Dr. Wakefield and The Strange Case of the Censorious Phone Call
Too Busy Too Broke To Teach Autistic Child to Speak? Glossing over Gross.

Busting Out of Shawshank: Autism and a Tale of Two Andy's

Warden By Teresa Conrick

In 1994,when I was pregnant with my second child, a film called, "The Shawshank Redemption," came out. Being pregnant, tending to my beautiful, toddler Megan, and working part-time, teaching in a psychiatric hospital demanded my attention and I missed this film.  It wasn't until around 1999 that I happened to catch it one night on TBS and it was exactly what I needed, so I am here to share my thoughts and recommend that you watch it - now - as it is exactly what our community needs.

In 1999, my world had changed drastically since five years prior.  Megan had lost skills, including speech, had become distant, sad, crying and physically ill with ear infections, rashes, fevers, vomiting, nosebleeds, reflux, and diarrhea more times than I could count.  She was to then be diagnosed with autism in 1995.  Since I did work in a psychiatric hospital and had finished my masters in Special Education, I had an inkling of what autism was but no experience except for "Rainman" and a brief observation of a male, nonverbal teen, hospitalized for a "medication adjustment."

As I watched Shawshank that first time, I became a huge fan.  Here was an atypical movie for me.  It had no romance, no great costumes, no catchy music.  What it did have was a story that I could identify with and one that I relate to now more than ever, especially as the innocent Andy Wakefield, like our hero, Andy Dufresne is unfairly judged and "imprisoned."

Andy in the movie has been tried on circumstantial evidence and found guilty of killing his wife and her lover.  He is then shipped off to Shawshank Prison where he must deal with other prisoners, hatred, despair, injustice and corruption in the form of the Warden and some of the guards. Andy is innocent and knows it but he must deal with prison life and he does so with intelligence and hope.  His relationships, especially with Red, another prisoner who trusts Andy and sees him as different than all of the prisoners at Shawshank, is a good one - "He had a quiet way about him, a walk and a talk that just wasn't normal around here. He strolled, like a man in a park without a care or a worry in the world, like he had on an invisible coat that would shield him from this place. Yeah, I think it would be fair to say... I liked Andy from the start."  Over nineteen years, the two would become close friends.

The Warden was a cruel, selfish and evil man.  He put Andy to work for nineteen years as his personal accountant, taking money from the prison and "laundering" it.  He also was responsible for a young prisoner's death, a lad who knew Andy was innocent and could identify the real killer, a psychopathic prisoner who confessed haughtily to the young lad of the killings.  Andy went with his evidence of innocence to the Warden and because this information would release Andy, would get him out of Shawshank and out of the Warden's "laundering" job, the lad was killed and Andy was punished more for even thinking of revealing the truth of his innocence and the identity of the real criminal. The Warden was not about to let Andy or anyone get in the way of his money scheme and the power he held over Shawshank and the prisoners.

Unknown to anyone, Andy, being the smart and patient prisoner that he was, began a methodical and determined escape out of Shawshank.  He discovered that the wall in his small jail could crumble so he had Red get him a rock hammer and he began the task of tunneling out of his unjustified hell under a poster of first, Rita Heyworth and eventually of Raquel Welsh as the years and his tunnel grew.

One day, Andy was able to access the prison speakers and played Canzonetta sull'aria from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro to all the prisoners who had not heard any music in years.

If you haven't figured it out, I am comparing the two Andys because I see Andy as our Andy, Andy Wakefield, and that beautiful music was the research that he has done and continues to do showing how our children can be helped from their pain and suffering -- it is music that can not be taken away from ones memory, even though the Warden pounds on the door and demands that Andy "turn it off". 

Andy of course, both of them, gets in trouble for sharing the music.  In the film, Andy goes on to explain, after his time "in the hole", punished for giving hope to the prisoners, that he had the music in his heart.  Red, his good friend, is not sure what this means so Andy describes the music, the hope, the hope that no one can take away in Shawshank.  Red does not like this as he had given up hope in prison and tells Andy that "hope is a dangerous thing," and walks away.

