In the Parenthood

Autism Awareness: Causes and controversey

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  April 28, 2010 12:36 PM

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While the search continues for a cause -- and for a cure -- autism in general has become part of the mainstream. But while children's programs like PBS's Arthur are encouraging acceptance and understanding about autism spectrum disorders, controversey is what's making headlines in the news.

Last night, PBS broadcast its Frontline piece on "The Vaccine Wars," touching on the MMR vaccine-autism debate and the Thimerosal-autism debate, both of which are still ongoing in some communities in spite of the fact that the supposed links have been debunked. The show pitted anecdotal evidence from parents against research and advice from medical professionals, creating, as Dr. Jay Gordon put it in an open letter to one of Frontline's co-producers, "a pseudo-documentary with a preconceived set of conclusions: 'Irresponsible moms against science' was an easy takeaway from the show."

An assistant professor of pediatrics at UCLA Medical School who has reservations about vaccinations, Dr. Gordon's multi-hourlong interview with Frontline ended up on the cutting room floor, he says, as did an interview with Dr. Robert W. Sears, author of The Vaccine Book: Making the Right Decision for Your Child, who advocates an alternative vaccination schedule. Evidence in favor of vaccination was provided by researchers including Dr. Paul Offit, who has earned millions of dollars as the co-creator of the RotaTeq vaccine, is a paid spokesman for Merck, and has said that he thinks infants' immune systems could theoretically handle as many as 10,000 vaccinations at one time, or perhaps "closer to 100,000."

The Vaccine War wasn't all about autism. (Missed the show? You can watch it here.) It also delved into the way not vaccinating kids leads to a dangerous breach in herd immunity (Moms against science AND society!), but didn't touch on vaccine failure. (It does happen: An outbreak of the mumps in New York and New Jersey last year was not caused by a lack of immunization; in fact, most of the more-than 1,500 patients had been properly vaccinated against it.)

I'm fascinated by the discussion going on at the forums right now. There are many parents posting with anecdotal evidence about the dangers of vaccination, and some of their stories are gut-wrenching. And there are plenty of medical practitioners posting well-worded, researched responses. It's a far cry from the moms-against-science tone of the program itself -- and, frankly, much more interesting.

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at and follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat. April is Autism Awareness Month; you can read her posts about autism here.



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33 comments so far...
  1. The Frontline program was a great disappointment last night, although not unexpected. After watching that one-sided story, the Vaccine Wars are certainly on now. The active autism community has been watching this biased media for years now. It's controlled by the CDC, other government health officials, mainstream doctors and big drug companies.
    I doubt they're likely to admit the vaccines have harmed a generation of children now. Too much power and money in jeopardy.

    Posted by Maurine Meleck April 28, 10 04:50 PM

    They're terrified of the power of the internet. Create your own e-mail, or copy the one below and send it to your own list.

    Subject line:
    Sexism and bias at PBS - please stop donating

    On April 27th, PBS introduced Jenny McCarthy not as an advocate for safer vaccines, not as a best-selling author of seven books, not as a film and television actress, but as a Playboy playmate - in a transparent and sexist attempt to discredit her.

    PBS, heavily funded by the pharmaceutical industry, launched an all-out war on Ms. McCarthy and on all Americans who do not subject their children to every single one of the 36 vaccines in the CDC's current vaccine schedule. (Our former CDC Director is now president of Merck's vaccine division.) In the show titled "The Vaccine War," not a single doctor or scientist critical of the current vaccine schedule was heard from. The interviews of at least two such doctors ended up on the cutting-room floor.

    Thank you for taking the time to examine this important issue. Please forward this e-mail to anyone you like.

    Posted by Mike April 28, 10 05:15 PM
  1. Controversy. And what you mean is manufactroversy.

    Posted by google scholar April 28, 10 06:21 PM
  1. people WANT to believe it is vaccines..want to so badly. Anecdotal evidence is just that-anecdote. Unfortunately, if a parent does speak up-and says " isn't vaccines" they are condemned as being "pharma whores" 3 of my children are autistic. None of them became that way from vaccines. The internet is an interesting place-especially if you read parents stories. There are many instances where you can follow way back to the very beginning of someone ever posted-and watch how their stories change. Because the more "heart wrenching" the more believable. I just wish more people would actually read the science..really read it.

