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Age of Autism Weekly Wrap: “Dear Dr. Olmsted” and the Perils of Credentialism

Weekly Wrap: The Amish Anomaly, 11th Anniversary Edition

AofA Red Logo Ayumi YamadaBy Dan Olmsted

Was it really 11 years ago that I first wrote about the Amish and their apparent lack of autism? Yes, it was. Back then I was working at United Press International and had gotten interested in prescription drugs' side effects. My colleague Mark Benjamin suggested taking a look at vaccines, and his first report, The Vaccine Conflict, ran in 2003. (That led to the wonderful moment when Paul Offit, a focus of that article, stood up in a church -- a church! -- in North Carolina, and in response to a question said, "Mark Benjamin doesn't know s--!" That's about as close to a nomination for sainthood as most of us will come.)

Mark got involved in the medical treatment of veterans -- writing the first reports on how poorly our Iraq and Iran vets were being treated, first for UPI, then for Salon, then for Time.

I took the autism beat. The first thing to catch my attention was that both Hans Asperger and Leo Kanner -- in 1944 and 1943 -- noticed the phenomenon at roughly the same time. The cases were very different, but Child 1 in both reports was born in 1933. That is supposed to be the most wonderfully fabulous unrelated coincidence in the history of the entire world, but I didn't, and still don't, buy it. As I wrote then:


This leads to a simple but significant question: Was it coincidence the first few cases of these strikingly similar disorders were identified at the same time, by the same term, in children born the same decade, by doctors thousands of miles apart?

Or, is it a clue to when and where autism started -- and why?

The question reflects a huge, and hugely important, debate. If autistic children always existed in the same percentages but just were not formally classified until the 1940s, that would suggest better diagnosis, not a troubling increase in the number of autistic children.

If, however, autism had a clear beginning in the fairly recent past (a past so recent that Fritz and Donald could both be alive today at age 71), then the issue is very different. That would suggest something new caused those first autism and Asperger's cases in the early 1930s; something caused them to increase, and something is still causing them today.

This ongoing series will look for answers by tracking the natural history of autism around the world -- a road less traveled than one might think. 


Little did I know then that Donald T. was indeed alive, that Mark Blaxill and I would be the first to identify Donald T., interview him at his home in Mississippi and deduce a number of connections to new environmental risks that led to the rise of autism. In a sense everything flowed from that first article, including a new book we are working on these 11 years later.

My next stop was the present day -- autism among the Amish. It's amazing the potshots my rather modest observations have taken -- I'm somewhere between a crank and a fraud. I'm sure there will be some remarks to that effect in the comment section. But show me one Amish child with "iatrogenic autism" -- the kind not connected to a genetic anomaly or some other well-known source of causation -- and then let's talk. As far as I know, I remain the only person to find such a child -- who was removed from her home by public health authorities in a dispute over medical treatment at age 2, fully vaccinated while she was away, and returned two years later fully autistic. I even took her picture and ran it on AOA and in our book! Epidemic Deniers are welcome to submit their own selections.

It's just an accident the articles started during Autism Awareness Month. I have to say I'm feeling more encouraged this year than on previous anniversaries. Last year, for his excellent film Trace Amounts, Eric Gladen interviewed some Amish on the same topic. It's just a couple of minutes long -- check it out!

Here is the start of my first article with a link to five of many that I did on the Amish and autism.


Lancaster, PA, Apr. 18 (UPI) -- Where are the autistic Amish? Here in Lancaster County, heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, there should be well over 100 with some form of the disorder. 

I have come here to find them, but so far my mission has failed, and the very few I have identified raise some very interesting questions about some widely held views on autism.

The mainstream scientific consensus says autism is a complex genetic disorder, one that has been around for millennia at roughly the same prevalence. That prevalence is now considered to be 1 in every 166 children born in the United States.

Applying that model to Lancaster County, there ought to be 130 Amish men, women and children here with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Well over 100, in rough terms.

Typically, half would harbor milder variants such as Asperger's Disorder or the catch-all Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified -- PDD-NOS for short.

So let's drop those from our calculation, even though "mild" is a relative term when it comes to autism. 

That means upwards of 50 Amish people of all ages should be living in Lancaster County with full-syndrome autism, the "classic autism" first described in 1943 by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner at Johns Hopkins University. The full-syndrome disorder is hard to miss, characterized by "markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests," according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Why bother looking for them among the Amish? Because they could hold clues to the cause of autism.


Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism





Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Grace Green, Thanks for your interesting comment yesterday. After I put up my website 16 years ago (April 2000), I got a lot of emails asking how soon my son Conrad's umbilical cord was clamped. Clearly it was before he began breathing. They tried to tell me he was stillborn, and rescued by resuscitation.

I immediately went to the Countway Library at Harvard, and started looking things up. I sat there (weeping) on the 4th floor taking one old textbook of obstetrics after another off the shelf. Until the 1980s the teaching was always to wait for pulsations of the cord to cease before tying the cord.

