Tag Archives: Age Of Autism

Alison Singer: Autism Parents’ Jewish Ghetto Police

Fake autism charity/pharma front group founder Alison Singer has just made an appearance on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (who famously said that America does not want Donald Trump to be president). So Autism Investigated has decided to re-run this 2011 Age of Autism post about her by the Deplorable Autist himself. It includes updated links to the vaccine-autism link science she denies exists, the truth behind her “foundation”, and the fact that she prevented autism in her younger child by spacing out of vaccines. In other words, she knows what caused her older daughter’s autism yet collaborates with the pharmaceutical industry to help it injure and kill more children for profit.

Alison Singer: Autism Mom, Pharma Wife

By Jake Crosby

Alison Singer: autism parent, IACC seat usurper, industry front group founder, recent guest on The Dr. Oz Show, and now – loyal Pharma-funded wife. Of course, that’s what she’s always been. We just didn’t know it, until now.

Mrs. Singer is married to Dan Singer, a longtime employee of McKinsey and Company: a global management consulting firm. Singer’s firm sponsors one of the awards given out by the British Medical Journal, which published and even endorsed British Pharmaceutical Industry sock puppet Brian Deer’s false allegations of fraud against Dr. Andrew Wakefield. McKinsey is not Pharma, you might say. True to an extent, but McKinsey’s commitment to the industry is significant. In the “industry practices” category of “client service,” McKinsey and Co. has a whole page on “Pharmaceuticals & Medical Products,” where they offer a wide range of consultation services to the pharmaceutical industry on everything from prescription pharmaceuticals, to over the counter medicines, to biotechnology and medical products and diagnostics. In 2006, in the company’s quarterly, an article was even run entitled “Avian flu: Expanding global vaccine production.” The avian flu vaccine is preserved in 49 micrograms of mercury, approximately twice that of a season flu shot.

But on January 12 McKinsey did more than consult for the pharmaceutical industry; they partied with its leading vaccine spokesman, millionaire vaccine industrialist Dr. Paul Offit. An email invitation sent out by Alison Singer’s group, the Autism Science Foundation, read:

“Please join us for the book launch and signing

at the offices of McKinsey & Company


55 East 52nd Street, 21st floor


New York, NY 10022


Wednesday, January 12, 2011
6P-8P

Hosted by: Autism Science Foundation

RSVP: Julie Martin
Tel. 646-723-3977

Underneath that message is a bio of Paul Offit and next to it is a picture of Offit’s book cover. Below the book cover, it says:

“All proceeds from sales of Deadly Choices will be donated to the Autism Science Foundation”

It’s more than a little odd that McKinsey would be promoting the work of the Autism Science Foundation (ASF). Ever sensitive to the prestige and standing of its partners, McKinsey would seem a more natural partner of Autism Speaks, the Park Avenue charity of the autism world rather than an upstart run out of Singer’s garage (actually, ASF rents Singer a desk and receptionist from a “Sunshine Suites” property in Noho). Understanding their ASF promotion requires understanding McKinsey’s longstanding role in the autism-vaccine controversies.

And McKinsey partners have been closely connected to the debate, up to the highest levels of the firm. Up until recently, McKinsey was headed by Ian Davis, younger brother of GlaxoSmithKline board of directors member Sir Crispin Davis, and twin brother of Sir Nigel Davis – the judge who denied appeals from MMR litigation claimants to have their legal aid continued.

Though Ian Davis would eventually step down from his position at McKinsey in 2009, it was not before Alison Singer resigned from Autism Speaks. Her resignation was prompted by the charity rightfully condemning the IACC’s backhanded removal of research into some pharmacologic etiologies of autism from its mission. Mrs. Singer’s justification was that there are limited funds for autism research that could be better spent, even though Singer supports such funding being dumped into the money pit of genetic research, and even though not only pharmacologic, but environmental factors overall, have been horribly understudied by comparison.

So she founded a front group posing as an autism charity – the Autism Science Foundation – with millionaire pharmaceutical industrialist Dr. Paul Offit. ASF is the only autism research organization founded on the basis of the science it won’t pursue (it’s been “asked and answered, vaccines don’t cause autism”) than that it will do. And despite the fact that she was originally appointed to a public seat on the IACC as an Autism Speaks representative, she was allowed to keep her position as representative of her own corporate fringe offshoot, effectively usurping Autism Speaks’ representation on the committee.

During the time Singer resigned from Autism Speaks and began her front group, Ian Davis was still head of the company where her husband continues to work. Here’s a brief sequence of events. For more than 20 years, Dan Singer has been a loyal employee of McKinsey, joining the company out of Harvard Business School in 1989 and climbing the ladder until being promoted to director in 1994. That same year, he married his Harvard and Yale sweetheart, Alison Tepper, now Alison Tepper-Singer, whom we all know as Alison Singer. She would take up a job at NBC later that year and the couple would have a daughter together.

Then in 1999, Singer quit her job as a vice president of the network when that daughter was diagnosed with autism. She recently told CNN about her decision about giving MMR to her next child:

“I split the vaccine for my second daughter.”

Her second daughter now remains neurotypical. And the choice to vaccinate against measles, mumps and rubella separately seems not to have harmed Singer’s second daughter in any way. So Alison Singer not only followed Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s advice (and conceivably is benefiting from it), but was even an advocate for his cause in the popular press – at least in one instance.

When NBC ran an episode of “ER” in 2001 that featured a child who died of the measles presumably because he was not vaccinated with MMR, Singer reacted with outrage. According to The New York Daily News:

“Alison Tepper Singer, a former vice president in NBC’s desktop video division, faulted the “ER” episode for its “complete belittling of another viewpoint,” she told The News. Singer resigned from NBC in 1999 when her older daughter was diagnosed with autism.

“It was so irresponsible and so callous and so heartbreaking for parents who are dealing with this issue that I found it sad,” she said of the “ER” episode.”

Then in 2003, Ian Davis became McKinsey’s worldwide managing director. In other words, he became Dan Singer’s boss. Did this change of leadership bring a new kind of influence into the Singer household? Only the Singers know for sure. But one thing is clear, that Alison Singer, after previously splitting up the MMR for her younger, neurotypical daughter and speaking out against a biased TV show, began changing her public position about what she thought might cause autism.

Now, I already have a good idea what Alison Singer might say to all this, her reading of the “science” convinced her otherwise. In response to a January 14, 2010 article I wrote about Kevin Leitch speculating that guilt over giving his daughter a vaccine that triggered her autism drove him to finding solace in the neurodiversity movement, Singer wrote the following comment on the Leftbrain/Rightbrain blog:

What a strange story. Many parents question whether vaccines are involved in autism because of the media coverage of the issue, but then they read the science and realize the studies are there and the science clearly indicates no causal role for vaccines. Kev, although I find your point of view refreshing and your posts unique, I dare say you are hardly alone at coming to this conclusion. Jake will have to try harder next time.

 

What a strange position for her to take. Not only did she not read my article but there was already plenty of purported “research” in 2001 claiming to disprove a link between MMR and autism, virtually all of which was thrown out as useless junk science in an international review by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2005, which also conceded the evidence of the vaccine’s safety was “largely inadequate.” Many of those sorts of studies published since 2001, including the CDC’s own study, were actually positive findings reported as negative ones. Perhaps most disturbing of all was the confirmation of vaccine-strain measles virus in the terminal ileums and cerebrospinal fluid of children with autism and bowel disease in the O’Leary paper published in Molecular Pathology and the Bradstreet paper published in JPandS respectively (contrary to the propaganda machine, the later Hornig paper did not falsify these findings). Finally, one would think the HHS concessions of children like Bailey Banks and Hannah Poling who developed autism after their vaccines becoming public knowledge would have ended this debate altogether.

I don’t know what “science” Ms. Singer is referring to, but scientifically, consumers have far more reasons to fear vaccines and the MMR vaccine in particular in 2011 than they ever had back in 2001. Whatever motive the Singers’ would develop for no longer believing the MMR causes autism, it was certainly not scientific. If the twin brother of a person who denied justice to personal injury claimants and the younger brother of a man helping to facilitate a smear campaign against one of the claimants’ expert witnesses became my boss, I would not want to say anything potentially favorable about that witness for fear of jeopardizing my job. I certainly would not want my wife to do the same, either.

Alison Singer had a very different opinion by the time NBC President Bob Wright founded Autism Speaks along with his wife Suzanne compared to her opinion in the Daily News piece in 2001. Whatever changed Mrs. Singer’s mind about what causes autism, it likely happened within a time period no sooner than 2001 but probably no later than 2005 when she joined Autism Speaks. Ian Davis becoming head of McKinsey occurred right in the middle of that, also happening at around the same time his brother Crispin joined Glaxo’s board of directors. She has kept this connection between her husband’s company and the pharmaceutical industry to herself.

Alison Singer cannot honestly call her group an “autism charity” when its activities are focused on promoting and defending drugs (ie vaccines) for the pharmaceutical industry. She has actually traveled with Paul Offit to Atlanta to speak at an immunization conference on how to compel parents to vaccinate recklessly. Autism Science Foundation is a corporate front group with an agenda that predetermines its approach to autism. Its non-profit status should be revoked.

Originally published on Age of Autism

PERVERT ALERT: “Scientist” W. Ian Lipkin Sued for Degeneracy

No, this pervert alert is not for Anthony Weiner. The pervert alert is for vaccine apologist “scientist” extraordinaire Ian Lipkin who is now being sued by his colleague Dr. Mady Hornig. Among the charges are taking credit for her work, preventing her from speaking at public meetings and asking her to diagnose a lesion on his ass! (whut?)

