By Anne Dachel
I was looking through the recent stories put out by the Chicago Tribune and was amazed at the exposes denouncing Dr. Mayer Eisenstein and Dr. Mark Geier and his son David.
Autism drug Lupron: Father-and-son team's crusade shows cracks Chicago Tribune May 21, 2009 (HERE).
Autism doctor: Troubling record trails doctor treating autism May 22, 2009 (HERE).
Let me say that I'm not an expert on any of the medical aspects of this; I'm merely an observer. So here's what I'm seeing.
One of the issues in the stories is the use of Lupron to treat aggression in autistic children who have high levels of testosterone. This is a huge controversy. The treatment is slammed as "unproven and potentially damaging" in the Tribune.
"Experts" are lined up against parents and doctors using Lupron to treat autistic behavior, but the Tribune doesn't stop there. We're also told, "In the absence of definitive answers, unproven treatments have proliferated, including diets that eliminate wheat and dairy, chelation drugs that leach metals out of the body, and treatment in hyperbaric oxygen chambers similar to those used to treat scuba divers with 'the bends.' "
The mainstream medical community doesn't have answers on autism--what causes it or how to treat it effectively. They deny it can be cured. Any parents out there who claim that biomedical treatments and diet have helped are simply being deceived according to Trine Tsouderos in 'Miracle drug' called junk science Chicago Tribune May 21, 2009. "Experts said such beliefs are common among parents who try alternative autism treatments. It's easy, they say, to attribute normal developmental leaps to whatever treatment is being tried at the time."
Tom Owley, director of the Neurodevelopmental Pharmacology Clinic at the U. of Chicago is cited. 'Autistic children, like all children, develop in fits and starts. They have bursts of learning, then plateau. Parents trying numerous treatments on their children will see that natural development and credit whatever therapy they are using at the time.'
I'm thinking right now of a local dad I know. When his non-verbal autistic daughter was seven he started chelation to get rid of the heavy metals which she had in abundance. Three weeks later, she said her first word.
(Sorry Tim, the experts have spoken. Sheryl would have started talking without the treatment. And why a child has off-the-chart levels of toxins in her body in the first place? Nobody at the Chicago Tribune is interested in finding out.)
In the Tribune stories, parents are "desperate." Alternative treatments are "junk science." Recovering children is dismissed as "allegedly" a result.
All this coverage coincides with the big Autism One Conference going on in Chicago. The message is clear: All those presenters at Autism One are wrong and dangerous and the parents going to A-One are being deceived.
I had to congratulate myself this morning reading the Age of Autism piece by editor Dan Olmsted, Olmsted on Autism: Welcome to Illinois (HERE).
I was thrilled that I had the same reaction to the Trib stories that Dan did, namely that they were designed to put a spin on the Autism One Conference. I didn't know the technical term, 'precede' that Dan used, but the message was clear: Beware the so-called experts at A-One.
Being a reader of the news on autism on a daily basis, I can tell you exactly how the Tribune is spinning the spin. Autism isn't a problem--junk scientists are. Lost in the denunciation of biomed practices to treat autism is anything about autism. There is absolutely no concern over the explosion in the numbers beyond anything imaginable just a few years ago. The medical community is given a free pass when it comes to knowing anything substantial about autism--except that vaccines don't cause it and CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine) is dangerous and useless.
The Chicago Tribune consistently uses outdated and meaningless statistics on autism telling us that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that one in every 150 children in the U.S. has autism (HERE). No one at the Tribune is concerned that these numbers come from studies done on eight year olds back in 2000 and 2002. The agency that gets billions to run health care in the U.S. can't give us the current autism rate and they still can't figure out if more kids really have autism or if there are just more doctors who can diagnose it correctly.
All the reporters at the Trib trashing CAM doctors and parents who go to them make no mention of the wave of children with autism in IL schools.
There's no alarm over the jaw-dropping increase in autism in IL (HERE). Over nine thousand children in that state are autistic according to the U.S. Dept. of Ed. Is anyone at the Tribune worried about what that means for the taxpayers? Not that I can see.
