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Katie Wright: Autism Research at NIEHS Opposite of DoD?

Research Autism Research at the National Institutes of Environmental Health Otherwise Known As The Opposite of Dept of Defense’s Inclusive, Progressive and Innovative Autism Research Program

By Katie Wright

About a month ago Autism Speaks and the NIEHS held an all day conference on environmental issues and autism research. Sounds great, right? When I learned of this meeting in the planning stages, I was excited. Wow, a conference on ASD/environmental research. This is something that 99% of the autism community could get behind. Great start!

Then I learned that the meeting would be a brain storming session in which AS and NIEHS invited scientists working on other diseases like Parkinsons and MS to discuss opportunities for environmental research for ASD.  OK, a little less enthusiastic. We already have SO many amazing autism environmental scientists who rarely/ and/ or /never get heard or funded by the NIEHS or IACC. This could have been a great opportunity for the NIEHS to actually hear from environmental experts working IN autism research! The ground breaking work of Jill James, Irva Hertz-Pinchero, Jane Eldahr, Richard Deth is mostly unknown to NIEHS bureaucrats. I listen to ALL IACC meetings and the only person ever referencing this important body of work is Lyn Redwood.

It isn’t a bad idea to get points of view from those studying other disease, not at all. But why were strangers to autism the main invitees? Although I barely heard any of the meeting- for reasons I will discuss shortly, a lot of time was wasted with well meaning but elementary questions about what is autism, what are the symptoms, how is it treated, who many kids are affected, blah, blah…This is not an effective use of our time or money (this meeting was paid for by our tax dollars as well as families’ contributions to AS). Scientists who wanted to come to this meeting and whose expenses were paid in order to attend, should have shown up knowing the basics. Really, it was the least they could do and the NIEHS should have ensured this by sending the scientists some ASD required reading prior to the meeting.

Now this is what I really do not understand. How long have parents like us been on top of AS and the NIEHS to address environmental issues? It feels like forever, but that’s just me. Anyways, here they were doing something good, actually responding to stakeholders! One would think they would be touting this meeting from the rooftops, plastering it all over every imaginable autism site: The Schafer Report, Age of Autism, The Simons website, Google Alerts and certainly AS. Yes it was good that the NIEHS had a notice on their website but honestly how many of us check that website every day? It hasn’t exactly been a source of inspiration.

I like to think of myself as on top of ASD/ environmental news, but I knew nothing about this meeting. So there I am halfway to Sleepy Hollow taking Christian to see an eye doctor and a parent e-mails me that this meeting is taking place. Great, I think, I had no idea and now I will miss practically the whole thing. I totally could have made Christian’s appt a day earlier, the office is really flexible.

I get home in time to catch the last hour. There were some interesting discussions I would have like to hear more of…but no. I immediately took note that the ONLY parent sitting at the crowded conference table was Lyn Redwood. Then I see a few Moms I kind of recognize sitting in the dark shadows behind the conference table. Laura Bono and Sallie Bernard, easily among the 3 most knowledge people in the room, relegated to the background- off mike, away from the conference table.

How much longer do we have to put up with this insanity? What is wrong with Dr. Lawler and Dr. Birbaum? Why this crazy hostility/fear of real stakeholder inclusion- especially stakeholders who may not agree with them on every issue. I am no scientist but isn’t this what the scientific process is all about? Developing ideas, testing hypothesis and developing different ideas when previous hypotheses fail?  OK, it is pretty clear that their research direction thusfar has failed, time to change course.

I called AS and said #1, it is insane why did you did not publicize this meeting and #2 how can I get the DVD? AS immediately realized that their failure to publicize the meeting was as a big mistake and promised to do widely publicize such meetings in the future. OK, fair enough, I can move on, who doesn’t make mistakes?

However, the NIEHS told me that the video of the meeting was “unavailable.” I don’t know how that could be when they recorded the whole thing. For pete’s sake’s do we really have to endure more of this nonsense? I feel like I am dealing with my NT 7 year old when he said that he hasn’t eaten any candy but I see it smeared all over his face. When are Lawler and Birbaum going to make an effort to include stakeholders in the research process? Why this crazy insecure need to keep secrets and keep families (who lobbied so hard to get you this $ in the first place) far away from substantive research discussions? Lawler been at this for many years and made virtually no progress, one would think she would welcome stakeholder input! For God sakes it can’t get any worse at the NIEHS.