    Posted by kathleen April 28, 10 06:56 PM
  1. We should all be concerned that doctors like Robert Sears and Jay Gordon weren't included in this report.
    Neither were the top experts who've questioned vaccine safety like Dr Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health or Dr. Peter Fletcher, former Chief Scientific Officer in the UK.

    We should be asking why autism, now affecting one in 110 children, was barely mentioned and referred to merely as a "mysterious" disorder that "appears" to be increasing.

    We were told that non-vaccinating parents are the problem. The only epidemics we need to worry about are those caused by the loss of herd immunity.

    I imagine this one-sided reporting will continue until adults and children alike have the same rate of autism. Maybe when hundreds of thousands of autistic children become adults and are dependent on the taxpayers for their support and care, we'll take an honest look at this debate.

    Anne Dachel
    Media Editor: Age of Autism

    our comment here...

    Posted by Anne McElroy Dachel April 28, 10 07:39 PM
  1. What many people seem to not get is that if B happens after A, that does not in any way imply that A *caused* B. Might A have contributed to B? Sure. If there are multiple stories of B happening after A, it seems likely that they are somehow linked, but it still does not prove causality, particularly if there are plenty of cases where B does NOT happen after A.

    I do think it's worth examining the vaccine schedule, as I am concerned about children getting so many vaccines at a time (but did not speak up about it, and am happy that my children did not apparently have any adverse effects). Although I did not see the program, it certainly sounds like it had a disappointing agenda. However, Jenny McCarthy *is* a brainless bimbo who bases her opinions on pure crap. I'm more than happy to have her discredited publicly and often.

    Posted by akmom April 29, 10 09:10 AM
  1. The herd immunity argument is getting pretty thin. For one thing, there are a number of vaccines where herd immunity doesn't result from the vaccine--Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a prime example. The injected polio vaccine doesn't provide a high level of herd immunity, either.

    My take is that the doctors: Sears and Gordon didn't say anything that could be used to support the vaccines are perfect side of the argument, so chop, chop, all gone!

    This article gives a pretty good picture of why the pro-vaccine side isn't actually convincing people:

    it isn't just autism.

    Posted by MinorityView April 29, 10 01:00 PM
  1. You should seek some schooling from one of the Globe's science writers. Don't you see that this is a question that can be answered - and has been - by science? It is clearly hipper and more fascionable to be antivaccine. but y'know mavericks are usually wrong even if they are sexy.

    Posted by arthur allen April 29, 10 02:01 PM
  1. Thanks for your "fair and balanced" column on FRONTLINE program "The Vaccine Wars."

    I was very disappointed in the pro-vaccine slant presented throughout the program. Here are just two questions that I would like to ask those who put this farce together.

    #1. Opening sequence contained comments of mom who related story of a nurse bustling in her hospital room proudly announcing it was time for her new born baby to receive the HEP B vaccine. Mom asked the nurse why she was giving her new born baby a vaccine to prevent a sexually transmitted disease and the nurse got angry at her for asking.

    The urgency of giving a HEP B vaccine to newborns was questioned at least twice during this program .. and .. the question was never answered.

    #2. One would have hoped that Dr. Anthony Faucci, Director of the NIH would have a better explanation of the "risks" associated with vaccines than saying "A very, very, very small percentage of people will get an allergic reaction .. possibly there is a component of the vaccine they didn't realize they were allergic to. And, then, there's a subset of a very, very, very, very small percentage of those, who actually get a serious reaction, but, if you look at that, the risk of that is so minuscule as to be completely outweighed by the benefit."

    Don't you think it is about time someone the stature of Dr. Faucci gave us the real "percentage number at risk" rather than having us try and calculate what "very, very, very, very small" means?

    Posted by popcares April 29, 10 03:37 PM
  1. Just because someone has a child with autism who was not vaccinated, does NOT mean that it is not vaccines! It is really arrogant to assume just because their child was already that way that ours were too. My little boy was NORMAL. He got his MMR at 15 months and within 24 HOURS all his speech was gone, he had massive diarrhea, started headbanging and screaming, and ran a high fever. There is NO way you can tell me that is not vaccine related! This is one of the big reasons that the autism community is so fractured. I will NEVER vaccinate any of my children ever again.

