David Kirby Reports Leading Federal Official Says Environmental Exposures Are Factor in Autism Rise
Ginger Taylor at Adventures in Autism Called Gerberding Move Months Ago

In the Autism World, Does Biggest Mean Best?

New_york_city_metroscenes_com_19 By Anne Dachel

On Dec. 16, I went on a field trip to the mall with the special education students from our local public high school.  I work with a freshman who is autistic.  We had a good time shopping for a gift exchange and stopping for lunch.  A number of these kids have autism and there were a couple of outbursts in the food court.  I looked around at the shoppers having lunch and wondered what they were thinking when they heard these kids yelling in public.  
Otherwise the day went smoothly and it was a good experience getting away from school.  Several of the autistic students are seniors this year and as I watched them I couldn't help but wonder where they're going to be next year at this time.
When I got home and went to look at my emails, I saw one from "Dr. Geri Dawson, Autism Speaks" and the subject was "Finding the Answers."  Dawson is familiar to many of us in the autism community because she's the Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks and gets a lot of public attention, even testifying about autism on Capitol Hill.  AS is considered the leading autism advocacy group in the U.S.
The letter started out personally addressing me by my first name but I'm sure thousands around the country got the same type of letter.  Dawson told me that when she's asked why she became a scientist, she replies that it’s because she wanted 'to help people.'
Next she said, "Anne, as a member of the Autism Speaks community you're a crucial part of our science team's work to change the future for people affected by autism."
I was surprised because I don't remember ever signing on to be in the Autism Speaks community.  Regardless, Dawson wanted me to know what they're up to.  Mostly, she wanted me to donate to AS.  And my donation would make a difference because..."your support now will determine whether we can keep making progress toward potentially life-changing findings in 2010, or fail to."
And in bold letters I read, "Make sure we can keep finding the answers that will unlock the puzzle of autism -- one study at a time -- by submitting your tax-deductible donation to Autism Speaks now."
Then she told me about what AS is doing to solve the autism mystery. 
"I could pretty much talk your ear off about the exciting work our team has done in 2009, but let me highlight just a few recent scientific discoveries -- and how we're working to translate discoveries into actions that will truly improve the lives of people with autism.

"First, did you know that Autism Speaks funds the largest private genetic database and the largest genetic collaboration -- the Autism Genome Project -- in the world? Our investments in these programs are paying off.

"This year, the scientists who are part of the Autism Genome Project discovered a number of novel autism susceptibility genes that are helping us understand the biological basis of autism. In fact, these findings were recently featured by TIME magazine as one of the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009.

"Using information from these genetic discoveries, we're funding a clinical trial to test a new medication that targets the pathways in the brain that these genes are disrupting."
Dawson also told about research into "the immune system's role in autism" and the link to the page to donate was again provided.
She wrote, "Every day we're making progress in the search for answers. These discoveries, and our scientists, depend on you.

"Please do your part today to keep our work going by making a tax-deductible donation to Autism Speaks.
Finally she ended with, "We've been on the cutting edge in 2009, and we'll stay there in 2010 -- with your help."

"Thank you, and happy holidays!