I asked AS to please try to get a DVD. They really tried. I checked in daily for over two weeks Dr. Lawler will not hand over that DVD. However, I was told Lawler would make public her summary of the meeting. OK, a giant no thank you to that. This is the United States, not China, we have the right to see this federally funded public meeting for ourselves. I am not interested in the organizers’ review of their own meeting.  Why don’t we all do our own tax audits while we are at it? Environmental research is hugely important to me and hundreds of thousands of ASD parents. Hand it over Dr. Lawler.

Katie Wright is Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.





@ Jerry Kroth - I'd be VERY interested in seeing the data. My email address is [email protected]

Thanks, Dr Kroth, for bringing it to our attention.


@Jerry Kroth,

I do not represent any organization, but I would be surprised if several that post here would not be interested in the report. I hope they have seen your comment.

The subject you bring up makes me wonder how much Hg is being out-gassed from the concrete in homes, schools, etc., especially when any remodeling or particularly new construction is done?

Jerry Kroth

I am a professor at Santa Clara University and recently I received a curious document on autism and mercury poisoning. It shows that from 2010 the number of autism cases in the Bay Area increased some 300 percent; during same time the Lehigh Cement plant was spewing ten times the level of mercury into the atmosphere than is recommended as safe. It is almost as if an experimental study was conducted, using living subjects: one group exposed to mercury levels ten times higher than that judged to be safe, and another control group received normal levels of exposure. The result is that the experimental group showed 25,000 'excess' cases of autism.

That is not exactly what happened, of course, and all that data is not in, but the report cites data from the Lucille Packard Foundation. The report is written by a "concerned Cupertino resident." I really think you should take a look at this data. It is really really scary.

It is about 5 pages long. I'd send it to whomever is interested.

There is some organization in the area which is agitating against this cement plant, and that is how and why the person seems to have written it. It is quite articulate however.

Good luck with this.

Jerry Kroth, Ph.D.
Associate Professor (ret)
Santa Clara University


Autism and Anti-Vaccine Advocate -

“In fact they look for ways to take our Freedoms away, case in point is the CDC that MANDATES vaccinations.”

Yes, agreed. Our highest collective priority should be to preserve our medical freedom in this Country. This carnage must stop. The time is at hand for the people to DEMAND a new Amendment to the Constitution along the lines proposed by Dr. Benjamin Rush. We MUST put medical freedom into the Constitution.

“Deadly Immunity” by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr on June 16, 2005.

“Time for CDC to Come Clean” by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. On March 1, 2006.

Autism and Anti-Vaccine Advocate

Regarding any Federal entities like the NIH, CDC, etc. I have found that dealing with them years ago, that they weren't interested in anything relating to immune factors in autism. They mention the epidemic of autism but it as far as they go.

Katie Wright is right about the DOD. I'm a parent who has a son with autism who was vaccine damaged. I'm a military veteran and work as a civilian with a DOD entity. I worked last year with the local Family Action Committee (with the local DOD entity)to raise autism awareness among military families and did mention my views on vaccines (that they can cause adverse reactions leading to such things as mention only one type of reaction...and my own personal factual observation).

The DOD and military families are more receptive and open than any other Federal agencies like the NIH, CDC, etc. At least with the DOD, they are open to listening, unlike the NIH, CDC, etc.

In fact, the DOD is the only Federal agency
that does what it is supposed to do run the military to protect our cherished Freedoms. None of the other Federal agencies do that. In fact they look for ways to take our Freedoms away, case in point is the CDC that MANDATES vaccinations.

