Feckless IOM Does Agency's Bidding: Sound Familiar?
Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines PUBLIC Meeting 11/18

Somali Parents Give the Autism Forum a "C+"

Somalia_watch_2 By David Kirby

The daylong Somali autism forum on Saturday in Minneapolis was a wonderful experience, mostly because I got to meet so many smart, dedicated, passionate parents who are fighting for their kids in a place that could not be more different than their homeland.

Like most of the people I spoke with, I think the meeting was a mixed bag – the organizers are to be commended for pulling off a complicated day – in two languages no less – that clearly required great planning and coordination.

They also provided detailed information on a number of autism-related services available to families in the Twin Cities area.

On the other hand, many parents felt like the forum was more show than substance – and several expressed disappointment and frustration that public officials did not take their concerns – especially about vaccines – more seriously.


(l to r) Parent and organizer Hodan Hassan, David Kirby, Age of Autism's Anne Dachel and Patti Carroll.

What follows is a summary of my own notes, plus reactions from a few of the parents who took part in the forum.

Dr. Sanne Mangan, Minnesota’s Health Commissioner, kicked off the proceeding with a brief statement that reassured the 80 or so Somali parents at the meeting that, “Today is the start of a dialogue, of listening to your concerns and frustrations, and looking for solutions together.”

That sounded nice, of course, but most parents in the room wanted to know what was making their kids so sick, and they wanted to know why so many children had seemingly regressed into severe autism, directly after being vaccinated.

The Health Commissioner had clearly anticipated these concerns, but instead of listening, she read a statement from the CDC website: “The weight of the evidence indicates that vaccines are not associated with autism,” she said, and then added rather cryptically: ”Those are facts; you have to make your own opinion about the facts.”

It was an odd statement, which seem to be saying: “We know the truth; You people can wallow in your own superstitions all you want.”

Meanwhile, parents were told that autism was nothing new, that it was genetic, that it was God’s will -- and some children’s destiny.

“Autism has a very long history, it is not just brand new. From as long ago as 1500, there are descriptions in the literature about people who probably had autism,” said Dr. Dan McClellan  in what apparently was an attempt to be reassuring.

“There have been many different explanations given to account for autism,” he continued, “Possession by a devil, a mental illness, and maybe 50 years ago, we started to see it as a developmental problem.” But today, “Most brain scientists see autism as a condition,” he said, where “genes program different parts of the brain” to grow and develop abnormally.

Soon after, state health department epidemiologist Judy Punyko told parents something they did not want to hear: She had zero information on the actual prevalence of autism among Somali students in Minneapolis.

Punyko had pulled together a team of specialists in August to determine exactly how many Somali students attended school in the Minneapolis schools and, among them, how many are currently receiving educational services for autism. Most parents expected that she would have at least some preliminary numbers, but she did not.

“This is a very difficult and complex topic to talk about, and so I plan to give you a big picture overview,” Dr. Punyko said to a room full of blank stares.  “Imagine the complexity of a child’s behavior. The assessment and diagnosis of ASD is based largely on the observation of behaviors, and we need to obtain and find data that accurately describe these behaviors, so this is a very complicated data set.”

Part of the problem is that the schools evaluate students and determine which ones will get autism services, a decision that is not based solely on medical diagnoses. The criteria that are applied for identifying students seeking services may be different for different children, she indicated.

Even so, the requested educational data has not yet been delivered to Punyko’s team. “We met with Minneapolis Public Schools and asked them to help us get the data to solve this problem,” Punyko said. But the figures will not be made available until December.

Meanwhile members of the team are meeting with local health and education officials, “to learn more about the system of identifying children who have autism.” They have also consulted with the CDC “to help us plan this study” and to help, “determine definitions and identify other sources of data that may help us understand this problem.”

“I want to say a bit about results; even though we don’t have any results,” Punyko said to awkward laughter.

The prevalence study, whenever it’s completed, “could tell us one of three things,” she said: Compared with other children in Minneapolis, there may be a larger number of Somalis with autism; there may be a smaller number of Somalis; or, “we might not see any differences between children who are Somali and not Somali.”

When the results do come in, probably some time in March, “We will write them up in a report with next steps and recommendations,” Punyko said, “this might mean that we need to conduct more research studies and MDH will help organize these studies if we need to do them.”

