The Home News Tribune
February 17, 1999
Area athletes battle for a cure Hanks of the 49ers leads event to help raise funds and awareness for autism
BLACKHAWK — Marva Hanks, comfy in jeans, bare feet and black T-shirt, snatches a coffee break in the breakfast nook while the phone rings and a film crew sets up lights and camera for a TV segment they were filming last week. Daughter Maya, 6, colors valentines at the table. Husband Merton Hanks, San Francisco 49ers safety, pads around the house keeping an eye on Milan, their 5-year-old, who bounds in and out of the room.
The girls almost appear identical; they are only 13 months apart. Marva Hanks tells Milan to put on her shoes; it’s time to go outside and play with dad. The little girl balks, switching her tennis shoes back and forth on the polished parquet floor. “Young lady!” says mother, hands on hips, and the problem is solved — for now. Milan has autism, a severe, lifelong neurological disorder that can range from mental retardation and mutism to self-injurious behavior.
The Hankses did not learn of their daughter’s disability until Milan was 18 months old. “She was a good baby, not worrisome. She didn’t cry a lot,” said Marva. She would just point to things and cry out of frustration when she couldn’t be understood. When a friend who had a 22-month-old toddler came to visit, Hanks realized something was wrong.
“My friend’s child’s speech was so marked, and Milan could hardly speak at all,” she said. Tests at UC-San Francisco Medical Center confirmed the pediatrician’s diagnosis –Milan had autism, which affects, in varying degrees, as many as 2 in every 1,000 children born. Milan’s autism is not as severe as some children’s.
“She doesn’t do the rocking and the repetitive behaviors some autistic children do,” says Marva Hanks. “Her difficulties are not making eye contact and not being able to sit in a chair quietly, although we’ve noticed she will sit still for some videos.”
Tonight, the Hankses will be featured on KPIX’s “Evening Magazine” segment on autism at 7 p.m. Once the family is outside, Milan joins her sister and father on the trampoline, giggling and tumbling. Soon the girls are riding their training-wheeled bicycles up and down the driveway, then shooting hoops with their famous dad in the courtyard, while the film crew tapes the family.
For a time, Milan was enrolled at the Mauzy School in Alamo for children with special needs. But when her favorite teacher left, the little girl and her mother were devastated. “I thought ‘What can I do?’ Time is of the essence,” said Marva Hanks.
It was then she learned about CAN (Cure Autism Now), a new Los Angeles-based foundation that promotes awareness and research for the disorder. CAN was founded by movie producer Jonathan Shestack and his wife, Portia Iversen, an Emmy Award-winning art director turned scriptwriter. Their son, Dov, was diagnosed at about the same age. Dov has a more severe case of autism than Milan, who with speech and other therapies has made tremendous progress, said her mother.
Because of the support and information she received from CAN, Marva and Merton Hanks are lending their names and notoriety to promote awareness and raise funds in the Bay Area.
There is a celebrity benefit basketball game between 49ers and Oakland Raiders on March g11 at the San Jose Arena. As the film crew tried to gather the family together for an interview, Milan bounced on and off the sofa and was fascinated by the camera and the tripod, touching the handles and peering through the eyepiece.
Milan is now enrolled, and doing well, in a private preschool with children who do not have special needs. Her mother felt it was important that she be mainstreamed with other children of her age group.
Not long ago, the Hankses traveled to Florida to meet with Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino, who also has an autistic child. Marva Hanks’ wish would be for a “one-stop” facility in the Bay Area similar to the one established by Marino in Florida, a place where children could have their special needs treated under one roof. She also is organizing a private dinner party benefit in March and plans other events later in the year to raise funds for autism.
More With Cure Autism Now
Autistic people have fought the inclusion of ABA in therapy for us since before Autism Speaks, and other non-Autistic-led autism organizations, started lobbying legislation to get it covered by insurances and Medicaid.
ABA is a myth originally sold to parents that it would keep their Autistic child out of an institution. Today, parents are told that with early intervention therapy their child will either be less Autistic or no longer Autistic by elementary school, and can be mainstreamed in typical education classes. ABA is very expensive to pay out of pocket. Essentially, Autism Speaks has justified the big price tag up front will offset the overall burden on resources for an Autistic’s lifetime. The recommendation for this therapy is 40 hours a week for children and toddlers.
The original study that showed the success rate of ABA to be at 50% has never been replicated. In fact, the study of ABA by United States Department of Defense was denounced as a failure. Not just once, but multiple times. Simply stated: ABA doesn’t work. In study after repeated study: ABA (conversion therapy) doesn’t work.
What more recent studies do show: Autistics who experienced ABA therapy are at high risk to develop PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions. Historically, the autism organizations promoting ABA as a cure or solution have silenced Autistic advocates’ opposition. ABA is also known as gay conversion therapy.
The ‘cure’ for Autistics not born yet is the prevention of birth.
The ‘cure’ is a choice to terminate a pregnancy based on ‘autism risk.’ The cure is abortion. This is the same ‘cure’ society has for Down Syndrome.
This is eugenics 2021. Instead of killing Autistics and disabled children in gas chambers or ‘mercy killings’ like in Aktion T4, it’ll happen at the doctor’s office, quietly, one Autistic baby at a time. Different approaches yes, but still eugenics and the extinction of an entire minority group of people.
Fact: You can’t cure Autistics from being Autistic.
Fact: You can’t recover an Autistic from being Autistic.
Fact: You can groom an Autistic to mask and hide their traits. Somewhat. … however, this comes at the expense of the Autistic child, promotes Autistic Burnout (this should not be confused with typical burnout, Autistic Burnout can kill Autistics), and places the Autistic child at high risk for PTSD and other lifelong trauma-related conditions.
[Note: Autism is NOT a disease, but a neurodevelopmental difference and disability.]
Fact: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.