Over the past few weeks we’ve taken a look at some of the bad ideas that combine to cause the ongoing autism epidemic – including the very bad one that there is no epidemic.
In fact, that is the worst idea of all, because it stops discussion before it starts. If there’s no epidemic, then there’s no environmental factor in play. Autism is part of life, one might even say part of God’s plan. Ergo, we should put all our efforts into helping the affected while ignoring the causes and the calamity, as Hillary Clinton’s feckless proposal this week manages nicely.
You can see that play out in a recent spate of books by authors who want to normalize autism and make it seem, in the Church Lady’s word, so very special, as opposed to so very disastrous.
Thus in the new Smithsonian, John Donvan and Caren Zucker find a few pre-Civil War case descriptions that might include autistic features and conclude, “Still, the dominant narrative has been that real rates are going up, and the United States is in the midst of an autism ‘epidemic,’ even though most experts see that as a highly debatable proposition. Moreover, the 'epidemic' story has helped crystallize the notion that 'something must have happened' in the near past to cause autism in the first place. Most famously, some activists blamed modern vaccines—a now discredited theory.”
That paragraph shows the potency of the "no epidemic" premise -- no epidemic, no vaccine link to autism, no need to worry your pretty little head.
So much for bad ideas. Now for the best one: Listen to the parents. After pondering the trajectory of autism and thinking about reader comments, I realized this is really the universal antidote to the “autism awareness” and “no epidemic” idiocy.
First of all, most parents don’t think autism is any kind of blessing. Discussing the book Neurotribes, “Greg” commented on AOA:
“Bad Idea number 15, the neuro-diversity movement and autism as a gift: It's a gift to be a non-verbal kid, past early childhood and still in diapers. And, if you're high functioning autistic adolescent, sitting at home on your butt, unemployed and waiting for your aging folks to look after you, your autism is also most definitely a gift.”
And “Reader” said:
“Stoopid idea number 7: Pretending that autism is a good thing as in Neurotribes. Yeah it's just great that 30% of people with autism communicate not at all or minimally, 82% unemployment for adult autists, high number wandering and drowning deaths relatively, high murder suicide rates. High numbers with sensory and pain issues. It's just f'g great.”
But the main reason to listen to parents is that they know what happened to their children. As The New York Times famously wrote: “On Autism’s Cause, It’s Parents Versus Research.” Yes, it is, and the steady drumbeat of parental testimony about vaccination, illness, regression and autism trumps the conflicted, contorted “research.”
As Sarah Bridges wrote in Spectrum magazine about RFK Jr.: “In 2006, Kennedy wrote an article for Rolling Stone magazine called Deadly Immunity. The response to his piece was overwhelming: following the publication, Kennedy received thousands of letters and emails from all over the world. 'The astounding thing was how alike all of them were and that people from Mississippi to New Delhi shared such identical experiences. Here is the typical scenario I heard: A mother took her toddler to the doctor where he received a spate of vaccines, became ill that night, often with a fever, sometimes with seizures, then lost the language he had, developed stereotyped behavior and regressed into a looking-glass world of debilitated relationships and social isolation. Essentially,' Kennedy adds, 'their lives were plunged into unimaginable agony.' It seemed imperative to Kennedy to keep getting the story out to prevent the catastrophe from damaging other children.”
Not listening to parents unites mainstream media and medicine. Listening to them unites RFK Jr., this humble blog, Andy Wakefield and many others. In no other universe but Autism Denial would this kind of evidence be dismissed as mere "anecdote" and relegated to the dust bin, while CDC studies exonerating the MMR and thimerosal are treated as gospel.
Last week I wrote about my adventures in the 1970s as a young investigative reporter. I’m convinced, on the basis of long experience, that if journalists were as deaf to other concerns as they are to the reality of vaccine-driven autism epidemic, Richard Nixon would still be president (or something like that). The idea that we needed to listen to our readers was drummed into us. The idea that doctors need to listen to their patients – and, as Andy puts it, “listen to the mother” when the patient is an infant – is still the best idea in medicine.
As commenter Ottoschnaut put it: “Bad Idea: 'Ignore the hundreds of thousands of first hand, eyewitness reports of parents who witnessed vaccine injury unfold in real time.'”
That, of course, is why the “discredited” vaccine-autism debate rolls on, because thousands of parents know exactly what happened, way too credible and way too many to silence with appeals to conflicted, self-interested, shoddy “research” that suggest ordinary people can’t be trusted, that wisdom belongs to the priestly class, in this case the medical, legal, and journalism establishments.
This can’t last forever, especially when the damage keeps rising at the rates we are seeing now -- at epidemic rates. Our main task is to find the most effective and direct and immediate ways to blast through this denial of the age of autism, help sick kids and share the truth with anyone willing to listen. More and more people are.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.