    Posted by Tessa April 29, 10 07:32 PM
  1. As the article stated, the original "scientific" study was debunked. I am studying to become a BCBA. I have done a LOT of research on autism and scientific theories. In order for a study to be scientific it needs to be able to be replicated which the original study was not. There have been many studies that have tried to replicate it and have failed. Therefore there is NO scientific research base for this.

    As kathleen said parents want to have some reason- ANY reason- for this. It's a classic stage of grieving that most parents with children who have special needs go through. It makes total sense.

    Also, there are two other things to think about in this debate.

    1. Some of the symptoms of heavy metal (mercury) poisoning mimic some of the typical symptoms of Autism. For fetuses, infants, and children, the primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development. (directly from the EPA web page Autism is a neurological disorder. check out the similarities by doing a quick google search. It would make sense, in this situation, that kids with "autism" who go through chelation therapy (getting rid of heavy metals in the body) will be "cured"

    2. Not all kids with autism show signs as infants/small toddlers. Most doctors won't diagnose until at least 2 years old. A lot of the developmental milestones aren't being hit, but most parents don't recognize or see the symptoms until around the age of 2- the same time frame that kids get the majority of their vaccinations and make the wrong correlation by saying that it's BECAUSE of the vaccination. The signs were probably there before and you just didn't see them/recognize them as being "autistic" like.

    I totally understand the side of this saying that we vaccinate too much. Any substance that you put into your body can do harm, and at such high levels in such small children it makes sense to be weary. I know that many pediatricians will now augment the schedule of vaccines (as long as they get them all by the time they go to school) to help appease parents and yet still get children vaccinated against deadly diseases.

    Posted by Shelly April 30, 10 12:04 AM
  1. The main stream media has fallen right back into their comfy 'oh sorry we couldn't find a single sane respected doctor or scientist to interview who believes there's evidence for a vaccine/autism link' pretense.

    Whooping cough has also made a comeback, btw, and it's not happening in unvaccinated people. The vaccines do not even work as advertised.

    They pretty much breezed right by the fact that there's still the same ol level of mercury in flu shots. Something I think people really should know.

    Posted by Robin Nemeth April 30, 10 06:50 AM
  1. Lylah Alphonse - you are one brave lady to write even this small opinion piece . . . thank you. Your comments captured my thoughts exactly.

    Posted by SFM April 30, 10 08:33 AM
  1. The program proffered the usual line of mental inducements in hopes of suckering in the viewing audience to the sanitized view of a simple issue resolved in college textbooks many years ago.

    According to scientific literature mercury is a neuro-toxin. Kids are still getting Thimerosal in their shots. Government agencies invent reasons to target American pregnant women, infants, and toddlers with Thimerosal-laced vaccines. States banning Thimerosal from vaccines routinely discover ways to circumvent mercury-ban laws.

    As for Frontline, this program amounts to nothing more than a crime against humanity. At least they unwittingly revealed as a secular voice they are rooted deeply in obfuscating the Autism issue. This program makes it crystal clear they obviously care more about the engineering of consent than the genocidal carnage caused by vaccine zealotry.

    Posted by Kerbob1 April 30, 10 09:50 AM
  1. Arthur Allen writes to go check with the science writers on the vaccine debate. I encourage writers and readers to do just the opposite - keep listening to the parents.

    Science writers typically are best at writing verbatim what the public health officials and pharma companies tell them. Most of what's in mainstream news that passes for "science news" is press release regurgitation. Just as Lylah has noted once you broaden your scope on the vaccine safety debate from the pharma/CDC/science writer perspective and hear what parents have to say the information changes drastically and yes, it makes the debate more interesting.

    Science reporters do not typically include the parents' perspective opting only to report 1/2 of the story. Parents have been shouting for decades from rooftops to be heard. Thanks to the internet, they are being heard in blogs, social groups, etc. But they can't even get their perspective in print in letters to editors because as far as the editors (who listen to science writers who listen only to CDC/pharma) are concerned, the parents are wrong and dangerous.