And if they do find higher than normal rates? “We will organize other researchers and physicians to help Somalis families with this problem, and to try to understand it,” Punyko said, without offering specifics.

Next came some written questions from the audience.

Does autism exist before a child is born, or after?

“We don’t know the perfect answer to that yet,” Dr. McClellan said. “The best answer is it probably starts before a child is born, but we may not be able to notice until the child is older, perhaps one and a half to two years.” But, he added, “I don’t want to emphasize too much that starts before birth, because we still have a lot to learn about it."

Next, one of the Somali doctors in attendance told the audience that autism is not “a mistake of parents, nor is it a punishment because of the crimes of the parents.” It is instead, “destiny that was meant to happen,” he said. “That is why the child has the condition.”

Kristen Ehresmann of the MDH (and a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP) said parents had no reason to worry about vaccines or thimerosal.

“Some people have identified concerns that vaccines are linked to autism – one issue that people mention is thimerosal,” she said. “Most Americans over age six have received vaccines with thimerosal and there has not been any evidence of harm – dozens of studies of thousands of people around world have not shown a relationship between vaccines and autism.

Parents make the mistake of associated the timing of the onset of symptoms with the shots. “Vaccines are given to all children when they are infants and toddlers, and this is the same time when autism is diagnosed – so it is easy to think one is linked to the other, when it isn’t,” she said.

One mother wanted to know if the school district was misidentifying Somali children as having autism because of cultural or language barriers: “I don’t teach my son to count from 1 to 10, or to speak English, because I assume it will be taught in school. Does that mean he has autism, because he doesn’t speak the language?”

The answer was a resounding “no.” It was not possible, the educational officials said, that Somali children were being misidentified as having autism simply due to language barriers. They said they look at all developmental milestones that are “universal” in any culture.

Soon after, the mother who helped get the whole Somali-autism ball rolling, back in April of 2007, named Idil (she did not want her last name used) stood up and spoke about her son with autism.

“I would like to speak from the mother’s perspective, if your child breaks his hand or has a cold, you know where to take him. But as a mother who never had autism before, it was very difficult to know where to go for help,” she said.

“And as a mother, you will be frustrated with the condition of your child. You will feel anger and sorrow, and you will cry. Donating a kidney for your son would have been much easier than dealing with this condition.”

And, she said directly to the experts onstage: “All parents must be listened to and respected by health officials. It is not helpful when a doctor tells us, ‘We did the research, and immunization is not involved, there is no link.’ That is not an answer for a parent with a child with autism. We want them to listen to the parents. Please, do not disqualify our experience.”

At the very end, when time was running out and most state and city officials had left, the parent panel took to the stage.

One father, Abdulkadir Khalif, was clearly unhappy with the day’s proceedings.


“It looks like we are the last panel, and it would be a disservice to all the parents if we leave here without any proposal for steps forward,” he said, knowing that not a single “next step” had yet been proposed.

“What we have heard today is that autism has always been with us. One quote even said it was around 500 years ago. But if it always existed, it was not as terrible as what I saw with my own child. I think that, with God’s will at this gathering here today, I am confident we will be able to trace the origins and causes of autism, and probably its treatments, in the long run.”

Then Khalif told a fascinating history of malaria – which got its name from the Italian words for “bad air,” because Europeans thought the disease came from swamp gas. He spoke about a British explorer who was passing through Somali territory in the 19th Century when he saw that Somalis had built homes high in the trees, to avoid mosquito bites and, subsequently, malaria.

“The explorer wrote a long report on the Somali people, and how stupid they were to believe that malaria was caused by mosquitoes. But thanks to that, we eventually found the causes of malaria and treatment. So it was not due to Somali ignorance and stupidity, but ingenuity that we found the cause of malaria. And because of that, I believe that because of autism inside the Somali community, we will be leading science in the right direction, so that they can find the cause and cure for us.”

And he added: “The majority of the people in this room believe that vaccines cause autism. Now, I am not saying that, and I don’t want to be quoted saying that, But I believe there are certain things in those vaccines that trigger autism.  I know that vaccines are very important and we must continue with them. But could (our children) be allergic to them, and is there any way to find out? Because if they are, then we need to find another way to immunize them.”

Khalif also noted that poverty was a major problem for Somali families dealing with autism.

