By Teresa Conrick
This story is dedicated to David, his family and especially his sister, Carol. It is also dedicated to Dan Olmsted, who always wrote that AUTISM had its roots in the 1930´s. He believed, as a journalist, that the epidemic rise of autism was devastating and --- "the story of a lifetime ." What was once a rare disorder, began increasing into exponential growth in the 1990´s and continues into current day. This should be the the most feared AND most studied medical event in history as normally developing children stop a typical trajectory and instead, their medical, educational and social-emotional needs change in a drastic and often life-threatening manner. The spectrum of autism is a gauge, a barometer of health, a yardstick of being socially at ease, to attend, focus, and to learn. The further an individual is along on that spectrum, the more immune abnormalities, microbiome challenges, and health issues we see. The behaviors of ¨autism¨ also seem more pronounced and severe. The spectrum is a gauge of the immune system, from high to low functioning. My interest in this relates to my own daughter, Megan, diagnosed with both severe autism and an autoimmune disorder. In addition, she has prevalent PANS symptoms, like many others . My investigations of the research on autism show that it is a disorder that can be mild to devastating as it relates to the immune system and microbiome. Obviously the brain is affected by both, which is important and hopeful as far as prevention and treatments.
Here is David´s story as I was privileged to hear it from his sister, Carol. She shared family stories, memories, and David´s baby book as written by their mother. The devastation this family had encountered unfolded in front of me. Carol, born in October of 1935, still has many questions about her life with David.
In 1932, as America struggled through The Great Depression while listening to the famous songs of Cole Porter, David was born. He was born at Evanston Hospital, a suburb of Chicago, on January 12th, 1932. Four months later in May, his 5 year-old sister, Ruth Mary, died of spinal meningitis. According to the CDC in this publication on Mortality Statistics of 1932, only 17 females between age 5 and 9 died in the entire United States of epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis. What were the odds for this to happen? Such a TRAGEDY -- and then for David to eventually succumb to what the doctors called, Childhood Schizophrenia by age 5, again, what were the odds for this family? Heartbreaking.
The story could end there with of course, the family hardships of losing not only one child but TWO. Then the day to day struggles for years of raising a child who required much more supervision, special schools, the financial responsibility --- and for Carol, the confusion of a brother who ignored her --¨I did not exist to David.¨ David was not particularly loving and treated the family politely but not with much affection. The word AUTISM was never mentioned to Carol as they were growing up. It wasn´t until her friend, Rosie, mentioned that her brother, Dan Olmsted, had co-written a book about autism in 2010. It was then that Carol began to hear about the history of this once rare disorder. Rosie described the symptoms and the timing of the first cases, all born in the 1930´s. Carol was struck with the thought that David may have indeed had behaviors that pointed to autism. Dr. Leo Kanner had written about the first patients, children who presented with the unique symptoms. There were not any adults -- only children --“Since 1938, there have come to our attention a number of children whose condition differs so markedly and uniquely from anything reported so far that each case merits—and, I hope will eventually receive—a detailed consideration of its fascinating peculiarities....".
The Symptoms of David - Autism?
Here then are the clues to put these family memories and facts into a narrative. We know that those who have a diagnosis of Autism show outward behaviors, or as Kanner put it --fascinating peculiarities-- but also science is now showing us HOW these symptoms may be manifesting. Let´s look at what those clues are for David:
■ Like many of the Kanner 11, David had issues with eating. More and more research points this out as well with upwards of 70% of those diagnosed with autism having significant GI issues. David did not nurse well and his mother writes he was a bit colicky with vomiting. When on solid foods, he spit up often. David had poor eye contact and very slow in talking. He did not start speaking until he was about 4. His mother thought maybe the summer of his sisterś death that he had Sleeping Sickness/Encephalits Lethargica because he slept so much. After age 2, he was often high strung and fearful. He had a very limited diet and would not taste things. Later, David was interested in science and mechanical things. He liked light plugs and cords. He rarely spoke to Carol and had problems playing with children.
■ David had severe OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It manifested in washing his hands over and over for hours. Today, science is showing that many of those diagnosed autistic are also harboring infections, classified as PANDAS or PANS, this research is showing that these infections are NEUROPSYCHIATRIC, that they affect the central nervous system and cause many of these repetitive and obsessive behaviors, as well as anxiety, depression, and an increasing list of social-emotional behaviors.
■ David had tics and perseverated on topics. His tics were described by Carol: Repetitive movements (walked in and out of a room), strange arm movements and sometimes stuttered his words. Sounds much like PANDAS or PANS as Megan has had identical body tics and repetitive movements. Studies and a repentant researcher show that Thimerosal in vaccines can cause tics, and are ¨four times more prevalent in autism.¨ Check out David´s vaccination record as written by his mother in his baby book. Diphtheria shots at 9 and 12 months with a REACTION recorded by his mother. Those vaccines would have been preserved with Thimerosal: ¨ Vaccination January 13th at 1 year - reaction, fever 102 degrees & upset stomach - took 2 months to heal with bandage on -¨ Upset stomach is another huge symptom in AUTISM . In later years, Carol described David having seasonal allergies and a mild asthma. He also had circulatory issues which resulted in horrific looking black, lower legs. For that reason, ¨he would be hospitalized about once a year and put on a drip to clear up any infection.¨ That does not sound like a typical illness.
