Dear Mr. President:
As Medical Director of the Autism Research Institute, I add my voice to Mark Blaxill’s eloquent plea for you to “be that guy” who declares autism a national crisis and puts the same careful thought into strategies to confront this epidemic and work collaboratively to solve this crisis as you demonstrated confronting other crises throughout your campaign.
As founder of The Rimland Center, I have committed my professional life to educating clinicians that children with autism are sick and have medical problems that, when treated, often (but not always) lead to improvements in their autism symptoms. Our center is named after Bernie Rimland (the visionary psychologist who debunked the refrigerator mother myth) and stands for Recovery Initiatives and Mentoring Linking Autism Networks and Discoveries. The waiting list at my center for new patients to be evaluated is over a year long.
As a doctor who has felt very inadequate when trying to help Coy Barefoot’s son, and many like him, I am daily confronted by the nightmare of seeing bright and beautiful children slip away into autism. Coy is the journalist who asked if you were “that guy” who would put the resources of government into finding the 1 in 150 children who are disappearing before our eyes; his wife teaches anthropology at my son’s university. To hear parents who are extraordinarily intelligent and dedicated say things like “we lost him” or “he went into his own world” is heartbreaking.
As a witness in the Autism Omnibus hearings, I took the unpopular position that vaccines contribute to autism in a subset of children, based on my best understanding of the medical and scientific literature. I thought it was the right thing to do; someone has to speak for the children who have no voices.
As a Democrat, I proudly displayed an “Obama/Biden” sign in my yard in the city of Lynchburg, Virginia. I am working with Shannon Valentine, our House of Representatives delegate, on legislation in Virginia that we hope will help confront the autism crisis. My son, who is majoring in English and Politics at Washington and Lee, where he was the Chair of the Virginia Delegation during the Mock Convention, was inspired by the articulate and well reasoned speech he heard when you came to his former high school. The last time I remember being as moved by a political speech as I was the night of your acceptance speech was during Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, which is a vivid memory of my childhood.
Mr. President, please have Mike Strautmanis or other members of your staff call me anytime to discuss ways in which we can confront this epidemic. Mr. President, please accept my sincere offer to help meet this very important challenge in your administration: to make sure the first Autism Generation is the last.
Elizabeth Mumper, MD