“We don’t have a lot of money. But some families do have access to resources, and a lot of rich people can help their children. And so, to the health and education authorities (most of whom had left by this point) I request of you this: Where are the insurance policies from the government to make sure that we have the same access as wealthy parents to the facilities and programs that our children need?”

After the forum, I asked three parents to send me their thoughts on the day. Khalif’s arrived first:

Today's meeting was a mixed bag. It was a botched attempt by the MDH and some of the non-profits they fund to silence the anti-vaccine voice.

But there was no anti-vaccine voice before the meeting-there is one now.

The scientists and doctors who talked at the meeting were anxious to brainwash the Somali parents and convince them that vaccines are safe. By the time I took the floor, every parent was convinced that they did not have answers to the autism riddle. I would have been satisfied with an ‘I don't know’ answer.

What we heard was something like this: "We do not know what causes autism,” but we were told that it is not the vaccines. This sounds like a dumb statement to me. For heaven's sake, if you don't know what causes autism, then you don't know what does not cause autism. Just shut up.

At a personal level and talking for other parents, I think it was a resounding success for us because many parents will come out of the closet. (Many of us) will now join forces and fight openly and vehemently.

As an extension service, the forum was a disaster. The organizers did not have answers that the parents did not already know. If anything, they created more confusion and suspicion about the possibility of a cover-up. Therefore as a public relations effort, the MDH failed miserably.

As for the statistics that have been promised in March or any other time: They will not be able to come up with anything new. I will reject the results in advance, because it is not being done honestly. If the statistics will not say how many Somali children in Minnesota are autistic, and how many of them were born in the USA, then it will be inaccurate and misleading.

For someone to convince me that autism is a global problem and that it has always existed, I want them to show me that 50% of autistic Somali children were born outside this country. If the statistics should show that 99.9% of them were US born, then we will have a breakthrough in finding the cause of autism. We will wait and see.

And Idil, the mother who spoke out at the forum, sent me this:

I was impressed that almost everyone at the Minnesota health department came and helped with child care, registration, paying for food, etc. Clearly, they were polite and listened with open eyes and open ears.

But what I would have liked was more substance in the information. I also would have liked them to listen with open minds and open hearts. We have a Somali expression that says, ‘Words without action are worthless.’

I also was disappointed and even frustrated that many Somali doctors are not stepping up to the plate of helping their community.  I will contact Dr Harare and ask him why he said vaccines do not cause or contribute to autism, since no-one really knows what the heck causes autism.  I also will ask him that, if autism existed in Somalia, then why don't we have a name for it, and wouldn't we see adults with autism?  I have never seen an adult Somali person with autism. We had mental retardation, Down syndrome and other mental issues, but not autism.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but for medical professionals there must be facts with that opinion.  I just don't think Dr. Harare was saying factual information. But I want to not judge him and at least talk with him first.
If I can give a grade to the forum, it would be C+. There were many, many parents that wanted to come, but due to lack of proper
transportation, were not able to.

And finally, I received this from Hodan Hassan – a young mother and fledgling activist who helped pull the autism forum together:

What happened yesterday was what I expected - I knew we would be looked down on, undermined and insulted, especially when I called MDH so many times and told them: ‘Please don't screw this up and tell us something we already know.’ I even told them that we are going to have people who will witness this.

Almost every family I talked with and invited refused to come, because they did not want to listen to that crap. So instead some of them went to the Islamic convention and others stayed at home. That is why there weren’t many families there.

As an Islamic community, we believe that nothing can prevent DEATH, it is part of human nature, it is the cycle of life. It’s something that will happen, even if you are vaccinated. So I really feel insulted for even that part.

But, I want everyone to know that I really feel sorry for Kristen Ehresmann (of MDH and ACIP), because the poor lady has to save her own job so she can afford her son’s (autism) treatments. She is no policy maker, nor can she make a change except to cover it up. I also want her to know that, just because she can afford her son’s treatment, I want her to remember that not everyone can afford treatments like her. Her son will probably be close to being normal, but not our kids.

We are not trying to fight with the MDH. We did ask them to please change the vaccine schedule, and also take mercury out of the vaccines. I don't really care if it is trace or not: Mercury is mercury; when did it become medicine?

And, we are for vaccines, and we would like to vaccinate our kids, but only if it’s a GREEN VACCINE - in other words, a safe vaccine, and right now it’s not. Why refuse to do the changes, at the least in order to eliminate the suspicions around the vaccines?

