Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Vaccine-Autism War: Media Offensive Marginalizes Parents and Ignores Dr. Bernadine Healy

It was only one week ago, on January 13, 2009 that the New York Times published its puff piece promoting Dr. Paul Offit and his pro-vaccine agenda. The NYT praised Offit and vaccines and portrayed parents who assert a causal connection between vaccines and autism disorders as over-emotional, crazed, even dangerous. The article appeared the day before the IACC's clandestine reversal of its previous decision to authorize funding of possible environmental causes of autism, including possible vaccine-autism connections.

The NYT article was followed up on January 16, 2009 by a Newseek.com interview of Alison Singer a former senior officer with Autism Speaks, who resigned from that organization the evening before the vote to reverse. The reversal vote was not specified on the agenda and other public representatives on the IACC received no prior notice. In the Newsweek article Ms Singer portrays parents who question the role of vaccines, and the various toxic substances they contain, as "a small number of people with very loud voices".

On January 19 and 20 the NYT continues the effort to portray parents as over-emotional and untrustworthy sources of information and anecdotal evidence in Trying Anything and Everything for Autism. In this article the NYT presents "behavioral intervention" as the only scientifically validated intervention for autism while portraying parents as desperate for trying alternative, unsubstantiated interventions.

The point of the article though is not to inform parents of autistic children, or the public, about a helpful intervention for autism. If that were the case the NYT article would have expressly referenced the specific "behavioral intervention" that is scientifically validated as effective in treating but not curing autism - Applied Behavioral Analysis. If the article was intended to inform the public it would have given a detailed description of ABA programs, how they work, the detailed record keeping involved and the very considerable and specific evidence in support of ABA as an autism intervention as summarized in the 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics review Management of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders :

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the process of applying interventions that are based on the principles of learning derived from experimental psychology research to systematically change behavior and to demonstrate that the interventions used are responsible for the observable improvement in behavior. ABA methods are used to increase and maintain desirable adaptive behaviors, reduce interfering maladaptive behaviors or narrow the conditions under which they occur, teach new skills, and generalize behaviors to new environments or situations. ABA focuses on the reliable measurement and objective evaluation of observable behavior within relevant settings including the home, school, and community. The effectiveness of ABA-based intervention inASDs has been well documented through 5 decades of research by using single-subject methodology21,25,27,28 and in controlled studies of comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention programs in university and community settings.29–40 Children who receive early intensive behavioral treatment have been shown to make substantial, sustained gains in IQ, language, academic performance, and adaptive behavior as well as some measures of social behavior, and their outcomes have been significantly better than those of children in control groups.31–40

The aim of this latest NYT article, however, was not to inform the public about the well documented, evidence based, benefits of ABA as an intervention for autism. As the title makes clear, the theme of the article is that parents are desperate. The clear implication is that the opinions of desperate parents should not be given much, if any, weight in public discussions about complex, important, issues surrounding autism - issues like the role of vaccines and vaccine ingredients as potential triggers of autism disorders.

In the January 13 article the NYT praised Dr. Paul Offit, a leading critic of those who question the autism related safety of vaccines. Newsweek.com interviewed Alison Singer also a critic of the rabble rousing parents who presume to question the practice of injecting children with mercury and other toxic substances.

The second NYT article of January 19-20 quotes Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, author of “Defeating Autism: A Damaging Delusion”. "Coincidentally" the two NYT articles (and the Newsweek.com interview) bookend the secretive decision of the IACC to reverse its decision of only weeks earlier to authorize funding for research of the very issues that concern the delusional, desperate, loud parents marginalized in these shameful excuses for journalism.

No mention is made in these three articles of:

1) The IACC decision of December 2008 to authorize funding of research into potential environmental, including potential vaccine, causes or triggers of autism.

2) The clandestine IACC decision of January 14, 2009 to reverse its December decision to authorize environmental and vaccine factors related to autism.

3) The views of Dr. Bernadine Healy, former head of the NIH and the American Red Cross, who has stated that there are real issues concerning vaccines and autism disorder that have not been researched fully and should be researched.

The above facts do not necessarily show any conspiratorial involvement by the NYT, or Newsweek, to help public health authorities involved with the clandestine move to suppress research of possible environmental and vaccine contributors to autism disorders. But at the very minimum it shows that the authors and editors of these media institutions are dupes of the authorities who did move secretively to prevent such research from moving forward.

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JessicaB said...

I reflect on the novel 1984 so often these days. It's unbelievable what is going on. The population is asleep....

Orwell is a genius.

People should rise up against this, but won't. I have some optimism that many out there are tuned in, however unorganized about it. The fairy tale-loving side of my brain also wants to believe the hype that Obama is practically "magical" and will fix what is going on....but he is just a fallible human being.

I'm more hopeful that you are on the case now, Harold.

Sorry to be a bummer. But it really comes from optimism, if anyone understands that.

navywifeandmom said...

Harold, your son gets ABA at home and at school, correct? How many hours a week of home ABA does he get? How do you keep him occupied on weekends?

My daughter goes to Kindergarten half-days and they do ABA with her but she really needs more. She is six years old and still nonverbal. Fortunately for us being military we FINALLY got into the Exceptional Family Member Program, which took us two years, and now we are working on getting into ECHO and she SHOULD qualify for in-home ABA then. She loses so much during summer vacation when she doesn't get any therapies and I really want to have my ducks in a row this summer so that she doesn't regress.

Also, what kind of positive reinforcers help Conor? My daughter's teachers are having trouble finding something non-food to motivate her; they really try not to use food as a reward at her school but she is not really interested in any of the sensory toys that they have available. She does like to be verbally praised; her little face will light up if you tell her "well done".

What infuriates me about the whole ABA deal is that unlike some of the biomed stuff I am doing, ABA DOES have "scientific endorsement", so to speak, yet insurance companies rarely cover it and it is so expensive. We are lucky being military that we can get ABA; a lot of parents are not so lucky.