Age of Autism has the goods:

Dachel Wake Up: Columbia Autism Scientists in Butt Ugly Lawsuit

Note: You can read the legal filing here.  Hornig v. Lipkin

May 20, 2017, New York Post: Columbia professor says boss made her inspect his butt

A Columbia University scientist claims her boss — and former lover — repeatedly dropped his drawers and demanded she diagnose a lesion on his butt.

Associate Professor Mady Hornig says her boss at the university’s Mailman School of Public Health also demanded co-credit for her work; kicked her under the table at meetings to keep her from speaking; presented her work as his own, and kept her from getting tenure, Hornig claims in a Manhattan federal court lawsuit.

In 2014, Professor Walter Ian Lipkin, head of the Center for Infection & Immunity, called Hornig into his office and “demanded that she look at lesions on his buttocks,” Hornig alleges. He did so again a year later, Hornig charges.

Lipkin is familiar to us at Age of Autism. I wrote about his Wall Street Journal piece, Anti-Vaccination Lunacy Won’t Stop, where he denounced ‘Vaxxed’ and said Robert De Niro did the right thing pulling it from Tribeca. https://www.wsj.com/articles/anti-vaccination-lunacy-wont-stop-1459721652

“The filmmakers claim they have not stated that autism is caused by the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, known as MMR. However, that is the inescapable message of ‘Vaxxed.’ And it is certainly the stance of Andrew Wakefield, the discredited British researcher who is the movie’s director and co-writer.

(Continue reading at Age of Autism)

JAMA Must Correct Study As Linking Flu Vax to Autism

jamapediatrics_Hooker_2017_le_170006.pdfjamapediatrics_Donzelli_2017_le_170007.pdf

Click each letter to enlarge.

Since the journal JAMA Pediatrics published a study which showed an association between flu vaccine and autism despite concluding there was none, scientists have published letters in the journal to complain. One of those was by Dr. Brian Hooker, biochemist and autism father who was the first person contacted by the CDC’s vaccine safety whistleblower William Thompson.

The study found an elevated risk for autism from flu vaccination in pregnant women during the first month of pregnancy. Yet the authors attempted to explain this away with incorrect statistical methods and then issued the flawed recommendation that no changes in vaccination policy should be made. In 2004, the CDC expanded its flu vaccine recommendations in pregnant women to include the first trimester of pregnancy. Many cite this an an explanation for why the reported CDC prevalence of autism – generally speaking – did not decline as the mercury-based preservative thimerosal had been removed from other vaccines. Thimerosal remains in multi-dose vials of flu vaccine given to pregnant women.

In Denmark, the reported autism prevalence went down by as much as a third as thimerosal was removed from childhood vaccines there during the 1990s. The elevated risk for autism associated with influenza vaccination during the first trimester of pregnancy was 20-25%. The potential implications of such a finding is profound.

The study was conducted by Kaiser Permanente, a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) that is in partnership with the CDC and other HMOs in a heavily guarded federal research project known as the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD). JAMA journals’ publisher the American Medical Association sent a press release applauding a 2004 report from the Institute of Medicine that the CDC paid to have whitewash associations between vaccines and autism. The involvement of such institutions in the conduct and publication of such a study should only diminish public confidence in its integrity, along with its flawed conclusion and recommendation.

Nonetheless, the conclusion and recommendation should still be corrected. JAMA Pediatrics can be contacted here.

(H/t Age of Autism)

NOW HIRING: The Aut-Knight

aut-knight

Not to be confused with the Alt-Knight

H/t Kim Stagliano from Age of Autism:

I received an email [Autism Investigated never got an email! :,( ] from Joe Pinzone of Optomen Productions in New York asking if we’d share a casting call for a program that’s been a BBC Series and is now coming to the USA called “Employable Me.” The program is about the great difficulty people with mental health and brain “differences” have in finding work.  As our kids age up and out of school into full adulthood, gainful employment may or may not be an option. For instance, my 22 year old daughter is in a day program with volunteer opportunities (she delivers Meals on Wheels). Others who have higher functioning levels work at paid employment.  While our readership tends to have pretty severely affected children, there are plenty of you whose kids may be able to have full employment. And boy, do we wish that for you – for them.  If you’re interested in casting for this program, please contact Joe Pinzone <joe.pinzone@optomenusa.com>.

Preview of the Aut-Knight himself:

According to a casting blurb:

EMPLOYABLE ME seeks to prove that having a neurological condition neurological condition such as Tourette Syndrome, Autism or Asperger’s should be viewed as an ASSET rather than an obstacle in the workplace.

And it’s already doing a hell of a job.

Autism Investigated could not help but contact Optomen Productions to be cast in this new documentary and will keep readers informed of any updates.

My Final Exchange with Dan Olmsted: Leaving Progressivism

It is with great sadness that Autism Investigated relays the announcement that Dan Olmsted – Age of Autism’s founding editor – has passed away. While I have had my differences with him and the Age of Autism site, I will be forever grateful to him for his friendship, advice and platform for my views. I’ve always respected him as a journalist and have never forgotten the excellent work he has done over the years, and I just had a very friendly exchange with him on the day of the inauguration. I will never stop missing him, and I offered my sincere condolences to the entire Age of Autism team. Autism Investigated devoted the entire last week to posts honoring Dan Olmsted, which ended with a proper obituary. Since then, Age of Autism has given Autism Investigated permission to post its final exchange with Dan Olmsted. It is now published here in full. May we all honor Dan’s life by ending the autism epidemic to make America great again! – Jake Crosby, MPH
Hello Dan,
 
How are you doing?
 
I’m writing you because the title of Anne’s post is: “Senators on key panel reject Donald Trump’s skepticism about vaccines” [Senators Reject Trump’s Vaccine Panel], even though there is no indication any of them did directly except perhaps Al Franken. She was probably confused by the wording of the title: Senators on key panel reject Trump’s skepticism about vaccineBut that “key panel” is the Senate HELP committee they serve on; the members were not asked to weigh in on Kennedy’s panel – only on their overall opinions of vaccine safety. It doesn’t mean they outright reject Kennedy’s panel. STAT News didn’t provide their exact questions, so we really have no idea what they asked the Senators or if they even mentioned Trump.
Obviously it’s your blog to do whatever you want with, but at this sensitive time I would say it’s best to correct that. 
 
Happy new year and president.
 
Jake
 
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Re: Senators Didn’t Reject Kennedy Panel Idea
From: Dan Olmsted 
Date: Fri, January 20, 2017 9:46 pm
To: info@autisminvestigated.com
Cc: amdachel@msn.com

Thanks for writing Jake we will check it out and let you know
 
I join you in wishing trump well. My progressive affinities have moderated lately and I am optimistic, as I have to say you were before the election
 
Best
 
Dan
 ——– Original Message ——–
Subject: RE: Senators Didn’t Reject Kennedy Panel Idea
From: <info@autisminvestigated.com>
Date: Mon, January 23, 2017 12:30 pm
To: “Dan Olmsted” 

My pleasure, Dan. Good post on Trump, btw. I don’t know if you saw my Newt Gingrich post, but he now supports RFK’s commission!
I’ll admit, I was much more optimistic about Trump being a good president if he won than I was about whether or not he’d win in the first place! So glad he did! 
And please dump the SJWs; they’re crazy, and you always struck me as a classical liberal guy anyway.
Best,
Jake 

Little did I know at the time that he would never get my final email to him. The following week, SJWs would burn Berkeley to cancel a talk by another gay journalist who had grown fed up with his community’s politics. Whether our opponents are wearing black ski masks or white lab coats, the best we can do to honor Dan’s life is to never shy from saying what needs to be said. It’s what Dan would want.

Remembering Dan Olmsted: The Journalist Who Taught Me That We Live in The Age of Autism

dan_award_3

It is with great sadness that Autism Investigated relays the announcement that Dan Olmsted – Age of Autism’s founding editor – has passed away. While I have had my differences with him and the Age of Autism site, I will be forever grateful to him for his friendship, advice and platform for my views. I’ve always respected him as a journalist and have never forgotten the excellent work he has done over the years, and I just had a very friendly exchange with him on the day of the inauguration. I will never stop missing him and offer my sincere condolences to the entire Age of Autism team. Autism Investigated devoted the entire week to posts honoring Dan Olmsted, and is now ending with a proper obituary. May we all honor Dan Olmsted’s life by ending the autism epidemic to make America great again! – Jake Crosby, MPH

How many journalists leave mainstream media to devote the rest of their lives to get to the bottom of the fastest growing neurological disorder among children in the United States? Because I can think of only one, and his name was Dan Olmsted.

“His loss leaves a huge vacuum for people who care about public health and children’s health in this country,” said Robert F. Kennedy Jr. “He’s had as much integrity as any reporter I’ve ever met and more courage than any I’ve ever met. He was willing to walk away from his job for the sake of truth.”

Dan Olmsted passed away unexpectedly on January 23rd, 2016 at the age of 64, and is survived by his spouse Mark Milett and sister Rosamund McDonel Augsburger. The news came as a shock to many who knew him, myself included. That shock was compounded by Dan’s unceasing endurance, writing articles non-stop until two days before his death. He left behind an incredible library of articles and books going back over a decade – most about the autism epidemic, and all related to it in some way. Second only to coping with his loss, the biggest challenge for me was selecting which articles of his to re-post for Autism Investigated’s 7-day tribute to his life. There are just so many!

“Here was a true journalist, not a doctor or a scientist, who did what the medical and scientific communities didn’t do but should have done: investigate the cause of autism,” said exonerated British doctor Andrew Wakefield.