Finally, I want everyone to know that the government is nothing without the people. Power to the people. I am very hopeful that the Obama administration will listen to us. We have been donating, even though we are broke. We have been knocking on doors, making phone calls, and praying and fasting to God to give us change. So I think it’s about time to give back to the people who have elected Obama.

NOTE: Most Somali refugees with children with autism have been extremely reluctant to speak to the media, so I did not get a wide cross-section of opinion about the meeting. I will attempt to reach out to more Somali attendees, if possible, to get their comments as well.

David Kirby is author of Evidence of Harm and contributor to Age of Autism.


Rick Kane

I hate how people use "its genetic" as a way to rule out any other cause. Genes are not magic, they work through proteins and other chemical mediums that in turn react with other chemicals. How do we know the gene doesnt determine resistance or lack of resistance to the effects of mercury poisoning on the brain? The fact is these kids are developing normally and after the vaccines regress, they don't just slow development or stop developing they regress. If the chemical interaction causing autism starts in the womb why do they develop normally at first and then regress? Why aren't they symptomatic from the start? This suggests the "gene for autism" or at least one of them works by not coding for proteins that set up some kind of defense to the toxin mercury.

Heres something else interesting, it can be adequately predicted what percent of kids will become autistic based on proximity to facilities that release mercury such as coal power plants and some factories. The evidence strongly shows a link between mercury and autism. It might not be the only thing that can cause autism but its definitely a contributing factor.

Another thought, in some cases completely different results can come from completely different causes. There seems to be a big mistake in psychiatry to just look at the behavior and then ignore the psychodynamics(The thought processes behind the behavior and where they spring from) and just assume that if two people are showing the same outward signs they automatically must have the same cause when in some cases this isn't the case.

We already know mercury is poisonous. It should've been obvious there could be problems down the road in the beginning. Even if there is no link what if down the road it turns out these vaccines cause cancer or increase the risk of heart attack or hearing loss or any number of health problems.

In any case its an easy solution. If mercury is causing autism it should be removed. If its not then it should be removed so parents don't forgo vaccinations for their kids out of fear. There is no point in using mercury over other less toxic preservatives.

Becky - for Alamo Joe


Nursing may help babies increase lung capacity
Study: Breastfed infants develop stronger lungs due to suckling’s workout

NEW YORK - The exercise that babies get while suckling at the breast may be an essential component of the respiratory benefits associated with breastfeeding, new research shows.
Dr. Ikechukwu U. Ogbuanu of the University of South Carolina in Columbia and colleagues found that by 10 years old children who were breastfed for 4 months or longer had larger lung capacities than their counterparts who had been nursed for a shorter amount of time or not at all. The breastfed children were also able to expel air from their lungs more quickly.
While the children's speedier exhalations could have been related to the beneficial components of breast milk, "the lung capacity cannot be really explained by the immune factors in the breast milk," Ogbuanu told Reuters Health. Instead, Ogbuanu and his colleagues argue, the harder work required of babies who drink from the breast rather than a bottle is a more likely explanation.
Breastfeeding is known to help protect babies from developing respiratory infections, but studies of whether it may reduce their risk of asthma risk later in life have had mixed results, the researchers write in the journal Thorax. To investigate, they looked at lung function in 1,033 children who were 10 years old, born on the Isle of Wight, and were followed since birth.
The average lung capacity, as measured by the volume of air a child could exhale forcibly, was 54 milliliters greater in those who were breastfed for at least 4 months than in those who were not been breastfed at all. Peak expiratory flow, or the maximum speed at which the air can blown out of the lungs, was 180.8 milliliters per second faster in these children.
The lung function in children who had been breastfed for a shorter amount of time wasn't significantly different from the lung function of children who weren't breastfed at all.


CA Alamo Joe -

I find your link to bottle feeding interesting especially since I just read an article that babies who are breastfed have greater lung capacity/efficiency that babies who are bottlefed. The suckling action at the breast appears to be the mechanism by which lung function is exercised by the newborn/infant.

You didn't mention formula specifically, just bottlefeeding.

Considering that a baby's stomach doesn't produce hydrochloric acid until 7-8 months, giving formula is just awful on a baby's system. Breastmilk contains lipase so the breastmilk essentially digests itself (no stomach acid needed). Explains why ff babies grow poorly during the first six months and then plump up towards the second half of the first year.

