In 2009, Insel spoke at MIT. He talked about the environment and autism. He admitted that there were endless possibilities but he was firm that vaccines had been looked into and they'd been exonerated.
Then in 2010, he spoke for an hour and a half at the National Institutes of Health. Insel made the stunning statement, "Eighty percent of the people with a diagnosis of autism [in the U.S.] are under the age of eighteen."
In addition, Insel said, "We have responded to this as if it's a crisis. We see this as an enormous public health challenge. If you look at those numbers, the increase and recognize how many of those kids will become adults, we ...also need to be thinking about how we prepare the nation for a million people who may need significant amounts of services as they are no longer cared for by their parents or as their parents are no longer around."
During his talk, he made it clear that better diagnosing could explain only a small portion of the stunning increase in autism. He pointed to the environment, but was unable to provide any specific answers.
Then on Dec 26, 2012, Insel put out the piece, Autism Progress, on the NIMH website.
So what does Insel consider progress in the area of autism? He cited lots of things about the genetics of autism, early diagnosing using brain imaging and early intervention. He made stunning statements like:
"According to PubMed, there were over 1,000 ASD papers related to genetics or brain imaging since January 2011 - more than three times the number of papers from the same interval a decade ago."
He was quick to tell us that he really doesn't know anything about autism's cause: "We still do not know enough about what causes ASD."
He went on to say this:
"What about environmental causes? Several environmental factors, such as exposure to air pollution, agricultural pesticides, and antidepressants, have been reported to increase ASD risk, mostly based on exposure during pregnancy. While most scientists assume that environmental factors interact with genetic susceptibility, we still know far too little about either genetic or environmental factors to make this link."
The strongest language I could find in the article was the need for "urgent attention." He made a clever, but ambiguous comment, "The 1 in 88 figure in 2008 may still fall short of the mark. In the absence of a more complete explanation, as I have said in an earlier blog, the safest assumption is 'more affected not just more detected.'"
Following that he wrote, "If there is a true increase in children affected, what environmental factor or factors are driving this increase?"
"IF"??...Insel still isn't quite sure IF MORE KIDS REALLY TRULY HAVE AUTISM?
Sounding like we have all the time in the world to ponder this issue, Insel wasn't alarmed. Autism isn't even a crisis to this man. I still can't fathom how he could put the title "Autism Progress" on this piece, deluding himself into believing that there's actually been any.
The latest piece I've found from Insel, dated Feb 26, 2013, is nothing short of bizarre as shown by the title, The Four Kingdoms of Autism.
Insel finds autism frustrating. It seems to bother him that the autism community has so little consensus on anything and that there's so much "polarization and confusion around autism." (Which Insel doesn't seem to realize comes from the fact that the medical community can't tell us anything definite about the disorder.)
According to Insel's overview, the divisions over autism are like "kingdoms." Insel wrote, "Each [kingdom] has its own truths. And each too often fails to understand or even recognize that their truths may not apply to all kingdoms." The kingdoms are Illness, Identity, Injury, and Insight. Their views of autism range from seeing autism as merely an example of neurodiversity to parents who see autism as vaccine injury.
In Insel's view, there's no single answer about autism.
Insel summarized his perspective:
"At different times and for different people, each of these kingdoms has something to offer. We need better diagnostics and treatments; we need better services, especially for adults; we need a strategy for prevention; and we need a deeper understanding of the social brain. As long as each kingdom stays behind its own walls, there is little hope for progress overall."
Insel believes that none of the Four Kingdoms of Autism has the complete truth about autism.
Insel seemed to be saying, can't we all just get along? Can't we all just agree on something?
With a puzzling lack of concern over the cause of autism, he advocated for services.
"A better way forward will be to find some common ground where the entire community can work together. One such area is the need for better services. Clinicians, self-advocates, parents, scientists, and educators should be able to embrace a goal of ensuring that every person on the spectrum, irrespective of wealth, geography, or ethnicity, receives the best treatments and services."
Insel also made a passing reference about the next approaching segment of the autism nightmare.
"The challenge only becomes more complex when children with autism become adults with autism. There are over 1 million parents of Americans with autism-nearly all worried about how their offspring will be cared for if he or she outlives them."
Finally, Insel chided us about our inaction on autism:
"Fifty years from now we don't want to look back at this period and wonder why we stayed so long behind these kingdoms' respective bastions, empowering conflict rather than cooperation. Instead, by focusing now on both short term needs and long term solutions we need a collective commitment to science and service to improve the world for both children and adults on the spectrum."
It was stunning to read Insel's views and consider that this man is supposed to be addressing autism in the U.S. He's the head of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee created by Congress and he can't tell us anything. Where's his indignation over the years of pathetic inaction?
Insel said this about the Injury Kingdom:
"This kingdom was founded by parents who report marked regression after the 18-month vaccination series, when their previously interactive, communicative toddler withdraws and stops speaking. While epidemiological studies do not support a link between vaccination and autism, those convinced that autism is an injury argue that population studies may obscure a link in rare individual cases."
Insel trivialized regressive autism and omitted any mention of the fact that it's been discovered that U.S. government has quietly compensated over 80 cases of vaccine injury that included autism, along with the concession in the case of Hannah Poling.
"Fifty years from now..." Fifty years from now we will be living in a society where autism affects the entire population. It won't be a childhood illness any longer. It'll be a fact of life for a large segment of the population. We won't have the luxury of speculating on the kingdoms of autism. There will be one Kingdom of Autism---Bankrupting Cost.
We will be faced with providing an never ending population of disabled Americans that we can't explain. A significant portion of them will never be productive. We'll all be paying to support them. They will drain the financial resources of our society. I can't imagine what autism is going to cost this nation. Fifty years from now, Americans caught in the autism nightmare will ask how it could possibly have gotten so bad with authorities doing nothing to stop it. The abysmal inaction of those we call experts will be seen as outrageous and incomprehensible.
The truth is Insel has omitted the kingdom where he find himself. There is a Fifth Kingdom of Autism. It's called Denial and Cover-up.
I asked Louis Conte, father of triple boys, two of whom have autism, for his opinion of Thomas Insel. Here's his response:
Dr. Insel clearly sees divisions within the autism community and has done nothing to address them. His insights do nothing that help people with autism. He continues to be vague about a true increase in the number of affected children. No increase in autism, no autism crisis and therefore no need to do anything extraordinary about it.
Personally, I would be camped out in the Kingdom called "Injury." I think that children who have suffered brain damage as a result of vaccine injuries (and, yes, other environmental insults) often develop the symptoms of the behavioral disorder called autism. My thoughts on this are supported by the many cases of vaccine injury induced brain damage that the US Government (HRSA) has compensated in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP).
We need to look at regressive autism. What happened to these children is important. As Dr. Bernadine Healey stated five years ago, we must study the children who got sick.
The population of vaccine injured children compensated by the US Government represents an important data set that could provide invaluable insight into how autism (and other health conditions) occur after brain damage. The information regarding these individuals is critical to understanding how autism develops. Is there a vulnerable sub-set of children? What can we learn from these children? There are dozens of important questions.
But we never get to study them because our government is keeping what it knows away from public view. Given the increase in autism, keeping this information shuttered away amounts to negligence and cover-up.
Dr. Insel should be leading the call to study the children who got sick - not just noting that divisions exist within the autism community. Imagine if President Kennedy went to Berlin and simply said "Hey, Berlin, you guys got a big wall there." Imagine if President Reagan said "Nice wall Mr. Gorbachev."
Mr. Insel, tear down the wall. Ask the tough questions.