By Anne Dachel
I just finished reading The Autism Book: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention by Robert Sears, MD (Little Brown.) Like many parents would naturally do, I looked for what he had to say about very specific questions:
1) How does Sears address the heated controversy concerning vaccines and autism?
2) What are the ways to treat and recover kids with autism?
3) How can parents prevent autism?
4) Has there been a real explosion in the incidence of autism
In the table of contents, I found, Part 2, Causes of Autism, Chapter 4, "What Causes Autism? Mainstream and Biomedical." As you may expect, Sears gives us a number of possible causes from genetics to environmental factors. He goes into detail about them. Concerning vaccines, he writes, "There is not enough proof to implicate vaccine mercury in the autism epidemic. Some scientists, many alternatively minded physicians, and hundreds of thousands of parents believe otherwise." (p. 64) Concerning the MMR vaccine and autism, Sears says, "The theory holds that the measles virus may remain living within the body after injection and may be taken up by immune cells that then can carry the virus to the gut as well as into areas of the brain." (p. 85)
I found more commentary on this question in the section, Preventing Autism. (And when was the last time a doctor wrote on this topic?) Sears starts off telling us, "Prevention is very important for any family that has a child with autism." (p. 328) He then lists his recommendations for parents expecting another child which includes a section titled, "Avoid Mercury." He cautions pregnant women about mercury fillings, fish consumption, and mercury in the flu shot. "If you get a flu shot, make sure you get one without mercury, or at least get one that has only trace amounts of mercury." (p. 331)
With regard to vaccinating siblings of an autistic child, Sears writes, "Your next child might have the same genetic risks that your child with autism has. It's therefore important to limit any factor that may be involved in autism. If vaccines, or the chemicals in them, play a role in autism, then, obviously, limiting vaccines would be smart." (p. 337-338)
Furthermore, Sears adds, "Be aware that your baby will be offered his first vaccine (to protect against hepatitis B, a sexually transmitted disease) the very day he is born in the hospital. Many hospitals administer it without the parents' even knowing. Make sure everyone caring for your baby knows you don't want the hepatitis B vaccine." (p. 338)
What really got my attention was his recommendation to parents concerning vaccinating autistic children:
"I generally recommend that any child diagnosed with autism not receive any more vaccines. Now, this is a very bold statement, considering that the majority of current research does not support a link between vaccines and autism. However, research has not proven there is no link, because no study has ever compared the rate of autism in a large group of unvaccinated children with the rate in a large vaccinated group. This type of placebo-controlled study is the gold standard of medical research." (p. 336)
Sears advocates for vaccines but he also suggests alternative scheduling with delayed vaccines and a reduction in the number of vaccines a child receives. He acknowledges that many parents with an autistic child may not want to vaccinate siblings at all. He writes that "parents should have the right to make this decision for their children." (p. 337)
Sears continues to address this issue saying, "There are cases in which a severe reaction to a round of vaccines seems to have triggered a decline into autism." (p. 339)
"We also don't know exactly how common these severe reactions are, because no large research study has ever been undertaken to document the rate of severe reactions. And most important, no one has yet compared the rate of autism in a large vaccinated group of children with the rate in an unvaccinated group. Such a comparison would shed some much-needed light on this debate." (p. 339)
It's very hard to read this information and not not be scared about the risks vaccines represent.
In the first chapter, Sears makes one thing clear: The explosion in autism is real. "Years ago the medical community was in denial: Autism couldn't be increasing so dramatically; we must be simply diagnosing it earlier and more thoroughly. Very few professionals in the medical community believe that anymore. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made it perfectly clear: Autism has risen dramatically in the last fifteen years. Studies have shown that a small percentage of the rise in autism may be due to better diagnosis, but most of the increase is in the number of cases."
(And while it's nice to see this statement in print, CDC officials continue to pretend that they're still not sure how much, if any, of the increase is real.)
For many parents, Dr. Sears has an approach that is too middle-of-the-road. He admits that vaccines are linked to the development of autism, yet he continues to promote vaccinations. It may seem like playing Russian roulette with your child's health, hoping that he or she isn't the unlucky kid who will be permanently damaged by getting vaccinated. Many would demand we address this as a national health care emergency and never vaccinate another child until we could confirm vaccines were safe.
I would however, ask you to consider what Dr. Sears's book really represents.
We live in a country where on any given day, doctors and news reporters tell parents that autism is a solely genetic disorder. There is no cure. There's nothing they can do for their child except behavioral therapies and psychotropic drugs. Non-stop nonsense from officials comes to us everyday still telling us that the explosion in autism isn't real. The most we can expect for our children is awareness. Neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have ever used the word crisis when speaking of autism. Most of all, the medical community is presented as adamantly united in denying that vaccines are a factor in autism or that there are things parents can do to recover autistic children. This is why Sears's book is outstanding. He gives parents hope. He shows up those doctors who can only claim ignorance and who offer nothing.
Sears's book sends the message: Autism is treatable; kids can improve and even recover with biomedical intervention. It's packed with information on alternative medical treatments for autism--everything from GFCF diets, probiotics, supplements, chelation, and hyperbaric oxygen treatment. He explores the concomitant health problems your child may have and how to eliminate/reduce them. Things that took me years to learn about on my own, are explained in this book.
I was impressed with the sources Sears provides for parents who want to learn more. Under organizations, the websites for the CDC and AAP are listed right along with Autism One, TACA, SafeMinds, and Generation Rescue, to name only a few of the sites which provide information to challenge all the official denials. Age of Autism is also included as "a daily web newspaper that discusses issues in autism."
There are pages with study papers listed. Among the name you'll find are Andrew Wakefield (and his paper on enterocolitis in children with developmental disorders), along with Russell Blaylock, Bernard Rimland, and VK Singh, and a host of others.
The Autism Book is a huge barrage aimed at the façade we've been told exists out there. For a decade or more, the medical community and health officials along with their willing supporters in the press have tried to convince us that no one but desperate, misguided parents believe that vaccines can trigger autism. We've been solemnly warned that biomedical treatments are unproven and dangerous. For the last couple of years, Paul Offit's Autism's False Prophets has gotten publicity as a source for autism information written by a doctor.
Suddenly, The Autism Book appears, written by a well-credentialed, respected physician who is advocating for the autism community. Sears has spent over a decade working with autistic children and improving their lives. He offers hope. It may not be all that many people would like, but it's the beginning. We can't continue with one group of medical experts saying that vaccines have nothing to do with autism and another group allowing for a link between the two. Reading Sears's book makes it clear that there are experts on both sides.
To purchase a copy go to: The Autism Book: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism