage therapy as a way to ease stress and a parent speaking about her own family's experiences.

The protesters: Emma Dalmayne is second from the left
The protesters: Emma Dalmayne is second from the left

But the Autistic Inclusive Meets (AIM) organisation objects to the suggestion that a gluten-free diet would make any difference and argued that the proposed massage therapy actually caused the children more distress.

Half a dozen members of AIM picketed the meeting, which was protected by two security guards hired by Thinking Autism who were aware of AIM's plans.

Emma Dalmayne of AIM said: "We've no objection to parents following nutritional advice from a professional clinician, but the treatments they are promotion, including heavy metal detox chelation, killed a child in 2005."

In the event, Mr Rozman did not deliver his Tui Na massage lecture to the audience.

Mrs Dalmayne said: "There is no cure for autism. Parents need to accept that and instead seek to help their children through speech and occupational therapy."

Irina Porter for Thinking Autism said: "The protest at our autism information event in Maidstone today was organised by a group of people who are making false allegations about our charity, claiming that we promote harmful treatments.

"We absolutely refute these allegations. In fact, Thinking Autism does not promote any treatments for autism. We share information, including the latest scientific and medical research, we support families affected by autism, and we advocate for the removal of barriers to appropriate health care for people with autism.

"So why would a group of people choose to undermine our work in this way?

"Sadly, part of the answer is that the autism community is deeply divided. There are many people whose autism does not prevent them from leading an independent life. They can speak, they can go to college, get a job, get married, have children. Some (although certainly not all) of these people find talk of autism treatments offensive because they feel that they don’t need them. And our charity would always defend every individual’s right not to choose treatment, if that is their wish."

She said that all the attendees who had registered had passed the picket line. She said: "Although the protesters were not physically disruptive, that they do stalk us around the country and online by constantly making false allegations.

"Also they do sometimes cause stress to our attendees, who are all parents of disabled children and have enough stress to deal with in their lives already."

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