Pulsations are evidence of ongoing placental circulation. Blood flow to the placenta continues until the fetal heart valves close, and I remembered learning in 10th grade biology that the anatomy of the heart must change after birth, for blood to be redirected to the lungs.

The earliest article I could find on use of a surgical clamp (rather than string) was in the Lancet, May 1899. The instructions were to wait for pulsations to cease before applying the clamp. Birth is a momentous event; why should it be rushed? It was in the mid 1980s that textbooks began to advocate clamping the cord immediately after birth.

The old textbooks on Countway Library's 4th floor have now been moved to the depository, available only by special request. Clamping the cord before the first breath is an horrific medical error. How can this be allowed to continue???

Grace Green

Patience Simon, Thanks for this information. When my sons were born in 1980 and 1984 I had read a book on childbirth which criticized the practice of tying the cord immediately after birth. I got the impression that it was an outdated practice. However, I seem to remember it was done quite soon afterwards in the case of my two, even at home deliveries. From what you are saying it sounds as if things have gone full circle and the practice came back into fashion after 1984 (perhaps a bit later in the UK).

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Dan, The Amish do not use a surgical clamp on the umbilical cord at birth. This in addition to their refusal of vaccinations should be considered as a possible reason for low autism rates.

Autism is associated with many etiologic factors. Some of these are clearly the result of toxic injury. Prenatal exposure to alcohol and valproic acid (Depakote) are associated with cases of autism. Genetic disorders like phenylketonuria (PKU) and adenylosuccinase deficiency likewise have been reported as causes of autism. Abnormal (and toxic) metabolites are produced by faulty enzymes in these disorders.

Mercury and lead, like alcohol and toxic substances like methyl bromide, are known to cause symmetric bilateral injury of brainstem centers. Most prominently affected are auditory nuclei in the midbrain. Loss of the ability to comprehend spoken language has been reported in several cases of traumatic injury of these nuclei (the inferior colliculi).

Symmetric bilateral damage of brainstem nuclei is also caused by asphyxia at birth. Relay centers in the brainstem auditory pathway are most prominently involved. These highly active sites of acoustic signal processing have higher blood flow and aerobic metabolism than any other region of the brain.

The protocol to clamp the umbilical cord immediately after birth was mandated in the mid 1980s. This can cause a brief lapse in transfer of respiration from the placenta to the lungs if the baby does not begin to breathe immediately after birth. This a clear medical error. It is a protocol that should never have been put in place. Why has this protocol not been stopped???

Kroening E, Zink T. Learning from an Amish birth. Fam Med. 2008 Feb;40(2):91-2.


Glad to know where to find your articles on the Amish!


It sounds to me like the Zika virus is in fact vaccine injuries.

Now they say it is going to really spread by sex and that homosexual community --- again

I guess God is waiting for Dr. Offit to get together with some more from the CDC before he calls down the Lightening to end them all - cussing in church -- geesh.

After all God was willing to hold back judgment for just a few good men in Sodom. They better hope Dr. Thompson keeps working there, or the whole ground might open up and swallow the CDC.

Angus Files

sorry mouse dna in vaccines substituted by fly dna hence a change to the vaccine patents.


Angus Files

They did something in Brazil for sure and they will never own up to it n-e-v-e-r.On recent research I was going through vaccine patents and noticed fly dna being substituted in vaccines for fly dna as it allowed the virus to enter the body's immune system scientist just a parent but h-e-l-l-o, anyone at home at the patents office..or possibly that was the intent, eureka.


Jeannette Bishop

Thank you, Mr. Olmsted, for continuing this work. I had just started attempting to get a clue (or maybe more like was trying to confirm the clue I had was valid) shortly after this series began and all this was an important part of the process.

Bob Moffit

"This leads to a simple but significant question: Was it coincidence the first few cases of these strikingly similar disorders were identified at the same time, by the same term, in children born the same decade, by doctors thousands of miles apart?"

This is probably "off topic" .. but ...

I am having a hard time understanding "how" the Zika virus .. endemic to parts of Africa and Asia .. first identified in 1947 .. then considered a mild virus .. known to cause fever, headache, fatigue .. symptoms thought not worth serious research to eradicate it .. for decades .. until most recently .. when .. in recent months .. between 400,000 and 1.3 million cases have been discovered in Brazil, where the disease was previously unknown?

Suddenly ..the number of cases and the locations of the outbreak .. now identify Zika as a rapidly growing epidemic threat .. transforming Zika into a region-wide pandemic .. and .. causing the WHO to label it an international health emergency.

What the hell happened to "cause" the Zika virus .. in Brazil .. to be discovered in fetal amniotic fluid .. resulting in a significantly elevated number of microcephaly (small head size) in newborns?

In rare cases, Zika symptoms have also been associated with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes the body’s immune system to attack its neurological system and can lead to paralysis.

Doesn't it seem reasonable to suspect .. "something" in Brazil's "environment" .. may have made the Zika virus far more dangerous to pregnant women than it had been since founded in 1947?

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