By Katie Wright
Like millions of moms and dads of autistic kids I absolutely adore Jenny McCarthy. Jenny had the courage to share her own devastating experience with autism with the world and inspire and empower parents in the process. No one in the public eye was talking about hope for our kids beyond early intervention until Jenny. Jenny McCarthy traveled around the country listening to parents and shared their struggles with the mainstream autism world that had been dismissing our stories, minimizing children's pain and ignoring successful biomedical interventions. We watched on "Larry King" as the president of AAP claimed he had never had seen one bad vaccine reaction in his practice and that injecting anti-freeze or aluminum into babies was as safe as "breathing air." The president of the AAP was so soundly out-debated by Jenny in their last "Larry King" appearance it was almost embarrassing to watch.
After "Louder Than Words" and the historic "Greening the Vaccines" march the paradigm of autism as a hopeless genetic disorder was changed forever. After decades of ignoring the subject of vaccines, suddenly the mainstream research community was forced to reckon with the fact that this issue is NOT going away. For too long stories of kids regressing and becoming sick after receiving multiple vaccines had been dismissed as "coincidence" or "parents looking for something to blame." Jenny asked how many hundreds of thousands of parents have to be wrong for a dozen vaccine researchers to be right?
For years parents had been strongly advocating that the NIH and Autism Speaks to investigate the role of vaccines as a trigger for autism. It is well known that the safety testing on our infant and toddler vaccine schedule is wholly inadequate, even as more vaccines are continually added to the schedule.
I was honored to be interviewed for Jenny's amazing new book, "Mother Warriors." In that book I am one of the many voices expressing frustration with the pace and scope of autism research. I am happy to report that we have seen some very positive changes in the past year, thanks, in large part, to Jenny McCarthy's leadership and advocacy on behalf of parents of autistic kids everywhere.
Autism Speaks recently awarded over $3 million in grants to some really exciting environmental research studies. Grants were made to innovative biomedical researchers such as Noble, Van de Water and Rissman. There is even a grant to Dr. David Baskin to study mercury. Geri Dawson, AS' new science chief is putting together a GI/ autism conference and an autism/toxicology conference. No, the change is never as fast as I would like, but I feel we are witnessing a sea change. I want to give credit where credit is due and encourage Autism Speaks to continue down this exciting path via their commitment to environmental and vaccine research.
So while the political climate of autism research has improved since my interview, children are still being diagnosed every 20 minutes. The sense of urgency could not be greater. I wish all pediatricians and autism researchers would read "Mother Warriors" and come to a different and more inclusive understanding of what autism is, how sick our kids can be and why we are fighting so hard to for their recovery.
Katie Wright has two young boys. Her oldest son, Christian, is severely affected by autism. He developed normally; smiling, talking, walking; only to lose every skill and every word by the age of 2 and a half. Upon the advice of medical professionals Katie and her husband were advised to pursue only high quality behavioral therapy, speech and OT for Christian. It had no meaningful impact on Christian until his parents sought help from DAN! doctors who treated the underlying causes of Christian's descent into autism. Christian has improved but still has far to go. He has Inflammatory Bowel Disease, the measles virus in his gut and an immune system akin to a late stage AIDS patient. Christian does not have a psychiatric disorder. Before autism, Katie Wright was the Clinical Director of Sexual Assault Crisis Center in Stamford Connecticut. Katie is proud to serve on the Boards of NAA and SafeMinds.