Autism Grandma

I started researching environmental causation and chemical injuries as soon as my mom gave me a computer in 1995, due to my own chemical injury. Sadly, in spite of excellent researchers, dedicated environmental medicine doctors, and many activists, the end result thus far has been ongoing denial of this reality; and now regarding the autism/vaccines issue it's exactly the same. The government and Department of Defense would not even admit that Gulf War Syndrome even existed as a physiological disease process, much less would they EVER admit the major contributing factor of vaccines in this fiasco that has resulted in 400,000 Gulf War vets being disabled. Although Gulf War Syndrome is finally officially recognized after 20 years, they still refuse to provide compensation or treatment for all of these soldiers, therefore I can't imagine that they will ever officially recognize the vaccines as being the environmental causation of autism and many other disorders. Their definition of "environmental factors" is anything and everything EXCEPT the vaccines.

The government/pharmaceutical partnership will NEVER orchestrate a Vaccinated versus Unvaccinated study therefore it is solely the responsibility of the autism community to make this happen. They will then refuse to recognize the validity of the findings and come up with all kinds of lies why our independent study methods are "unacceptable" and "not supported by the science" of their own industry funded manipulated studies etc.

However, at least then this information will be available to parents who seek answers in trying to determine thier own decisions regarding vaccines. If this study is produced by the autism community, we can only hope that at the very least this will result in congressional hearings which could support legislation protecting the public from mandated vaccines, and at the very most may even force an entire overhaul of the vaccine schedule, removing ALL of the mercury and aluminum, and reducing the schedule in order to protect future children.

In the meantime, based on over 4 million children being born every year, a conservative estimate based on under-reported CDC statistics of 1 in 110 will produce 40,000 new cases of autism per year. A more realistic estimate based on public school records from 2006-2007 demonstrating autism at 1 in 67, will result in almost 60,000 new cases of autism per year. All of this is not enough to convince the government to over-rule the medical system and STOP THIS INSANITY, therefore somehow the autism community has to make this happen.


"The Government Will Never Do A Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated Study"

Great comment, Phillip Rudnick! I'm inclined to agree. Why don't we start designing a multicenter protocol utilizing primary care doctors (including MD's, ND's, DO's, and DC's) all over the country comparing vaccinated versus unvaccinated in humans? I think that recruitment for such a multicenter study would go smoothly. Of course, strict adherence to the Nuremberg Code and Articles of Helinski would be mandatory for participation and strictly enforced. The conduct and statistical analysis would, of necessity, need to be COMPLETELY independent of pharma or any government entity. I could see myself, possibly, being involved. Of course, I have no pharma or government financial relationships to dislose. We could probably publish such a study in Medical Veritas. I'm 100% serious with this comment.

Julie Leonardo

Generation Rescue is funding a vaxed vs. unvaxed study. Jenny McCarthy announced it at Autism One this last May, so hopefully we'll hear something about it soon.

Philip Rudnick

The Government Will Never Do A Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated Study

For me, after the catastrophe of hundreds of thousands of children brain-damaged for life in an ongoing and worsening epidemic, and the ongoing hubristic trashing of the Precautionary Principle by an epidemic-denying Vaccine Establishment, the most depressing part of the decades-long vaccination-autism scenario is the lack of initiative by the myriad vaccination-safety-critic organizations and hundreds of thousands of parents of autistic children in mobilizing their own resources towards publishing a vaccinated-vs-unvaccinated study under their own auspices. A retrospective study needs no approval by the medical authorities. Databases of unvaccinated children still exist despite the concerted efforts of the Vaccination Establishment to render them non-existent through compulsory inoculation. Yet all I read is of expecting, and waiting for, the government - CDC, NIH, NIEHS… - to do this, this after decades of implacable stonewalling. It’s incredibly naïve to expect the Vaccine Establishment to ever agree to produce evidence which could incriminate themselves as mass butchers of children’s minds. At the same time, what a bonanza it is for the Establishment that their critics also fail to produce such a study. It insures that this single, absolutely-definitive, vaccination-autism study would never be done and that the medical and legal hegemony and inoculation policies of the Vaccine Establishment will continue unabated and triumphant.

This is not the first time this state of affairs has been brought to the vaccine critics’ attention.

With each passing year, how many more thousands of children with crippled minds will vaccine safety critics accept responsible for by failing to act on producing a vaccinated vs unvaccinated study of their own?


