Autism’s False Prophets

Five years ago, I read Evidence of Harm, by David Kirby. I was furious. I firmly believed that the CDC and “Big Pharm” had engaged in a massive cover-up that was damaging a majority of our children. We had a child that had been diagnosed with “high-functioning autism” just three years prior to that. She had been born right in the middle of those reported years when the vaccine schedule had been accelerated and babies were receiving more thimerosal than ever. Plus…her mother had eaten a lot of tuna sandwiches from Subway during the pregnancy; tuna which, it was discovered later, was chock full of mercury!

Yesterday, I finished another book. It’s called Autism’s False Prophets, by Paul A. Offit, M.D.. When I began reading the book, I was still skeptical, more or less sitting on the proverbial fence on the autism/vaccines controversy. I had, over the past several years, backed off from being as angry and convinced as I was after reading Kirby’s book. By the time I finished Autism’s False Prophets, I was firmly convinced that there is not, and never has been any connection between vaccines, thimerosal, and autism.

Research and science have proven this. There have been multiple epidemiological studies (I’d never heard that word before, but now I know what it means) using thousands of children that have shown that there is no increased risk of autism between children who received the MMR vaccine and children who did not receive the MMR vaccine. There is also no increased risk of autism between children who received vaccines containing thimerosal and children who received vaccines without the mercury based preservative.

The book does not just examine vaccines and thimerosal. It also examines many of the “cures” that have popped up over the years that have not only NOT cured autism, but in many cases hurt children even more, and, in a couple of cases, even been fatal. Earlier on, there was a “discovery” that secretin helped some children improve. Suddenly, there was run on secretin, which is a hormone derived from pigs. One doctor in Dallas (who, thankfully, remains unnamed) was known to have paid $800 for four doses and charged $8000 dollars to administer them! It didn’t take long to find out that this was a false hope. It didn’t really help.

There are many others that have come and gone, many of which cost desperately hopeful parents thousands upon thousands of dollars, and really provided no real, measurable results. Some parents took out second mortgages on their homes to by hyperbaric oxygen chambers, because some doctors decided that providing pure oxygen to the brain would cure autism. There was at least one death involving those chambers, when one burst into flames while a patient was in it. Chelation was touted as a miracle cure. Chelation is the process of introducing a chemical compound into the body which binds to heavy metals, thereby helping the body eliminate them. It was decided that autistic children’s bodies didn’t have the capability of properly processing these metals. At least one child died after receiving chelation therapy. The doctor was subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter.

Probably the biggest name in the autism/vaccine controversy is Dr. Andrew Wakefield. To this day, many parents still see him as a “champion” for their cause. The problem is…Wakefield is a fraud. I was hesitant to believe this when I began hearing these reports, but now, there is no doubt in my mind. Wakefield is a fraud. He lied. He lied about the funding for his research. He used other labs for his research; labs which, it was discovered later, were not up to standards and used contaminated samples. The findings of these labs did not support his belief that MMR caused autism, yet he wrote a paper anyway that said that they did. The thing about good research is that, if something is discovered to be true in research, it can be copied. It can be verified by further research. Wakefield’s alleged findings were never replicated. They were not replicated because they weren’t true.

Something I did not realize four years ago, is that David Kirby is a good friend of Andrew Wakefield. He was also essentially hired to write Evidence of Harm, by Lyn Redwood, the founder of SafeMinds, an organization that continues to hold onto the false theory that mercury in vaccines caused their children’s autism. Kirby is a charlatan. He is not a good journalist. He focuses on controversial stuff like this controversy. And when faced with the facts that autism rates weren’t dropping, even six years AFTER thimerosal was removed from vaccines, he began stating things like “China was burning more coal, causing plumes of mercury-filled smoke to envelop the West Coast.” He also blamed an increase in California wildfires. He even blamed an increase in cremations in California, “resulting in the release of mercury from dental fillings!” This was in November of 2006. A few months later, the CDC “announced that the rates of autism in the United States were the highest they had ever been.”

I could write for hours on this book. But I won’t. Vaccines don’t cause autism. They never did. We need to move on from this controversy because continuing to kick this dead horse is actually taking valuable time and money away from real research that could truly help people.

