Managing Editor's Note: Remember the old slumber party standby called, The Telephone Game? That's when you whispered something to your friend, and she passed it the next gal, and by the time it got to the last girl at the party, "I smell bacon" had become, "I love Satan." Seems journalists play The Telephone Game too. Except it's no game.
By Kent Heckenlively
I need to begin this article with full disclosure.
In August of this year I was contacted by Trine Tsouderos of the Chicago Tribune to talk about autism treatments. I probably spent about two hours on the phone with her laying out the vaccine theory of autism causation as well as sending her a large binder of various publications to support this position.
I tried to steer clear of practitioners and research which might be controversial and provided her instead with information from credible sources that she could check. (At the end of this post I’ll provide the cover letter I sent her.) Given her November 21, 2009 article in the Chicago Tribune on autism I can only say she gives the appearance of thinking without actually engaging in the activity.
I have three major criticisms of her article based on the information I’d provided to her.
1. The Autism Increase - She wrote in her article, “One in 100 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder by age 6, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figure has increased in recent decades, though experts do not know whether more children actually have autism or more cases are being diagnosed.”
Article 2 which I provided to her was a study done by UC Davis (January 2009, Journal of Epidemiology) showing that the increase in autism could not be accounted for by better diagnosing. This is from a press release put out by UC Davis about their findings and provided to Ms. Tsouderos:
"A study by researchers at the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute has found that the seven- to eight-fold increase in the number children born in California with autism since 1990 cannot be explained by either changes in how the condition is diagnosed or counted — and the trend shows no sign of abating.
Published in the January 2009 issue of the journal Epidemiology, results from the study also suggest that research should shift from genetics to the host of chemicals and infectious microbes in the environment that are likely at the root of changes in the neurodevelopment of California’s children.
It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of environmental and occupational health and epidemiology and an internationally respected autism researcher."
Article 3 was from Dr. Craig Newschaeffer of Johns Hopkins University reporting similar, earlier findings. (Journal of Pediatrics, March 2005)
What scientific research does Tsouderos have to support her position that the autism increase may not be real?
2. Heavy Metals and Autism - She wrote in her article that “Chelation’s popularity as a treatment is driven by the unproven idea that the disorder is tied to the accumulation of heavy metals in the body.”
Article 5 which I provided her with was a study from the
Article 8 was the Burbacher study from the
Article 10 was a study from
She was provided with abundant information supporting the view that heavy metals are implicated in autism. I am at a loss to explain her failure to even mention this research.
3. The Vaccine Court - The final criticism I have is her view that the
She wrote in her article, "Colten Snyder, another child who was evaluated in vaccine court, underwent chelation after tests on his blood and hair over six years came back normal for mercury, court records state. Given that the boy was immunized with vaccines containing thimerosal, ‘his hair mercury was exceptionally low, said his physician, Dr. Jeff Bradstreet of
What Tsouderos fails to mention is that Colten Snyder has essentially recovered from his autism and this fact was in the published decision rendered by the Special Master.
Special Master Vowell noted “although Colten’s condition markedly improved between his diagnosis and the hearing, the experimental treatments he received cannot be logically or scientifically linked to the theories of causation.” (P. 3 of the Snyder decision).
Vowell went on to state “Rather than attributing Colten’s obvious improvements in speech, language, socialization, and behavior to the effects of IVIG, secretin, chelation, and/or dietary supplements, Dr. Wiznitzer noted that Colten’s developmental pattern was consistent with the natural history of autism in that those with the disorder are at their worst in the second or third year of life. Speech therapy improved his speech, and Colten’s normal intelligence permitted him to benefit substantially from speech and language therapy.” (P. 256 of Snyder decision.)
However, during cross-examination Dr. Wiznitzer noted that he’d never seen a child with autism improve as much as Colten Snyder. Similarly, Colten’s “miracle-worker” speech therapist (author's note - 30 minutes, twice a week), Kathleen Timlin, made it clear in her testimony that she believed his bio-medical treatments were the key to his recovery.
If you're holding up a child with autism as an example of the inadvisability of certain treatments you should at least note that he has recovered from the disorder. I mean, Ms. Tsouderos did write in her article that, "There are no cures for this disorder . . ." Actually, Ms. Tsouderos knows a child who has recovered from this disorder, but chose not to inform her readers.