    My child had a severe neurological reaction to her routine shots that began soon after the shots were given with extremely horrific scream crying that lasted all day and then off and on for days and weeks. She stopped coo'ing and stopped eye contact and I prayed to God to please give me my baby back. My expectation was that the pediatrician would agree with my very sane and precautionary thinking that no more vaccines should be given to my child. Instead I was completely shocked to learn that the ped wanted to continue full steam ahead and she was completely dismissive of my concerns of what I witnessed happen with my child. This changed the entire relationship and I'm sure I was labeled antivaccine. Hey, I brought my child in for shots, she changed dramatically within the hour and I'm the bad parent!? What's wrong with this?

    This is the insanity that's happening that does not get reported. My child is neurotypical today - and I attribute that to going against the vax-crazed medical establishment and ceasing all further vaccines. Barbara Loe Fisher wrote about how vax reactions tend to continue in those who've had them before and worse, they amplify often causing irreversible damage if you keep vaxing a child who had a previous reaction. How sad is it that this parent had to proactively go out and learn this by reading books and ohmigod the internet! when the pediatrician was willing to sacrifice my child's health for the almighty herd immunity. Sorry but that line of thinking is very outdated. I personally cannot endorse a program that is so focused on the larger herd that it's okay to permanently disable or maim vulnerable individuals. The vaccine program needs to do a better job at identifying who's at risk for reactions and opting them out for medical reasons. But that of course would mean acknowledging that vax reactions do occur - and well they can't do that because vax rates will go down...get the picture?

    Posted by Beth April 30, 10 09:52 AM
  1. Hey Art Allen, what does the science say about injecting newborns and infants with large quantities of a short chain alkyl mercury compound? What are you smoking anyway?

    Posted by Joe Kamel April 30, 10 10:15 AM
  1. Real life situation is that if your child comes down with an infectious disease doctors are there to offer care with available medical treatment. If your child suffers a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine within 24 hours, your doctor will deny vaccine causation, give you the "stink eye" and has no medical treatment to offer to prevent resulting brain damage because the CDC does not care enough about those babies who suffer adverse reactions to investigate. They are throwaway babies. Vaccination as currently practiced is completely unethical.

    Posted by been there April 30, 10 11:19 AM
  1. As "Kathleen" mentions above, it is always brought up "people WANT to believe it is vaccines..want to so badly."

    As a parent of a child with bowel disease, the very same one identified by Dr. Wakefield over 10 years ago, I want answers. From all the studies I have read through, It is the only conclusion that make sense to me. I am not basing my belief on anecdote, but by applying real peer reviewed science to what I have obseved in my childe. All the CDC says is "we don't know".

    Posted by Tim Kasemodel April 30, 10 01:42 PM
  1. To wrap up my comment above, until someone who is not tied to the outcome does an genuine review of fully vaccinated vs completely non vaccinated outcomes, vaccines will be the most likely suspect.

    Point is, none of the highly touted studies "rejecting causation" do not EVER say vaccines could NOT be causing autism in children.

    Read them for yourself at

    Posted by Tim Kasemodel April 30, 10 01:49 PM
  1. Lylah,

    You are now witness to the attacking braintrust we parents have endured for years - simply by entertaining a fair and balance viewpoint you put yourself up to attack - you are now ANTIVACCINE.

    Personal attacks on ones charachter and sexism are also fair game.

    "It is clearly hipper and more fascionable to be antivaccine. but y'know mavericks are usually wrong even if they are sexy."
    (arthur allen)

    "However, Jenny McCarthy *is* a brainless bimbo who bases her opinions on pure crap. I'm more than happy to have her discredited publicly and often." (akmom)

    And don'f forget meaningless sarcastic dribble:

    "Controversy. And what you mean is manufactroversy."
    (google scholar)

    If you read the comments from most parents here, you will find we are trying to continue a dialogue, educate or at least explaining our point of view.

    Posted by Tim Kasemodel April 30, 10 07:30 PM
  1. What Arthur Allen says above is so commonly repeated by vaccine defenders, basically: "Science has spoken." So vague. The funny thing is, those who say this don't usually point to any science. There is no science proving, for example, how many vaccines can safely be given at once, what is a safe level of aluminum that can be injected into infants (or formaldehyde or mercury), what are the longterm effects of giving two dozen vaccines during the first two years of life compared with giving fewer vaccines...

    It's so easy to say, "Science has spoken", but it's not true.

    Posted by Twyla April 30, 10 11:10 PM
  1. Wow, that was refreshing. Thanks Ms.Alphonse.

