Monday, February 28, 2011

Medicare for Autism Now Advocacy Workshop April 30 in Burnaby BC

Medicare for Autism Now! Society Advocacy Workshop

Getting it Done!
 Going in circles trying to get what your child needs?

If so – circle the date:

The Medicare for Autism Now! Society presents:
“Getting it Done!”
an “on-the-job * hands-on * this is how you do it”
Advocacy Workshop

Topics will include:

·      Effective advocates - what they do…or not
·      Autism treatment funding – securing its future
·      Solving school “issues” using the Hewko case

Be prepared to learn and participate (you’ve never had this much fun in the school principal’s office…) Details to follow – circle the date – don’t miss out, limited spaces available.

Saturday, April 30th  _  8:30 am to 3:30 pm
Burnaby Heritage Village Carousel

$119.00 per person/$189.00 per couple – lunch included
*All proceeds will go to Medicare for Autism Now’s advocacy initiatives
 Questions or pre-register: Email: or call 604-290-5737

Sunday, February 27, 2011

10 Years of the Long, Long Fight for A REAL Canadian National Autism Strategy

Picture from Torontoist, May 10, 2008

Stefan Marinoiu, father of a severely autistic son, set out on foot from Toronto to Ottawa 
 in mid Canadian winter  and later went on a hunger strike to bring attention  to the 
challenges faced by autistic Canadians and the need for a National Autism Strategy

Autism Speaks Canada is holding a National Autism Strategy meeting in Banff Alberta next week and was kind enough to invite me as a participant and to subsidize my travel and accommodations. Some autism advocates I have talked with, people who have been actively involved in their provinces advocating for autism services and advocating for a REAL National Autism Strategy for many years are skeptical about the meeting.  Autism Speaks Canada has been soliciting funds for autism in Canada but to what end? What have they accomplished and what do they intend to do with the monies received, monies which could be directed toward provision of services for autistic persons. These are important questions and deserve answers. I would also point out that autism services in Canada have been obtained by parents fighting provincially not by national autism organizations.  I look forward to the meeting and the discussion though and will approach it  with an open mind and hopeful that the real needs and priorities fought for by autism advocates in Canada for a decade will be addressed in the meeting.

These priorities include:

1) National medicare coverage for ABA and any other intervention which meets the evidence based standard of  effectiveness as an autism intervention.

Federal funding to assist all provinces in  meeting the needs of autistic Canadian across their lifespans must also include:

2) National discussions of methods for educating students with autism in the way the individual learns best in the learning environment in which they learn best. Dumping all autistic children in the mainstream classroom regardless of their individual challenges, refusing to provide autism trained assistants to those who need assistance, does not work and can cause harm. Schools across Canada should learn best methods for teaching autistic children and avoid ideology, rhetoric, buzz words and cliches. Autism trained teachers and teacher/education aides are required for many autistic students and the federal government can provide a national forum for ensuring this happens and financial assistance where necessary.

3) (a) Work force hiring and training for those autistic adults who are capable. 

3)(b) Adult autism residential care and treatment for the most severely autistic.

Any efforts toward a national autism strategy have to address these priorities and do so in a way that actually helps people with autism across the life span from early intervention to education to adult workplace and residential care issues.  If a national autism strategy does not speak to these priorities and commit to real action to address them  it is not a real national autism strategy and should not be presented to the public as such. 

The Fight for a National Autism Strategy, a REAL National Autism Strategy, has been going on for many years in Canada.  Here in New Brunswick the struggle for a real national autism strategy has lasted a decade. It  began before Autism Speaks was formed in the United States and was waged without any real assistance from the Autism Society Canada. The fight for a real national autism strategy was fought by activists in British Columbia like the families involved in the Auton litigation and FEAT-BC, it was fought on the Hill in Ottawa by a courageous Andrew Kavchak. It has been fought by Stefan Marinoiu with his winter trek and hunger strike. 

Here in New Brunswick the fight for a National Autism Strategy  was fought initially by an organization called FACE of which I was a founding officer. It was publicly acknowledged, after a couple of years of effort by FACE representatives, by Fredericton MP Andy Scott in a high profile October 2003 event celebrating Andy's 10 years as an MP and featuring as a guest speaker former NB Premier Frank McKenna. Do the math. Here in New Brunswick the fight for a National Autism Strategy has been carried on for a decade, since 2001:

Tali Folkins article in the NB Telegraph-Journal, October 20, 2003:

"Fredericton MP Andy Scott said Saturday he has been lobbying prime- minister-to-be Paul Martin for a federal program to help young children with autism. "I desperately want a national autism strategy - and let me just assure you that Paul Martin knows it," Mr. Scott told supporters at a party celebrating his 10th anniversary as an MP in Fredericton Saturday evening.