Finding some new insight or lead about the age of autism was never a problem for Dan. When I first met him in 2009, he told me about the time he decided to start writing his Age of Autism column for United Press International. His editor was reportedly concerned that he wouldn’t find enough material to keep the column going.

“Are you kidding me? I can write one every week,” he relayed back to me.

That was all the way back in 2005, but he kept the column going for two years straight until leaving the news agency. His commitment to the cause would only escalate in 2007 when he founded his own news website dedicated to the topic he loved writing about so much: AgeofAutism.com.

It was there that I got my start in 2008 when I first began contributing. While I was a contributing editor, I learned so much from him. It is hard to know where to begin. His ability to investigate, uncover and write was unique and unparalleled, and I always benefited from his advice.

But eventually, a rift grew within our friendship. And one day, that rift grew big enough that it forced me to leave and start my own site – thus marking the beginning of Autism Investigated. We had ceased speaking for awhile, with very little communication in recent years. And despite sometimes citing Age of Autism, Autism Investigated had also been critical of Age of Autism’s coverage at times – particularly during the election cycle.

But despite the mixed signals Age of Autism may have sent about our now-president before the election, Dan Olmsted eventually came around to fully embracing President Trump. On the day of the inauguration just three days before Dan’s death, I was fortunate to have had an extremely friendly email exchange with him where he expressed the same optimism about the new president as he would do the next day in his final “Weekly Wrap” post.

But most encouraging of all was his colorful plea at the very end, one that Autism Investigated hopes will soon become a reality again:

…there is much more common in our cause than anything we might occasionally fight over – that the autism epidemic is real, and excessive vaccinations are the cause.

Rebel Alliance, unite!

Dan Olmsted: The Amish anomaly

UPI_logo

It is with great sadness that Autism Investigated relays the announcement that Dan Olmsted – Age of Autism’s founding editor – has passed away. While I have had my differences with him and the Age of Autism site, I will be forever grateful to him for his friendship, advice and platform for my views. I’ve always respected him as a journalist and have never forgotten the excellent work he has done over the years, and I just had a very friendly exchange with him on the day of the inauguration. I will never stop missing him and offer my sincere condolences to the entire Age of Autism team. Autism Investigated will devote the entire week to posts honoring Dan Olmsted, including a proper obituary. May we all honor Dan Olmsted’s life by ending the autism epidemic to make America great again! – Jake Crosby, MPH

The Age of Autism: The Amish anomaly

By Dan Olmsted

UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

Lancaster, PA, Apr. 18 (UPI) — Part 1 of 2.

Where are the autistic Amish? Here in Lancaster County, heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, there should be well over 100 with some form of the disorder.

I have come here to find them, but so far my mission has failed, and the very few I have identified raise some very interesting questions about some widely held views on autism.

The mainstream scientific consensus says autism is a complex genetic disorder, one that has been around for millennia at roughly the same prevalence. That prevalence is now considered to be 1 in every 166 children born in the United States.

Applying that model to Lancaster County, there ought to be 130 Amish men, women and children here with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Well over 100, in rough terms.

Typically, half would harbor milder variants such as Asperger’s Disorder or the catch-all Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified — PDD-NOS for short.

So let’s drop those from our calculation, even though “mild” is a relative term when it comes to autism.

That means upwards of 50 Amish people of all ages should be living in Lancaster County with full-syndrome autism, the “classic autism” first described in 1943 by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner at Johns Hopkins University. The full-syndrome disorder is hard to miss, characterized by “markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Why bother looking for them among the Amish? Because they could hold clues to the cause of autism.

The first half-dozen articles in this ongoing series on the roots and rise of autism examined the initial studies and early accounts of the disorder, first identified by Kanner among 11 U.S. children born starting in 1931.

Kanner wrote that his 1938 encounter with a child from Mississippi, identified as Donald T., “made me aware of a behavior pattern not known to me or anyone else theretofore.” Kanner literally wrote the book on “Child Psychiatry,” published in 1934.

If Kanner was correct — if autism was new and increasingly prevalent — something must have happened in the 1930s to trigger those first autistic cases. Genetic disorders do not begin suddenly or increase dramatically in prevalence in a short period of time.

That is why it is worth looking for autistic Amish — to test reasoning against reality. Largely cut off for hundreds of years from American culture and scientific progress, the Amish might have had less exposure to some new factor triggering autism in the rest of population.

Surprising, but no one seems to have looked.

Of course, the Amish world is insular by nature; finding a small subset of Amish is a challenge by definition. Many Amish, particularly Old Order, ride horse-and-buggies, eschew electricity, do not attend public school, will not pose for pictures and do not chat casually with the “English,” as they warily call the non-Amish.

Still, some Amish today interact with the outside world in many ways. Some drive, use phones, see doctors and send out Christmas cards with family photos. They all still refer to themselves as “Plain,” but the definition of that word varies quite a bit.

So far, from sources inside and outside the Amish community, I have identified three Amish residents of Lancaster County who apparently have full-syndrome autism, all of them children.

A local woman told me there is one classroom with about 30 “special-needs” Amish children. In that classroom, there is one autistic Amish child.

Another autistic Amish child does not go to school.

The third is that woman’s pre-school-age daughter.

If there were more, she said, she would know it.

What I learned about those children is the subject of the next column.

PART 2: The Age of Autism: Julia

UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL

Leola, PA, Apr. 19 (UPI) — Part 2 of 2.

Three-year old Julia is napping when I arrive at the spare, neat, cheerful house on Musser School Road near the town of Leola in Lancaster County.

She is the reason I have driven through the budding countryside on this perfect spring day, but I really do not need to meet her.

In the last column, I wrote about trying to find autistic Amish people here in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, and noted there should be dozens of them — if autism occurs at the same prevalence as the rest of the United States.

So far, there is evidence of only three, all of them children, the oldest age 9 or 10. Julia is one of them. I found out about her through a pediatrician in Richmond, Va., Dr. Mary Megson. I had been asking around for quite some time about autism and the Amish, and she provided the first direct link.

Megson said she would give my name to this child’s mother, who could call if she chose. A few days later the phone rang. It was Stacey-jean Inion, an Amish-Mennonite woman. She, her husband Brent and their four children live simply, but they do drive a vehicle and have a telephone. After a few pleasantries, I told her about my trying to find autistic Amish.

Here is what she said, verbatim:

“Unfortunately our autistic daughter — who’s doing very well, she’s been diagnosed with very, very severe autism — is adopted from China, and so she would have had all her vaccines in China before we got her, and then she had most of her vaccines given to her in the United States before we got her.

“So we’re probably not the pure case you’re looking for.”

Maybe not, but it was stunning that Julia Inion, the first autistic Amish person I could find, turned out to be adopted — from another country, no less. It also was surprising that Stacey-jean launched unbidden into vaccines, because the Amish have a religious exemption from vaccination and presumably would not have given it much thought.

She said a minority of Amish families do, in fact, vaccinate their children these days, partly at the urging of public health officials.

“Almost every Amish family I know has had somebody from the health department knock on our door and try to convince us to get vaccines for our children,” she said. “The younger Amish more and more are getting vaccines. It’s a minority of children who vaccinate, but that is changing now.”

Did she know of any other autistic Amish? Two more children, she said.

“One of them, we’re very certain it was a vaccine reaction, even though the government would not agree with that.”

Federal health officials have said there is no association between vaccinations and autism or learning disabilities.

“The other one I’m not sure if this child was vaccinated or not,” she added.

During my visit to their home, I asked Stacey-jean to explain why she attributed the first case to vaccines.

“There’s one family that we know, their daughter had a vaccine reaction and is now autistic. She was walking and functioning and a happy bright child, and 24 hours after she had her vaccine, her legs went limp and she had a typical high-pitched scream. They called the doctor and the doctor said it was fine — a lot of high-pitched screaming goes along with it.

“She completely quit speaking,” Stacey-jean said. “She completely quit making eye contact with people. She went in her own world.”

This happened, Stacey-jean said, at “something like 15 months.” The child is now about 8.

For similar reasons, Julia Inion’s Chinese background is intriguing. China, India and Indonesia are among countries moving quickly to mass-vaccination programs. In some vaccines, they use a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal that keeps multiple-dose vials from becoming contaminated by repeated needle sticks.

Thimerosal was phased out of U.S. vaccines starting in 1999, after health officials became concerned about the amount of mercury infants and children were receiving. The officials said they simply were erring on the side of caution, and that all evidence favors rejection of any link between Autism Spectrum Disorders and thimerosal, or vaccines themselves.

Julia’s vaccinations in China — all given in one day at about age 15 months — may well have contained thimerosal; the United States had stopped using it by the time she was born, but other countries with millions to vaccinate had not.

Stacey-jean said photographs of Julia taken in China before she was vaccinated showed a smiling alert child looking squarely at the camera. Her original adoptive family in the United States, overwhelmed trying to cope with an autistic child, gave Julia up for re-adoption. The Inions took her in knowing her diagnosis of severe autism.

I tried hard — and am still trying — to find people who know about other autistic Amish. Of the local health and social service agency personnel in Lancaster, some said they dealt with Amish people with disabilities, such as mental retardation, but none recalled seeing an autistic Amish.

Still, I could be trapped in a feedback loop: The Amish I am likeliest to know about — because they have the most contact with the outside world — also are likeliest to adopt a special-needs child such as Julia from outside the community, and likeliest to have their children vaccinated.

Another qualifier: The Inions are converts to the Amish-Mennonite religion (Brent is an Asian-American). They simply might not know about any number of autistic Amish sheltered quietly with their families for decades.

It also is possible the isolated Amish gene pool might confer some kind of immunity to autism — which might be a useful topic for research.

Whatever the case, Stacey-jean thinks the autistic Amish are nowhere to be found.

“It is so much more rare among our people,” she said. “My husband just said last week that so far we’ve never met a family that lives a healthy lifestyle and does not vaccinate their children that has an autistic child. We haven’t come across one yet.”

“Everywhere I go (outside the Amish community) I find children who are autistic, just because I have an autistic daughter — in the grocery store, in the park, wherever I go. In the Amish community, I simply don’t find that.”

UPI researcher Kyle Pearson contributed to this article.

This ongoing series on the roots and rise of autism aims to be interactive with readers and welcomes comment, criticism and suggestions

Originally posted on UPI

Dan Olmsted: Mercury Rising

          

It is with great sadness that Autism Investigated relays the announcement that Dan Olmsted – Age of Autism’s founding editor – has passed away. While I have had my differences with him and the Age of Autism site, I will be forever grateful to him for his friendship, advice and platform for my views. I’ve always respected him as a journalist and have never forgotten the excellent work he has done over the years, and I just had a very friendly exchange with him on the day of the inauguration. I will never stop missing him and offer my sincere condolences to the entire Age of Autism team. Autism Investigated will devote the entire week to posts honoring Dan Olmsted, including a proper obituary. May we all honor Dan Olmsted’s life by ending the autism epidemic to make America great again! – Jake Crosby, MPH

Mercury Rising

A Possible Link Between Chemical Exposure And Autism May Have Been Overlooked In The Very Earliest Cases At Johns Hopkins

IN 1943, A CHILD KNOWN ONLY AS FREDERICK W. became part of the first medical report of a strange new disorder. Frederick was Case 2 of 11 children whose behavior “differed markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far,” wrote Dr. Leo Kanner, the psychiatrist at Johns Hopkins University who introduced the syndrome to the world and named it “autism.”

One of the children “spun with great pleasure everything he could seize upon to spin.” Many of the children flapped their hands; flew into unpredictable bouts of rage and aggression; spoke in inexplicable ways if they spoke at all, sometimes referring to themselves as “you” and others as “I”; showed remarkable abilities like keen memory and perfect pitch but abject inability to perform simple tasks; obsessed over objects but ignored human beings.

Kanner didn’t know why the children, all born in the 1930s, acted that way but noticed the parents were college-educated and career-oriented: lawyers, psychiatrists, scientists. He wrote, “In the whole group, there are very few really warm-hearted fathers and mothers,” and later speculated, “emotionally refrigerated” parents might play a role in causing the baffling disorder.

“Most of the fathers are, in a sense, bigamists,” Kanner wrote. “They are wedded to their jobs at least as much as they are married to their wives. The job, in fact, has priority.”

Now, Frederick W.’s father has been identified by this reporter, who has written about autism for two years for United Press International, as a scientist named Frederick L. Wellman, and new information has been unearthed that suggests Wellman’s career might indeed be a clue–though not the kind Kanner detected.

The Frederick L. Wellman Papers fill 18 boxes in the Special Collections Research Center at the North Carolina State University Libraries in Raleigh. The first item in the first folder in the first box is dated Spring 1922, when the senior Wellman was working toward his doctorate in plant pathology at the University of Wisconsin. Faded with age, the report is titled “Hot Water and Mercuric Chloride Treatments of Some Brassica Seeds and Their Effect Both on the Germination of the Seeds and the Viability of the Fungus Phoma Lingam.”

In layman’s terms, Wellman collected cabbage seeds infected with a common fungus and dunked some of them in a solution of mercury salts and hot water. “The lots treated with mercuric [chloride] were shaken vigorously at first to get thorough contact with the solution,” he wrote. His faculty adviser at the time was concerned about an epidemic of cabbage fungus that was wrecking havoc on Wisconsin farms, and he enlisted his student Wellman’s help in researching solutions.

By the time his son was born 14 years later, in 1936, Wellman had graduated to advanced plant pathology work at the U.S. Agriculture Department’s main research center in Beltsville, in Prince George’s County, just outside Washington.

In a résumé, he wrote at length about his experience there with fungicides. On cabbage seeds, he reported, “organic mercury compounds were found to be most satisfactory disinfecting agents.” For tomatoes, “proprietary organic mercury dusts also gave good results.” All three of the fungicide sales brochures in his archive were for organic mercury compounds–two of them containing ethyl mercury, which was introduced in commercial products just a few years earlier.

Ethyl mercury is also the active ingredient in a vaccine preservative called thimerosal. A maverick minority of scientists and a larger percentage of parents blame thimerosal–which is 49.6 percent ethyl mercury by weight–for the rising autism rate, up tenfold in 20 years to one in 150 8-year-old U.S. children, according to a report this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some parents say they watched their children become physically ill and regress into autism soon after they got shots that contained the chemical–a link public-health officials call coincidence, not cause and effect.

It might be just another coincidence that the father of autism’s Case 2 was working with new ethyl mercury compounds seven decades ago when his son was born. Or it might not.

Coincidence or otherwise, similar echoes emerge from cases 1 and 3 in Kanner’s original study. Case 1 grew up in a town called Forest, Miss., surrounded by logging camps, lumber mills, and a national forest being planted by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Forest is 50 miles from the Mississippi sawmills where ethyl mercury fungicides were first tested in the United States in 1929 to preserve lumber, a practice that quickly became widespread; that child was born in 1933.

Case 3 was the son of “a professor of forestry in a southern university,” Kanner wrote. That university has been identified as North Carolina State–the same school where Frederick L. Wellman ended his career as a visiting professor. Case 3’s father began research on Southern pines when he joined the N.C. State faculty in 1935.

In 1936, he assisted in the planting of pine seedlings in the university’s newly acquired Hofmann Forest. His son was born in 1937. Organic mercury fungicides, including an ethyl mercury brand, were often used to prevent “damping off” or fungal contamination of pine seedlings during that era.

An advocate of the mercury-autism hypothesis says the pattern in those early cases strengthens his concern.

“So now we have learned that Frederick Wellman handled ethyl mercury fungicides that were first introduced to the market in 1929 and that his child was Kanner’s patient No. 2,” says Mark Blaxill, whose daughter Michaela has autism. Blaxill is vice president of the advocacy organization SafeMinds, which argues increased mercury exposure is behind the soaring autism rate. “And we know that cases 1 and 3 grew up around the first application of ethyl mercury products. If that’s not a smoking gun, I don’t know what is,” Blaxill continues.

Consistent with that possibility, overlooked studies from the 1970s found a history of chemical exposures in a “quite startling” percentage of parents of autistic children; researchers could not isolate any one chemical as a common factor. More recently, studies have reported a statistically significant correlation between mercury pollution and autism rates.

A spokesman for the CDC cautions against making too much of Wellman’s background.

“I’ve learned from being at CDC it’s often difficult when you’re trying to establish cause and effect,” Glen Nowak, chief of media relations, says when the Wellman case is described to him. “There are other things that could have mitigated the effect, could have enhanced the effect, caused the effect. So a case study of one, you always want to be very careful.”

In 1999, the CDC and other public-health authorities urged vaccine manufacturers to phase ethyl mercury out of U.S. pediatric vaccines as a precaution, given the well-known toxicity of mercury in developing brains and the increasing number of required childhood immunizations that contained it. Thimerosal remains in most flu shots, which are recommended by a CDC advisory committee for all pregnant women and for children as young as 6 months. Due in large measure to reassurance from United States and United Nations health authorities, ethyl mercury continues in wide use in pediatric vaccines in developing nations.

“Evidence is accumulating of lack of any harm resulting from exposure” to vaccines containing thimerosal as a preservative, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services posted on its web site. The Department of Health points to a 2004 report by the prestigious Institute of Medicine, which discounted a link with autism and took the unusual step of recommending research funding go to more “promising” areas.

Mercury-based fungicides were banned in the United States and many other countries as understanding of mercury’s toxic effects became more sophisticated; they have not been on the market here since the 1970s. Such products were not a health threat when used properly, according to a leading manufacturer.

To be sure, there is no direct evidence of mercury exposure in any of the original cases, though Frederick W.’s mother had “kidney trouble” during her pregnancy–sometimes a sign of mercury toxicity. Frederick W.’s father worked with many dangerous substances besides mercury–a short list includes formaldehyde, arsenic, copper, sulfur, insecticides, and pesticides.

But it is also true that none of Kanner’s case studies from Johns Hopkins has been examined for such exposures, even as more researchers suspect genes alone cannot explain the rising number of diagnoses. The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, lists “Environmental Exposures” first among six areas of research on its web site. Johns Hopkins Medicine declined to comment for this story.

Ellen K. Silbergeld, a professor of environmental health sciences at Hopkins, is currently using a $204,000 grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to test whether humans respond in different ways to mercury exposure. The goal, according to her report’s abstract, is to understand “preventable risk factors for autism based upon the hypothesis that mercury compounds by themselves do not cause autism but may contribute to the risks . . . in combination with genetic susceptibility and co-exposures to other risks, such as infections.” Silbergeld declined to comment for this story.

A recent issue of the Autism Advocate, published by the Autism Society of America, the nation’s oldest and largest such organization, focused on “the possible link between autism and the environment.” “We already have enough evidence to make the judgments that environmental factors are critical issues for autism,” wrote Dr. Martha Herbert, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “This newer model of autism implies that we have great opportunities to do constructive things about this challenge.”

In April the Institute of Medicine convenes a two-day conference titled, “Autism and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities for Research.”

Johns Hopkins’ Medical Privacy Board denied a request for information from the medical records of the original 11 cases reported by Leo Kanner, citing both privacy and practicality. The first three cases were identified independently.