    We didn't watch the show. I personally couldn't take another round of Paul Offit's "greatest hits". I know his song and dance by now and the public seems to be catching on as well.

    As the parent of two young vaccine injured children, I'm not a fan of the current schedule or the number of unnecessarily toxic ingredients in the shots. But I've run into so many people lately-- of every age and walk of life-- who are so turned off by the media's current rhetoric on vaccines and autism that many have backlashed in the extreme, declaring vaccine tech to be null and void, declaring that "Vaccines are just poison".

    This has not been the message of the autism/vaccine-injury recovery community, who-- despite being repeatedly painted as "antivaccine" in what is now verging on the legalistic definition of defamatory propaganda campaign-- almost unilaterally call for further *independent* investigations and research to identify vaccine-susceptible children. The movement has also asked for a return to the 1980's schedule of 10 shots, which is akin to the schedules of countries with the lowest rates of autism (1/4000 in one country that gives only 12 shots) and best child mortality (Norway, Finland, etc; US child mortality is now 34, below Brunei and Cuba). That's not "no shots", that's less.

    So, ironically, I find myself in the position of arguing for safer vaccines and a curbed schedule these days, not "no vaccines ever". That's a huge change from only a few years ago when the merest doubt cast on vaccines' "perfect safety" would be greeted with the "getaway" face by most people.

    Obviously both the concept of herd immunity as well as outright herd mentality are starting to falter a bit. The Vioxx and Zyprexa scandals helped, but just the tone of the present all-vaccines-all-the-time defenses are getting thin. In the end, those defending the perfect safety of vaccines out of hand-- and unreasonably in the face of the open-to-the-public Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) logs of injured children-- are going to be standing more and more alone on the rhetoric platform. The public wants (and needs) frank information at this point and they're not getting it from the industry sponsored message. Eventually it will be impossible not to notice that those making the loudest defenses of an ever-burgeoning vaccine schedule are being paid to do so because there's less and less public support to hide behind.

    As industry loses public support and attention, hopefully some of it will be channeled into the question of what on earth we're going to do to prevent new cases and what to do with the millions of children with autism-- those who cannot be recovered (some will be; some have been: )-- who will eventually come of age and hit tax-supported programs.

    Vietnam created the program of the "Peace Village" for victims of agent orange-- villages which receive support to take in a certain number of victims who will be cared for and nurtured by these townships for the rest of their lives. I think it's clearly the demystification of the injuries and terrible birth defects-- the knowledge that the victims were, in essence, wounded veterans of war-- that appears to promote greater compassion in this instance than humanity has usually shown the disabled.

    By the same token, I think official recognition of the cause of autism is going to be absolutely essential in garnering any similar support in the US of the growing autism population because the public is going to be called upon to pay the way.

    And so far, most of the independent research evidence (there's quite a bit actually: ) is pointing at vaccines as at least playing a role in the epidemic. There may be other facilitators, pollutants and chemicals which break down mitochondrial health and increase the risk of autism, but epidemics are ultimately simple and the jury is nearly in for this one: we know it's environmental.

    The cause cannot be genetic in any case because there's no such thing as a "genetic epidemic": there are now more children with autism in the US per capita than there were per capita disabled mentally ill (of any diagnosis or age) circa 1955.

    But until that environmental cause is officially recognized, don't expect any "Peace Villages". Expect tight purse strings and tempered compassion; more stories of abusive restraint and seclusion in schools and institutions-- and more deaths from same. Expect more wandering deaths; more autism related seizure deaths; more murder-suicides performed by end-of-their-rope parents of effected children who've aged out of the system; and more autistic children routinely dying of the major tranquilizers (first, second, whatever generation of neuroleptic) which are currently the only medical "remedy" in the mainstream medical arsenal.

    Posted by Adriana Gamondes May 1, 10 01:36 AM
  1. Just a note to the Shelly, the BCBA in training. ABA based education is a very important component but needs to be included with biomedical and diet interventions put together with the help of a good DAN doctor.
    I hope you take time to educate yourself on this issue and talk with parents who have seen a real differnce using this approach. After all, they are going to be your clients. ABA alone is not enough.
    In my opinion, Any autism provider that tells you otherwise isn't worth your time or your money.