Early work by therapists with young autistic children, Mr. Scott said, can make a big difference in their capacity to lead fulfilling lives as adults - and can save money in the long run. But the costs of starting such early intervention programs are high and should be borne directly by Ottawa rather than each individual province, he said. "We have responses and therapies and so on that I genuinely believe can work," he said. "You're going to save millions of dollars over the lifetime of an autistic adult. If you can get in at the front end, you can make enormous progress.

"But it's very expensive, and there's not a lot of stuff being added to Medicare, generally - that's why we have catastrophic drug problems and other things," he said. "In the province of New Brunswick, P.E.I., or even Quebec or Ontario it's very, very expensive. The feds are going to have to step up to the plate." "

Andy Scott, with other MP's, was ultimately successful in getting a National Autism Strategy motion passed in the House of Commons. That effort was important in obtaining recognition of the need for a national autism strategy but it did not provide what parents of autistic children were fighting for from BC to Nova Scotia: a federal commitment to provide Medicare funding for ABA which to date remains the only evidence based effective intervention for autism.

The federal government has done nothing, absolutely nothing, to address the real needs of autistic children, school kids with autism or adults with autism needing assistance in the workplace or needing residential care. The federal government has done nothing to help those adults with severe autism who need 24/7 residential care and treatment. The federal government has stayed outside the battle content to hide behind constitutional jurisdiction line while ignoring the challenges faced by autistic Canadians and their families.

Canada has been living through an autism crisis. Progress has been made. More in some provinces than in others. Much more remains to be done. To date such progress as has occurred has taken place because of activists in each province pushing provincial governments. Meanwhile the federal government has effectively disowned autistic Canadians refusing to recognize with real actions the need for a comprehensive national autism strategy.

A real national autism strategy is not accomplished by establishing a new autism bureaucracy in the federal civil service. A real national autism strategy should not focus on a Canadian specific surveillance study of autism rates as its number one priority or even establishing another academic chair at a University in Ontario. A real national autism strategy should focus on the real needs of autistic Canadians and real action to address them NOW not in another 10 years.

Those real needs and real priorities have been articulated for a decade. If a national autism strategy is going to help autistic Canadians with the real challenges of their autism spectrum disorders real action has to be taken and it has to be taken now.

Pondering the problems faced by autistic children and adults for another decade will not help autistic Canadians living today.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Autism Stimming: Conor Counting & Stimming Video Has Over 10,000 Views

Conor's Counting and Stimming video has over 10,000 views on Youtube since I posted it on January 5, 2008. Conor's voice has changed ... deepened ... considerably since then. And he has grown a few inches ... quite a few and added some sideburns and a moustache. Time marches on.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Will New Prohibition Against Exploring Possible Vaccine Autism Connections Stop ALL Environmental Autism Research?

The last few years have seen an all out offensive to shut down discussion of vaccines as possible triggers of autism disorders.  The withdrawal of the 1998 Lancet article, the banishment of Dr. Andrew Wakefield by British medical authorities, the conviction of Andrew Wakefield of fraud in The Court of Brian Deer and the mainstream media puppeting and promotion of the Deer conclusions have occupied much public space in discussion of autism disorders.  And of course no less a public figure than Bill Gates has accused those who question vaccine safety of killing children around the globe. Autism Speaks has declared that it "is time to change the conversation".  In other words "sssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhuuuuuttttttt up" or face the consequences.

In the era of the New Prohibition, the prohibition against discussion of  possible vaccine autism discussions, will research which MIGHT implicate vaccines as possible be prohibited? Environmental autism research focused on prenatal and early postnatal environmental impacts on the fetus and developmental disruption has been featured in reports to the US senate on the State of Research on Potential Environmental Health Factors with Autism and Related Neurodevelopment Disorders:

Paul Anastas Ph.D. Assistant Administrator for Research and Development and Science Advisor U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Because of its extraordinary complexity, prenatal and early postnatal brain and nervous system development can be disrupted by environmental exposures at much lower levels than would affect adults.5,6,7,8,9 We are learning that there are critical windows of susceptibility both prenatally and in early childhood, during which the effects of exposures to environmental contaminants, depending on dose and timing, can be significantly more severe and can lead to permanent and irreversible disability.10,11,12 For these and many other reasons, EPA is especially concerned about potential effects of environmental chemicals on children’s health and neurodevelopment.

Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S. Director, National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program National Institutes of Health, United States Department of Health and Human Services

Development of the nervous system begins in the womb and extends through childhood. During these periods of rapid development, the brain is vulnerable to some environmental exposures that may have the potential to disrupt the chemical signals that organize development. Even small changes in the timing of critical development events can potentially have major consequences for brain structure and function. Thus even brief exposures at these vulnerable stages can have lasting effects on adult brain function. We refer to "windows of susceptibility: to mean the life stage at which the brain is exposed, during which different agents can effect the brain in specific and deleterious ways. For example, the dose of lead that is neurotoxic to an infant is much less than the dose that would be neurotoxic for an adult, so infancy in this case is a "window of susceptibility" .... Learning disabilities are on the rise in the United States and we now have a significant body of information on how exposure to certain environmental agents can affect children's intelligence quotients (IQs). For example, scientific literature attests to the effect of lead exposure in early life on IQ. ... Mercury also has been shown in multiple studies to be a developmental neurotoxicant. .... A study published last year from Columbia University showed that a mother's exposure to urban air pollutants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can adversely affect a child's IQ.  PAHs are released into the air from the burning of coal, diesel, oil, gas and other organic substances such as tobacco.  In urban areas motor vehicles are a major source of PAHs. 

Bruce P. Lanphear MD, MPH Senior Scientist, Child & Family Research Institute, Professor, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, Adjunct Professor, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Children’s environmental health -- the study and prevention of disease and disabilities in children from exposures to social, physical, biologic, and chemical agents -- has emerged as a new field of research, policy, and clinical practice (Landrigan et al. 1998). The growth of this field has been fueled by the emergence of new morbidities in children, research showing that the fetus and child are particularly vulnerable to environmental influences, and mounting evidence implicating environmental exposures as major risk factors for prevalent diseases and disabilities in children (Lanphear, 2005).

One in six American children have a developmental problem, from a subtle learning disability to overt behavioral disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism (Boyle et al. 1994; Hertz-Picciotto, 2009). These conditions can severely impair a child’s ability to succeed in school, elevate their risk for violent and criminal behaviors, and dramatically diminish their ability to contribute to society. The findings from some of the most thoroughly studied and widely dispersed environmental toxicants indicate that exposure to exceedingly low levels are risk factors for the “new morbidities” of childhood -- intellectual impairments, behavioral problems, asthma and preterm birth (Lanphear, 2005). Indeed, there is often no apparent threshold and, in some cases the effects appear to be greater at the lowest levels of exposure (England et al. 2001; Canfield et al. 2003; Lanphear et al. 2005; Yolton et al. 2005).

Exposures to established environmental toxicants -- such as lead, tobacco, PCBs and mercury -- have consistently been linked with higher rates of intellectual impairment or behavioral problems, such as conduct disorder and ADHD (Needleman et al. 1990; Schantz et al. 2003; Kahn et al. 2003; Wakschlag et al. 2002; Stewart et al. 2003; Needleman et al. 1979; Lanphear et al. 2005; Yolton et al. 2005). There is emerging evidence that a whole host of new environmental chemicals – such as Bisphenol A, PBDEs, pesticides, phthalates, and airborne pollutants – are associated with intellectual deficits or behavioral problems in children, but the evidence is not as conclusive (Rauh, 2006; Engel, 2010; Eskenazi, 2007; Braun, 2009; Perera 2009; Herbstman, 2010). Much of this research was done by the NIEHS/US EPA Children’s Environmental Health Research Centers working collaboratively with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Children’s developing brains are more vulnerable to certain toxicants and pollutants than adults. The central nervous systems of the fetus and young child, which are undergoing rapid changes, are particularly vulnerable to some toxicants. The fetus is a recipient of toxicants through placental transfer (Perera et al. 2003; Whyatt and Perera 1995; Bearer 2003). In some cases, such as mercury, the fetus is exposed to a larger dose than the mother (Ramirez et al. 2000). In other cases, such as organophosphate pesticides, the fetus may lack critical enzymes to metabolize environmental toxicants (Chen et al. 2003). Toddlers are often at greater risk for exposure to many environmental toxicants because they have a high degree of hand-to-mouth activity and they absorb some toxicants more efficiently (Bearer 1995).

As the above quotes illustrate environmental  research is examining many potential causes and triggers of autism disorders at the prenatal and early childhood stages.  Mercury is only one of the potential causes of autism being researched but it is one which is very sensitive to those who insist that discussion and research of possible vaccine autism issues must stop.   Teresa Binstock wrote about the "it's gotta be genetic" model of autism and the consequences for any professional who explored vaccine autism connections over a decade ago.   Much of what Binstock discussed is taking place now as Dr. Andrew Wakefield is well aware.  The current suppression of vaccine safety discussion and research will probably be accompanied by a complete return to the 100% genetic model of autism, a model which has already sucked the life out of environmental autism research funding for decades.  All serious efforts to find the environmental causes of the vaccine epidemic, to find out what is really happening to  our children are likely to come to an end.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Conor Is 15 Today!!