■ What about David´s parents? Carol described them as warm and loving, and of course wanting the best for both of their children. They did though, share some common similarities with many other parents to children diagnosed with AUTISM -- IMMUNE issues: SEASONAL ALLERGíES -- ASTHMA -- MIGRAINES -- FOOD ALLERGIES. Their mother suffered migraines often and their father had severe asthma. Their parents also wanted David to be educated and cared about his ability to learn and his interest in learning. David eventually became fascinated with science and politics He attended some of the local public schools for awhile in junior high.
■ In the early 1940´s, David spent two years at The Orthogenic School in Chicago, well known for children with autism. It is also well known as Bruno Bettelheim, of AUTISM infamy, was spewing his mommy blame while mentally and physically abusive to the children. Luckily, David was not there when Bettelheim was ¨holding court¨. Also around this time, in 1943, Kanner published his famous case studies on those first 11 children of the 1930´s, who exhibited autistic disturbances of affective contact. Again, emphasis on the parents as being ¨frosty¨ detoured autism from its true roots .
■ Another placement for David as he entered his teen years, was the Anderson School. Located in New York on the Hudson River, Carol did not know that although it never used the word, AUTISM back in its early days, the history of Anderson School shows a clear connection to AUTISM https://andersoncenterforautism.org/about-us/history :
On a wooded estate overlooking the Hudson River, Dr. Victor V. Anderson founded Anderson School in 1924. He believed that children with special needs would benefit from an integrated program that comprehensively addressed their educational, emotional and social needs. He began with one student. More than 90 years later, Anderson Center for Autism continues Dr. Anderson's work; currently serving more than 200 children and adults with a primary diagnosis of autism.
A Vaccine Inventor - What Are The Odds?
Carol mentioned that David´s pediatrician was somewhat famous on the north shore of Chicago. I really didn't think much of it as I saw two notes on diet from Louis W. Sauer, MD. I decided to see how famous he was and wow, it was a shocker! :
Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, was the greatest killer of infants in the United States before a Winnetka pediatrician developed a vaccine to prevent the contagious respiratory infection. The pediatrician was Louis Wendlin Sauer......A tiny frame cottage on the grounds of Evanston Hospital served as his laboratory during the early stage of research. Sauer worked there with the assistance of one technician while continuing his large pediatrics practice. Later his research facilities moved to the hospital’s Abbott Laboratory Building, supported by grants from Eli Lilly and Parke, Davis pharmaceutical companies.
As a result of Sauer’s research, the whooping cough vaccine was perfected in 1929. In 1931 tests of the vaccine began in the Evanston Health Department’s immunization clinics, at the Evanston adoption agency, the Cradle, and St. Vincent’s Hospital in Chicago—where Sauer was medical director. In 1934 the vaccine became available to the general public. Four years later Sauer developed the DPT vaccine for diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus.
Interesting and possibly pertinent? Eli Lilly is mentioned and coincidentally, Eli Lilly first patented Thimerosal in 1929 . Here we see that Dr. Sauer´s Pertussis vaccine does contain Merthiolate, the name Eli Lilly used as a trade name for Thimerosal:
SINCE the latter part of 1932, a study of whooping cough has been in progress in Grand Rapids....The vaccine used has been described.3 Briefly, it is a once-washed 10,000 million per c.c. suspension of B. pertussis, Phase I of Leslie and Gardner,6 grown on Bordet-Gengou medium enriched with 15 per cent sheep's blood. The organisms are killed with merthiolate 1:10,000 or phenol 0.5 per cent allowed to act at cold room temperature for a week or more. The optimum dosage by no means has been determined. Sauer used more than 3 times as large a total dose of vaccine......
Could David have been a recipient of the new Pertussis vaccine? Well, we do know that David received ¨Whooping Cough shots, 3 or 4 in all ¨ the Spring of 1936, as written by his mother. Is it possible as a patient that he also received the vaccine before the general public?
We do not know if vaccination may have caused the symptoms that David struggled with for most of his life as this study shows, but these connections of his life seem to paint that picture.
This pilot epidemiologic analysis implies that the onset of some neuropsychiatric disorders may be temporally related to prior vaccinations in a subset of individuals....we hypothesized that some vaccines could have an impact in a subset of susceptible individuals and aimed to investigate whether there is a temporal association between the antecedent administration of vaccines and the onset of several neuropsychiatric disorders, including OCD, AN [Anorexia Nervosa], tic disorder, anxiety disorder, ADHD, major depressive disorder, and bipolar disorder...In general, vaccination rates were highest among children in the AN, OCD, and tic disorder groups....
This research analysis is from Yale. It is good BUT I disagree with this statement: Although the controversy over MMR vaccination and ASD still exists for some members of the public, this association has been convincingly disproven (9, 10).
David died on May 17th, 1995 in Oak Park IL. In his 60´s, he was living in a small group home at that time. His prior years had him receiving shock treatment in Wisconsin, upon the urging of a psychiatrist, who also advised the parents to place David at Elgin State Hospital in Illinois. His parents were devastated having to send him there, but he was a resident there for some years until it closed down in the mid 70´s, then he moved to a halfway house in Chicago for a good number of years, and then to Oak Park. Not an easy life and all of the family suffered.
If a vaccine can cause neuropsychiatric, gut, and immune abnormalities, we must continue to investigate and come up with solutions:
Modern changes in lifestyle, including improved sanitization, cesarean sections, antibiotic usage, and immunizations are among some of the factors that can shift the microbiota, and are being studied as potential drivers of the sudden increase in immune-mediated diseases in the developed world.
Teresa Conrick is Science Editor for Age of Autism.