"Dr. Geri Dawson, Chief Science Officer, Autism Speaks"
I can only imagine the reaction of many people I know with autistic children.  When has AS ever addressed autism as a national health crisis?  When have they ever openly or honestly focused on the claim by thousands of parents and more and more doctors, that vaccines are damaging our children? 
If this had come just from Autism Speaks, I would have ignored it, but it had Dawson 's name on it.  Lisa Jo Rudy on her autism blog on Sept 10, 2009, had the story, Is Autism Speaks Mis-Spending Its Money? Your Opinion Requested (HERE.)
 Rudy wrote, "The highest paid employee listed, their Chief Science Officer, Geri Dawson, was compensated $644,274." 
Sept 10, 2009, Disability Scoop ran the piece, Top Earner At Autism Speaks Paid More Than $600,000.  Michelle Diament said, "The organization’s chief science officer, Geri Dawson, received $669,751 in total compensation in 2008 including $269,721 in relocation expenses to move her family from Washington to North Carolina, according to Autism Speaks’ tax filing."
Incredibly, here's a woman making over half a million dollars a year supposedly searching for answers about autism and she was asking me and lots of other parents for money. 
Go to the website for Autism Speaks and you'll find the question posed, "What causes Autism?"  And the short answer, "The simple answer is we don't know."
Autism Speaks doesn't know the answer right now, but they're on hot on the trail of the gene/genes that cause autism. Meanwhile on their website, we read, "NEW STUDY INDICATES AUTISM  AFFECTS 1 IN 91 CHILDREN, 1 IN 58 BOYS.  AUTISM PREVALENCE FIGURES ARE GROWING.  WE NEED ANSWERS." 
Please note, "Autism prevalence figures are growing" is the code phrase for "We don't know if more kids actually have autism.  It may be just better diagnosing and greater awareness."  There's no need for any real concern unless the actual incidence of autism increases, and no one admits that.  Autism Speaks isn't on the news every night sounding an alarm about autism.  Over one percent of U.S. children now have autism, almost two percent of boys.  It never used to be that way.  It hardly makes sense that AS can direct so much money into gene research when there's never been a genetic epidemic in human history. 
I thought back to Geri Dawson's testimony last summer in Congress before Senator Harkin's subcommittee. (HERE This link also has a 4 minute video clip of her testimony.)
There Dawson publicly stated that autism research is still greatly UNDERFUNDED, yet she testified that neither the vaccine preservative thimerosal nor the MMR is responsible for the "large increase that we've seen in prevalence.  Our position at Autism Speaks is one of very evidence based.  We're really agnostic with respect to whether vaccines play a role or not.  But we believe that by addressing parent's questions, that this will increase confidence in the vaccine program and will ultimately lead parents to be more likely to vaccinate their children, which we think is going to be critically important for public health."
It was an interesting choice of words.  "Agnostic" means "somebody denying something is knowable: somebody who doubts that a question has one correct answer or that something can be completely understood."  Did Dawson mean that we won’t be able to know if vaccines cause autism?  Did she mean that she doubts that autism is caused by vaccines?  I'm not sure.
Her farcical testimony was a big public vindication of the vaccine program and it was clear that any research that AS does, genetic/environmental, WILL NOT INCLUDE VACCINES.
This is what the Autism Speaks website said this about her congressional testimony: "She emphasized that we have come to understand that there are many different causes of autism, and that any one cause will likely only explain a minority of cases. Dr. Dawson stressed that large scale studies and databases, such as the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, will be important for discovering the genetic and environmental risk factors for autism, and their interaction. She noted that it is now possible to screen for autism at 18 months of age and that clinical trials testing interventions for toddlers with autism are being funded by Autism Speaks."
A short part of the testimony of Dr. Thomas Insel, head of the IACC, was at the end of the Autism Speaks clip.  He made this absurdly vague prediction: "There will be a time in the future that we will have a much better understanding of the environmental causes of autism.  There's probably something out there that is truly important that we need to be focusing on very quickly and move into very quickly.  And the hope is that the kinds of studies that Dr. Dawson suggests, that are agnostic, that look broadly at a lot of prenatal factors, also include some post-natal factors, we'll begin to see a pattern emerge."
 I was struck by the phrase, "There will be a time in the future...."  And I half expected him to add, "...in a galaxy, far, far away." 
On the Autism Speaks website the vaccine studies are talked about by
Dawson. (HERE)

