GOP Autism Dad: Biomedical Treatments Are Helping My Son
Autism was the disorder heard 'round the world last Thursday at the Republican Convention, as John McCain singled out a young father from Pennsylvania for special recognition from 39 million viewers.
"I fight for Jake and Toni Wimmer of Franklin County, Pennsylvania," McCain said. "They have two sons. The youngest, Luke, has been diagnosed with autism. Their lives should matter to the people they elect to office. And they matter to me."
It was a powerful moment, and it could help place autism squarely in the forefront of the national political discussion, where it belongs.
This weekend, Jake Wimmer's trip to St. Paul was retold by a local news outlet (HERE). I was intrigued enough to pick up the phone and call him for his opinions on the campaign, and on the state of autism in America today.
The first thing Jake told me was that he and Toni keep a copy of my book, "Evidence of Harm," in their home. And though they don't rule out thimerosal, vaccines or other environmental factors as potential autism triggers, they remain firmly in the agnostic-yet-open-minded camp when it comes to possible causes.
Indeed, Jake Wimmer said he was more concerned about what will happen to his son -- and all the other young Americans with autism – going into the future, rather than dwelling on what's happened in the past.
"We cannot go backwards," he told me. "And while it is good to understand the past, because you don't want to make the same mistake, you've got to move forward."
Wimmer, a lifelong Republican, was thrilled that his candidate spoke about autism during his big speech. "I am just glad he is putting it out there, because in 10 years or so, we are going to have a society where we will need to assimilate a good number of folks."
He said the country must begin planning now for the wave of young adults who will need job training, employment opportunities, counseling and educational support – all tailored to meet their specific abilities and challenges.
"As these kids get older, we are going to have a significant population of people in this country that may or may not be able to take care of themselves, financially or emotionally," he said. "And at some point as a society, we've got to figure this out. Somebody needs to address the long-term here."
Wimmer, who was affable and accessible, answered a range of questions about autism, politics, and the tentative intersection between the two. Some highlights:
TREATMENTS: The Wimmers take Luke to a Defeat Autism Now (DAN) doctor in Baltimore. Luke receives twice weekly methyl B-12 shots, and underwent a lengthy regimen of chelation therapy.
"He gets better every year," Jake Wimmer said. "Once we started the B-12, we saw a tremendous improvement." But injecting his son in the leg twice a week was a tough chore for Jake, (though Toni seemed to handle it better).
"So one summer I said, 'let's stop this and just see what happens," Jake said. "He lost his ABCs in a month. He lost whatever speech he had gained since we put him on B-12. He went backwards."
Luke is back on B-12, but off chelation, for now. Oral chelation was tough, he said, mostly because of the nasty taste. But hair and blood samples showed that Luke's young system was suffering from heavy metal accumulation. And urine tests after chelation showed elevated levels of tin, lead and mercury being extracted from their son.
Jake attributes Luke's progress to a combination of biomedical treatment, behavioral therapy, educational support and intensive interaction with family members, including Luke's older brother.
"I don't think there is a magic bullet," Wimmer said. "If there were, I would like to think that, in our great country, we would have figured it out by now."
Luke still has progress to make, to be sure. "He is 6 ½ years old. He should be a first grader, but he is not," Wimmer lamented. "He is communicating like a two or three year-old, and he is going to be seven in April. And he still has some of the typical things, like stimming. He slaps around a little bit, but not a whole lot. He really is doing better all the time."
CAUSATION: "I just don't know. I leave that stuff up to people who do the research," Wimmer said. "My job as a father is to do whatever I can to help Luke now, because I cannot go backwards. Feeling sorry for yourself, sticking your head in the sand, and placing blame is not going to make the situation any better."
On the other hand, Wimmer rules out nothing when it comes to causation. "It could be a combination of 50 different things, for all I know," he said. "I know that Deirdre Imus has spoken out about clean and green products in the home. So who knows?"
Luke displayed symptoms of autism as early as six months of age, Wimmer said. There was no typical development followed by clear regression. He was born in April, 2002, and the Wimmers have yet to determine which, if any, of his vaccines contained thimerosal. Toni receieved no injections while pregnant.
"We do need to find out the root cause, so we don't go backward," Wimmer said. "But again, at my level, I'm just focused on what to do to support our son financially and educationally, and for him to get better."
