Sunday, June 1, 2008

Marketing at Autism One

I was shocked and a little skeptical by products that are targeted at kids with special needs after attending the Autism One Conference in Chicago last weekend. I am sure some people think some of the products presented really do help their kids, but there probably are some product owners who are trying to take advantage of these parents. I couldn't stop thinking "Why is this product targeted at kids with Autism? These vitamins are something all kids could use. Or this comfy chair is something I would like. What's with all these products marketed for autism?"

I don't have a child with autism, so maybe those who do appreciate all the merchandise. I just wonder if the owners take the products to different conferences around the country and have new signs made for each disorder/disease. Can you just picture the briefcases full of signs: "Helps kids with Autism!" "Great for kids with Muscular Dystrophy!" "What kids with Cystic Fibrosis really need!" "The best invention for kids with Cerebral Palsy."

Maybe I am just being obnoxious here, but I felt like I was walking into a big sales pitch. There was a lot of pressure to buy from some of the people. I wanted to put on a shirt that said, "I am with the media and I am not doing any stories on your product." Maybe that way I could have looked around and not been so aggravated. Maybe it's just high pressure sales in general that turns me off.

Has anyone else dealt with this? Am I being too sensitive? Does anyone have any advice for parents who deal with this? How are you supposed to know which products might really help your child and which ones are just people trying to make money?

(This is not a jab at the conference at all. The speakers were great and I was honored to be invited. This whole topic of high pressure sales to certain groups of people just made me wonder if I am the only one who thinks this.")

UPDATE: Coincidently, I just found this article that kind of talks about this. Strange.

Here's what one parent said:

"I bought enzymes and supplements from America, which cost a fortune. I even paid thousands for a special mattress, blankets and pillows with magnets sewn into them that the sales people promised would do wonders but, of course, didn’t work.
‘Autism is seen by some people as big business.
‘I meet parents who want a cure and spend money in the hope they’ll have a normal child. I try to warn them that there is no evidence any of these things work, but they’ll often go ahead."

Just to be clear, I have talked to parents of children with autism who say their children have recovered. I think that is fabulous! Whether outsiders believe these children are autism free or not, who cares. If the child and family feel they have created a better quality of life, that is wonderful!

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Anonymous said...

Hi, I think you missed the point. I was at the Autism One conference, and before my vaccine injured son I earned a degree in marketing, spent 10 years in corporate and 8 years in business for myself.

First of all, I am thrilled to see all of these companies at the conference. What I see is good old fashioned entrepenieurship - pure and simple. What makes a business successful is to get off one's tush, think out of the box and roll up the sleeves and work. In this case, leave your comfy desk, and bring your "wares" to the people.

Also, these companies pay a fee to "show" at the conference. The conference organizers pay for the event (thank GOD) this way. Everyone wins...

I thought the conference was well done. No one sponsor got top billing and thus perk a roos, so typical of when an organization gets too big - and greedy. And they had a nice smathering of goods and services.

And as a parent who uses a lot of these products already really appreciate seeing new products, or getting discounts on our next order for stopping by the booth. I was delighted to see the Heavenly Heat Sauna company - I've been thinking of getting one - and voila - he was there.

Marketing at Autism One as a beautiful thing. said...

I wasn't trying to make anyone mad with the post. I really appreciate your insight. Like I said in the post, I am not in the shoes of these parents, so maybe they had a different perspective.

But as the owner of one of these prodcuts, do you have any advice for parents who are trying to sift through all this marketing? It has to be hard to determine which products are beneficial to your child. There are so many! And I just saw a story on the thousands of extra dollars parents spend when they have a child with autism. Most of these people can't afford to try everything. How do you choose??

TheProbe said...

What you observed is very simple. These marekters have identified those parents who attend these conferences, where there is no questioning of the "vanccines caused my kids' autism" mantra, as those people who are not critical thinkers, and, are, essentially suckers for their sales pitches.

I have two handicapped children, one whose disability is, fortunately, not subject to such predatory behavior, and the other one whose disability is. I have seen the contrast in the marketing at conventions and conferences that deal with both disabilities.

Anonymous said...

It is in the nature of autism for the child to have bursts of externally obvious development and lags. Hey, it's in the nature of childhood to have bursts of externally obvious development and then lags. So all you need is to have a large group of credulous and desperate parents experimenting on their children with everything under the sun and guess what??? Some of them will report that their child "recovered" because of this or that snake oil or diet. And then the scum sucking quacks come along and collect the positive anecdotes and ignore all the negative ones and use them for their sales pitches. Then the parents who are sure that their baby was "cured" or "vastly improved" by some therapy (even one that might have had serious deleterious effects on the child's health) and they go on a Yahoo! group and promote it.
You were suckered, lady. You gave these people credibility by showing up at their little snake-oil selling fiesta. You really ought to apologize to your viewers for helping to trap more gullible and desperate parents into this stupidity.

Autistic children occasionally "recover" without any particular intervention. Did you know that? They grow up. They change. They become more normal, with parenting and education and acceptance from friends. So any kid who "recovers" might have done so anyway. You really need to get a clue about what autism and you are not going to get it from the mercury moms and the antivaccine activists.

Jessica F. said...

The last nasty comment from (of course) "anonymous" is so incredibly arrogant and idiotic. Oh, so my 4 year old autistic son will just recover on his own? If he just has "acceptance" from friends? Are you insane? He can't make any friends, he can't speak, he has very few social skills. But if we all just sing songs and hold hands and snuggle, everything will be great. Sure.

These children have serious internal medical problems, no matter how you believe they became autistic. My child having chronic diarreah for 4 years straight is NOT normal. Yelling like a lunatic about "mercury moms" and "quacks" just makes you look stupid. You have a problem with giving kids vitamins? Cod liver oil? These "quacks" are the only responsible medical professionals left. Instead of catering to big pharma and the almighty AAP, they are choosing to dedicate their lives to curing this horrific disorder.

Parents are not SUCKERS for giving their kids vitamins. Give it up.

Anonymous said...

I also have a son that was greatly helped by supplements...and other products out there...I wish some of them were available when he was would have helped him learn even more I am sure..nutrition and whole child teachin....from what I have seen as a parent/ para/.....nothing snake oil in that...

You need to be SMART about YOUR child....his "color" on the autism spectrum. (what his individual needs are) Test him to see what IS going on... a lab report will change many a piont of view.

EX:Our child was not sleeping and banging his head on the wall and pressing it against the bed in a ghastly way..we all were exhausted...

our pediatrician said..he is autistic...give him benadryl..That was it.

Night after night were we faced with this, our poor son! He formed an egg on his head...We tried tylenol ect.. gave him MOTRIM,Suddenly he slept..Gee he must have been in pain, a headache perhaps...not just "AUTISM".

Dietary changes and supplements... a few OOPS's that definately reinforced that this was NOT snake oil/vodoo a few labs .

You just have to be smart and specificaly target and measure what you are treating.It is somewhat trial and error.But it can be done logicaly and slowly.


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