Last week I said adieu to old acquaintances and was touched by the comments I got both on- and offline. This week it’s time to move forward into what promises to be a big year for AOA and its allied enterprises. There’s even more to come than I’ll talk about here.
But first let me say, did you ever work on a big project over a long period of time that you cared a lot about – but still had a moment of, “How did I ever get myself into this?” Or, even worse, how do we translate an important but overlooked paper from 1907 in a journal called, I kid you not, Zeitschrift fur die Erforschung und Behandlung des jugendlichen Schwachsinns.*
Well, that moment has come and gone as regards the book Mark Blaxill and I are finishing up this month. Although the title is not set yet, the topic is autism epidemic denial – how it hurts kids, families and our future. AOA readers always come to the rescue, and Birgit Calhoun translated a trove of useful documents from German that are crucial to understanding the whole issue. Thanks, Birgit.
The book, our third together and something of a bookend to the first (The Age of Autism) and second (Vaccines 2.0), will be out in a few months. It has been a fascinating and deep dive into the history of mental disorders in children, which of course is a dark topic, but what we came up with makes hash of the “better diagnosing, awareness, substitution/these kids were always there” mantra we are all so sick of. One more time: No these kids were not ”always there”! We aim to present the definitive account of why autism instead must be a man-made epidemic (the subtitle of our first book) that needs to be stopped. As we say in the book, epidemic denial is not just improbable or implausible; it is, based on both facts and logic, impossible.
We quote our redoubtable colleague J.B. Handley on Paul Offit and his ilk of deniers: J.B. calls epidemic denial the “original sin” of autism. “In Offit’s world, there is absolutely no problem here. Things are as they always were, we just understand it better. Of course, we all know, if there’s no epidemic, there is no environmental trigger, because why have a trigger if something hasn’t actually grown? Said differently: Denying the autism epidemic is to deny the suffering of millions of children and their families and also to deny the exploration into the true cause so the epidemic might end.”
Amen. That’s all I’ll say for now. We have some finishing up to do but are grateful that Skyhorse is again proving a hospitable publisher for our cause. Oh, and we dedicate the book to Bernie Rimland, who “sought the truth and helped sick kids.” Like all of us, we hope to in some small way to further that effort. And we think the timing could be good, eh?
I’m also far from done writing about polio, so expect to see that topic resurface before too long. Last year I wrote a galactic-sized opus about the great northeast epidemic of 1916 and its possible connection to arsenic used for the first time in sugar cane growing, and I warn you I’m just getting started. This year I plan to broaden the horizon quite a bit. If you want to catch up on the stories (the first of which was conceptualized and co-authored with Mark), they are linked in the right hand sidebar.
I get a fair number of blank stares when I tell people about the significance of polio even today, but it has to do in part with vaccine idolatry – the polio vaccine being a supposed triumph when the real story was the creation of a man-made epidemic, not unlike autism. Not unlike autism at all. Sometimes I think the best approach is indirect – I was quoted a way long time ago in the Columbia Journalism Review as saying I came in through the basement window when I first started reporting about autism, looking for clues in the past and in parallel epidemics. Plus, there is the strange new disorder paralyzing kids after what starts out as a polio-like common cold. This bears watching and reporting – we were the first last year to report the CDC notified states that cases were once again soaring in the summer. It’s scary, frankly, and the worst may be yet to come. This is one disease that I think the CDC is not paying enough attention to because it is exactly the way polio began, in fits and starts as an environmental co-factor emerged, and then in epidemic proportions when that co-factor exploded. (Once again, like autism, and for the same reason.)
I keep a copy on my desk of an e-mail from Linda1 who wrote me following a moment of self-questioning (a la “how did I ever get myself into this”): “If there’s anything we can learn from history, it’s that historians, especially when they are medical historians, often don’t get it right. So it’s very good that you are reexamining the polio epidemic from a fresh perspective. Don’t let anyone dissuade you from looking back 100 years. It’s an important exercise. Look at Egyptologists. They spend their entire careers trying to figure out what happened 5,000 years ago.”
Thank you Linda1! I also have to thank the cookie that, I kid you not, delivered this fortune with Chinese takeout last year: “You could prosper in the field of medical research.” Prosper, of course, means many things, and I’ll take “coming across unexpected riches through looking carefully at conventional wisdom” as my first definition. It’s what we try to do every day.
Of course, straightforward attacks on the Death Star of vaccine injury (and epidemic) denial are good, too, and Kim does such a great job of blasting out articles (and the perfect visuals/videos/music to match) every day, many by our great group of contributors who, like all of us, are in this for the long haul and trying to figure out ways to make it shorter – for the sake of our kids, our families and our future. Please give us any suggestions to improve – we’re not touchy!
May the rebel alliance prosper in 2017.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism.
*Modern translation: Journal for the Study and Treatment of Intellectual Disability.