Conor is 15 today and it is all about Conor -  unlike any other day of the year ;-)  Our buddy has some fun on his Southpaw Enterprises therapy ball and, of yeah,   has a bit of cake.  The Little Einsteins are a favorite of Conor's and made it to the birthday cake. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

"Take My Son" Severe Autism, Disrupted Families, and Difficult Choices

"When police officers finished binding her son Colin's hands and feet, they turned to Teresa Abernethy and asked what she wanted them to do with him. .... Teresa knew the answer but was surprised to hear herself say it: Take my son."

Parents with severely autistic children, usually sons, with self injurious behavior and aggressive responses toward those who care for them should read the Arizona Republic article Phoenix family makes painful choice due to son's autism by John Faherty. It portrays honestly the heart wrenching realities faced by the Abernethy family which could no longer endure the violence and disruption visited upon their family by the severely autistic son they  loved.

"As he grew older, Colin's outbursts were becoming more common and more violent. And they were usually directed at his mother. "He was such an imposing figure," Teresa, 42, said. When Colin was at school, there was respite for Teresa, but it was temporary. "The bus delivered him to the front door every day. He would come home, and I would be petrified."Some days he would run into the home, drop his book bag and start hitting her.

"Living with Colin was like living with an abusive spouse," Teresa said. "You never knew what was going to set him off." Colin's doctor, Dr. Kevin Berger, told her it was common for someone like Colin to lash out at the person he is most comfortable with. Teresa wore long-sleeved shirts to hide her bruises and bite marks, but she knew Colin's behavior was beginning to damage her entire family, something she and her husband had vowed would never happen."

The Arizona Republic and reporter John Faherty deserve high marks  for breaking through the usual mainstream media obsessions with a few exceptional and high functioning autistic persons and portraying honestly the heart wrenching realities that severe autism can impose on a family and their loved one who suffers from it. The Abernethy family deserve applause for their courage in talking honestly about the son and brother they love so dearly.  To the Arizona Republic and to the Abernethy family this father of a severely autistic, soon to be 15 years old,  son says thank you. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Where do Severely Autistic Adults Go After Education Ends?

In Where do Autistic Adults Go After Special Education Ends? CDFoakley continues a series of courageously honest videos about the realities faced by persons with severe autism disorders and their families. This is a question asked by many parents of severely autistic children. The uncertainty  is a reality we must face.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Autism Vaccine War: Will the Bill Gates Posse Go After the IACC and the IOM?

The following paragraph is taken directly from the IACC, the United States Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee , web site as of February 15 2011.  The only change is the bold highlighting of the last two sentences which I added for emphasis and which clearly contradicts the aggressively promoted opinion that science has conclusively ruled out a link between vaccines and autism disorders.

"Progress in identifying environmental factors which increase autism risk has been made recently (Eskenazi et al., 2007; Palmer et al., 2006; Palmer, Blanchard, & Wood, 2009; Rauh et al., 2006; Roberts et al., 2007; Windham et al., 2006), although this area of research has received less scientific attention and far fewer research dollars than genetic risk factors. Environmental factors may be pertinent not only to brain development but also to chronic systemic features of at least some subgroups of ASD. An Institute of Medicine (IOM) workshop held in 2007 summarized what is known and what is needed in this field (Forum on Neuroscience and Nervous System Disorders, Institute of Medicine, 2008). Numerous epidemiological studies have found no relationship between ASD and vaccines containing the mercury based preservative, thimerosal (Immunization Safety Review Committee, 2004). These data, as well as subsequent research, indicate that the link between autism and vaccines is unsupported by the epidemiological research literature. However, the IOM report acknowledged that the existing population-based studies were limited in their ability to detect small susceptible subpopulations that could be more genetically vulnerable to environmental exposures."

Of course the smallest susceptible subpopulation is always an individual.  And apart from any person with a specific genetic predisposition children before and shortly after birth are always vulnerable. They are always susceptible to the impact of environmental factors.  The IACC acknowledgement, as I read it, does not mean that possible vaccine autism links are "debunked" for all time or that the "science" is closed on the matter. Former CDC Directors Dr. Bernadine Healy and Dr. Julie Gerberding (now with Merck) have both previously stated that a comparative study of autism rates in existing vaccinated and non vaccinated populations could and should be done. Has a vaccine autism link been proven? Not as far as I am aware reading materials such as that on the IACC web site.  Is the science closed on possible vaccine autism links? Not as far as I can tell when reading IACC information which states that the studies which did not find links were "LIMITED".