Katie, I emailed Dr Lawler after a previous meeting similar to this a couple of months back and she sent me through a video stream of that meeting. I explained that I'm a student researching the environmental/autism links and have Asperger's myself but missed the meeting, and would have loved to see it as I'm doing a major paper on it right now, etc (all true), and she was happy to email them through... maybe try the research approach? They aren't downloadable, but they work so I guess that's the main thing. (Unless some tech-minded person wants to explain how I can download them properly, lol!!). I get the impression she doesn't real 'buy' a lot of this, or she's scared... I don't know.

I just wish they'd include more parents and people who know more about it, like you say. Because I suffer daily from serious environmental toxicity issues, like the many thousands of others out there on the spectrum around the world. It's not fair for us or for our families that this kind of thing is still going on and that our voices - the ones that actually know what's going on, because we have that personal stake in it and in finding out what's happening so we can do something about it - aren't allowed to be heard.


Again thank you for being the voice of reason. As a parent I would love to see a grassroots effort to see Lynn Redwood be made the co-chair of the IACC with Ellen Blackwell.

The last meeting she was the only one asking for hard answers and timelines. We don't have time to waste on things and she is one of the most knowledgable parents on ASD in this country. We don't need folks there that can't even know what it is like nor have a pulse on what is transpiring even within their own autism specific organizations.

I say we do it....grassroots effort to have Lynn made co-chair ASAP.

Teresa Conrick


While I appreciate your lengthy post describing Chez and his history with autistic kids, I still don't see how he was related to environmental research other than your description that he got screwed out of money, grants, or funding by AS.

Was that correct on why you brought him up? I don't see him as an advocate or researcher on vaccine/environmental factors causing autism. I'm sure he's a personable doctor and knowledgeable about the brain. Lastly -- I do like Dr. Irva Herz-Picciotto and noted her statements before on genes incorrectly being the main focus of autism, but not sure if Chez being her neighbor has much to do with our discussion here.

Bob Moffitt

There is no one I have more trust in than Katie Wright .. I truly value her insight and opinion.

Having said that .. I am not as confident the DOD's "Inclusive, Progressive and Innovative Autism Research Program" will prove any more successful with the "mystery" of autism .. than the NIEHS has.

Why do I say that?

The DOD has been investigating "ten infant deaths .. over three years .. at Fort Bragg" all of which have been classified as SIDS.

To date .. the only environmental tests the DOD conducted have been on the "building materials and the air inside the homes in which SOME of the children were living at the time of their deaths".

In any event .. the DOD has finally "ruled out" building materials and air inside the homes .. as a possible cause for the infant deaths.

Army Sec John McHugh .. admitting frustration .. by the lack of results to date stated: "The investigation is ongoing .. and .. virtually every possible environmental factor will be looked at".

Apparently .. the families invovled are convinced there must be a "common" factor involved .. yet .. I haven't heard that ANYONE asked these families whether or not their child had been vaccinated in the days, weeks or months of their sudden, inexplicable, death.

Hopefully .. THEY WERE NOT ALL VACCINATED .. Because .. if they were .....


How about a campaign to have individuals FLOOD NIEHS with FOIA requests for this DVD and/or the meeting transcripts? They shouldn't be allowed to sweep this meeting under the rug.