We fell for some of this stuff, I’ll admit it. We took our daughter in for some of these alternative therapies. One was called “PK Therapy,” named after the doctor in Pennsylvania who had invented it. It was initially invented to help patients with “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” otherwise known as ALS, “amyotropic lateral sclerosis.” It involved the rapid injection of several chemicals into the body, lipids and fatty acids, and glutathione. I don’t remember much about it, actually. That particular therapy seemed to help our daughter a little. But it cost us $110 a week, and insurance doesn’t cover any of these alternative therapies. Then this doctor decided that we should move on to chelation. We tried that. After two weeks of it (I think…the time line is rather fuzzy now), our daughter wound up in a juvenile center for behavioral issues. In a nutshell, she went nuts on us. We stopped chelation.
We went to a doctor in Grapevine who is a DAN doctor (DAN stands for Defeat Autism Now). He prescribed several thousand dollars worth of tests, for which we reluctantly paid. These tests determined that her body was filled with fungus (this is a favorite tactic of many autism doctors, apparently…fungus is the cause of EVERYTHING!), and that she was allergic to practically everything on the planet. We bought hundreds of dollars worth of supplements and gave her about 50 pills a day for a little while. We never went back to this doctor. Not only could we not afford it, it just didn’t help.
Oh, yeah…we also tried the gluten-free/casein-free diet. More on that in a minute.

There is also the issue of the digestive issues that many autistic kids seem to have. Science has found no connection between the two. But I will say that our daughter had digestive issues right from the beginning. Whether or not they have anything to do with her autism, I don’t know. What I do know is that, when she drinks milk, or eats ice cream, a day or so later, we have some serious behavioral issues. She has also struggled with bowel movements all her life. A couple years ago, I read a book called Enzymes for Autism and Other Neurological Conditions, by Karen DeFelice. The information in the book was largely derived from her research and her experience with adding digestive enzymes to the diets of her two sons. While this may seem to be yet another quack alternative therapy, there is absolutely nothing harmful about adding enzymes to the diet. They simply help the body break down proteins, and they are completely natural. We started giving one called “Peptizyde” to our daughter, and after a few weeks, began to see marked improvement. Somehow, and I cannot explain how, they have helped her behavior. She can eat ice cream. We’re still not sure about drinking straight milk, yet. But her bowel movements have gotten more consistent and less, well, huge. But I would never present this as a cure for autism for everyone. The thing is…all cases are different. Some autistic kids have improved with some doses of vitamin B. Our daughter didn’t…in fact, vitamin B made her worse.

Autism is a terribly complex thing. That’s why, I suppose, it is referred to as a “spectrum disorder.” Asperger’s, Fragile-X, high functioning…so many different aspects of it. No one therapy could ever be supposed to fix them all. In fact, there has yet to be a therapy to fix any of them.

I wish, now, that I had taken the time to look at the other side of the issue immediately after reading Kirby’s book. But, unfortunately, part of my nature is that I am easily swayed. I’ve always loved conspiracy theories. I’m still skeptical about whether or not a jumbo jet crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11. But that’s an entirely different subject. I’m no longer skeptical about the autism/vaccine controversy. I will believe the science. I refuse to be one of those who says, “I don’t care what the research says, vaccines caused my child’s autism!”

TTFN, y’all!

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3 thoughts on “Autism’s False Prophets

  1. All the parents of autistic kids I know say colitis and other stomach problems are a big problem. Since you are both a rabid tv watcher and do lots of research on autism, I am guessing you have probably already seen the movie about Temple Grandin, but if you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. I’ve been meaning to ask if you’ve seen it, but forgot. I finally remembered it because she could only eat jello or yogurt due to severe colitis.

  2. I have seen “Temple Grandin!” We loved that movie! I almost cried at the part where she would only eat jello and pudding, because our daughter only eats certain things. In her case, it’s not so much because of digestive issues, but it’s just what she likes and what she knows.
    And I know it’s true that many autistic kids do have serious digestive issues. It just hasn’t been proven that one causes the other.

  3. I know it’s hard to raise a child with autism, but she is how she is. It’s very hard to be autistic in the modern world, but back in prehistory it may have had advantages. Heightened senses help hunting and food selection. A visual way of thinking and ability to systematise may have been very helpful in agricultural. Some folk even wonder if autism comes from our Neanderthal heritage. They were intelligent people who simply evolved slightly differently.

    Get your daughter sensory therapy to help her young brain rewire itself to decrease sensory issues. Get her a sensitive teacher who can explain social rules. Celebrate her gifts. By treating her as disordered you aren’t going to make her better, you’ll just ruin her self esteem. Tell her that she is valid as she is, and that her struggles come from the fact that the world was built for people who are different to her.

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