Managing Editor's Note: You can call the Obama campaign at 866-675-2008. It might take two or three tries to reach a person. Tell them you read about Obama's "Vaccination Selection" opinion on Age of Autism. Or email them at http://my.barackobama.com/page/s/contact2.
By Jill Nordtvedt Lenhard
After reading Claudine Liss' piece on Senator Obama's stance on selective vaccination, I was inspired to write to him as one more voice in this complex debate. Posted here is the letter I just sent.
September 9, 2008
Dear Senator Obama,
I am the mother of a 5 year old son with autism, and I am depending on you to be a leader in defeating this health crisis by finding out what is causing this terrible condition. I am inspired by your stance on many issues, and especially your desire to end the divisive nature of politics in our country. I have been registered as a nonpartisan voter in Alaska for 20 years, but this year I changed my party affiliation to Democrat in order to cast my vote for you in our statewide caucus last winter. Alaskans supported you overwhelmingly in that vote.
However, I am greatly disheartened to read today on ageofautism.com that you are against selective vaccination. Children with underlying conditions such as mitochondrial disorder that have been linked to the development of autism (as in the Hannah Poling case) should be allowed to receive vaccines on a selective schedule. Parents and physicians should be allowed to make individual choices for children who may have immunological and/or genetic risk factors. Given the continuing questions about vaccines and autism, it is vital that our country study the safety of vaccinations to determine if they have played a role in the explosion of autism and other neurological disorders in our children. Definitive studies comparing populations of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children and the autism rate have NOT been done.
As a resident of the State of Alaska, I have had the opportunity to speak directly with Governor Sarah Palin about autism and the problems our state has faced in providing appropriate early intervention services. Our small town of Petersburg, Alaska has an alarming 1 in 75 autism rate among its children. Governor Palin was receptive to my comments and ideas, and she later increased the funding per intensive special needs student for our school districts statewide. She listened well on autism education issues; will you also listen when it comes to autism and healthcare?
You can do this in the following ways. First, please fully fund the Combating Autism Act and direct funding toward well-designed studies that will completely answer the questions surrounding vaccinations and autism.
Second, please educate yourself fully on this subject by hearing extensively from both sides so that you can make informed decisions about how best to treat and defeat autism. Talk to people who have begun to question the safety of vaccines, such as Dr. Bernadine Healy, the former head of the NIH. Many, many parents, including my husband and I, were skeptical of the vaccine-autism connection until we began reading extensively on both sides of the issue.
Third, please bring about a change in the way that autism is treated by the mainstream medical community and the insurance industry. In many cases, mainstream treatments such as speech therapy are not covered by insurance if the person has autism because the condition is not "an illness or an injury" in its current medical definition. Our insurance, which covers up to 60 speech therapy visits per year, refuses to cover our son's speech visits because he has autism. In addition, other effective medical treatments are not recognized by mainstream physicians. Many, many families, including ours, were driven to try "experimental" biomedical treatments because their doctors would not assist them with the health issues that children with autism face, such as chronic bowel disease. These biomedical treatments are not covered by the majority of insurance plans, including ours. The fact that these treatments provide real improvement for many people with autism is directly linked biochemically to the possibility of vaccine damage. I did not want to believe that vaccines may have caused my son's autism, but now that he is improving with biomedical intervention I am forced to consider that the contents of vaccines may have damaged his immune and biochemical systems in such a way that he developed autism. (For an explanation of this theory, please see the Defeat Autism Now medical text Autism: Effective Biomedical Treatments by Drs. John Pangborn and Sidney MacDonald. The text is written for physicians.)
Families affected with autism desperately need a strong, unifying leader to fully expose the causes of this condition and bring about a sea change in the way that it is treated by the medical community and the insurance industry. I believe you can be the leader who defeats autism, and you will gain a huge following if you take on this issue in an informed, courageous way.
Thank you very much.
Jill Nordtvedt Lenhard
Jill teaches English as a Second Language at Petersburg City Schools in Petersburg, Alaska, population 3,200. She also teaches online Linguistics at Washington Academy of Languages/Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington. Her husband, Matt, is the music teacher for Petersburg's school district. They have three children, Nathaniel, 9, Eva, 7, and Iain, 5. Iain has autism and has just started Kindergarten with a wonderful, dedicated team of teachers at the local elementary school.