MITOCHONDRIAL DYSFUNCTION: Luke Wimmer has very poor muscle tone, Jake said. "His arms and legs go right down to the bones, whereas my other son is a stocky, strong little kid," Jake told me. "Our doctor once mentioned that maybe Luke has a protein processing issue. But after reading a little bit about Hannah Poling, who is the daughter of a doctor after all, we will bring it up with our own doctor this when we go see him this month,"
THIMEROSAL: "I am in no way speaking for the McCain campaign, but I am glad that he is talking about thimerosal. I am glad someone is talking about it," Wimmer said. "Now, I am a Republican-thinking kind of guy anyway, so this is not a defining issue for me. But I am glad he is willing to talk about this issue– that makes me feel good."
SARAH PALIN: "In my opinion, she is going to deal with these kind of things going into the future," he said. "I know that autism and Down Syndrome are different, but they both deal with mental capacity issues. I think she would certainly be sympathetic and open minded to listening to parents, and to challenging what we are doing today for the future of education, and for the standard of living for these kids."
GOVERNMENT FUNDING: What can John McCain do to keep his pledge to "fight" for families like the Wimmers? "To be honest, I haven't thought about that in a lot of detail," Wimmer said. "But I would like him to keep his word that we, as a country, will continue to explore how these kids are going to work and make a living."
As for research funding, he added: "If we can spend money studying some of the other things we study in this country, then think we can continue to spend money on our all our medical challenges, everything from cancer to autism. The glass is so gosh-darn full in the United States. Things could be so much worse."
David Kirby is a journalist, the author of Evidence of Harm and contributor to Age of Autism.
Having an autistic child is not easy to cope with. And yes I agree that autism equals heartbreak. It doesn't mean that being vaccinated baby is already safe from autism because as you have experienced that your other non-vaccinated children are non-autistic.
Posted by: Barnhouse Mancini | May 02, 2013 at 04:10 AM
I need to clear this up since we are all on the same side here. Our son goes to a DAN Dr because I want to turn over all stones and a DAN Dr will certainly give you better advise and analysis than a "regular" Peditrician. I assume we all agree on that. As for the going backwards feelings. My wife and I spent years with the hunting for the cause approach and that is what seemed to consume us instead of thinking about his present and future needs. We feel confident our environment is not at cause since he is making progress. Our DAN Dr does all the research on the vaccine position so we can focus on his present education needs with in our local education system. We follow the direction of our DAN Dr as I am sure you do too. When I answer the vaccine causation question with "I don't know" type of attitude it is because I answer questions that way unless I know the answer 100%. The fact that I go to a DAN Dr should be evidence enough that I believe vaccines are a contributor. Enough about that.. So, I am sure some of you have heard about a link between Lyme Disease and Autism? Besides reading the articles and getting the writers opinion does any Autistic Professionals (which frankly I believe is us..the parents) have any real life experiences they could share with the group on this one?
Good Luck to all with your own fight because no one knows how feel but us.
Your friend, Jake
Posted by: Jake Wimmer | September 11, 2008 at 09:26 PM
I don't think the government should be able to ram mandatory vaccines down our children's throats. I am 32 years old. My generation was given minimal vaccines (10 or close to that), and I never knew one kid in my 12 years of school that had a spectrum disorder. So Obama is gung ho for reproductive choice when it comes to women, but anti-choice when it comes to mothers choosing when and how much to vaccinate their babies. Wow, that's convenient for pregnant women everywhere, but not so much for newborns. What a hypocrite...
Posted by: Molly | September 08, 2008 at 06:34 PM
Respectfully Mr Wimmer,
Republican to Republican
If it walks like a duck,
excretes a neurotoxin like a duck, you don't need a researcher to tell you why your child cascaded into Autism.
Simply pick up a material safety data sheet.
Leaving these conclusions to professionals is what got us here in the first place.
Posted by: KarenAtlanta | September 08, 2008 at 04:23 PM
Sorry Mr. Wimmer, Its your past, but its also the present for millions of Indian children (India), so I wish that you would care and maybe once a year send a greeting card to the WHO asking them why they think mercury is so very good for children in the third world. And oh, yes, one more greeting card for the Indian Association of Pediatrics ,which a few years back decided that 7 mercury vaccines by age 6 months was not good enough. Now it is 8 or 9 mercury vaccines by age three and one half months- yes- months. And that isnt trace mercury either- its 12.5 or 25 micrograms ethylmercury in each vaccine. If your doctor does not offer you imported vaccines, your son has pretty much had it, if you accept all the recommended vaccines.