continued from above
Chez is not a genetic only guy. I think his main approach is not rooted in a particular ideology, rather, my sense is that he thinks for many on the spectrum, frontal lobe connections are impaired (for whatever reason...including environmental insult) and that if they can be improved then communication and processing also improves for the person. What I also like about him is that he keeps an open mind about a lot of things and tries new stuff, unlike so many.
As an aside, his "pulse dose" steroid and depakote protocol was an absolute magic potion for my son many years ago but, like many pharmacological interventions we've tried over the years, after awhile the side effects (especially the steroids) were horrid so we had change course. But we did learn from the exercise that an immune dysfunction was at the root of his regressive-subtype autism.
Our personal experience has also instructed us(and of course each individual with autism is different) that, for some, pharmacological interventions are critical in improving the quality of life by helping individuals cope with or manage sometimes debilitating issues of anxiety, OCD, and huge emotional well as real epileptic or subclinical eeg abnormalities (which are present in over 50% of people diagnosed with ASD overall). Diets are also helpful to a lot of folks. In my mind it's not a big leap to see a link between GC free and Ketonenic diets (that help many control hard to manage epilepsy).
Finally, Dr. Irva Herz-Picciotto of the U.C. Davis MIND Institute outside Sacramento, (Chez is now their close neighbor) is one of the leading researchers who is on the record saying that the autism increase is real, not a total result of broader diagnostic critera. may like this...
"Hertz-Picciotto notes that the lion's share of autism funding is going to genetic studies. She argues that it's high time more effort was put into looking for environmental factors that cause autism in genetically susceptible individuals."


Teresa - You may disagree with his approach and views, but he's definitely not a one size fits all neuro. He's constantly trying different approaches that show some promise. Chez is definitely not a DAN fan but the establishment doesn't like his immune-related ideas either, and Chez is not anti-dietary interventions. He gets it re gastric, eeg abnormality, and immune issues. I think his beef may be that many DAN Dr.'s ARE "one size fits all" and you don't even get to see the physician, if they are indeed an M.D.
While he isn't on board regarding all vaccine issues, this comment from his book isn't typical of what folks usually hear from their mainstream caregivers: "I encourage any refer with haste any child who regresses within three months or less of an immunization."
I read his book and think that his "subtype" arguments, based on a huge clinical practice, while basic, are spot on and may be the fundamental reason why our community (as a whole) often talks past one another. There are different "autisms" with likely different causes and therapies.

I bring up Chez in my comments as an example of how AS and other established institutional constructs like NIEHS fail to "get it" when dealing with (or not acknowledging)out of the box thinkers. AS is now funding research that Chez was doing(and discarded because it was a dead end) a decade or more ago. It's kind of pathetic. Chez and a handful of others (Buie, the Kennedy Krieger folks, etc) have been comparing notes with leading physicians and researchers from other disciplines like alzheimer's, MS, and auto-immune disorders for years and years. I know that Chez and Jane El-Dahr(a pediatric immunologist at Tulane) compared notes years and years and years ago. It's really tiresome to me to read that these conversations are just starting to happen. They're not. And that's not a knock on Katie. I'm a huge fan of hers and Lawler sounds like an &%$#.
continued below

Jeff Andrews

Mercury = MS / Mercury = Parkinsons / Mercury = Autism...enough said, just someone realize at least one of these already.

L Land

It is all about control. The less they share information the more in control they feel and the easier it is to (not) do what they are going to (not) do anyway. I have absolutely no hope in this process.

Anne McElroy Dachel

This makes me gulp down another quick cup of coffee and tear at this keyboard in response. How dare these supposed experts continue to pretend to address autism like this!

For years I've listened to official meetings where the first lame thing that's talked about is the definition of autism with a chorus blubbering, "How much of the increase is a real increase or just better recognition? Does anyone know?"

Now that every neighborhood has at least one autistic child, doctors are admitting there must be an environmental trigger/triggers. They continue to claim ignorance over what it might be. There are thousands of new chemicals out there---any of them might be responsible. We may never know.

Autism isn't some scientific mystery we have all the time in the world to fool around with. Yet, from the government's response, you'd think is was.

Autism is everywhere in the news. Lots are stories are horrific. They're about murder, suicide, child abuse, and parents desperate for help. Autism is a national tragedy of unprecedented proportion.

How dare NIEHS heap more insults and criminal neglect on our children!

When the final chapter is written on the autism disaster, the biggest question will be: HOW COULD SO MANY DO NOTHING FOR SO LONG?

Anne Dachel, Media


Mary, they probably are getting desperate about MS due to the new vascular surgery to help MS. I've been talking with quite a few MS sufferers and there has been tremendous success with un-blocking the veins-but- those people are still also turning to chelation to deal with heavy metal damage. new CCSVI clinics are springing up every week all over the world and pharma is helplessly watching as all their chemotherapy and anti-inflammatory drugs (many with a shamefully bad safety profile) are going to rot on the shelves. Hee,hee, is it wrong how happy this makes me... They are probably terrified of the implications of the MS people talking to the autism people for obvious reasons;many in the MS community cite vaccines as a possible cause.