    Posted by Mike May 1, 10 09:22 AM
  1. Hmmm, lets see....tens of thousands of vaccine injured children or a handful of scientists funded by pharma giants? I tend to go with the number 287,087. (Number of VAERS reports from 1991-2010.)

    Posted by bjgosborn May 1, 10 09:51 AM
  1. For those of you who still believe that "Vaccines are Safe" and "Vaccines do not cause autism", you may want to do some research regarding this subject before your own children fall victim to autism, or ADD, ADHD, Allergies, Asthma, Diabetes, or Cancer, as all of these rates have risen proportionally with the skyrocketing vaccine schedule. I would think that all parents would want to be certain of the vaccine risks before continuing to allow your children to be vaccinated according to the current schedule which is 49 doses by age 6.

    Keep in mind that every parent who witnessed thier child regress into autism as a direct result of vaccines believed what the Vaccine Industry and their doctors told them, and now they can see that they made a horrible mistake by putting thier trust in this dishonest information.

    My grandson was walking and talking until his last batch of vaccines. He immediately developed a very high fever and severe swelling at the injection sites. By the next day he could no longer walk or talk and had many other serious vaccine injuries, including massive diarrhea that literally ate his skin away and a rash all over his body. He turned into a screaming zombie with no ability to respond to us. According to the official party line we "imagined" that all of this was caused by the vaccines and so did hundreds of thousands of other parents who witnessed vaccines push their children right over the cliff into autism.

    Posted by Vaccines Cause Autism May 1, 10 06:15 PM
  1. @arthur allen:

    You are the most incompetent writer I have ever come across, you think your book "vaccine" would get any kind of acknowledgment at all had it not been in the best interests of the most powerful industrial lobby in the country? Because your latest book about tomatoes was practically ignored. Evidently, that's why you've shifted back from writing about tomato science to defending tobacco science yet again.

    Posted by Jake Crosby May 1, 10 10:36 PM
  1. Mike.
    Thank you for your concern, but I respectfully disagree with you. ABA therapy is the only scientifically based therapy that has been proven to work, study after study for MOST children with autism.

    My issue with the biomedical, diets and DAN ideas are this: If you do many therapies combined (such as ABA and a special diet), you can't know exactly which one the results were from. You need to control the stimuli in an environment to the most controllable level (aka do only one therapy for x amount of time) to see if it is effective. It's all about cause and effect. If i add this, then this happens. If i subtract this, then this happens. It has to have the closest to the same set of controls for the stimuli as possible for studies to be proven scientifically.

    I have done much research on DAN doctors and the biomedical diets and such. I don't really agree or disagree with them. I think that they have their place with certain children. I've seen children who go through chelation therapy and these diets and are MISERABLE during the process of voiding metals and/or yeast, and gain very few skills afterwards. And yes, I have seen kids who have gone through chelation therapy and have "recovered". see my other post... they probably didn't have "autism" it was probably heavy metal poisoning and diagnosed incorrectly.

    If you look at the facts as they stand right now, most of the biomedical/diet approaches are psudo-scientific. Their findings are based on anecdotal evidence from parents, and some (semi) reproducible studies. For a study to be truly scientific, it can't be based any anecdotal evidence at all. it has to be based on cold hard reproducible studies with clear cut (A was caused by B) facts. As any parent who know anything about the world of autism and how you have to get interventions a soon as possible after diagnosis would, most have combined these therapies with another form of therapy (Floortime, ABA, general early intervention) Again, you can't do that and say "A caused B" when there is a "C" involved in that equation that could put the entire equation out of whack.

    I'm not saying that they are bad to do, i'm just saying that I think there needs to be more CONTROLLED research studies on each one (both individually and with ONE other behavioral/cognitive therapy) in order for it to be scientific enough to be touted as a good viable option to try with autistic children.

    Also, autism is a disease that presents in MANY different forms. To say that ABA, Floortime, Chelation, biomedical or diet therapies NEED to be done together is a very generalized and in my opinion wrong thing to say. You can't generalize when it comes to children with autism, which is why as a BCBA I am being trained to make assessments based on each child that I encounter and develop a specific plan just for that particular child. There are tools that we are being taught to allow us to teach certain skills or decrease/increase certain behaviors commonly seen in a lot of these children but you will NEVER see two autistic children who are 100% exactly the same in every behavioral, medical and/or cognitive way. They will not all respond to ABA therapy either.