 

THE HENRY A. WALLACE BELTSVILLE Agricultural Research Center is located just outside Washington’s traffic-clogged I-495 beltway. The Georgian-style main building is set back majestically from Route 1.

Off the highway, two-lane roads thread through 6,600 acres as the bustle of Washington yields to rolling countryside, big barns, and grazing cattle. The log visitors’ center with its massive stone fireplaces was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the mid-1930s. Yet even some longtime Washingtonians are unaware that the world’s largest agricultural research center lies in their midst.

When Frederick L. Wellman began working there in 1935, Henry Wallace was secretary of agriculture under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the New Deal was launching initiatives to spur crop production and overcome the Dust Bowl days of the Depression. That year Congress passed a law mandating more basic agricultural research.

By then, Wellman had earned his Ph.D., wed a Wisconsin woman named Dora U’Ren, spent a year in Honduras with the United Fruit Co., and, in 1930, was hired at the U.S. Bureau of Plant Industry’s headquarters in Washington. He was preceded there by a colleague from Wisconsin, John Monteith, who was one of the most active experimenters in the world with mercury fungicides. Monteith wrote numerous papers about his tests on mercury fungicides at the bureau’s Arlington Turf Garden, now the site of the Pentagon. Monteith and Wellman had written a scientific paper on cabbage fungus in 1927.

During most of 1936, Wellman was hunting exotic plant diseases in Turkey, Egypt, and Iran. He was, as Leo Kanner wrote, a plant pathologist who “has traveled a great deal in connection with his work.”

Their child was born on May 23, 1936. Exactly six years later, in May 1942, the boy’s worried parents brought him to see Kanner at Johns Hopkins Hospital, about 30 miles up Route 1 from Beltsville. Kanner called him “Case 2: Frederick W.”

“The child has always been self-sufficient,” Kanner quoted his mother as saying. “Usually people are an interference. He’ll push people away from him. To a certain extent, he likes to stick to the same thing.

“On one of the bookshelves we had three pieces in a certain arrangement. Whenever this was changed, he always rearranged it in the old pattern.

“He had said at least two words (`Daddy’ and `Dora,’ the mother’s name) before he was 2 years old. From then on, between 2 and 3 years, he would say words that seemed to come as a surprise to himself. He’d say them once and never repeat them.”

Kanner was an international leader in diagnosing and treating childhood mental disorders–he wrote the book Child Psychiatry in 1935 and is widely credited with establishing the discipline in the United States. But he asserted in “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact”–published in 1943 in the now-defunct psychiatric journal The Nervous Child–that this was something completely different.

“These characteristics form a unique `syndrome’ not heretofore reported, which seems to be rare enough, yet is probably more frequent than is indicated by the paucity of observed cases,” Kanner wrote.

The children just did not appear retarded. “Even though most of these children at one time or another were looked upon as feeble-minded, they are all unquestionably endowed with good cognitive potential,” he wrote. “They all have strikingly intelligent physiognomies.”

What made them different, he concluded, was “an extreme autistic aloneness that, whenever possible, disregards, ignores, shuts out anything that comes to the child from the outside.” He called the disorder autism, from the Greek word “autos,” or self, borrowing the term from a Swiss psychiatrist who used it to describe childhood schizophrenia. The children appeared to inhabit a universe of one.

In September 1942, Frederick W. was placed in a school for the developmentally disabled near Baltimore. His father transferred to the agriculture department’s international division. In early 1943, Frederick L. and Dora Wellman left the U.S. mainland for the next two decades. But they would return for their only child.

 

ELEMENTAL OR METALLIC MERCURY, the slippery quicksilver that used to spill out of broken thermometers, is made up of single atoms, No. 80 on the Periodic Table of Elements. Mercury can combine with other elements to form compounds; these compounds are called organic mercury if they include a carbon atom, inorganic mercury if they do not.

All forms of mercury are toxic, but organic mercury–which can cross the body’s blood-brain barrier and the placenta–is especially dangerous.

One kind of organic mercury, methyl, “bioaccumulates” or builds up in some large fish. Pregnant women are advised not to eat too much of certain fish for fear of causing neurological damage to their offspring.

Ethyl is a sister compound from the same alkyl subgroup of organic mercury; it has one more carbon and two more hydrogen atoms than methyl. But ethyl mercury is man-made–it was not present in the environment, and humans were not exposed to it, until a Ukrainian immigrant named Morris S. Kharasch created the first commercial formulations just before Kanner’s earliest autism cases were born.

In the 1920s, in part based on expertise he developed in chemical warfare research for the United States during World War I, Kharasch filed 11 patents that paved the way for several ethyl mercury products by the end of that decade. His dual focus was evident in his Who’s Who entry: He had been “awarded patents along pharmaceutical lines, and treatment of fungus diseases of small grains.”

Those patents led directly to thimerosal–trademarked as Merthiolate by Eli Lilly and first used in vaccines by 1931. They also led to three ethyl mercury fungicides, the DuPont and Bayer brands Ceresan and New Improved Ceresan, marketed in a partnership called Bayer-Semesan; and Lignasan, used to treat timber.

Wellman’s North Carolina State archive, in a folder titled “Memorabilia,” contains sales brochures for both kinds of Ceresan. “New Improved Ceresan usually destroys seed-borne diseases either by direct contact with the spores or by forming a vapor which penetrates every crack and cranny of the seed,” the brochure reads. It also helped protect seeds “against certain soil-borne organisms.”

The pamphlets also warn the compounds are “poisonous and precautions with all packages must be observed. Use a dry filter dust mask or clean dry cloth over the nose and mouth, as New Improved Ceresan is poisonous to inhale.” (The third of three fungicide pamphlets in Wellman’s archive was for Semesan, another organic mercury compound from Bayer-Semesan.)

Used properly, mercury fungicides were never a health hazard, according to Germany-based Bayer CropScience.

“Investigating the health and environmental aspects of our products has always been an important activity for Bayer,” the division’s web site says. “Although the correct use of mercury-containing seed treatments would be safe to the environment even by today’s standards, these pioneer seed-treatments were replaced, at the end of the 1970s, by a new generation of mercury-free products.”

A DuPont spokeswoman, Gabriel King, says she cannot comment in detail because “going back that far, it’s the institutional memory–there’s just nothing there.”

DuPont and Bayer both referred this reporter to CropLife America, a trade group. A CropLife spokeswoman says it, too, lacks familiarity with mercury fungicides.

Wellman was aware that, with mercury fungicides, he was handling “a very strong poison.”

In 1940, while at Beltsville, he wrote he had become familiar with “toxic values of chemicals [and] injurious effects of disinfectants on human beings or animals that might be involved.” He wrote that mercury–including the inorganic kind he first tested on cabbage seeds as a Wisconsin student in 1922–can have devastating effects: “It must be remembered that the mercury chloride is a very strong poison, and special care must be taken in using it and disposing of the poison solution.”

Whether or not mercury affected Wellman’s child is speculation, of course. Yet there are possible clues. Frederick W., for example, was born three weeks early by cesarean section because his mother had “kidney trouble,” Kanner wrote.

According to the CDC’s toxicological profile for mercury, “The kidney is one of the major target organs of mercury-induced toxicity.” Elsewhere it states: “You can be exposed to mercury vapors from the use of fungicides that contain mercury. Excess use of these products may result in higher-than-average exposures. . . .

“Family members of workers who have been exposed to mercury may also be exposed to mercury if the worker’s clothes are contaminated with mercury particles or liquid,” it says.

Decades ago chemists were much less sophisticated about the dangers of some of the substances they worked with. “There were chemists, there were chemical assistants who would suck chemicals through pipettes in those days,” says Thomas Felicetti, executive director of Beechwood Rehabilitation Services in Langhorne, Pa. Felicetti published a study in 1981 that found children with autism were far more likely to have parents whose jobs brought them in contact with chemicals.

Felicetti’s study was a follow-up to one in 1974 by Dr. Mary Coleman, a leading autism expert at Georgetown University who has since retired. Her study of 78 autistic children found “an unusual amount of exposure [of parents] to chemicals in the preconception period.” Twenty of the 78 children were from families with chemical exposure; in four of those families, both parents had chemical exposures. Seven out of eight of those parents were chemists.

“Of the control parents” whose children did not have autism, she wrote, “there was only one family (again both the father and the mother) who were working as chemists in a laboratory.”

In a 1976 book she edited, The Autistic Syndromes, Coleman wrote that “since the incidence of individuals exposed to chemicals in all related occupations in the United States is 1,059,000 in 91,000,000 or 1.1 percent of the population . . . to find that 25 percent of any sample has had chemical exposure is quite startling.

“This is an area where more prospective research is needed,” Coleman wrote. That has never been done.

According to Coleman’s book, the idea of parental exposure leading to autism in a child “can not be dismissed, because of the theoretical possibility that chemical toxins could effect genetic material prior to conception.”

Dozens of studies have implicated mercury in genetic damage, including chromosomes breaks, point mutations, and partial and complete deletions. One study on hamsters (it is unethical to test toxic substances on humans) found mercury produced more point mutations than lead, a widely recognized threat to children’s mental development.

The scientific literature is also full of evidence that fetuses and young children can suffer long-term harm, including brain damage, from mercury exposure even if their parents do not.

The case that galvanized world attention occurred in Minamata, Japan, in 1956, when wastewater from a Chisso Corp. chemical plant spilled toxic levels of methyl mercury into Minamata Bay, and pregnant women ate contaminated fish. Children born to mothers who ingested methyl mercury from contaminated fish while pregnant had profound physical and neurological problems even though their mothers did not show any impairment.