Katie commented that at the meeting "NIEHS invites a geneticist to an environmental science conference to speak "

But I thought that a Congressional hearing established it was something in the environment?

I thought the IACC meeting - Tom Insel said the numbers of ASD was rising and at last they said it was someting in the environment?

I thought on Fox News the doc that is all for vaccines, said it is environmental but we need to look somewhere else in the environmnent beside at the vaccines?

I thought this meeting that Katie had to bust a gut to get to was "National Institutes of Environmental Health" and it was about the environment, the environment, the environment!!!!!

What's this crap about genetics????

And if there is a name and address of who I can write and complain about not receiving a DVD, put it on here:

I am use to writing and then mailing it all off to what must be the center of the Milky Way where that big black hole is said to be.

Teresa Conrick


I'm not sure why you are bringing up Dr. Chez, a ped neurologist, as this is about NIEHS and Dr. Lawler. The doctors mentioned, James, Irva Hertz-Pinchero, Jane Eldahr, and Richard Deth are researching environment-autism connections.

Dr. Chez used to be from here, at Lake Forest, as I am sure you know as you say you live in IL. I am aware of his research and saw him with my daughter. I was not happy with his one size fits all protocol at that time, which was steroids and/or depakote. He then began to use an L-Carnosine cocktail in more recent years.

Here is a book that he wrote two years ago on the medical management of asd. I bookmarked where he states many times that vaccines do not cause autism

and where genes are the avenue of research

Here he is putting down DAN! treatments:

So again- your post seems incongruent to Katie's article or did you have some other rationale?


I would suppose this meeting was planned at another meeting where the "clueless" could select those who would "also be clueless" so they could enjoy each other's company with an advanced coffee & donut program.

As 50% to 80% of the revenue in a typical AAP office comes from the "vaccine/well baby visit" program, they can never fund research to look at the real cause or any real treatments.

Nothing is more important to this group than shadowboxing around the problem for decades.


The research dollars are getting hijacked for gene and gene deletion research which is showing up zilch! For a couple of years I've been looking at pubmed regularly to ferret out good, small studies on biomedical research. There unfortunately hasn't been any lately. All gene related, deletion related. My son had that huge micro array genetics testing. Nothing regards to anything they've found in the tiny percentabge of deletions were found in my son. I have to find research for other disorders and underlying pathologies to find anything that relates to my son. That is really unacceptable! With all that they are spending on autism research SOMETHING has to be aplicable to more that just 1/2 or 1% of the cases of autism. We are wasting HUGE amounts of time and resources!

Katie Wright

Just imagine if they invited Dr. Laura Hewittson to speak about her amazing 3yr + ongoing study on vax/ unvaxed colonies of primates.

That is the kind of cutting edge environmental science the NIEHS needs to be discussing. This research study is examining brain and gut tissue of monkeys from each groups and the contrast between the two groups is stark. But no, instead NIEHS invites a geneticist to an environmental science conference to speak about why he needs another million dollars....


Since Parkinsons and MS are both caused by mercury, this is good news. Oh, wait, maybe not. They are playing the same gene/environment game with those diseases, too. You know, they play the same game with EVERY disease, autism is just another one on the list.


Katie- Until AS reaches out to neuros like Chez in CA, who has consistently been 10 yrs ahead of the curve (and whose colleages are happy to trumpet his old research to cash in on the $), I don't think AS gets it. Sad that the real out of the box thinkers aren't funded because the estabished players slap an "autism" label on their ongoing work and their more professional grant writers get the bucks.

Jim Thompson

Here is a brainstorm.

Fund research on animals in order to further understand vaccine injuries—including brain injuries. Then look for associations with children diagnosed with autism.

Extra homework assignment: Read the research already done by the USEPA on mercury injury to the brain (and other heavy metal injuries to the brain) and other vital organs in the human body.

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