I was bottlefed (formula) in the 70s and had problems with asthma as a child and now have been dx'd with ms after getting shot up with everything under the sun while in the military.


This had me roaring................

What we heard was something like this: "We do not know what causes autism,” but we were told that it is not the vaccines. This sounds like a dumb statement to me. For heaven's sake, if you don't know what causes autism, then you don't know what does not cause autism. Just shut up.

CA Alamo Joe

Although reading the actions of the politicos made me angry, the important thing is to find answers. Here are my answers.

I am not a doctor, therefore the following should not be construed as medical advice. The conclusion of an investigation into the physical disorders associated with regressive autism is: The primary cause of regressive autism is bottle feeding followed by vaccination.

Using ‘colitis’ to explain the relation between vaccines and colitis: From the Internet: “The cause is of ulcerative colitis is unknown. … Attacks may be provoked by many factors, including respiratory infections.” [1] Pertussis, mumps and measles, in addition to being respiratory infections are components of vaccines. Thus, both MMR and DpT vaccines can cause colitis, a physical ailment common in regressive autistic children.

Bottle feeding followed by a respiratory infection can cause regressive autism. (Again, pertussis. mumps and measles are respiratory infections.

Bottle feeding is a risk for all the physical ailments because it predisposes the child to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) [2]. (A marginal respiratory system can also dispose the child to OSA, which directly underlies all the physical ailments. The intestines, the pancreas and the kidneys will be used as examples. During an apnea the diaphragm makes multiple attempts at efforts 10 to 15 times normal effort in the attempt to overcome the airway obstruction. The intestines, pancreas and kidneys are ‘pounded’ hundreds of times a night resulting in colitis, diabetes and gout. Although reflux and ear infections are also secondary to OSA, different mechanisms are involved. [3,4]

Refrigerators to store baby bottles are more likely to be found in urban areas and developed countries than in rural areas and undeveloped countries.


1. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/MEDLINEPLUS/ency/article/000250.htm

2. Google: “palmer apnea snort”

3. Herr J. Chronic cough, sleep apnea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Chest. 2001 Sep;120(3):1036-7.

4. Herr JR. Re: Autism--ear infections--glue ear--sleep disorders. J Autism Dev Disord. 2003 Oct;33(5):557.

(For more details, google: three sources of autism)


you can call it autism or you can call it vaccine damage.. it is the same thing. special diet, detox and therapy will help. we lost my son in the world of autism and in two years have brought him back.. his is now attending kindergarten and doing wonderfully. please keep pushing for answers and don't let them tell you otherwise, you know you are right!!!!!!!!!!

Dan, tx

You might want to read:

1: Dev Med Child Neurol. 2008 Aug;50(8):598-601. Barnevik-Olsson M, Gillberg C, Fernell E.

Prevalence of autism in children born to Somali parents living in Sweden: a brief report.

In a geographical area of Stockholm, with a relatively large Somali immigrant population, parents as well as teachers in special schools and staff at habilitation centres have raised concerns over whether children with a Somali background are over-represented in the total group of children with autism. The aim of the study was, therefore, to investigate the prevalence of autism in children with parents from Somalia, living in Stockholm county, and to compare the prevalence in children of Somali background with that in the non-Somali group. We reviewed the records of 17 children (13 males, four females), born between 1988 and 1998 (age range 7-17y) and with a Somali background, who had a diagnosis of autistic disorder or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS) and were registered at either of the two autism habilitation centres for school-aged children. The prevalence of autistic disorder or PDDNOS was found to be three to four times higher than in the non-Somali group (0.7% vs 0.19%). All children also had learning disability.* Our findings warrant further investigations of possible aetiological factors behind the increased prevalence of autistic disorders in children of Somali origin found in this area in Sweden.


Ben's Dad

Thank you for reporting back to us. To any of the Somali families that may be reading this, your families are in my prayers. Thank you for being heard - your work helps all of us looking for answers, and you I will support you in any way that I can.

my letter -

Dear Ms. Punyko,

I understand that you are leading an effort to determine autism rates
in the Somali community in Minnesota.