"Overwhelmingly, these studies have not found evidence for a causal relationship between either thimerosal or the MMR vaccine and autism. At the same time, some parents have reported that the appearance of autism symptoms coincided with vaccination, and thus have advocated for more research on the potential role of vaccines in autism. As an organization that is committed to understanding all the potential causes of autism, we cannot dismiss the concerns of parents, especially since autism may be caused by distinct combinations of genetic and environmental factors that may each account for only a small percent of overall cases. Although coincidence cannot be mistaken for causality, Autism Speaks believes that parental concerns merit thorough investigation."
Dawson neatly pretended that only the misinformed parent links vaccines to autism.  She made no mention of top national experts like Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. and Dr. Peter Fletcher, former Chief Scientific Officer in the U.K.   Neither of these experts is in agreement that vaccines don't cause autism. 
She also said, "The amount of funding we [Autism Speaks] are devoting to research that is relevant to vaccines is only a small percentage of our overall research budget, about 2%. The bulk of our $33 million in research funding in 2008 is focused on identification of a wide range of genetic and other environmental risk factors, biological mechanisms, diagnosis and early detection, and discovery of effective treatments."
So as another generation of children is lost to autism, AS claims to be on the cutting edge of autism research.  They just need more money from me. 
The truth is, it's a huge slap in the face for me to get an email with the name of a doctor getting over half a million dollars in annual income while countless thousands of children become autistic right before her eyes.  Parents of autistic children are going bankrupt trying to get help for their children and more and more autism floods our schools.  To have Dawson write to ask for money when her worthless grandstanding nets her a fortune, is obscene. 
Autism Speaks has no right to say anything.  They insult me and everyone else in the autism community.  They certainly have no right to pretend that they’re doing something to help the autistic high school students I spent the day with. 
On Friday, Dec 18, the CDC announced the new autism rate of one in every 110 children, one in every 70 boys.  Dr. Dawson was cited by a number of news sources.
WebMD: Autism Jumps 57% in Just 4 Years (HERE)

Dawson: 'Two decades ago we were looking at a prevalence of one in 5,000 children. Now we're looking at one in 100. That really is a staggering increase. The question is what will it take for the federal government to begin to respond to this crisis.'
CNN Study: 1 in 110 U.S. children had autism in 2006 (HERE)

"Geri Dawson, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, said this report validates early estimates of how many children are affected by autism.

'We now have firm evidence that autism spectrum disorders affect a staggering 1 percent of children, and this increase cannot be fully accounted for by
broader diagnosis or earlier diagnosis.' "
BusinessWeek: One in 110 U.S. Children Has Autism (HERE)

Dawson: 'If you look back over the last two decades, you see an increase of 600 percent in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders.

'The important call to action is that we need answers to understand why we're seeing this staggering increase.'
Amazing comments from someone who's spent years looking for the genes that cause autism and telling parents that they are wrong.
Finally, on Fri I also received an email from Mark Roithmayr, President, Autism Speaks.  He cited the new rate and told me it's the time to donate.  He only asked for a small
donation.  "Pitch in today with a tax-deductible contribution. Your $5 donation will go straight to our research and advocacy efforts."

Ginger Taylor reported about Autism Speaks and Roithmayr on her blog, Adventures in Autism. Taylor wrote, "The President Mark Roithmayr, just received a 5 year contract for about $2,000,000 including bonuses with no prior background with autism."





And the clueless mommy brigade are still convinced that giving and walkng for Autism Speaks will cure their kid. Unbelievable. Not one of these moms bothers with biomed. It's almost like a cult. Donate to the organization on the screen and fill their pockets and it will magically help. Man, the dumb get dumber everyday.

Autism Speaks needs your money by midnight!

6:37 am I got this in my e-mail:

We're close to saying goodbye to 2009. But you still have a few hours left to help make 2010 the year we make significant progress in finding the answers to autism. Together, we can get this done.

If you donate to Autism Speaks before midnight tonight, you won't just be providing hope to all those who struggle with autism. You'll also qualify for a 2009 tax deduction.

Please pitch in now:


We're counting on your help to keep up our work.

Everything we do begins with you. And any contribution you can make, no matter the size, will make a difference in the lives of individuals and families touched by autism.

Thank you for all your support — and happy New Year!

Mark Roithmayr
President, Autism Speaks


Info on Dawson's NC connection - from the bio on her new book (!) "Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism Promoting Language, Learning, and Engagement" (Why there would be a such a large bill when she is obviously not "in need")

Geraldine Dawson, PhD, is Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks, Research Professor of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington (UW), and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at Columbia University. Previously, she was Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at UW and Founding Director of the UW Autism Center, which has been designated a National Institutes of Health Autism Center of Excellence since 1996. While at UW, Dr. Dawson led a multidisciplinary autism research program focusing on genetics, neuroimaging, diagnosis, and treatment. She received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health for her research from 1980 until 2008, when she left UW to join Autism Speaks. She was Founding Director of the UW Autism Center's multidisciplinary clinical services program, which is the largest of its kind in the northwestern United States.