Kim, Ill send you copies of our pediatric schedule plus a list of Indian vaccines with thimerosal content. Hope you can print it
Posted by: Cherry Sperlin Misra | September 08, 2008 at 02:33 PM
I understand looking forward to the future, but the past is also key in legislation for those of us who choose not to vaccinate or do selective vaccines. I vaccinated on schedule with my oldest, and he has severe ASD, my youngest only got until 1 year so he is mild. I am not a scientist or DR, but I just had a feeling about Vaccines. Why does the Health Department feel they have to scare you? It feels almost like they are desperate to push you to vaccineate.
Posted by: Lisa Clark | September 08, 2008 at 09:48 AM
Hi, everyone! I did not mean to brew up a controversy on what Obama said, or did not say. I was not personally present at his fundraiser, so I honestly do not have a right to comment on that and potentially sway anyone's choice of President. So I am sorry about that.
I was referencing a prior post at AoA from Shannon on the "Obama and Corzine Listen..." article, wherein she stated, "I'm afraid Barack Obama was asked by someone at the fundraiser if he supported the parent's right to choose to vaccinate and he said he did not." I do not know Shannon, nor do I know if she was present at the rally (I didn't have a chance to speak to everyone there), or if she was at the fundraiser to actually hear what was said. What I do know is that someone (Claudine) from the rally on Louise's lawn went into the fundraiser and did indeed speak directly to Obama on the very issue of vaccination choice, and that she is currently working on a press release indicating exactly what question she asked the Senator and exactly what his response was. I am sure, due to the interest expressed from many of you at this website that one of the editors at AoA will post this release and we will all come to know exactly what was said by each person, verbatim. We all deserve no less. The presidential election is very important to all of us, for many reasons, and I will await the truth on this issue with the rest of you.
Posted by: Gayle | September 08, 2008 at 09:05 AM
This is all I found on Obama's recent encounter of New Jersey parents opposing mandatory vaccination. He waved at them and Gov Corzine went to talk to them.
Posted by: Elizabeth | September 08, 2008 at 02:42 AM
One more thing: from this very blog, about six months ago... quoted from an interview with A-CHAMP. ( http://www.ageofautism.com/2008/03/obama-and-clint.html )
A-CHAMP: Would you support a federal right for families and individuals to choose for themselves which vaccines they will use?
Obama: I support screening for a wide variety of diseases and disorders. Early diagnosis and early intervention are the best practice for most illnesses. I believe that every American has the right to access these screenings, and I believe that every American has the right also to refuse these screenings voluntarily if they so choose. I also support a thorough
and independent review of our nation’s vaccination policies.
Posted by: Matt Morrison | September 08, 2008 at 01:36 AM
You all wanted to see Obama's comments on the autism/vaccination link?
Not only have I got the text... I have the video too.
From The Washington Post: http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/04/dr_obama_and_dr_mccain.html
"We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it." --Barack Obama, Pennsylvania Rally, April 21, 2008.
There's more, as well...
From Obama's Health Care Plan: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/healthcare/
"Support Americans with Autism. More than one million Americans have autism, a complex neurobiological condition that has a range of impacts on thinking, feeling, language, and the ability to relate to others. As diagnostic criteria broaden and awareness increases, more cases of autism have been recognized across the country. Barack Obama believes that we can do more to help autistic Americans and their families understand and live with autism. He has been a strong supporter of more than $1 billion in federal funding for autism research on the root causes and treatments, and he believes that we should increase funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to truly ensure that no child is left behind."
Official Policy On What He Will Do To Help Americans On The Spectrum If Elected: http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/AutismSpectrumDisorders.pdf
"As an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama sponsored
legislation that became law to create an ASD diagnosis education program, an initiative designed to promote the
implementation of evidence-based practices. The goal of the project is to offer educational opportunities at all
levels of care, including physicians, early intervention (EI) specialists, psychologists, teachers, day care
providers, parents, respite workers, and speech and language therapists. Obama has personally worked side-byside
with Illinois families affected by ASD to support efforts to build the Therapeutic School and Center for
Autism Research. This school and research center will bring together education, academic research, early
intervention programs, and training to prepare its students for independent living.
In the U.S. Senate, Obama is a cosponsor of a measure that would expand federal funding for life-long services
for people with ASD, authorizing approximately $350 million in new federal funding for key programs related
to treatments, interventions and services for both children and adults with ASD."
Posted by: Matt Morrison | September 08, 2008 at 01:27 AM
As a parent of a child with autism, I am tired of all of these different researchers cancelling each-other. I am tired of we don't know the cause, the cure and forget the prevention. Why can't all of these researchers work together in an objective manner and find out what the real truth because now the only ones suffering are our children. I like to see a research funded by a non bias group that has nothing to gain or lose by the results tell us parents the cause, the cure and how to prevent from future generations.