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR THE BILL GATES POSSE: I am a father of two sons both of whom are fully vaccinated and I have received vaccines myself including the H1N1 Swine Flu shot.  I have never attributed my younger son's Autistic Disorder to vaccine injury.  I believe that vaccines are very important, but not perfect,  public health tools which are strengthened as public health tools by continuing to ask questions about their safety and by treating parents and professionals who ask such questions with respect.  I believe that your current attacks on parents and professionals who ask questions about vaccine safety and autism and your wild eyed allegations of lies and homicide will be counterproductive in any effort to restore public confidence in vaccines.  

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Failing and Flailing The Current Pro Vaccine Campaign Promotes New Autism Myths

It appears that those who promote vaccines as an important  public health tool are losing their battle to persuade people that vaccines are perfectly safe and do not cause any harm, do not cause neurological damage and do not  cause or trigger any of the neurological disorders in any children ever.  I say this as the father of two children who have received all required and recommended vaccines. I say this as the father of a 15 year old son  with Autistic Disorder and profound developmental delays who has never attributed his son's disorders to vaccine injury.  I say this as a person who believes that vaccines are in fact an important, but not a perfect,  public health tool. I say this as a person who believes that Bill Gates' screaming and  frothing from the corners of his mouth while yelling murder, murder at the top of his lungs will not work.  I believe that the current strategy of attack will not work, will be counterproductive and will result in further declines in vaccination rates.

I say this because I believe that those who engage in such attacks have failed, utterly failed to demonstrate any knowledge or understanding of autism disorders or the challenges faced by the parents they belittle and denigrate directly and by implication with their simplistic allegations.  I believe that those who continue these unproductive strategies should themselves accept responsibility for declines in vaccination rates.  They have failed and now they flail. They flail wildly and continue their failure and quite possible increase the numbers of persons who will now be suspicious of vaccine safety.

The current offensive against those who ask any questions about vaccine safety has gone from alleging poor research, to making unproven in a court of law allegations of fraud and homicide.  The research of one journalist forms the basis of a world wide big media stream of allegations of fraud against Dr. Andrew Wakefield.  The bases for Bill Gates wild eyed claims that those who question vaccine safety are responsible for killing children is not articulated anywhere in any comprehensible form.  New autism myths are created and one of the myths that demonstrate the ignorance of those who promote vaccines at any cost is the myth that large sums of autism research dollars have been diverted from finding causes of autism disorders to proving that vaccines do not cause autism.

At Medical News Today Christian Nordqvist (Editor in Chief and CEO of Medical News Today) confesses in The Tragedy Of The Fraudulent MMR Autism Link, A Personal Story    that he once had nagging doubts about whether his son's Asperger's Syndrome was caused or at least aggravated by receipt of an MMR vaccine.  Now he is satisfied beyond all doubt, after reading the Brian Deer "research" alleging fraud against Dr. Wakefield that the MMR vaccine played no role in his son's conditions.   There is not much substance in Mr. Nordqvist's recounting of his struggles with his nagging doubts but there is one glaring and false autism myth which the Editor in Chief and CEO of Medical News Today is quite happy to promote when he states:

The billions of dollars, Euros, Pounds and Yens that did not go into autism research between 1998 and today, because philanthropists, grant givers and government departments might have been distracted by these false findings, now need to go into autism research. We do not know whether a huge grant might have occurred during this period that would have achieved a massive breakthrough in this field if that study had not been published - if so, I name it a tragedy for babies with autism born yesterday, today and in the near future, and also for their parents, siblings and other close relatives.

(Underlining added HLD)

That is one of the biggest reaches that I have yet seen in the debates about autism and autism research.  Mr. Nordqvist starts by stating that "billions of dollars, Euros etc" did not go into autism research beteween 1998 and today"  because potential sources of research dollars MIGHT have been distract by what he calls Wakefields false findings.   No evidence, study, research or source of any kind is referenced to support this wild speculation.  Mr. Nordqvist is happy to then go on and speculate about all the autism research that might have resulted in a massive breakthrough had the Wakefield study not been published.

Might, might, maybe, ah ha! pretty well sums up Mr. Nordqvist's sorry logic.