Andy later talks to Red and describes where he would go if he ever got out of Shawshank.  Unknown to Red, Andy does exactly that.

Hope, perseverance, and old rock gave Andy his tunnel to freedom as he was able to live in the knowledge that he was innocent, there was evidence to prove it and that he must get out of Shawshank to bring forth the truth.

Red eventually is paroled and gets a blank postcard knowing it is Andy and decides that he must make it to his friend.  He takes off to find the information needed to locate Andy. In the letter that Red finds, Andy tells him that he hopes he is doing well and also to,  " Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

I think Red sums it up best for both of our Andys: " Andy crawled to freedom through five-hundred yards of shit smelling foulness I can't even imagine, or maybe I just don't want too. Five-Hundred yards... that's the length of five football fields, just shy of half a mile.
Andy Dufresne - who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side."

We have seen and heard the "shit smelling foulness" from the attack on Andy Wakefield, the attack on us, and the attack on truth. From the many Wardens - GMC and GlaxoSmithKline to Dr. Paul Offit and Merck, from the guards - Brian Deer and Dr Evan Harris MP, et al -- (here is a great visualthanks to Ginger Taylor: Thank you Andy, for year by year, rock by rock, study by study, revealing the truth and giving hope to so many of us fellow prisoners.

 Teresa Conrick is a contributor to Age of Autism.


Jill Fenech

Theresa - Thank you, thank you. That aria has stayed with me for a long time and I have found myself playing it in my head for years after seeing that movie. Yes, we must keep the music in our hearts, espeically during those dark days when "autism" seems to be gaining the upper hand in my daughter's healing. Don't quit. Don't ever quit.


Teresa, your essay is spot-on as usual. Thank you for reemphasizing the importance of hope, and how persistence can result in a liberating conclusion.

And remember how much pleasure the prisoners got from the simple act of drinking beer up on the rooftop -- a privilege Andy pushed them to earn.

Daily deprivation is a way of life for so many people with autism and their families. We've relearned appreciation for little things others take for granted.


I love your analogy Teresa! Shawshank has always been one of my all time favorite movies as well. The parallels between the two Andy's are right on!


Always one of my very favorite movies thank you for helping me see it in a new light.

pass the popcorn

I had a parallel experience to yours. I missed the Fugitive the first time around - and never saw it until last week when I finally caught it on TV. Throughout the film, I thought of our battle and Dr. Wakefield. The pharma villain made the experience of watching the Fugitive very cathartic.

Love your analogy, and I look forward to watching the Shawshank Redemption. Thank you!


Well maggie
So far we at least have the internet.


flowchart/ ....continued from below

Needs some proper lines & arrows for the Rotashield introduction and withdrawal...


Great "visual flowchart graphic" of the UK MMR investigation.

Except for Dr. Wakefield at the very bottom of the graphic,

no one listed above (where all the money is...) has ever treated an Autistic child nor has a damn clue of what the hell could be going on.

A few names & arrows might still need to be added, but it looks like a new T-shirt to me...


Wow Maggie, what an interesting read!


Wow, Teresa. As many times as I have seen "Shawshank" (it's one of my husband's favorites), I had never thought of it that way. Thank you for the great analogy.


Someone please give this to Giner Taylor so she can add in another connection.
Brian Deer's boss is James Murdoch. You know... Rupert's son. Rupert is the global
media mogul who owns FOX and other TV, radio, and newspapers round the world.
Rupert's daughter (James Murdoch's Sister) is married to Matthew Freud, a grandson to
Sigmund. Matthew is head of Freud Communications, an international public relations
firm in the UK. Matthew is also the nephew to Ed Bernays who is the "father of public
relations".. also known as “the father of spin” .....the first guy to attempt to manipulate
public opinion using the subconscious. He did this by combining crowd control ideas
from LeBon and Trotter and the psychoanalitical ideas of his Uncle Sigmund... He was
also into Pavlov's dog theories. Bernays and friends make for very interesting reading in
all their "public relations work" that include a wide spectrum from helping the tobacco
companies to overthrowing governments to help corporations control natural resources
and pollute native lands.
In Propaganda (1928), his most important book, Bernays argued that the manipulation of
public opinion was a necessary part of democracy:
"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the
masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen
mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power
of our country..."
I keep overhearing conversations and reading about these public relations connections in
world politics. Wherever there is a scandal or coup, these public relation and media firms
are deeply rooted. I've heard on more than one occasion that these people were related to
the drug companies too. And now....we can see one such connection in that James
Murdoch, Brian Deer's boss, is now working for Glaxosmith...

It is easy to see that Brian Deer is happy to "play his part" to arouse "the crowd" and thus
"control" them and do his best to make them look silly and desperate in the public eye.
My friends would say that Brian is not the puppet. He is instead an arm of the puppet
master. The crowd are the ones that are really on the strings dancing. Perhaps parents
should be aware of these connections and tactics so they can ponder the best approach to
helping the children.

I wonder what Uncle Sigmund would say about all his extended family.
More about the Brian Deer, Murdoch, and Freud connection..... I failed to mention in my
comment below, that Elisabeth Murdoch (Brian Deer's boss's sister) is CEO of Shine
Limited. Shine Limited is also a supplier of franchise television to broadcasters across the
globe including the BBC, Channel 4, HBO and the RTL Group. In 2006 they acquired
Kudos Film and Television, Princess Productions and Firefly to create the Shine Group,
although they still operate as four separate entities. So you can see how when David
Kirby goes to UK and can't get any press, it is because all these people are related and
have similar business interests. Also, 15% of Shine Limited is owned by Lord Alli who is
one of Tony's Cronies and a Politician, 5% of Shine is owned by BSKYB which is owned
by Newscorp which her father, Rupert, heads. Again.... She is married to Matthew Freud
who is the son of another politician, Sir Clement Freud. It must be nice for Glaxo to have
all these convenient connections at their disposal when they need to defend themselves
from possibly hurting children. No one has ever proven they have hurt children, and no
one will as long as there is crowd control as mentioned below. I hope the makers of this
fabulous movie someday do a documentary that follows the money and friends of those
who are possibly hurting the children. If word got out, there may be less "crowd control"
and the unseen ruling force that Ed Bernays, "the father of public relations", described
below would be forced to repent or just go away.

this came from age of autism board on September 1st in the brian deer article

Something Dateline forgot to mention. Early last month MMR vaccine manufacturer
GlaxoSmithKline has appointed to its Board the head of News International James
Murdoch (son of Rupert Murdoch). Murdoch is also boss of The Sunday Times, London,
England publisher of stories by freelance journalist Brian Deer to discredit research into
the link between MMR vaccine and autism in the US and UK.
Murdoch will serve as a member of GSK’s corporate responsibility committee, where he
will help to review “external issues that might have the potential for serious impact upon
the group’s business and reputation“:[James Murdoch takes GlaxoSmithKline role - Chris
Tryhorn The Guardian Monday 2 February 2009.
James Murdoch took up his appointment alongside Sir Crispin Davis the CEO of The
Lancet medical journal's owners. Sir Crispin is brother of Judge Nigel Davis whose
English High Court judgement in February 2004 saw the end of British children's MMR
vaccine injury claims [MMR Judge Faces Probe Over Brother's Links to Vaccine Firm -
Evening Standard, London 9 May 2007].
Recent statements by UK Sunday Times’ journalist Brian Deer shows he helped the US
Department of Justice present the US Court of Federal Claims on a number of occasions
with last-minute documents to defeat the prospects for the US children’s claims. The
production of last-minute evidence is a litigation tactic which can prejudice the Court’s
view and can leave an opponent with little time to counter it. The Federal Court has
previously upheld claims of US children developing autistic symptoms from vaccines
including the MMR vaccine: [AUTISM - US Court Decisions and Other Recent
Developments - It’s Not Just MMR]
It's so damn obvious right?