Posted by: Idil Abdull | September 08, 2008 at 01:06 AM
McCain's health care plan scares me. It would remove my work provided coverage and toss me into having to negotiate my own plan. Autism is a pre-existing condition. I doubt I could find coverage for my son. Then I'd have to go to a government GAP program, and who knows how good those will be? Obama's plan seems to offer choice and eliminates pre-existing condition clauses.
As far as Obama's stance on autism - just Google it. It's on his website. http://www.barackobama.com/pdf/AutismSpectrumDisorders.pdf
Posted by: marsha | September 08, 2008 at 01:03 AM
While I have not yet been able to determine what, if any, position Obama has on vaccines, I think it is very significant that in his proposal for a national health care plan to cover everyone, one of the very specific points with which he differed from Hillary Clinton, was on the point of whether participation in such a program should be mandatory. She said yes, in her plan, participation would be mandatory. Obama specifically said that in his plan, participation would NOT be mandatory--that it would be available to all, but it would be a choice whether to participate. So, it seems HIGHLY unlikely to me that he has ever said that vaccines should be mandatory for all.
Posted by: Sue | September 08, 2008 at 12:10 AM
I second that request.
Please show me where Obama made that statement, on a page published by the Obama campaign. This will decide my vote.
Posted by: AutisticLiving.com | September 07, 2008 at 11:56 PM
I don't get it? Okay, Mr. Wimmer doesn't know if the vaccines did this, adn soesn't want to look back...but....his son ssees a DAN! doctor, and chelation showed that he had accumulated highs levels of multiple metals......Shouldn't Mr Wimmer want to look backward and find the exposure to his children? How else will he be able to ensure that there is not some other enviromental exposure? What if he is unwittingly exposing family and self to some other unknown exposure. As a parent, determing the source of toxins in my enviroment would be a priority.
No sense, it makes no sense, but it is exactly how the paid-for-by-pharma-dogs want us to believe.
This dad is in denial.
Thanks DK, again.
Posted by: kat23 | September 07, 2008 at 11:04 PM
"If, as reported, on the Obama rally blog is true, namely that Obama stated people should not have freedom of choice concerning vaccinations (and I know someone who attended the cocktali reception and am awaiting a response on this very issue) "
Word of mouth is really not a good indicator of the facts. Is it documented and reported by the media? If he said this, I think we all would have heard it but if you have a reputable link, please provide it.
I can see that this election will be (and is already)going to be quite the fight. Blogs are notorious for infiltration by the other side -- yep, happens here too :) so misquotes and downright lies could happen. We need to make sure we all differentiate between facts and rumors.
Posted by: Teresa | September 07, 2008 at 10:47 PM
I am about to become the least popular commenter at Age of Autism:
Even if Obama would not give individuals choice on vaccines, there are SO many other issues in this election, that I still would not be able to vote for McCain/Palin. (And, yes, I have a daughter with autism.) If people are not given choice, there are always attorneys who can get one an exemption.
Sarah Palin is one of the scariest, phoniest woman I have ever observed in my life.
Posted by: Diane | September 07, 2008 at 10:37 PM
Can you provide the link where Obama allegedly said that? If he indeed said this, we need to get this info out to everyone and send people directly to the source. There's a very good chance the source may be deleted, as has a lot of stuff about Sarah Palin's documented past and controversies, so I'd love to see the source and take a screenshot of it to ensure a record is made, if this is indeed true.
Posted by: Josh | September 07, 2008 at 09:24 PM
I find it hard to believe an attorney isn't looking for a cause or blame. When harm is done, attorneys are paid to find the negligence and demand to make it right. For the love of God, doesn't she realize it may be the reason why she was destined to get into law?
Regarding the politics of this - please cite the source where Obama would mandate vaccinations. Given his position on a woman's right-to-choose-without-going-to-jail, I doubt he'll make such a conflicting stance regarding other medical decisions.
Posted by: Deb in IL | September 07, 2008 at 09:18 PM
I too was very glad to hear John McCain talk about Autism during his acceptance speech. The more recognition and mentioning of Autism will really help to create more acceptance for our children out in the world.
Speaking of mentioning, be sure to watch our family's documentary on the Discovery Health channel on the night of October 1, 2008.
Posted by: John Kirton - Dad of 6 Autistic Kids | September 07, 2008 at 08:25 PM
This morning, I caught a local early Sunday morning show with a local attorney who has a 5 year old daughter with autism. She said something like we don't worry about what caused the autism we only care about treating it. How can anyone say that?
How can you treat something when you don't understand the root cause? You can't treat a medical problem with an IEP. It's a part of it...but not everything.
