Part 3 in the 14 Studies Series
Okay, we’re almost ready to begin.
As you know, there are very distinct positions regarding Autism; what it is, what causes it, and whether or not it is treatable. If you are reading this, chances are pretty good you know what your position is.
But just as it was important to define the true issue of the debate (Part 1) and the context in which it is taking place (Part 2), it is equally important to clearly define the positions of the parties involved (Part 3). From there we will be able to analyze some of the research that has been done to support or discredit them.
Position 1: Autism is a Treatable, Medical Disease
People who take this position believe the first problem with Autism is its name. Autism by definition in one dictionary means “preference for fantasy over reality”, an inexplicable cluster of behaviors and symptoms that manifest for some unknown reason. (That particular definition makes it sound like it's even a choice.) It is categorized as a psychological disorder.
But for these people, Autism is hardly a mystery. They believe it is a treatable and preventable whole-body disease that occurs in a genetically susceptible group. Genetics is not the cause of the problem; it is simply a factor in developing it. So are toxins. So are vaccines.
While not precisely known, they believe Autism is a collapse of the immune, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems that eventually manifests itself physically and behaviorally, only appearing to be psychological in nature. Addressing medical issues in those areas can often reverse the disorder in its entirety or at a minimum relieve the intensity of its symptoms.
This position is hopeful; it does not believe Autism is a lifelong irreversible disorder for which there is only behavioral therapy. It embraces a whole gamut of possibilities for treatment, recognizing that while the root causes are similar, each child is unique and needs specialized treatment.
Finally, and what this series will primarily focus on, people who hold this position believe there has been a significant and tremendous increase in the prevalence and incidence of autism over the years, and that the increase corresponds precisely with the increase of childhood vaccines given to children.
Position 2: Autism is a Psychological Mystery, a Coincidence, and a Gift
Years ago, people with this position believed Autism was a lifelong disorder that started with an unloving and uncaring mother. In the years since, the belief about the mother’s outward role has been dismissed, and the theory that it is entirely genetic (something you are born with) has replaced it. (However, to what extent genetics play a role is now being debated. Some medical groups are beginning to acknowledge that the environment must be playing a role; investigations into what environmental factors those might be are underway.)
Still, this position regards Autism primarily as a genetic, psychological mystery coupled with unfortunate coincidences. Co-morbid medical conditions, the timing of the onset of symptoms, the eyewitness testimony of parents, the ratio of boys to girls, the alarming rise in prevalence and incidence rates, and the eerie similarity between the symptoms of poisoning and Autism are all considered coincidental.
These believers do not know what causes Autism, they simply know what doesn’t: vaccines. They believe Autism is simultaneously a lifelong disorder, a disorder you can slowly outgrow, and a disorder you can spontaneously improve from. They also believe the prevalence of Autism has remained constant throughout time.
Finally, a subset of people with this position believes Autism is a gift, a unique and inherent part of the personality that cannot and should not be treated. Attempting to do so is considered not only dangerous but insulting.
Well, those are very different positions to be sure.
Autism is either a treatable medical disease on the rise that has a genetic vulnerability, or it is a maybe purely genetic behavioral/psychological mystery not caused by vaccines that has remained constant throughout time for which little besides behavioral therapy can be done.
Of utmost importance in the debate is what the first position offers as the primary cause: vaccines. This is crucial because if true, those who typically claim otherwise will be the ones held accountable; the basis being that the medical community, the government, and the pharmaceutical industry caused it.
The science we will discuss is the response to that accusation. It is nothing more than the evaluation by the accused of those allegations in the manner they see fit. Quite simply, it is their defense, the evidence they have put forth to exonerate themselves from any culpability.
We will now begin to examine that evidence ourselves. Before we do, however, it may be helpful to get organized. For those of you that will be following this series, I encourage you to do a few things first in order to make the process of learning and referring to the information much easier.
Get a 2-3 inch 3 ring binder, a hole-punch, a bunch of dividers with pockets, and a highlighter.
Download all of the studies from the 14 Studies website HERE (there are actually 19 studies) and print them out.
Put them in the binder, categorizing them by Thimerosal and MMR in the order they appear on the website, starting with the Thimerosal studies first. (When I discuss the studies I will be referring to them as T1 or M5, which correlates to Thimerosal Study #1 or MMR Study #5.)
As we progress throughout the series I will encourage you to download additional material, such as email exchanges obtained via the Freedom of Information Act, post-publication criticism, and so forth. These may also be placed in your binder.
I will attempt to present a minimum of one part of the series per week with recommended reading interspersed. For next week’s article, the only homework is to get organized if you wish.
The following is a general outline of the upcoming series:
An Overview of the Studies
An Overview of Thimerosal
The Thimerosal Studies
An Overview of MMR
The MMR Studies
Where We Go from Here
I look forward to getting our analysis under way and hope you will join in the discussion as we begin later this week.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.