Catching up from some time away, camping (more like “glamping”) with some autism dads and others who know the score, by the French Broad River in Hot Springs, North Carolina. (The milkweed seemed like a sign of summer’s end.)
I’m impressed that as the first generation of the autism epidemic cohort – I guess that’s how I’d put it – is aging out of schools and into adulthood, a hundred flowers are blooming, sometimes literally. A dad whose son is 20 talked about all kinds of ideas he and his wife are working on, from a flower delivery service that includes donating one bouquet to a special needs family for every one sold. There was also talk of incorporating the tiny house movement into a group living situation for people with an autism diagnosis.
I know that Dan Burns and Teresa Conrick, among others, have worked on interesting projects. Not all will work on the first try but along with the harsh fact of a world unwilling and unable to accommodate the coming deluge, I’m impressed with the energy and creativity that’s emerging.
On the way back, I stopped for an Egg McMuffin and one of the staff was being animated and a bit goofy. “Don’t judge me, I’m special,” he said. I wasn’t sure whether to be offended because he wasn’t disabled, or accommodating because he was. I hope it’s not the hip kids co-opting phrases the way they did the R word and “that’s so gay.” But it’s becoming their world now whatever we think about it.
There are two kinds of studies coming down the pike that I was told to watch – or watch out – for. One looks at acetaminophen, which a scientist dad I talked to at length is convinced is responsible for 90 percent of autism cases. I just don’t buy it but I’m open to the evidence. He sent me some papers to read that I’ll take a look at. What are your ideas about the role, if any, of Tylenol in autism?
I can see the biological plausibility, but the idea it’s the “but for” factor in nine out of 10 cases doesn’t quite work for me. As I told this dad, one of the strongest arguments against it is the work Mark Blaxill, Teresa Conrick and I have done on early cases. If you accept our premise – autism was essentially nonexistent before 1930, first arose with the commercialization of ethyl mercury compounds in vaccines and preservatives, and first affected children in families with those occupations in the background – it is hard to see how a pain reliever fits the fact pattern better.
I thought he didn’t realize the power of that evidence, but then I would think that, wouldn’t I?
The second kind of study looks at older unvaccinated siblings of vaccinated children with autism. Many times parents will forego vaccinating subsequent children in the (correct) belief that there was a connection. But if those unvaccinated kids have the same or a higher rate of autism, it throws an obvious monkey wrench in the theory. If you have ideas for why this kind of data might not be convincing, I’d like to hear them.
Of course this sort of study gives the lie to the claim it’s impossible to compare vax v unvaxxed people, so why not do it in a broader group with unrelated children? We’ve been waiting for that for a long time now.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about continued attention to the antimalarial drug Lariam, or mefloquine, and the fact that it is most certainly causing a percentage of veteran suicide and violence.
This week I heard from a very good, and cautious, source with military connections that there is evidence the Dallas shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, who killed five police officers, might have been taking the drug and suffered its long-term effects.
He was an Afghan War Army Reserve veteran, which puts him in the right place at the right time. As long as the media and medicine ignore the acknowledged long term consequences of this drug, we are going to see more suicide or violence, whether this case was representative of that or not.
The only good-faith thing for the military to do is launch a high-power investigation. That, of course, would mean facing up to its culpability in inventing and mandating a deadly dangerous drug. It’s easy to be cynical but I think it can and will happen as more bizarre deaths occur, indefinitely.
One nice thing about being back is to catch up on posts and comments and realize how much good content appears every day and week. This comment by John Stone caught my eye: “It is a crazy idea that you can just suspend the normal rules of a liberal democracy and not reep appalling consequences.” I looked up liberal democracy and learned that the “liberal” is used in the classical sense of liberty, meaning that individuals within a majority-ruled country should have a wide margin of freedom within that context.
Liberal and libertarian – not so far apart when it comes to our common cause.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.