Posted by: Andrea | September 07, 2008 at 07:58 PM
I'm about to make an impassioned plea because I feel very strongly that "looking backwards" and "laying blame" in this instance are pragmatic and of paramount importance to protecting children-- our own children and other children-- not matters of "forgiveness" in the realm of grace and transcendence. All power to this family for keeping an open mind, though I agree with Jeanne-- only by going "backwards", reviewing what happened to our children, combing through it, can we hope that future generations of parents will only have to read about the horrors of regression from a book rather than experiencing it first hand. In this more than anything else is it true that those who don't know history are bound to repeat it-- to the tune of 1/67 and counting.
Furthermore, how would we know what treatments our children needed without the clinical "going backwards" of taking hair tests, urine samples, intestinal biopsies and reviewing the history of prenatal and post-natal exposures? Anything from childhood vaccines, pre and post-natal flu shots, broken fluorescents, Ayr nasal spray, Rhogam, amalgams, tainted food, exposure to air and water tainted from coal-fired power plants and industrial dumping.
And how can we stop the epidemic if we refuse to look at what and who has caused it? And who's going to pay for the damage other than parents if the guilty parties are robbed of their consequences? We can't lie to ourselves about it and we can't lie to our children. The Russian poet, Yevtushenko, wrote "Lying to the young is wrong-- one day they may not forgive in us what we forgave".
If we don't look backwards and lay the blame, there may not be much of a future.
Posted by: Gatogorra | September 07, 2008 at 07:56 PM
Thank you for writng this piece, Mr. Kirby. Thank you for putting it out there. Thank you for continuing to be intrigued on our behalf.
Posted by: Lin Wessels | September 07, 2008 at 07:47 PM
My first two sons were fully vaccinated and are on the autism spectrum. It breaks my heart over and over again each day.
I had two more sons and neither of them have had any vaccinations. Both of them appear to be non-autistic. From all the reading I have done over the years, I cannot help but believe that vaccinations have played a part in the abnormal health of my oldest boys.
Any politician that wants to restrict my choice in whether or not I vaccinate my children, is an elitist who thinks he, as well as the government, knows best when it comes to the healthcare decisions for my family. As far as I am concerned, that is a step towards Socialism and I am not going to stand for it...To not be able to have the right to choose whether or not something gets injected into my body is a terrifying thought.
Posted by: Donna Z. | September 07, 2008 at 07:33 PM
Oh, Ray... I can't imagine what you go through.
It's one thing for a candidate to stand up for babies before they are born, but what about once they are here? Which candidate(s) will really care about helping families with the financial and emotional burden of adult children who will need constant care? Likewise, it's one thing to be pro-choice, but what about once the baby is here?
My heart breaks for you, Ray. Eric is in my prayers. Every day.
Posted by: Stagmom | September 07, 2008 at 07:04 PM
Jake Wimmer is right all except about ten years from now. Adults with autism will need help NOW because my son is already in a residential center. Not only him but a lot others are in these centers or waiting for help like the family up the street from me who came crying to us for help.
By the way, our son got another black eye from a fellow student who punched him before in the eye. It took countless calls and emails and 4 days later he got medical help.
I contacted NJ DDD about the incident and was told that the center was given a dressing down regards having 1 on 1 with Eric and receiving immediate medical care.
Posted by: Ray Gallup | September 07, 2008 at 06:01 PM
If, as reported, on the Obama rally blog is true, namely that Obama stated people should not have freedom of choice concerning vaccinations (and I know someone who attended the cocktali reception and am awaiting a response on this very issue) then my vote for president will go to McCain without question. I realize there are many grave issues in our country demanding attention, but autism is the biggest issue facing my family right now. If Obama is seriously against our right to determine what is right for us, medically, as individuals, then I sincerely hope he loses this election. I was informed two days ago, that if a person votes for someone who is not on the ballot and is not pre-approved, the ballot is thrown in the garbage. I guess I cannot vote for Ron Paul after all.
Posted by: Gayle | September 07, 2008 at 05:54 PM
I personally do not think we can move forward without dealing with the past. For me, the two go hand in hand. We have to stop damaging the children; and at the same time we must continue to find ways to treat and recover those we were not able to protect.
Posted by: Jeanne | September 07, 2008 at 05:13 PM
I personally do not think we can move forward without dealing with the past. For me, the two go hand in hand. We have to stop damaging the children; and at the same time we must continue to find ways to treat and recover those we were not able to protect.
Posted by: Jeanne | September 07, 2008 at 05:12 PM