    And again, I am just not convinced that vaccines cause autism, but i'm not saying that it's not a possibility. And i'm not claiming to know what does cause it. Nobody knows. From a strictly personal viewpoint, I think that putting so many chemicals into such a small body can't be the healthiest thing to do, but I also don't want to see deadly diseases come back just because of one faulty study (and many other psudo-scientific studies). I think that the reasonable thing to do at this point is space out the vaccines more until more UNBIASED scientific research is done on the effects them. I was born in 86. I was one of those "80's" children that Adrianna spoke of who had 10 vaccines. Myself and almost everybody that i grew up with are neurologically okay. I didn't even know what autism WAS until I was in high school (2000) and started volunteering in local elementary schools and saw some cases. And I graduated HS in 2004. That shows you how much autism has grown in the last 6 years. it's MIND BLOWING!

    However, I do think that there must be something going on in the united states that isn't going on in much of the rest of the world that is causing it, or at least causing children who are susceptible to it (genetically or otherwise) to be pushed over the edge. I've heard a theory that it could have something to do with lawn care chemicals/house hold chemicals as well. I just think that there needs to be more scientific research on this entire subject before we stop immunizing children against deadly diseases that few of us have been around to see happen.

    Posted by Shelly May 2, 10 01:26 AM
  1. "...and the Thimerosal-autism debate, both of which are still ongoing in some communities in spite of the fact that the supposed links have been debunked."

    How could the Boston Globe possibly discount what RFK Jr. wrote in their Op-Ed section five years ago? How could anyone just stop worrying about thimerosal after reading this?

    Posted by Jake Crosby May 2, 10 05:20 PM
  1. Thanks for your comment, Jake. But what RFK Jr. wrote 5 years ago was an op-ed piece, not a news story. And the autism rate continues to rise, in spite of the fact that thimerosal has been removed from childhood vaccines (though not the flu shot). What I'm wondering is why people are still so focused on Thimerosal when there are so many other additives and adjuvants -- aluminum, for example -- could also be a factor? -- LMA

    Posted by LMAlphonse May 2, 10 07:08 PM
  1. Dear Lylah,

    Sure thing. I did not mean to as project RFK Jr.'s views onto you or anyone else here at the Globe, as the opinions expressed were just his own. However, after reading the facts in his article, I simply do not see how anyone can possibly think of thimerosal in vaccines as being totally, 100% unrelated to autism, especially with the way the government handled the situation. The latest numbers of 1 in 100 released by the CDC are from children born in 1996 and 1998, before any reduction in thimerosal happened.

    I completely agree with you, however, that we need to look at other ingredients in vaccines as potential contributors to the problem, too, such as aluminum.

    All the best,


    Posted by Jake Crosby May 2, 10 09:31 PM
  1. Both my sons have autism, my oldest lost his speech after receiving four shots at one sitting. How many shots does it take to be toxic and harmful for a one year old. My sons weighed 18 pounds. Did the CDC study on 18 pound toddlers or 7-10 year olds, did they study single shots or multiple shots, did they study in Denmark. (10 shots vaccine schedule or in the USA?) Please research Poul Thorsen MD. The vaccine industry makes over 300 billion a year, they pump special interest money to politicians, lawyers and media moguls. The truth is coming out.

    Posted by jerry May 16, 10 03:28 AM
  1. Here are a wide variety of studies, conveniently gathered in one place, done by researchers around the world, published in many different journals, all supporting the link between vaccines and autism:

    Posted by Phoebe_fan May 20, 10 12:25 PM
  1. LMA, Thimerosal has NOT been removed, repeat: NOT been removed from shots!!!! My son was JUST about to get his DTAP but we asked to see the pamphlet that came with the shot's packaging, first. That pamphlet lists the shot's ingredients. In black and white, repeat after me: T-H-I-M-E-R-O-S-A-L. Earlier in the decade it was "recommended" that Thimerosal be removed, but the fact is that Thimerosal is cheaper than alternative ingredients and therefore it continues to be used by manufacturers. Many pediatricians miss this nuance, including the one who was about to inject Thimerosal into our son via the DTAP shot. "There's no Thimerosal in this". READ THE INGREDIENTS.

    Posted by Ed May 24, 10 09:16 AM
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Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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