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Keep calm and use helvetica NOTE:   Below is a post written by Age of Autism Founding Editor Dan Olmsted back in 2009.   Read it carefully and you'll see the genesis of Denial How Refusing to Face the Facts about Our Autism Epidemic Hurts Children, Families, and Our Future his new book co-written with A of A Editor-at-Large Mark Blaxill.  Dan was able to see into the future with a sharp clarity.  We wish he were here to lament it with us.

By Dan Olmsted
The Washington Post, my local paper, recently redesigned itself from head to toe. I have to say I like it – it’s kind of Wall Street Journal-y, not surprising given that its relatively new editor used to be in charge there. But a redesign is not going to cure what ails the Post when it comes to covering what’s the matter with kids today.
Those deficiencies are on compact display in the new weekly insert that is part of the redesign. Called Local Living, it combines health, home, wellness and community news in an amalgam that, in its first edition, told me the following:

  -- Ethyl mercury is harmless to fetuses and infants. “The dose of mercury you get from a vaccine containing thimerosal is far below the limits of mercury exposure, but the fact that thimerosal has mercury in it causes many people to be concerned about getting injected with it. It is not associated with any adverse side effects at the doses present in influenza vaccines, but it is being eliminated from childhood vaccines due to public concerns.”

So says Andrew Pekosz, an associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University in answer to a question about concerns over the swine flu vaccine. I’m going to skip the usual rejoinder and let that statement twist in the wind.

 -- A few pages later, there’s a Q&A with the authors of a new book on baby care titled, “Is It a Big Problem or a Little Problem: When to Worry, When Not to Worry, and What to Do.” Here is the second question from the Post reporter: “Sensory processing issues seem to be so common now. Do most children grow out of them or should parents be more proactive about getting their kids therapy?”

Really? Sensory processing issues seem to be so common NOW? What the heck is that about? I don’t recall my friends having sensory processing issues. In fact, I don’t even know what that means, to tell you the truth. But it sounds like a Big Problem to me. The experts’ answer is reassuring, though: “A lot of people don’t really realize that we all have sensory sensitivities.”

Count me among the lot of people who don’t really realize that they have sensory sensitivities.

But the normalization of screwed-up children continues apace.

 -- Turn back one page and we learn that “Adults can have allergic reactions, too.” TOO? In other words, allergy is so common among children that we often forget that grownups even have allergies. Before going onto the woes of shellfish allergy among big people, the article nods to the fact that “children tend to be allergic to milk, eggs, soy and wheat in addition to peanuts and tree nuts.”

Let’s see … children are allergic to dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, legumes … in other words, just about everything but raw meat. What the heck? Does this have anything to do with the statistic that 12 percent of American children have asthma? Fun fact: The word “allergy” was first used to describe vaccine reactions.
Anyhoo, you get the picture. Cluelessness about the real state of America’s kids, and blindness to the dots that are just sitting there begging to be connected, are still epidemic in the redesigned Post. It’s going to take more than a change in fonts to fix that.
Dan Olmsted is Editor of Age of Autism


Birgit Calhoun

My elementary school class was made up of around 45 children. There were no children with sensory problems at all. There was nobody odd in my school of then about 1,500 children. There was no stimming and there was no avoiding contact.

I did know a girl with grand mal seizures. She was very intelligent. She knew when her seizures were about to start, and since I walked home with her, she asked me to hold on to her arm so she wouldn't fall. I had to help her twice so she wouldn't crash onto the side-walk. This girl was not autistic. She got along well with all of us. That was in 3rd grade. I had no experience with autistic classmates nor any experience with children or adults all the way through my school life into adulthood. That was in Germany. Maybe they still don't have much autism, I don't know.

To me normal is clearly recognizable. But autism sometimes takes a while to detect. That doesn't mean it is normal. I knew certain kids were not as smart, but they still were normal. Normal is and should be the norm. Where does it come from that even doctors level out what they see and avoid detecting what they surely have noticed. Or are they in fact not willing to see?



I couldn't find an original source for the 5% of children have epilepsy.

David Weiner

Here is the second question from the Post reporter: “Sensory processing issues seem to be so common now. Do most children grow out of them or should parents be more proactive about getting their kids therapy?”

As if those were the only 2 valid responses to such a state of affairs.

If I were writing such an article and had to present 2 possible responses, they would be:

Do most children grow out of them or should parents eschew vaccinating their kids?

Gary Ogden

Dan was such a gifted writer. Little did we know that ethyl mercury is actually a health food-Professor Pekosz said so, so it must be true. I had no idea Johns Hopkins hired folks with diploma-mill credentials, but apparently they do.

Jeannette Bishop

I really do miss Mr. Olmsted's weekly wrap-up and everything else he could write up. It's both credit to him and indictment of others that this is so cogent.

A web search on "childhood chronic illness on the rise" doesn't seem to bring up as much that is recent and half comes up about managing it in the past year.

How do they determine this is an effect of childhood chronic illness rather than a co-morbidity?


Can you talk someone chronically sick out of becoming depressed about it later (why not talk about reversing the illness)? Or does early intervention mean taking drugs before you become depressed in case you're going to (which is a near guarantee you will, from what I understand about long-term use of "anti-depressants")? Why assume more intervention will help when you could just as easily assume that seeing doctors causes the increased risk of depression?

Anyway, I hope they aren't aiming to normalize "antidepressants" for anyone already on a prescription (i.e. going to the doctor frequently).

John Stone


There is a link to all Dan's articles for AoA in the right had margin.


I miss Dan. Is there a link to all his Saturday editorials on AoA?

Jeanette Butler

This is the second time I heard that "allergy" was first used to describe acne reaction. I want to find the archive medical records! This I big and I want to share this information, but I don't think anyone will hear me if I don't have the resource to backup my claim.

John Stone

5% of young children have epilepsy?


Dan E. Burns

Here's a tip for impatient readers like me making their way through Olmsted and Blaxill's Denial. Read the epilogue first.

bob moffit

"But the normalization of screwed-up children continues apace."

Then Democratic Senator from New York .. Daniel Patrick Moynihan .. warned of the potentially dangerous consequences .. for our society, our culture and our country .. if our country continued to pursue policies and programs the Senator described as .. "Defining Deviancy Down" .. wherein the "normalization of abnormality" .. would be the end result.

We can't say we weren't warned the day would come when the "normalization of screwed up children continues apace".

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