All of this just goes to show that you can lead a reporter to information, but you can’t make her think.
Kent Heckenlively is Legal Editor of Age of Autism
My letter to Ms. Tsouderos is reproduced below:
August 3, 2009
435 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Ill 60611
Re: Autism Binder
It was great to talk to you about autism today and I wish you the best of luck in your research. Please forgive the number of articles in the binder, but I wanted to give you a full overview of the relevant issues.
Here’s a listing of the articles and why they’re important:
1. Age of Autism article, “What Did the CDC Know and When Did They Know It?” - Important historical information that the CDC knew about increased rates of autism I children as early as 1997 from their investigation at Brick Township, New Jersey.
2. UC Davis Study showing that the increase in autism isn’t due to better diagnosis and suggests the investigation should shift to looking at environmental factors.
3. Pediatrics study by Dr. Craig Newschaeffer (Johns Hopkins) also reporting that the increase in autism is real and not due to better diagnosis.
4. My article on the Department of Education numbers about the increase in autism numbers.
5. Study from University of Texas showing an increase in autism rates linked to increases in environmental mercury.
6. Article on California study showing autism occurs in areas with high pollution, especially mercury.
7. Study from China showing higher levels of blood mercury in children with ADHD.
8. Study from the University of Washington showing that thimerosal has an affinity for the brain and settles there much quicker than previously believed. (Note – This is important because one of the arguments is that mercury clears itself out of the body very quickly. Well, it seems to clear out of the blood quickly, but large amounts seem to settle in the brain. This group is supposed to be releasing further research. Definitely worth a call.)
9. Study from Dr. S. Jill James of the University of Arkansas, showing thimerosal depletes glutathione, and autistic kids are low in that anti-oxidant. (Note – She’s one of the best in the field. Also worth a call.)
10. Study from Northeastern University showing thimerosal impairs methylation. (Cell to cell communication.)
11. Study from Columbia University showing that the effects of thimerosal depend on the underlying genetic make-up of the organism. (In the experiment mice with differing genetic profiles were given amounts of thimerosal to mimic the vaccination schedule. Those mice with a genetic profile for auto-immune disorders developed symptoms similar to autism, while the other mice suffered no harm. I think this is one of the most important papers in autism.)
12. Research from Peru supporting the Columbia findings using hamsters.
13. An Age of Autism article on the importance of the Peru research.
14. A letter from a physician in Germany on the question of mercury and autism.
15. Research from Baylor University on how thimerosal damages neurons.
16. Research from the University of British Columbia on aluminum adjuvants (which I believe may be just as serious a problem as the thimerosal) and link to Gulf War Syndrome.
17. Newspaper article on the aluminum research from the University of British Columbia.
18. Article by Dr. Bob Sears “America’s most read pediatrician” on the lack of safety testing of aluminum in vaccines.
19. Generation Rescue piece on which vaccines still contain thimerosal and the level of aluminum in vaccines under the current schedule.
20. Generation Rescue listing of publications discussing autism and mitochondrial dysfunction.
21. Generation Rescue listing of publications discussing autism and neuroinflammation.
22. Generation Rescue listing of publications discussing autism and infections.
23. Generation Rescue’s study of the rates of neurological problems in vaccinated and unvaccinated children in California and Oregon.
24. Pediatrics article discussing the parents of children who choose not to vaccinate.
25. Generation Rescue’s study of the vaccination schedules, autism rates, and under 5 mortality around the world. (Note – U.S. children receive on average double the rate of the western world, and yet still rank high in child mortality and rates of autism.)
26. Chapter from a recent medical textbook on autism and fatty acids written by Dr. Patricia Kane.
27. My article discussing the issue of fatty acids and autism.
28. My article on other research linking fatty acids to autism.
29. CBS News story on former head of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Bernadine Healy, and her opinion that the vaccine-autism question has not been answered, and has been actively avoided by the medical community.
30. CBS News story by Sharyl Attkinson on the vaccines and autism question.
31. David Kirby article on what the Federal Government has agreed to study in regards to vaccines and autism.
32. David Kirby and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. article on the Bailey Banks decision, the second after Hannah Poling to determine that vaccines caused a child’s autism (PDD), and some of the rhetorical games which are being played in the Vaccine Court.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions that come up as you do your research.
All the best,