Thank you Anne. This is perfect. I feel for the parents who continue to be brainwashed by this organization. Parents actually say things such as, "well, they all need to make this much money since research is so expensive." The stupid runs deep.


Autism Speaks Co-founder Suzanne Wright and someone else from AS was on Larry King a couple of weeks ago. Her position on vaccines was so weak that it seemed clear that AS had no intention of seriously investigating the correlation between vaccines and autism, while at the same time saying it should be done. It was as if they crafted their position only to appease those parents who believe a correlation exists. I was so turned off and disappointed by her response. It was clear that I had been deluded into believing that there was an organization that might actually be working for a real answer and exploring all possibilities for the cause, including serious vaccines studies.

Learning about Geri Dawson's salary is for me the nail in the coffin of Autism Speaks.

Not walking in Texas

I did the Autism Speaks walk one year and got a team together of family and friends and we raised significant dollars for our team. The following year I did my own research into AS, thanks to this wonderful blog right here at Age of Autism, and was dismayed at what I read about Geri Dawson and others. AS raised ~$18M this year (nationwide) for the walk events even in a bad economy. When the walk came back to Austin this fall, I told my team of family and friends to instead donate to my local NAA chapter which the monies directly go to help families (what a concept!) I am also curious how much money it costs AS for marketing and those race brochures. Having a background in marketing, I guessed that each color packet they mailed to walk participants was around $20 with shipping.
Send that to 20,000 people and you do the math. The only thing I can say I like about AS is that they have paid for a couple billboards in Austin to help with autism awareness..."A case of autism is diagnosed every 20 minutes." But the rest? Well, after chasing down the genetic causes for autism for a decade now they are finally changing their tune? Folks, this is just marketing....


I doubt Autism Speaks could hire Julie Geberding away from Merck, because she'd lose all those stock options. Autism Speaks is agnostic? More like atheists! There is no God, and it's NOT the vaccines, it's NOT, NOT, NOT!


Oh, sorry I forgot something, do you think Autism Speaks gave a grant to UNC to do the studies she works on? Does she at AS sign the check to pay her salary and fund the genetic research for her other job at UNC?



- Dr. Geraldine Dawson is a research professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She currently resides in a picturesque 3,700 sq ft house in Hillsboro, North Carolina with her husband and daughter. I believe her 90 year old mother lives about 30 miles away. She and her husband own a tony retail strip on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill, husband owned and managed a well known outdoor provision company in Chapel Hill for 33 years. Just celebrated his 59th birthday.

"The genes that were discovered appear to be involved in the development of the frontal lobe of the brain ... that is, involved in complex behavior such as social behavior and also abstract thought," said Dr. Geri Dawson, chief officer of Autism Speaks and co-author of the study. "So it helps us understand why people with autism have difficulty in the area of social interaction -- and also why they have a tendency to be so concrete and literal in their interpretation."


So she makes over half a million dollars a year with Autism speaks and who knows, another 100-150k with the University.


Galling. Absolutely galling. Trying to squeeze blood from stones.


garbo- she lives in the chapel hill, nc area, near unc which she has some connection to (maybe she went there for one of her psych degrees?) UNC is stuck in the 60s with its autism research- it's a good fit for her.

Maurine Meleck

This is so incredibly upsetting all around.
Then you have the huge numbers of families supporting AS walks for fundraising and they haven't even a clue where all the money goes. They should only know what Dawson's salary is and how they have decorated the New York offices. This is making me sick ------but thanks Anne for an extraordinary piece-even if it makes me sick.

Paul Shapiro

Hey Anne, I have a thought, if we all chip in six dollars, maybe Autism Speaks would be able to hire Julie Gerberding
away from Merck. Julie baby can sure do a lot of damage as President of Merck’s vaccine business. She would do less damage
working for Autism Speaks, she would less damage because AS is on the wrong research track.


As always, absolutley incredible Anne!! Thank you for putting down the words....

Just another mom

Why in the world would there be such a big relocation amount?

Thanks for your info Anne.