OK, the article by the editor in chief and CEO of Medical News Today might be the weakest and loopiest of all the comments made in the heated vaccine autism wars but it does show clearly the depths to which  those who seek to silence anyone who questions vaccine safety will descend. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Autism and Noise: Conor Will Like MP Nina Grewal's Bill To Turn Down Loud Television Commercials

Too much sensory stimulation, particularly noise, can be a problem for many people with autism disorders. Whether it is a mainstream classroom, a crowded mall or movie theater, automobile traffic noise as we walk across the bridge,  or our family living room when the volume jumps during commercials noise can be a big problem for Conor.  In our living room we respond to commercials by preemptively muting them.   It is an issue for Conor but I don't like the noise either and I am happy to see that Conservative MP Nina Grewal is taking the initiative of introducing a private member's bill in Canada's House of Commons that will, if it becomes law, prohibit broadcasters from pumping up the volume jumping out of Canadian television sets during commercials. As reported by Carmen Chai, PostMedia News on the Vancouver Sun site :

A Conservative MP introduced a private member's bill Thursday to force advertisers to turn down the volume on loud television commercials. Surrey MP Nina Grewal says Canadians are "sick and tired of having to reach for the remote control every time a commercial comes on their TV." Bill C-621 would require broadcasters to make sure the volume of commercials is consistent with the programs they accompany. "It's a common complaint. You're watching a program at a comfortable volume. The program breaks for a commercial and suddenly you're jolted out of your seat by the loudness," Grewal said in a statement. "While it may seem a small irritant, it's a daily stress that could and should be relieved from the shoulders of Canadians." While there are no laws in Canada to ensure programming and commercials are broadcast at a consistent volume, similar rules exist in both the U.S. and the U.K.

Congratulations to MP Nina Grewal for bringing common sense to Parliament with a bill which, it it becomes law, will make living rooms more liveable in Canadian homes.  For Conor and his Dad, for persons with autism, for everyone. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Autism Interventions: New York Times, Once Again, Pushes Non Evidence Based Floortime And Ignores Evidence Based ABA

The New York Times is at it again ... pushing Floortime as an autism intervention ... without mentioning the lack of scientific, empirical evidence in support of its effectiveness. In A Child Psychiatrist Talks About Autism the NYT features a column by Dr. Joshua D. Sparrow which promotes Floortime as an intervention for autistic children and encourages parents of autistic children to consider Floortime as an intervention for their children. (And of course, as usual with the NYT there is no mention of the solid base of evidence in support of ABA as an autism intervention):

"One promising treatment for such children is Floortime, a developmental, individualized and relational approach.

After a careful assessment of the child’s unique profile, therapists and parents using the Floortime approach work together to help the child learn to handle sensory stimulation while gradually interacting in more complex and rewarding ways. The goal is to help these children engage in meaningful relationships, expanding their capacity for communication, understanding and complex, abstract thought. One of the keys is to find the child’s motivation, and to use it as fuel for this work. Another is to make the work rewarding by making it fun and pleasurable for child, parent and therapist. But it is hard and time-consuming work, and families of children with autism spectrum disorders deserve all the support we can possibly give them. Experience has shown that children with autism who are given the support they need are able to expand their abilities to relate, to learn and to communicate, especially with their loved ones.


For more on autism spectrum disorders and Floortime, see the International Council on Learning and Developmental Disorders Web site.

Among the many helpful and hopeful books on autism spectrum disorders are those by the late child psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan and the psychologist Serena Weider, including “Engaging Autism: Using the Floortime Approach to Help Children Relate, Communicate and Think,” and a new one to be published in April by the pediatrician Ricki Robinson, called “Autism Solutions: How to Create a Healthy and Meaningful Life for Your Child.”

The NYT presents this latest Floortime promotional vehicle without mentioning the limited evidence in support of its effectiveness as reviewed by the AAP and the Association for Science in Autism Treatment.

The picture above is from the AAP Publications Retired and Reaffirmed policy page and indicates that in September 2010 the American Academy of Pediatrics Reaffirmed the Clinical ReportManagement of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Pediatrics 2007. The 2007 Report described the lack of empirical, scientifc evidence in support of the efficacy of DIR/Floortime as an intervention for autism spectrum disorders:

"The DIR approach focuses on (1) “floor-time” play sessions and other strategies that are purported to enhance relationships and emotional and social interactions to facilitate emotional and cognitive growth and development and (2) therapies to remediate “biologically based processing capacities,” such as auditory processing and language, motor planning and sequencing, sensory modulation, and visual-spatial processing. Published evidence of the efficacy of the DIR model is limited to an unblinded review of case records (with significant methodologic flaws, including inadequate documentation of the intervention, comparison to a suboptimal control group, and lack of documentation of treatment integrity and how outcomes were assessed by informal procedures55 ) and a descriptive follow-up study of a small subset (8%) of the original group of patients.59" 
(page 1165)

The following information is currently found on the ASAT web site and indicates that Floortime is plausible but essentially untested.