The Somali immigrant population in Minnesota provides a Galapagos
island like look into autism – a distinct population genetically
isolated from the general population of Minnesota exposed to a new set
of environmental conditions and possibly seeing different results.
Your investigation is nearly as important to my child in NJ as it is
for the families you have met with to urgently determine working
autism incidence numbers so that if warranted, appropriate research
can be planned and executed. Most importantly, your research may help
children born in future years avoid a lifelong disability. I greatly
appreciate the work you are doing, and my only purpose in writing is
to emphasize the urgency I see in your work.

Using current US Census population estimates of one birth every 7
seconds, current CDC autism rate numbers (1:150), and Harvard School
of Public Health estimates of lifetime autism related costs of up to
$3.2 million per individual, the autism debt clock is advancing at
$3,046 per second, or $263 million per day. Even if you believe that
autism has always been here at the same rate, we see a net population
gain of one individual every 11 seconds, leading to a national autism
debt clock movement of $168 million a day.

Thanks again you for your work in helping all of us move forward on
answering the questions of autism.


cc:Dr. Sanne Magnan, Minnesota Commissioner of Health



I agree. A C+? These folks were way too nice to the Minnesota Health Department. I've got to agree with Tanner's Dad - I'd have given them a big fat "F".

So that is all it was, huh? A whole "autism is genetic, it has always been with us, vaccines are safe, get over it and go home" schpiel? I feel so badly for those people who went hoping to have their concerns listened to and to get some answers as to how they can help their children. It just makes me sick.

Why do we parents get marginalized so much?


Wow, these people catch on fast! I too really like that statement "For heaven's sake, if you don't know what causes autism, then you don't know what does not cause autism. Just shut up." And also the story about malaria and mosquitos.

I found a mailing addres for Kristen Ehresmann (I hope it's right), and I wrote her a letter, which started:

Kristen Ehresmann, R.N., M.P.H.,
Section Chief Immunization, Tuberculosis, and International Health Section
Minnesota Department of Health
P.O. Box 64975
St. Paul, MN 55164-0975

Dear Ms. Ehresmann,

Yet another group of parents – this time immigrants from Somali – is saying they noticed that their children regressed into autism after receiving vaccines, and that there is next to no autism among unvaccinated kids. What a coincidence!

Yet again, the medical agencies are saying that parents are deluded and that the experts know vaccines do not cause autism...


and I won't copy the whole thing, but it ended:

We know that vaccines can cause encephalitis, and we know that autopsies of people with autism have found inflammation in the brain. Why is it so hard to believe that vaccines can cause autism? Why is it so easy to ignore the experience and perceptions of thousands of parents, including the thousands who have filed claims under the Autism Omnibus Proceeding, the thousands who recently marched on Washington, and countless others who have told their stories in books, on the internet, at conferences, to their friends and family...

In addition, the scientific studies and evidence linking vaccines and autism are multiplying, and a lot of people are going to look pretty darn foolish when it becomes obvious even to the "experts" that vaccines are the main factor causing today’s terrible epidemic of autism.

Tanners Dad

This is a comment in response to the blog post...“If There’s No Autism Epidemic, Where are all the Adults with Autism?” on Dr. Buttar's Blog

But it fits the MDH doctors as well...

Autism… What Problem?
Isolate, Lie, and Deny. The bottom line is parents are desperate for services. You gave us many well thought out words but it really doesn’t matter. At the end of the day parents are still on their own. An advanced society should own up to the issue if it is one in 10 million. No parent should be left to deal with autism by themselves. Either you are a trained medical professional or you are the barber of old. It is about time Doctor meant that you step up to the plate instead of pass the buck.


Very sad reflection on the CDC, MDH and ACIP. Did they really think that these people would be impressed by what they had to say? I would like to get Dr. Klighardt in in this discussion - and there needs to be more discussion and less condescension. There are so many possible triggers to discuss. Perhaps viruses like West Nile or Lyme play a role in this puzzle. Is it possible that people become infected by something, but they do not show symptoms in their home country? These asymptomatic diseases may be a precursor to a trigger that they are exposed to in the USA. - vaccines could certainly be one trigger, but exposure to chemicals that are more common here or the overwhelming amounts of wireless radiation could be other contributors. These are the types of possibilities that need discussion.
To simply say , it's genetic, it's not your fault and “destiny that was meant to happen,” is worthless and insulting to the intelligence.


Thank you so much David for being there. I can barely breathe reading what some of the officials were saying at this meeting-- a lot of shameful lying. It must have been hard to hear first hand.