Sucking money out of ignorant, unsuspecting parents appears to be the main goal for Geri Dawson and others at Autism Speaks. The other two who spend endless amounts of time and energy at Autism Speaks convincing people to donate are Peter Bell and Judith Ursitti. Bottom feeders who claim to want to "help the children". Please people, don't fall for the sales pitch.

Renee Tag

All of it... HOGWASH! I wish the house of Autism Speaks BURNS TO THE GROUND forever.

Today, I will remind my circle of friend to NEVER EVER EVER donate one single nickle to this sad-ass organization.

If i even see that a chain store is funneling donations through their check out.. I NEVER RETURN TO THAT STORE. Bye, Bye Toys R Us!

Got to run, get my puke pail..


Um, can someone splain to me why she was relocated to NC, when AS is based in NY? Just wondering. Seems odd. Where is she working out of down there -- anyone have the address? Wondering who her neighbors are.

Kathy Blanco

I get AS autism newsletters in my email. I often think about how they are wasting my time, but I wondered why I signed up for their email alerts? Maybe a part of me hopes they will come to the realization they are not making autism speak...and or, that they may fund a study or two worth looking at, but alas, they never do. Take for instance, Dawsons long time interests in toddlers not recognizing faces. The first time I read the autism mercury position paper, the thing that popped out of the paper, was the fact that mercury exposures causes facial recognition problems. HELLLOOO? I too participated in U of Washingtons family study on autism. I filled out the forms, and even had people come over my hosue to give ME tests, on facial recognition. I must admit, I sucked at it...but, I am mercury poisoned too, from my vaccines, and amalgams...??? What's the point to be made here...that that is just a part of genetic autism, or that it's a sign the WHOLE FAMILY can't detox mercury? Did they ever MENTION that in the study? NOT!? I could have just mentioned that, or suggested that and they could have saved millions on a worthless study?

I can't believe that AS has any position of strength now? They are propogandizing our children, they are doing the public service announcements...but you can only garner so much support with that kind of tactic...it won't work...

I want them to realize that we parents are not going to live forever, we don't have time on useless, pointless studies. We need support, we need better schools, better after school adult programs, better medical training, better biomedical treatments...and let's be honest, better science. Why aren't the people on the board parents who have vaccine injured children? why aren't they the ones deciding what study should be funded? I could give them plenty of ideas...and have done studies that have focused on the environmental triggers? Why don't they take random vaccine vials and test their PCR DNA them to really tell us what is in them? Why don't they do a vaccinated unvaccinated study? Why don't they find out about autoimmunity issues in families with autism, our food supply and what it is doing to brains of children? That cord clamping can cause autism? Birth drugs? WHERE ARE YOU AS? Where are you when we must need you? You are spending our money on office furniture, salaries, and entitlements? There is no implicating studies...none, zero, zilch.

AS, I hate to say it, but go to hell..to the farthers part of darkness you can, because you are simply worthless. Oh yeah, I guess your already there...because basically, your works are evil.


Could Autism Speaks possibly merge with an organization such as Save the Whales ??
This would give them more of an international flavor.

They have nearly the same marketing strategy, and "the search for the Autism gene" would not be hampered by
working out on a boat on the high seas.


What is AS doing to help your class of students - nothing, ZILCH!

Robin Nemeth

This would all be obscene enough, if they were only raising money and then not using it at all to disseminate the truth. But they're actively engaged in using the most thuggish methods to forcibly silence the people who so much as suggest that vaccines might be causal.


Isn't Dawson a "dr" of psychology. What a joke. My sister in law has a Phd. in archeology, do you think she can get a high paying job at Autism Speaks?

Who makes more money Dr Gerberding or Dawson, since both work for pharma.

Alison Davis

It's easy for Dr. Dawson and Autism Speaks to be "agnostic", to be like Switzerland. But, Switzerland contains all the Swiss Bank accounts, doesn't it?

Much thanks to AoA for linking my little blog on the "new" autism numbers. It is the most read post to date and comments have been...interesting!: http://autismsocietyofnc.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/my-baby-is-your-one-in-seventy/

Teresa Conrick

Excellent summary! The amount of money being used to NOT look at the issue of environmental/vaccine damage and autism is a sin. It looks like AS can now blame CDC instead of seeing their own incestuous part in the autism-not-vaccines relationship.