Association for Science in Autism Treatment

Developmentally-based Individual-difference Relationship-based intervention (DIR)/Floor Time


Research Summary: DIR is widely considered to be a plausible intervention approach (i.e., one that could be effective), but it has not been evaluated in peer-reviewed studies with strong experimental designs (National Research Council, 2001). An uncontrolled study reported favorable outcomes (Solomon et al., 2007).

Recommendations: An important area for future research is to evaluate DIR in studies with strong experimental designs. Professionals should present DIR as untested and encourage families who are considering this intervention to evaluate it carefully.

It isn't clear to me why the NYT pushes Floortime, a non evidence based autism intevention, and ignores ABA,  the most evidence based intervention for autism, as reviewed for several decades by authorities from the US Surgeon General, to state agencies in Maine, New York and California to the Association for Science in Autism Treatment to the American Academy of Pediatrics. I have to assume that the personal biases and prejudices of senior health editors at the New York Times lie behind this persistent attempt to promote non evidence based autism interventions and ignore or put a negative spin on ABA.  I can think of no other reason, rational or not, for the NYT's  misguided autism intervention reporting.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Severe Autism and Vulnerability to Abuse: Ontario Court Dismisses Appeal By Tiffany Pinckney's Sister

He imposed a sentence that he believed properly reflects society's respect for human life and provides special protection to those most vulnerable to abuse who are unable to speak for themselves.

- Ontario Court of Appeal, R. v. Cox, dismissing appeal of conviction and sentence by sister of deceased autistic woman Tiffany Pinckney

On January 21 2011, in R. v. Cox, 2011 ONCA 58 (CanLII), the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal against conviction and sentence by Allison Cox who had been convicted on February 1, 2008 of manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, and failure to provide the necessaries of life in the death of her sister Tiffany Pinckney diagnosed with Autism Disorder and profound developmental delay. The Court of Appeal reviewed a number of arguments made by Ms Cox's counsel with respect to the convictions and the sentence and dismissed them without need to hear from the prosecution. The Pinckney case is one of the most horrific examples of the vulnerability of those with severe autism disorder and limited communication skills.

In dismissing the appeal the Court of Appeal reviewed the facts:

"[8] At age two, Tiffany was diagnosed with an Autism Disorder and as profoundly developmentally delayed. As a result, Tiffany’s communication skills were severely delayed. She communicated mostly through gestures, pointing, and sounds, though she had some single words. At age 15, her language skills were less than those of a three year old child.

[9] Ms. Cox met Orlando Klass in 1995. He moved into the residence of Ms. Cox and her family and in 2002 Ms. Cox and Mr. Klass were married. In 2004 they, along with their three children and Tiffany, moved into a residence on Fairwind Drive. Tiffany lived in the basement.

[10] There was no washroom in the basement, nor was there any access to running water, or food. Tiffany’s bed consisted of a metal bed frame with two pieces of wood on top, covered with a deflated rubber air mattress which was blood-stained and dirty with fecal matter. There were no sheets and there was a filthy pillow with fecal matter on it.

[11] The rest of the house was fairly typical of a large suburban home, and relatively clean and tidy. However, there was a lock on the refrigerator in the kitchen. The door to the basement also had a lock on it which could only be locked or unlocked from the main floor.

[12] Ms. Cox was the primary caregiver for Tiffany. She stayed at home caring for Tiffany and her children. Ms. Cox failed to take Tiffany to a doctor in the five years prior to Tiffany’s death, she declined many efforts at assistance by community service providers, and she denied others who cared about Tiffany access to her.

[13] Mr. Klass worked full-time, as much as 70 hours a week. He would assist his wife to care for Tiffany after work and on the weekends.

[14] On April 2, 2005, Mr. Klass decided to go to the basement because Tiffany had not eaten all day. Tiffany was lying dead on an area rug on the cement floor. Mr. Klass nudged her with his foot, but she was non-responsive. He decided to wait until the appellant returned home from a birthday party a few hours later before he called emergency personnel.

[15] Tiffany was lying on the floor with fecal matter on her skin and clothing, and numerous cuts and bruises on her body. Fecal matter was visible all over the basement, including on the floors and walls. The basement was partially finished, but Tiffany was in an unfinished part with a filthy area rug, a TV, and dresser. According to testimony at trial, the smell of bleach was in the air and there were visible damp spots on the concrete floor. Mr. Klass had tried to clean the basement with a mop before he called 911.

