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THE IPSOS-REID AUTISM POLL
"Ipsos-Reid is Canada's market intelligence leader and the country's leading provider of public opinion research."--from the introduction to the autism poll
15 March 2005 (via email)
We have previously spoken on the phone about the Ipsos-Reid autism poll, released on December 20, 2004. As I mentioned, this poll has already been extensively used as a lobbying tool and will surely continue to be.
In response to concerns I raised about the nature of this poll and its consequences to an identifiable group of Canadians, you suggested that I come up with two poll questions.
The position taken by Ipsos-Reid thus far re the autism poll is that Ipsos-Reid is not responsible for verifying information presented as fact in a poll; and that Ipsos-Reid will not concern itself with how identifiable groups are portrayed in polls.
In consideration of this position, and after some thought, I have composed two questions.
I should make it clear that I do not in any way want these questions distributed, and given credibility, with the full authority and power of Ipsos-Reid's status and reputation. After I explain my two questions, I will then have some questions for you, which I would greatly appreciate answers to.
The two questions:
Both the above questions have a factual foundation similar to those in the autism poll. The Intensive Behavioural Treatment described above was developed by the same researcher (Ivar Lovaas) at the same time (early 1970s) at the same university (UCLA) with the same goal (an "indistinguishable" child) as the Intensive Behavioural Treatment described in the autism poll.
The autism treatment was developed in the UCLA Young Autism Project, and a treatment which had among its goals preventing or curing homosexuality was developed in the UCLA Feminine Boy Project. Dr Lovaas was the principal investigator of both well-funded projects. Many rationales were provided for the FBP in the science, some of which are used above. The cost-benefit information could be attached, with any constructed rationale, to any group which is significantly ostracized by society, all such groups having notoriously poor and expensive outcomes.
For more information and parallels between the projects and treatments, see http://www.sentex.net/~nexus23/naa_aba.html, sections 5 and 6 (notes, sources, and references provided at the end).
I will repeat that I do not want, and wish never to see, the above questions in a poll. I recognize that the blatant prejudices in these questions may have, and in fact are likely to have, harmful consequences to an identifiable group of Canadians and to individuals in this group. I also recognize the offensive premise and language of the proposed poll questions, including the message that homosexuals suffer due to their homosexuality, are sick and a burden on society, and would be much better off and much less of a burden if they underwent "effective" medical treatment for their condition.
My first question to you is whether Ipsos-Reid has standards which would prevent you from accepting the questions above for distribution and publication as a poll. Unfortunately, it would not be difficult to find groups of non-homosexuals which would have various motives to commission and promote such a poll.
If the above standards exist, my next question is why these standards were not applied to the autism poll, which was asked for, and has been promoted and widely distributed, by non-autistic people.
My next question is whether Ipsos-Reid continues to stand by the autism poll, in either the presence or absence of the standards referred to above.
My last question is whether Ipsos-Reid will take responsibility, and take commensurate action, to mitigate the actual and potential harm done to autistic Canadians by the autism poll. So long as Ipsos-Reid stands by this poll, the harm will continue.
Thank you for your time.
15 March 2005 (via email)
Thank you for your e-mail which is further to our two conversations by telephone. I have also reviewed your correspondence to Mr. Mitchell of March 9, 2005.
What was absent from your e-mail to him was my offer to have you put two legitimate questions on our national public opinion omnibus for free which could then be released into the public domain. I would have final say over the questions. I offered this not because I believe we have done nothing wrong--as I explained, you have a point of view which is different than the group which was identified in the poll and I'm sure they would differ with your view and this simply could go on endlessly, something which we will not engage you in. The point here is that we are prepared to offer you an extraordinary opportunity which would help balance or clarify the issue. If we can help in this regard then we would be pleased to do so. Currently, your response below is not helpful to that end.
17 March 2005 (via email)
Thank you for your response.