In 1972 thousands of people in Iraq ate bread made from grain treated with methyl mercury fungicide that was intended for planting, not human consumption. Hundreds died. A follow-up study on children whose mothers ate contaminated bread after giving birth and who were exposed only through their mothers’ breast milk showed problems including language delay that led one parent to describe the children as “needles blunted by the poison.” Language delay is one of the hallmarks of autism as well.

Eating ethyl mercury-treated grain led to similar poisonings in Ghana in 1967. Twenty people died. Of those who survived, “toxic effects appeared earlier and were more severe in children than in adults,” according to a report of the incident published in 1974 in the journal Archives of Environmental Health. “Four children developed disturbances of speech which led to stammering and scanning. . . . Mental abnormality was observed in one boy who showed outbursts of anger unrelated to circumstances. A girl developed encephalitis [brain swelling] and became completely paralyzed . . . [with] complete loss of speech.”

The report added: “Of all the fungicides in modern use, the alkyl-mercury compounds [which include ethyl and methyl mercury] offer the most serious health hazards. This is the conclusion reached by many workers . . . who have undertaken many investigations of persons at risk of occupational absorption of alkyl mercury compounds. Serious concern has therefore been expressed about the necessary contamination of the environment with mercury, particularly from its use as fungicides in agriculture and in industry.”

Two recent U.S. studies have found a possible association between environmental mercury and a risk of autism in American children.

Raymond Palmer and colleagues at the University of Texas found the autism rate was higher in Texas counties with more mercury exposure from toxic industrial releases. In the other study, researchers found children living in areas with the highest level of mercury pollution in the San Francisco Bay area were roughly twice as likely to have autism.

The Environmental Protection Agency now says 6 percent of American children are born to mothers with a mercury level high enough to put them at risk for health problems.

 

IT IS SAFE TO SAY THAT LEO KANNER was not looking for environmental exposures as a cause of the strange new cases he was seeing.

By the time the Wellmans arrived at Johns Hopkins in 1942 with Frederick W., Kanner had observed a number of such children who would form the basis for his landmark description of autism as a “markedly and uniquely different” disorder.

He believed they had something else in common.

“In the whole group,” he wrote in his original study, “there are very few really warmhearted fathers and mothers.” In subsequent studies he became more emphatic, describing “the almost total absence of emotional warmth in child rearing.”

“As a rule, the parents of our autistic children are cold, humorless perfectionists,” he wrote in 1954. “[T]he emotional refrigeration which the children experience from such parents cannot but be a highly pathogenic element in the patients’ early personality development, superimposed powerfully on whatever predisposition has come from inheritance.”

Kanner’s speculation about the parents’ role was tempered by his beliefs that most of the children he saw had been that way since birth, and that their autism was “inborn.” By the end of his long and distinguished career at Hopkins, he had completely dropped the idea of parental responsibility, and noted: “At no time have I pointed to the parents as the primary, postnatal sources of pathogenicity.” Kanner was also harshly critical of the claims of Bruno Bettelheim, who blamed autism on the homicidal feelings of mothers for their child. Another autism pioneer, Bernard Rimland (who died in 2006), demolished the psychological-damage idea for good in his 1964 book Infantile Autism: The Syndrome and Its Implications for a Neural Theory of Behavior.

Kanner made another key observation in that original 1943 study.

“There is one other very interesting common denominator in the backgrounds of these children,” he wrote. “They all come of highly intelligent families.”

The Wellmans certainly fit that mold–Frederick L. Wellman had a Ph.D. in plant pathology, his wife was a college graduate, and he had four talented siblings: an opera singer; a newspaperman and best-seller author; a writer for adventure magazines; and a painter, writer, and radio commentator. Yet only the Wellman sibling with a clear chemical connection, Frederick L. Wellman, had a child with autism.

In Thomas Felicetti’s 1981 study, there was no “intellect effect,” he said; chemical exposure was the difference. One parent applied roof tar, which contained a number of toxic chemicals.

Rimland, the researcher who disproved the idea that “refrigerator” parents made their children autistic, pointed out in a 2002 written statement in his role as head of the Autism Research Institute that Kanner earned his M.D. in 1919 in Berlin, came to Hopkins in 1928, “and has been reported to have seen well over 20,000 children in the course of his psychiatric career. . . . It is remarkable, in retrospect, that none of the children were seen in Kanner’s first 12 years of practice [at Hopkins], and all 11 were born after 1930, when, as it happens, mercury-containing vaccines were first used in this country. A coincidence? Very unlikely.”

Others, including the author of a new book, argue autism has been around for ages and only awareness of it has increased. In this view, increasing exposure to mercury–or any other environmental agent–could not be causing an autism epidemic for one simple reason: There is no autism epidemic.

“The most important piece of evidence provided by those who believe that thimerosal is related to autism is that rates for all the various autism spectrum disorders have risen dramatically over the past few decades,” writes Roy Richard Grinker, a George Washington University anthropologist, in Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism.

Grinker, who has a teenage daughter, Isabel, with autism, argues in his book that the “evidence” just doesn’t hold up. “[T]he increase in the rate of autism is more likely due to the result of new and improved science–more reliable definitions of autism and more awareness of autism among health-care professionals and educators. Maybe we are finally diagnosing and counting autism correctly.”

Another expert who argues autism is not new is Dr. Darold Treffert, a Wisconsin psychiatrist who has worked with autistic patients for decades.

“Autistic disorder did not begin with Kanner’s description of it in 1943 any more than Down’s syndrome began with [Dr. Landon Down’s] description of it in 1887,” Treffert says in an e-mail. In fact, he says, Down identified several children who today would be described as autistic.

But the incidence could have increased due to new factors, Treffert continues. His belief that autism has long existed “does not negate any present investigations of the etiology [cause] of autistic disorder, including the role of environmental or heavy metal factors.”

Despite those assertions, there is a distinct lack of observed cases before 1930–less than a handful in the United States, each of which might have had autistic symptoms but differ in many ways from Kanner’s original 11.

A chemical connection might also help explain why Kanner, in Baltimore, first described the disorder: He happened to be located near government researchers working with cutting-edge chemicals. Frederick L. Wellman did advanced work for the federal government in suburban Maryland, literally on the road to Baltimore, while the father of Case 8 was “a chemist and law school graduate at the government Patent Office,” another Washington agency. Other cases appear to have been local, based on the way they were first noticed or on their parents’ occupations–one mother, a pediatrician, became a Maryland public-health officer. Case 4 was the son of a mining engineer, which also suggests the possibility of some environmental link. (It is unclear why Kanner, who died in 1981, arranged the first 11 cases in the order he did, which is not chronological.)

Ricci King, a Washington state autism advocate, says she has long noticed a connection between farm backgrounds and autism, especially in children who never had been vaccinated. That fits with a link to fungicides, she says.

“For some reason in the back of my brain I was filing the fact that some of these parents were farmers, or lived near farm communities,” says King, who has a 14-year-old son, Robert Hedequist, with autism and moderates an international autism biomedical discussion group for parents and professionals, ABMD@yahoogroups.com.

“A light bulb went off for me at a conference in Portland [Ore.] in 2001 where I met a mother of five children, all on the spectrum, all unvaccinated,” King recalls in an interview. “She was from eastern Washington, she came from a family of farmers, and her husband was a farmer as well. All five of her children had regressive autism. Meeting her changed the way I look at autism, and prompted me to explore the connection.”

King says her “jaw literally dropped” when presented with the idea that mercury in fungicides could link Kanner’s early cases. “It would be hard to convince me that there isn’t a connection,” she says.

Again, that’s speculation. But Mercury, like many toxins, can linger in the environment and could theoretically be a risk for decades via earth, air, and water. At the Beltsville center where Frederick L. Wellman experimented with mercury fungicides in the 1930s–and where research on their agricultural uses presumably ended decades ago–mercury concentrations remained up to 2,000 times the U.S. average, according to a 1995 Coastal Hazardous Waste Site Review by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

AFTER LEAVING BELTSVILLE IN 1943, Wellman became head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Botany at the U.S. Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, making frequent forays around the world. The bespectacled scientist published several books as well as dozens of scientific papers. He founded the Caribbean Division of the American Phytopathological Society.

His career was his calling. The first chapter in his 1974 book Plant Diseases–An Introduction for the Layman begins with a stark depiction of what can happen without the contributions of plant pathologists.

“There are many plant diseases that have destroyed important food crops causing poverty, misery, hunger, and, finally, the ugliest thing in all human experience: famine,” he wrote. “I have seen and smelled villages in the last stages of famine. . . . To me, privileged, fed, and protected, the sight seemed an impossibility.”

Wellman became the world’s leading authority on a fungus called Hemileia vastatrix, the cause of coffee rust disease. Again, mercury was part of the picture. He wrote:

    Coffee seed is covered with a tough parchment-like shell and this may be washed and disinfected with strong chemicals. Solutions of formaldehyde, strong chlorides, salts of mercury and salts of copper can all be used and after half an hour of soaking, the treated seed rinsed in water.

While Wellman made a name for himself in plant pathology, Leo Kanner did the same in the field he named. Johns Hopkins became a “clearinghouse” for autism cases from as far away as South Africa. By 1958, he had files on 150 autistic children.

In 1971 Kanner wrote a follow-up paper on the first 11 children. “Twenty-eight years have elapsed since then. . . . The patients were between 2 and 8 years old when first seen at the Children’s Psychiatric Clinic of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

“What has become of them?” he asked. “What is their present status?”