This is for the Somali parents and activists who may be reading this article-- I hope you join the movement with other parents enduring the same situation. I wish you *WEREN'T* in the same situation but now that you are, it may be small comfort to know you're not alone in it.

I'm among those who are outraged by the statement that "autism has always been with us". The rates being hinted at for the Somali community seem to be far higher than average-- even considering that the "average" is much higher than officially stated. The government is using the rate of 1/150 effected whereas new statistics say the rate could be 1/67 or higher. It begs the question: if autism has "always been with us" where were these 1 in 67 (if we're to use the new military study and school consensus rates) autistic individuals hiding twenty, fifty and one hundred and fifty years ago? In institutions? That's usually the explanation but the math doesn't add up.

Here's the problem with it: there are more children aflicted by autism today than there were people in institutions or residential care or on Social Security-- of any age-- listed as "mentally disabled" even thirty or forty years ago. The rates of ALL mental illnesses have risen dramatically over the past 160 years with steepest rises after 1987. This rate of mental disability has to account for schizophrenia, dementia, posttraumatic stress, head injury, the whole range of diagnoses. Here's an historic table (MD signifies "mentally disabled individual"; the "per 1000" signifes per 1000 of the general population):

Year Rate (MD) per 1000
1850--------------------- .2
1903-------------------- 1 .86
1955-------------------- 3 .38
1987------------------- 13 .75
2003------------------- 19.69

Here's the site from which the table was borrowed: http://tinyurl.com/4xy9xq

Though the author of the article on mental disability rates (the journalist Robert Whitaker, author of "Mad in America") is focusing on the increases in mental disability potentially caused by the use of the very psychiatric drugs intended to "cure" mental disability (a really important and legitimate thing to think about for Somali parents as they discover what the authorities at this meeting have in mind to treat their children), the underlying point that Whitaker is making is that this rise cannot be genetic. It's environmental and, as such, we're free to take Whitaker's data and hypothesize that this rise could also be caused by other environmental factors.

I don't need to explain more: The rates have simply skyrocketed along with many other forms of cognitive disorders, which leads only to the explanation of environmental cause. There was simply nowhere to hide all these autistic individuals in society in other decades. They could not all have been hidden or killed: they just didn't exist.

I hope that parents in the Somali community continue to share their stories and speak out and I recommand that anyone interested read every article archived at this website, check out the organizations listed.

Rachel Ford

What can we do for these people? Can we sponsor some DAN doctors or a CARE Clinic to help them and to collect physical evidence at the same time?

We in the autism community should band together and offer support or at least an official statement of what we think the gov't response *ought* to be.

Dad to Autism


Wonderful reporting as always. These Somali families have been through hell and back--now Autism. When the rest of the world crys out for our American heads over this debacle atleast we can say that we did it to ourselves as much as any other country's citizens. Hang in there Idil! Not all Americans are evil.

-Dad to Autism

More evidence of harm today (9x inc risk just from thimerosal containing Hep B birth series):
Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry
Vol. 90, No. 5, September–October 2008, 997–1008
Hepatitis B triple series vaccine and developmental disability in US
children aged 1–9 years
Carolyn Gallagher* and Melody Goodman
Graduate Program in Public Health, Stony Brook University Medical Center, Health Sciences
Center, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook, New York, USA
(Final version received 14 November 2007)
This study investigated the association between vaccination with the Hepatitis B
triple series vaccine prior to 2000 and developmental disability in children aged 1–
9 years (n¼1824), proxied by parental report that their child receives
early intervention or special education services (EIS). National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2000 data were analyzed and adjusted for
survey design by Taylor Linearization using SAS version 9.1 software, with SAS
callable SUDAAN version 9.0.1. The odds of receiving EIS were approximately
nine times as great for vaccinated boys (n¼46) as for unvaccinated boys (n¼7),
after adjustment for confounders. This study found statistically significant
evidence to suggest that boys in United States who were vaccinated with the triple
series Hepatitis B vaccine, during the time period in which vaccines were
manufactured with thimerosal, were more susceptible to developmental disability
than were unvaccinated boys.
Keywords: early intervention; special education services; developmental disability;
Hepatitis B vaccine triple series

Tanners Dad

C+ is very generous.

I was taught if you answer a test with I don't know it is an F.