What do all these kids mean for the state of IL? Try multiplying 9,000 by $3.2 million dollars. That's the figure given by Harvard researcher Michael Gantz in 2006 as a result of his study on the cost of lifetime care for ONE INDIVIDUAL WITH AUTISM (HERE).
Back in 2006, I asked Ganz about the figure and he admitted that it's a conservative estimate. Others put the cost at between $5 and $10 million per person.
The Tribune defines autism as a disorder "characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and non-verbal communication, and unusual, repetitive behaviors." I know lots of parents who love that description of autism. One dad from Texas says, "It sounds like the kid just can't get a date." I talk to him on the phone a lot and I can usually hear his teenage autistic son screaming in the background. I guess screaming comes under one of the categories: "impaired social interaction," "problems with non-verbal communication," "unusual, repetitive behaviors." I'm just not sure which one.
Missing from this definition are descriptions of teenagers in diapers, kids who can't talk at all, kids who bang their heads all day and smear their own feces on the wall.
The Chicago Tribune says nothing about regressive autism in all their stories. So what happened to children who could talk, make eye contact, and were seemingly healthy until a certain round of vaccinations? Explain to us why they stopped progressing and lost learned skills. Tell us why they have seizures, allergies, and incredible gut issues.
I can say without hesitation that you haven't lived until you've watched a second grader have a meltdown where it takes three adults to subdue him. Funny thing, I never learned about aggressive behavior in children when I got my education degree in college. I never saw kids like this when I started teaching several decades ago. They are everywhere now. I always feel a certain panic when I see a child like this and I can't avoid imagining him doing the same thing at age 18.
The Tribune didn't carry anything about the latest autism rate in Britain announced from Cambridge University (HERE). Researchers now believe as many as one in every 60 children has some form of the condition. That translates into one in every 38 boys in the U.K.
That may just be a foreign story, but I noticed that the Chicago Tribune paid no attention to the recent events in California either. One was the announcement on April 28 of the formation of the Senate Select Committee on Autism (HERE). It seems California is trying to deal with tens of thousands of disabled children that weren't here 25 years ago and they are very worried.
The Trib ignored the recent findings from the CA Department of Developmental Services that showed a 1,200 percent increase in autism in twenty years in that state (HERE)_. Even scarier is the admission that this is an underestimate of the real numbers and that it only counted cases of full-blown autism, not all the other less severe forms of the disorder.
No matter, that's going on in CA and has no bearing on what's happening in IL schools or at Autism One.
The autism community has grown so weary of phony figures that mask the real disaster and of reading that only a "vocal minority of people believe vaccines are to blame for autism." Either the Trib reporters never looked into this or else they have their own reasons for not mentioning it, but there are lots of top people who challenge the safety claims.
Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health, former head of the American Red Cross, current health editor at U.S. News and World Report went on Larry King Live and on CBS News calling for more research into the possibility that vaccines cause autism in certain subgroups of genetically vulnerable kids (HERE). Leading Dr.: Vaccines-Autism Worth Study - CBS News)
No one at the Chicago Tribune even noticed.
Likewise, Dr. Peter Fletcher, former Chief Scientific Officer in the UK, acknowledged the compelling evidence of a link between autism, bowel disease and the MMR (HERE).
The Tribune was silent.
The Chicago Tribune reporters Steve Mills, Tim Jones, Patricia Callahan, and Trine Tsouderos ignore the numbers and the experts who challenge their one-sided, selective reporting. They pretend that it's acceptable and normal to have countless thousands of children everywhere who can't talk, can't learn, and can't behave. They present this controversy as one between the medical community and false science. No one says anything about what's really at stake here. Federal health officials and medical organizations long ago allied themselves with the drug industry. They have everything at stake in denying any link between the vaccine schedule and the explosion in autism. Everything.
In the end, the truth will be undeniable. The 9,000 plus kids with autism in Illinois are not going away. Neither are the hundreds of thousands of autistic children across this country. They are getting older. There will soon be an entire generation of autistic Americans dependent on the U.S. taxpayers for the rest of their long lives. The public will demand to know where they came from. People will want to know why no one warned them this was happening. Reporters like Mills, Jones, Callahan, and Tsouderos at the Chicago Tribune will be the first ones we turn to looking for answers.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.