Frederick W. was one of just two children whose outcome he considered favorable, Kanner said (Case 1 from Forest, Miss., was the other). In 1962 officials at the Maryland institution where Frederick W. lived wrote:

    He is, at 26 years, a passive, likeable boy whose chief interest is music. He is able to follow the routine and, though he lives chiefly within his own world, he enjoys those group activities which are of particular interest to him. He was a member of the chorus in the Parents’ Day program and was in charge of the loud speaker at the annual carnival. He went on weekend trips to town unaccompanied and made necessary purchases independently.

Two years later the Wellmans took their son out of that institution and brought him to live with them in Puerto Rico. Their son “picked up a lot of Spanish and worked out a schedule of studying language lessons on records at 4 o’clock every afternoon,” they told Kanner.

Frederick L. Wellman soon retired from his Puerto Rican post, and the family moved to Raleigh, where he became a visiting professor at North Carolina State.

“We settled into a new home and [Frederick] did his part in it,” the Wellmans wrote Kanner. “He has become acquainted with the neighbors and sometimes makes calls on them. We tried him out in the County Sheltered Workshop and Vocational Training Center. He took right to it, made friends with the teachers, and helped with some of the trainees. Through his relationship there, he took up bowling and he does pretty well.”

Frederick L. Wellman retired from N.C. State in 1970. He, his wife, and their son lived in an apartment building until the elder Wellmans died in the 1990s; Frederick W. turned 70 last May.

A man who twice answered the intercom at his current residence said it was a wrong number. A letter sent to his address received no response.

So the last word must come from Kanner’s follow-up more than a quarter-century ago.

In 1969, Frederick W. began working at the National Air Pollution Administration, now part of the Environmental Protection Agency, doing routine tasks like running a copy machine. His boss wrote in 1970 that he “is an outstanding employee by any standard.”

Mark Blaxill of SafeMinds says the new information about Frederick W. and the other early cases is a call to action.

“It’s important not to make overly large claims from this evidence, but we need to take seriously the early environmental clues like this,” he says.” Johns Hopkins has detailed data on the first couple of hundred Kanner patients. Perhaps there are more clues in that sample, like an undiscovered environmental cluster, that no one has considered before.

“I would hope that Hopkins might consider opening up those case files and, instead of focusing on the parents, start thinking about where these families lived and what the parents’ occupational exposures might have been.”

Dan Olmsted is a journalist with United Press International in Washington, where he writes the Age of Autism column, available at www.upi.com. Copyright 2007 © United Press International Inc. All rights reserved. Researcher Beverly Crawford contributed to this story.

Originally posted at Baltimore City Paper

Dan Olmsted Exposes Evil “Journalist” for What He Is

It is with great sadness that Autism Investigated relays the announcement that Dan Olmsted – Age of Autism’s founding editor – has passed away. While I have had my differences with him and the Age of Autism site, I will be forever grateful to him for his friendship, advice and platform for my views. I’ve always respected him as a journalist and have never forgotten the excellent work he has done over the years, and I just had a very friendly exchange with him on the day of the inauguration. I will never stop missing him and offer my sincere condolences to the entire Age of Autism team. Autism Investigated will devote the entire week to posts honoring Dan Olmsted, including a proper obituary. May we all honor Dan Olmsted’s life by ending the autism epidemic to make America great again! – Jake Crosby, MPH

“Who Can Say?” — Journalist Who Alleged Wakefield Committed Fraud Backs Off Key Claim

By Dan Olmsted

Brian Deer, the British journalist who claimed researcher Andrew Wakefield committed fraud by linking the MMR vaccine to autism, now admits one of his key allegations against Wakefield may be flat-out wrong. Yet he insists it’s no big deal — that it does nothing to undercut his claim that Wakefield is “an elaborate fraud.”

“Not one of the children were reported on truthfully. Wakefield lied again and again,” journalist Brian Deer said in his post on Saturday, referring to Wakefield 12-child case series published in the Lancet in 1998.  But in the same post, Deer acknowledged that, contrary to his previous reporting, he is now unsure whether Wakefield falsely changed the timing of the MMR shot to put it before the autism symptoms began in a key case.

“Who can say?” Deer wrote Saturday.

The allegation that Wakefield reversed the timing of the shot — clear evidence of fraud, if true — was  featured in detail as the shocking opening to Deer’s 2012 series in the British Medical Journal titled “How the Case Against the MMR Was Fixed.”

Child 11’s autism symptoms developed “two months earlier than reported in the Lancet, and a month before the boy had MMR,” Deer reported, “too soon” to be the cause. That “must have been a disappointment” to Wakefield, who proceeded to switch the sequence to suit his bias, Deer wrote. The father angrily “spotted the anomaly” after Deer identified and interviewed him, but  “needn’t have worried” that Wakefield would get away with it: “My investigation of the MMR issue exposed the frauds behind Wakefield’s research.”

But on Saturday, after I showed that Deer is the one who got the sequence wrong – that the shot indisputably did come first, followed by the development of regressive autism — Deer wrote: “Who can say, years later?” In fact, I can say: The father, whom I also identified and interviewed, wrote Wakefield as early as 1997, and contemporaneous medical records establish, that the child got the MMR at 15 months, became sick for several months, developed autism symptoms by 18 months, and was given a formal autism diagnosis at age 3. The father has always said he believes the shot caused all those consequences — none of which Deer managed to reflect in his own investigation despite interviewing and e-mailing with Father 11 over an extended period of time.

The fact that a core element of his claim of research fraud is now a matter of uncertainty to Deer, the only man who made it, is a remarkable development under any circumstance, but considering the impact the claim has had on the autism debate in subsequent years, it is extraordinary. The claim has been used by officials around the world to say concerns about autism and vaccines have been “debunked” because they originated from a fraudulent research report. A typical example: Senator Dianne Feinstein of California wrote a constituent last week: “I understand that many parents are also concerned that vaccines may cause autism. This claim was published in 1998, in an article in the Lancet, a British medical journal. The researcher who authored the article was later found to have deliberately falsified data to produce a fraudulent link …”

Equally striking is how little its accuracy seems to matter to Deer, convinced as he is that Wakefield’s status as a charlatan is beyond dispute, even if such a central “fact” no longer supports it.

Deer, a veteran newspaper correspondent who, as he frequently points out, has won numerous prestigious journalism awards including the British equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for his Wakefield investigation, on Saturday offered no convincing reason for how he could have gotten something so central to his fraud claim against Wakefield so wrong. Instead he portrayed the father’s account as a “competing” explanation to the one Deer had independently settled on, based on a couple of unrelated court documents that led him to falsely infer that the autism symptoms preceded the shot in Child 11. Standard journalistic practice would be to check that assumption against the other, far more dispositive evidence that refuted it, and with the child’s father, who subsequently told me: “Mr. Deer’s article makes me appear irrational for continuing to believe that the MMR caused difficulties which predated its administration.”

Instead, on Saturday Deer sneered at the messenger – me – as he staged a full-scale retreat from the facts, using Father 11’s acknowledged but irrelevant antipathy toward Wakefield as cover. He called me “an undistinguished former journalist” who now runs a website “largely funded by anti-vaccine profiteers,” claiming that I had been “dumped some years ago from his post as a copy editor for a news agency owned by the Rev Sun Myung Moon – himself convicted of fraud … Olmsted has since sought a livelihood from his website, misleading vulnerable parents of children with autism. …  He sought to profit with his website by lying to parents whom he disgustingly purports to champion” and followed “British research cheat” Wakefield “into the toilet.”

Whatever. On Saturday Deer also tried to elevate a secondary issue – how long after the shot the autism symptoms occurred in Child 11 – into a replacement for his now-discredited claim that the entire sequence was reversed, an incomparably more serious and black-and-white issue. 

Ultimately, Deer suggested, the truth is unknowable.

“The father says one thing, the medical records another,” as Deer put it on Saturday. In fact, the father says one thing, and the medical records back him. (That does not mean the vaccine caused the autism, of course, but it does mean the father believed it did, and that Wakefield got the sequence right.) Only Deer’s idiosyncratic and journalistically unjustified misuse of a couple of stray medical records, unchecked by the reality described by everyone else, says another.

As I’ve shown in a 10-part series,  this tendentious approach applies to the entirety of Deer’s reporting on Wakefield, including Deer’s accusation that in five of the 12 children – Child 11 included – autism symptoms occurred before the shots were given. In fact, those cases are no more illustrative of Deer’s allegation of the shot-symptoms sequence than Child 11. Nonetheless, when one “fact” starts to wobble, Deer refers to all the other facts that have not been as closely scrutinized as if they offer some sort of collective support – “Of course, my reports did not hinge on child 11, or on any individual case,” he said Saturday. “As explained in the most detailed account of Wakefield’s grotesque misconduct, it rested on the findings (as the BMJ noted) that not one of the children were reported upon truthfully. Wakefield lied and lied again.”And if that’s not enough, well, Wakefield’s license to practice medicine was revoked and the Lancet paper was retracted (largely based on the “facts” Deer alleged).At some point, though, Deer’s claims – or anyone else’s – must hinge on the facts of individual cases if they are to add up to widely accepted evidence of “Wakefield’s grotesque misconduct.” Just saying so doesn’t make it so; referring to “lie after lie” doesn’t constitute “an elaborate fraud” unless each “lie” can be shown to be exactly that. (Deer’s piece on my own reporting was titled, “Dan Olmsted lies for research doctor.” One is tempted to rewrite the headline as “Lying Undistinguished Former Journalist Lies for Lying Research Fraud Wakefield.”)The timing of shots and symptoms in just 12 children more than a decade ago may seem trivial, but the issue is anything but arcane. Millions of cases of autism have occurred since 1998, when Wakefield sounded what he believed was an “early warning” of a possible link between vaccination and autism that required further research and led to his suggestion that until that was complete, the M, M, and R in the MMR should be given separately. Thousands of parents have subsequently described such an outcome, but because Wakefield has supposedly been “discredited” and his work “debunked” — by Brian Deer — that and other evidence have been dismissed.