I was taught if you come to a test unprepared it is an F.

I was taught if you make up answers to the test you get an F.

I was taught if you copy or plagiarize you get an F.

I guess the report card adds up to FAILURE.

Heather O

As another Minnesota attendee of the forum, this still makes me ill. Even after years of disappointments from our state health department, I had hoped they’d finally step up to the plate and address why so many of our kids are so sick. At this forum, the stakes where even higher. Sadly, our Minnesota Department of Health failed again. They went in with their shields up to protect the vaccination program. Never once did I hear concern about Somali children with autism or developmental delays. The Health Departments’ concern was directed at how the Somali’s “misunderstandings” and “decisions” would affect the vaccination program. It was very condescending.

Ginger Taylor

totally disgusting.


The comment about autism having always been with us, and described in the medical literature from 1500 on, is simply asinine. If the condition existed back then, it would have had a name. What Leo Kanner saw in the 1930s and 1940s was something that DIDN'T have a name--he thus had to make up one before he could write his seminal 1943 paper about it. Humans are pretty good at nouns and labelling--if a culture has experienced something, there's a name for it. The very lack of a term to describe the condition prior to the 1940s is very telling, is it not?
Secondly, Kanner wrote that he was seeing something in his young patients that the world had never seen before. If he was wrong, the editors of "Nervous Child" would have been deluged with letters correcting Kanner and arguing with his assertion about autism's novelty. As far as I know, they were not.


I can't imagine dealing with autism in the midst of a strange country and culture. Bless all the Somali patents.

Jerri Johnson

Kris Ehresmann parsed her words very carefully when she said, "dozens of studies of thousands of people around world have not shown a relationship between vaccines and autism." She was speaking about the studies that did not show a link without referring to all of the many studies that DO show a link. However, the studies that have not been done are studies on what happens when you give a pregnant woman vaccinations containing mercury. The influenza vaccine product inserts themselves state that safety studies have not been done. Yet many immigrant women have received multiple vaccines while pregnant. While mercury in infant vaccines has been phasing out, the inexplicable practice of recommending the flu vaccine containing mercury to pregnant moms has been phased in, resulting in perhaps even increased levels of harm and increased severity of disability.

Jerri Johnson
Minnesota Natural Health Coalition


As a Minnesota resident and forum attendee, I was deeply disappointed by the pathetic non-response of the Minnesota Department of Health. But it was no surprise.

For years autism parents and advocates have had face time showing those people stacks of peer-reviewed studies, children's lab tests, and investigative reports. As yet we've been unable to convince them that they're basically killing us with kindness.

MDH and CDC are great at selling, but lousy at postmarketing follow-up. Any other consumer product has a safety net in case of failure. Why not vaccines? Why do health care professionals allow victims of vaccine injury to twist slowly in the wind? Where is the intellectual curiosity about thousands of consistent parent reports?

The Somali parents are informed, organized and energized. As Hodan so wisely says, words without action are worthless.
It is tragic that these recent immigrants have learned the hard way what many of us learned years ago -- that too many public health administrators are concerned only with immunizing themselves against responsibility.


We need to start the Somali Toxic Metal Foundation and help these people coming in search of the American dream, to uncover their nightmare. I think this is something people who have adopted foreign children have known for a long time. Come to America, get your shots and Autism.


WOW! Idil is clearly a super Warrior Mom!

Thank you for sharing this experience. These people are obviously incredibly astute.

I find it rather ironic that Ehresmann would use the phrase: "evidence of harm". She said: "Most Americans over age six have received vaccines with thimerosal..." when she probably should have said between the ages of 6 and 20.

I like Khalif's summary the best: "We do not know what causes autism,” but we were told that it is not the vaccines. This sounds like a dumb statement to me. For heaven's sake, if you don't know what causes autism, then you don't know what does not cause autism. Just shut up."


THose sound like some sharp AND wise people to me. Khalib said it best when he said, "if they don't know what causes autism then they don't know what doesn't cause autism." BEAUTIFUL!!!!!
I wish them all well and I know they have found themselves some good allies in autism support. ON the other hand that Judy Punyko, the CDC, MDH and ACIP are all obviously trying to give those poor people the runaround. The truth will come out. I keep wondering who, as a group, will step up to the plate and be the heroes for all these kids (pediatricians, doctors, coroners,Red Cross?)

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