You have put into words the reason I love that movie so much. Thanks so much for writing this!


I really, really loved this article!
I want to thank you for it!
This is a great anology.

I also love the added anology from John Stone - I did not get the meaning of the music - just to too deep for me. But I am in awe of it when I am told.

Val from Ohio - I loved your added insight to this too. That is pretty deep too.


Interesting tidbit about Shawshank Redemption. It's first release went without much notice. When the movie was released on video it became a huge hit, which prompted a re-release of the movie in the theatres. There was a thought that maybe the title was a turn-off and that it why it wasn't noticed at first.
If I am not mistaken, I think that Kevin Costner turned the movie down. So Roger Moore of him:-)
Great move and great comparison to the present day battle over Wakefield's work.


Just a beautiful comparison. Love this movie as well. The truth will prevail, we must continue to stay the course. May Dr. Wakefield "live in the knowledge that he was innocent". The unjust will answer one day for all of their actions. However that is not our concern, we must help all of the suffering children first and foremost. Keep telling the truth and never give up!


A little paraphrasing from the Shawshank script regarding those participating in the GMC assaults on Wakefield:

Red: Are they doctors and journalists?
Andy: No, they'd have to be human first.

Wonderful job, Theresa. These analogies are so important for understanding the incomprehensible. The wall is definitely crumbling.

Val from Ohio

A great movie - one of my favorites.

I think it's worth noting that the tunnel was completed before the lad was murdered, but Andy declined to use because, I believe, he held out hope that someday he would be proven innocent "legally".
But after the lad is killed, he realizes that will never happen and that he must "get busy living" (risk everything and use the tunnel) or "get busy dying" (accept that he will stay in that prison forever).

The wardens of this world can try all they like to make us believe there is no escape (no treatment) but it doesn't change the truth.

Tanners Dad

That movie touched my heart the first time I watched. Now it has much more meaning. Just like every time I read something your write. The thought, depth, & knowledge you bring to the table makes our family stronger... it gives us ... HOPE ...

Harry H.

Great job, Teresa. Here's hoping we all escape Shawshank, and soon.


Pressure and time will always cause even the hardest rock to crumble. Let's keep applying pressure and time will ultimately bring the truth to light.

John Stone

I never saw the Shawshank Redemption, but I am, of course, an expert on Mozart. In the Canzonetta Sull'Aria the Countess Almaviva and her maid servant Susanna sing in duet with perfect grace as the Countess dictates the letter which will eventually bring her arrogant seigneurial husband, the Count, to his knees before her.


Mozart's version of Beaumarchais's play is an essay about the arrogance of power. The Count can't go two seconds without exploding into rage: he tries to dominate his household, but ultimately he is the fool. This is highly relevant because we keep on seeing the old patterns of social control re-assert themselves - the first resort of the media is to shout us down. They can't reason, so they bellow.

Remember your temper, everybody - and remember Mozart.

Rita Grady

I think it was a brilliant comparison of the two. Shawshank has been one of my favorite movies of all time, and I have seen it at least 10 times. I can clearly put Dr. Andy right in Andy Dufrane's shoes on that one!

Cathy Jameson

Great comparison. I never thought I would like the movie when it first came out (similar--no romance, not a comedy, too serious...). Surprisingly, I was hooked and I still watch it when it airs on cable.

Keep crawling through the muck, Teresa. Your voice and your efforts are much appreciated by those of us still trying to break down walls to get help for our kids.


Love the Shawshank Redemption. Thanks Teresa.


Incredible analogy Teresa - well done.

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