I first wrote about Deer’s investigation in 2012. Let me again spell out what I learned from Father 11 and how it differed from Deer’s account.

I met Father 11, who like Deer I identified from my own independent reporting, at a Peet’s Coffee shop in an affluent, picture-perfect Southern California enclave, and we sat outside in the mid-60s sunshine he jokingly called “a little frosty.” A wealthy businessman who lives in a gated community nearby, he wore a light jacket emblazoned with “Cal,” for the University of California at Berkeley where he got an engineering degree. He carried a thin file folder and a spiral notebook.

In this laid-back setting, it was hard to grasp the role he and his family have played in one of the major medical controversies of our time, one that unfolded in a foggy city 6,000 miles to the east.

This father is Deer’s best witness among the parents of the 12 children described in the Lancet paper – in fact, his only one, the lone parent who is hostile to Wakefield, not just a little frosty, but coldly angry. His anonymous comments to Deer in the BMJ seemed to fully support the January 5, 2011, cover story: “Secrets of the MMR Scare: How the Case Against the MMR Was Fixed.”

“My investigation of the MMR issue exposed the frauds behind Wakefield’s research,” wrote the ludicrously self-aggrandizing correspondent.

Child 11, in fact, was Deer’s opening into fraud. He was among those “whose parents apparently blamed MMR,” but Deer commented acidly that “Child 11’s case must have been a disappointment. Records show his behavioural symptoms began too soon.” [Italics in original] Deer quoted from a Royal Free Hospital discharge summary: “His developmental milestones were normal until 13 months of age. In the period 13-18 months he developed slow speech patterns and repetitive hand movements. Over this period his parents remarked on his slow gradual deterioration.”

Deer summarized: “That put the symptom two months earlier than reported in the Lancet, and a month before the boy had MMR. And this was not the only anomaly to catch the father’s eye. …” (Note that it is Deer, not the discharge paper, saying the symptoms came “a month before the boy had MMR.”)

Well yes, if you’ve got a parent saying that a child developed autism before he got the MMR shot, and you’ve got a research paper saying the opposite and suggesting a link between the shot and the disorder, and pulling the same stunt with several other children, you’ve got your fraud right there.

The BMJ report was the coup de grace for serious consideration of a link between vaccines and autism. Wakefield was “convicted of fraud,” wrote Time magazine in an article titled “The Dangers of the Antivaccine Movement.” An editorial in The New York Times, titled Autism Fraud,noted Britain’s General Medical Council had already stripped Wakefield of his medical license, and the Lancet retracted the paper: “Now the British Medical Journal has taken the extraordinary step of publishing a lengthy report by Brian Deer, the British investigative journalist who first brought the paper’s flaws to light — and has put its own reputation on the line by endorsing his findings.”

Indeed it did.

“Clear evidence of falsification of data should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare,” Editor in Chief Fiona Godlee wrote. She said “there is no doubt it was Wakefield” who was responsible for the “elaborate fraud,” despite having 12 co-authors.H

old the door, please. I was about to learn that Deer’s explosive claim about Child 11 – Exhibit A in this alleged hoax — was false. And that was just the first step of my journey into a world where things were not at all as they seemed.

The father opened the file folder – guarding the papers against a fickle coastal breeze — and showed me a letter he had written on January 1, 1997, to “Dr. Andrew Wakefield, Royal Free Hospital, London, England.”“My son [name deleted] at age 15 months, was immunized with the Merck MMR vaccine and became ill for the next several months,” the letter began.“As his pediatric records indicate he came down with a viral infection, and shortly thereafter viral pneumonia. His condition slowly deteriorated over time, and was diagnosed as being autistic on his birthday at age 3. The onset of his autistic behavior began around 18 months. … He was diagnosed as moderate to severe, with no speech, no eye contact, and cognitive function at 6 months overall.”

Multiple specialists in the United States confirmed the autism diagnosis, the letter added, as well as their suspicions of the MMR vaccine as the cause. Further workups in California also revealed “indeterminant inflammatory bowel disease” — the dual syndrome Wakefield was then investigating at the Royal Free. That was why the father wanted the hospital’s pediatric gastroenterologists to evaluate his child.

So – first came the shot, then the symptoms. The father’s account, and medical records created before he got anywhere near Wakefield, could not be clearer. But didn’t he tell Brian Deer exactly the opposite, as recounted in the opening of the BMJ cover story? And didn’t a hospital record confirm that?

No. And no.

Though you’d never know it, the father was actually disputing how long after the shot specific symptoms occurred. In fact, the father did directly blame the MMR for causing his son’s illnesses and autistic regression – a fact that appears to have escaped Deer’s notice, or at least acknowledgement.

Yes, the father was angry at Wakefield. Yes, he disagreed with other points, some of them unrelated to the content of the Lancet article. But no – he did not say that the symptoms came before the shot. That was not an “anomaly” in the Lancet paper that caught his eye, as Deer wrote.

And the discharge document itself? It was simply wrong, one of thousands of pieces of paper generated by many medical personnel in a complicated medical case stretching over many years; perhaps the “13-18 months” was a typo for “15-18,” since that is what the father had reported all along. Regardless, the father says he never told Deer that the symptoms came first, and there is no evidence to the contrary. Deer apparently did not bother to check that one piece of paper against the large volume of other evidence, or to confirm it with the father, or to make sure that his own claim that symptoms began “a month before the boy had MMR” coincided with any actual chronology.

As far as I can tell, no one on the planet — no doctor, no parent, no document – has ever said Child 11 was anything but healthy and developing normally before the MMR. No one, that is, but Brian Deer in the BMJ. And here we see Deer at work: Because Wakefield was by definition a fraud – because Deer said so – any discrepancies between data in the Lancet paper and any other source was proof against Wakefield. One document says 13-18 months for the period of regression? That was evidence enough that Wakefield “used bogus data … to manufacture a link” between the MMR and autism.

To my surprise as we sat outside in Southern California, the father told me he hadn’t read the BMJ article, and he declined my offer to quote from it or have him read it during our visit. He would rather lay out the sequence in his own words, he told me.

That turned out to be a useful approach.

His son had been completely healthy and developing normally, he said, until the MMR shot at 15 months triggered a downhill progression.

“I very much believe it,” he said about the relationship of the shot to the symptoms: The measles component of the vaccine triggered an immune deficiency that produced the cascade of devastating physical and mental problems. This, in fact, was Wakefield’s provisional hypothesis.

How did Brian Deer miss all this? How did he misrepresent the core of the alleged fraud and claim the symptoms came before the shot? How did he rely on the father to rage against Wakefield but completely omit the fact he believed his child’s autism did not just come after the vaccine but was caused by it?

Who can say?

Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

Originally posted on Age of Autism

Dan Olmsted Rips Crooked Hillary Clinton

hillary-clinton-liar-1-e1466677185828

It is with great sadness that Autism Investigated relays the announcement that Dan Olmsted – Age of Autism’s founding editor – has passed away. While I have had my differences with him and the Age of Autism site, I will be forever grateful to him for his friendship, advice and platform for my views. I’ve always respected him as a journalist and have never forgotten the excellent work he has done over the years, and I just had a very friendly exchange with him on the day of the inauguration. I will never stop missing him and offer my sincere condolences to the entire Age of Autism team. Autism Investigated will devote the entire week to posts honoring Dan Olmsted, including a proper obituary. May we all honor Dan Olmsted’s life by ending the autism epidemic to make America great again! – Jake Crosby, MPH

Weekly Wrap: Bait and Switch

By Dan Olmsted

‘Bout spit up my ginger ale Monday night when I saw an ad from Hillary Clinton taking on Donald Trump for his arm-flapping imitation of a disabled reporter — Trump claims he didn’t remember the reporter and was just lampooning his excitedness, not his illness.

The Hillary ad’s mom said, “It’s not uncommon for autistic kids to flap their hands,” showing a teenage boy doing just that. “When I saw that [Trump], that was completely disqualifying. I’m a Republican, but this election is so much more than party. My son Max can’t live in Trump world, so I’m crossing Party Lines and voting for Hillary. I don’t always agree with her, but she’s reasonable, she’s smart, people can work with her to solve problems. I want to be able to tell kids that I did the right thing when it really mattered.”

Oh gosh, well, where to start. Many AOA readers will regard the idea that Hillary is looking out for autistic kids as a canard, to use one of my favorite words for a lie, a fable, a hoary bit of nonsense. Without her resolute “sky is blue” defense of vaccines and her government-heavy intervention in children’s health in the 1990s — progressives always know what’s best, and especially love hepping de chewdwen — we might not have an epidemic to begin with, or at least we might have stopped it earlier, which would have really helped kids. Right now about a trillion dollars would be a nice round figure for the kind of help that’s needed.

So yes, galling. But somehow I find even more annoying the elision of the reporter’s disability, a joint abnormality, with autism. I mean, the mom didn’t exactly say it was the same thing, and the point was kind of the same, but the idea was clearly left that Trump was mocking a child with autism. Which, again, is kind of maddening as his view that vaccines cause autism is exactly correct, and Hillary’s claim that they don’t is exactly wrong.

Is it any wonder we’re going half mad this election season, or half of us are going mad and the other half are just mad, or whatever? Don’t take advantage of autism, OK?

Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.

Originally posted on Age of Autism