Like Insel and any with power, money and influence in autism research, AS needs to be held responsible for the continuation in perpetuating the lie (vaccines are not the culprit) and the myth of autism (gene research will find THE answers).

If AS, Insel or CDC decide it is time to redeem themselves, I will welcome the conversion as it will save children and put the skids on this epidemic. Until then, hell may freeze over but I will continue to push for the truth and let everyone know, like you, Anne, that our kids, future kids deserve true science and appropriate research on the environmental implications of autism. We are not settling for less.

mary podlesak

I forgot to mention, they paid us I believe $50. each, for the 20+ hours it took to fill out the paperwork and the blood draw for gene testing.


I honestly dont begrudge the salaries, CEO's of hospitals are making a couple of million a year. It's who they are paying that fries me.

Years ago when I worked with an underground railroad that harbored mothers and children fleeing abusive homes, I found that more people cared about whales swimming up rivers or beaching themselves than the tens of thousands of preteen kids being raped by their fathers. Some things people can not handle. Kitten stuck in a tree, fine they can deal with that, donate money for homeless dogs, sure, spend a second or two to think about a 6 year old child being told is she says anything about the ongoing abuse that she will be killed, forgetaboutit. No one will think about it much less cough up a dime to do something about it.

Save the whales, hug a tree, make sure a stray dog has a meal and a warm place to sleep, sure, an epidemic of autism, forgetaboutit, not possible.

I'm sure more people can name at least one of Tiger Woods' "mistresses" than can give a name to one child with autism.

Autism Speaks has at least given the public the word "autism" as something to think about. They have successfully "branded" the word autism and brought some awareness to what that word means. You would think that the CDC, NIH or some other government agency might say a little something every now and then, spend some of the billions being spent to drum up business for the pharma industry, but no.

The movie Avatar was just released Friday, they spent 100 million dollars in advertising to insure that the American public knew about it. This money was spent in just a month or two leading up to Friday. That's how hard it is to reach the minds of the public and to sway them in a particular direction.

The FACT that people rejected the swine flu vaccine, that there is ANY question at all about the safety of vaccines proves there is an undercurrent of fear, of distrust in the American public. And we are doing it without hundreds of millions of dollars, we are doing it with out stories, stories our friends and neighbors hear and see for themselves. People are seeing it for themselves.

Autism Speaks spoke to my parents about autism, my parents could "trust" Bob Wright, an organization with a logo on a race car, it helped in the beginning. But as my own education and experiences developed and I began looking at a vaccine injury rather than just something that happens, I could not budge my parents from the AS platform so well illustrated Anne's post.

Autism Speaks uses our heartbreak, our kids as tools for fund raisers, look at us, so sad, won't you give? Then they drop the ball.

But it's not just AS it's so many well known organizations that need money, people fight over this money, breast cancer, homeless, hunger, poverty, civil rights organizations. Autism Speaks may know that people will respond to a kitten in a tree, but show it squashed in the road, crippled and people will reject it, sensory overload.

Mr. and Mrs. Gotrocks of the Gotrocks Foundation have grandchildren that have been vaccinated, they have been vaccinated themselves for the flu, no problems, kittens that cross the street at night get hit, no need to ask why, we all have a car, we are all driving someplace, back and forth, it's not our fault, it's just something that happens. We have all seen roadkill, someone's pet on the side of the road, but a kitten in a tree, mew, mew, mew, stop, pull over, call the fire department. Perhaps a kitten climbing a tree is genetic, maybe that's what they are talking about. Why the kitten can't come down? Don't care, it's cute and it's in a tree.

My son is genetically predisposed to toxins, in fact he is just like most children, maybe all children. Give him a shot on top of a shot, on top of another shot loaded with neuro-toxins and.. . brain damage.


mary podlesak

My family participated in the University of Washington's family study of autism. I filled out voluminous forms for all four of my autistic children, regarding my children's personal habits, family physical traits, medical problems, etc. Never did they ever ask for anyone's vaccination records. I asked about it at the time. They gave a rather noncommital answer.

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