Firstly, I do not want to falsely report your or Ipsos-Reid's position. You wrote: "I offered this not because I believe we have done nothing wrong...". It seems possible, or likely, that you meant that you believe that Ipsos-Reid has done nothing wrong. I would very much appreciate clarification of this point.
As I wrote, so long as Ipsos-Reid stands by the autism poll, then autistics in Canada will continue to be harmed. Whether Ipsos-Reid believes this is wrong is a question of major importance to autistics, and to those genuinely concerned with our well-being.
Secondly, re Ipsos-Reid's response to my concerns, Mr Mitchell and I discussed your offer, and one of the results of that discussion was the e-mail which you have now described as unhelpful.
I have not been able to inform Mr Mitchell, who is the parent of an autistic child, or other interested parties whether Ipsos-Reid would unquestioningly accept to distribute and publish the poll questions I sent you. I and many others believe this is an important question, and you have not answered it. It would be very helpful if you did.
You state that you have the final say as to poll questions. However, I still have no information about what kind of criteria or standards Ipsos-Reid has for the polls it conducts and stands by.
I asked for this information because it is possible, if not likely, that any poll done with questions I supply will produce a responding poll by one or another of the ABA parent groups. There are many such groups, including autism societies, and some of them are well-funded. A responding poll not governed by any standards as to either the accuracy of information presented as fact, or how identifiable groups can be portrayed, could result in even more harm to autistic Canadians.
My questions to you were not meant to be helpful to Ipsos-Reid, but to those harmed by your poll. While it is frequently said that autistic people are not intelligent or responsible enough to speak for ourselves, this is just another example of the prejudicial views of autistics widely disseminated by people who are not autistic and will never be. In this case, autistics, as well as parents of autistic children, are asking Ipsos-Reid to be responsible. We are asking you to answer the very basic questions I asked, questions which would take little time or effort to answer.
Ipsos-Reid identifies itself as a leader in its field. It is precisely Ipsos-Reid's leadership position which gives credibility to the false, misleading, offensive, and harmful content of your autism poll.
Leadership should entail responsibility. I have suggested ways in which Ipsos-Reid can act responsibly in this case. Unless I know what Ipsos-Reid's standards are, I could only with great reluctance provide two genuine poll questions. I would have cause to fear that these questions would be rejected outright and Ipsos-Reid would therefore wash its hands. I would equally have cause to fear that consequent polls could result in yet more, and more harmful, false and negative information about autistics being distributed across Canada, fueled by Ipsos-Reid's position of leadership and influence.
In the alternative, you could take a small amount of your time to answer the simple but serious questions I've asked, on behalf of many people who are feeling the consequences of your poll. This would tell me, and many others, that Ipsos-Reid takes seriously the leadership role it advertises. It may then be possible to responsibly determine if it is necessary or beneficial to conduct the poll you are offering.
Finally, like many autistic Canadians, I have lost a great deal, including my freedom, to now widely-distributed pejorative views of autism. To you, and to Ipsos-Reid, intolerance and ostracism may be matters of "opinion". To me, and to many autistic Canadians, they are a daily reality, harming, marginalizing, and endangering us.
Thank you for your time.
17 March 2005 (via BlackBerry)
Thank you for yours.
The clarification is as follows: "we do not believe we have done anything wrong."
Thank you for your considered views.
Note: An article which was previously posted consequent to statements from Mr Wright was taken down and its title cannot, according to Mr Wright, even be mentioned. Because what Mr Wright is objecting to remains uncertain, Mr Wright has become the only person whose comments and statements can safely (without fear of a lawsuit or other unspecified action on the part of Mr Wright) be posted here. Therefore, his public comments and statements have been posted. See Comments of John Wright.
In addition, the comment board attached to this article has, for similar reasons, been taken down. The only comments I can be certain will not meet Mr Wright's objections are his own. I do not want visitors, who may not have substantial power or resources, erroneously assuming it is safe, in this context, to express their views. I apologize to those who posted here and whose posts have of necessity been taken down. I have preserved Mr Wright's messages, which I assume he has no objection to. --Michelle Dawson, February 13, 2006
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