[16] For most of her life, Tiffany was heavy-set. She overate and between the ages of 16 and 20 met the profile for obesity. During those years she was estimated to have weighed up to 200 pounds. Following her mother’s death, however, her weight declined and at the time of death she weighed 84.5 pounds. The normal weight for a young woman her height – 5 feet, 2 inches – was 125 pounds.

[17] Dr. Huyer, the Coroner, testified that it appeared Tiffany had been dead for some time prior to being discovered and that she had likely died a day earlier. The Crown’s medical experts testified that Tiffany died as a result of complications from malnourishment, while a defence expert expressed the opinion that the cause of death was inconclusive.

[18] Mr. Klass’ conduct constituted a marked departure from that expected of a reasonable person in the circumstances. He pled guilty to criminal negligence causing death at the earliest opportunity, acknowledging that Tiffany was not properly cared for or nourished, and that he did not take any steps to rectify the situation."

Allison Cox, Tiffany Pinckney's adopted sister was her primary caregiver. In analyzing her counsel's legal arguments the Court of Appeal noted:

"The findings of fact in our case include that:

• Tiffany died of malnutrition caused by starvation, which was constant over a long period of time;

• Tiffany was not taken to a doctor for the five years before her death;

• Tiffany lived in conditions that were appalling and she was covered in filth and excrement when she died;

• There was a lock on the refrigerator in the kitchen and the door to the basement had a lock on it that could only be unlocked from the main floor. There was no access to food, water, or a washroom in the basement;

Ms. Cox rebuffed virtually all efforts to assist Tiffany in the last three years of Tiffany’s life."

In Canada the Ontario Courts held Tiffany Pinckney's caregivers criminally responsible for the horrendous abuse to which they subjected Tiffany Pinckney and for her death which resulted from that abuse. They did not blame Tiffany Pinckney, or her autism disorder, or her developmental delay, or inability to communicate for her abuse or for her death. They did note that these disabilities made her vulnerable and took that vulnerability into account in sentencing those responsible.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Autism Realities, Vulnerability and Astrid's Misrepresentations

I do not pretend to be a fan of Neurodiversity ideologues who distort the realities confronted by persons, like my son, who are severely autistic. For the most part I have come to expect such distortion from ND bloggers and ideologues.  Occasionally though I am surprised, taken aback, when someone who appears to demonstrate balance deliberately misrepresents a comment I have made here at Facing Autism in New Brunswick. 

Some are just plain dishonest and self serving in their misrepresentations of autism disorders while others are sincere and do not intend to distort facts when commenting.  Until today I had always thought of Astrid, At Astrid's Journal, as someone with whom I could  disagree but respect her opinion, notwithstanding her ND ideology. Now, I am afraid to say, Astrid has posted a comment, once again about one of my comments, only this time she intentionally distorts what I had said.

In Severe Autism Reality 2007 Flashback - Long Island Autistic Woman Beaten by Attendants in Group Home I talked about the abuse that is a reality for some severely autistic persons. The simple point I made was that for some autistic people abuse is one of the challenges they face, it is part of their reality, living in a dependent care situation, and unable to  communicate when being abused.  For some communication in the ordinary conversational sense is not possible.  Nor can some communicate on the internet as Astrid does.  That makes them  particularly vulnerable to abuse.

That is what I said. That is all I said. It is common sense. It is obvious.  It is something that I fear when contemplating my son's future.  

I did not say, as Astrid alleges in her comment  Disability Doesn’t Cause Abuse  that severe autism CAUSES abuse.  I said it makes many who suffer from severe autism  VULNERABLE to abuse. Astrid distorted what I said and suggested my comment meant something other than what I said by indicating that I blamed the victims of abuse for the abuse they suffer.

Astrid also stated that she was "up in arms" over my comment.  Well here's a news flash for Astrid ... I am "up in arms" over her misrepresentation of my comments.  

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Will Current Media Frenzy Attacking Possible Autism Vaccine Links Be Counter Productive?

Will the current media frenzy unleashed with the BMJ-Brian Deer fraud allegations (unproven in a court of law) against Andrew Wakefield, followed up with another Paul Offit big media tour, and a star celebrity turn by Bill Gates yelling "LIARS" in his very loud voice finally result in an increase in vaccinations or will it be counterproductive?    Feel free to register your vote on the poll at the top of the sidebar. 

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Severe Autism Reality 2007 Flashback - Long Island Autistic Woman Beaten by Attendants in Group Home

Here in New Brunswick, Canada,  we have made little progress in providing decent residential care and treatment for severely autistic adults.  The recent case of the Nova Scotia autistic man locked in his room for 15 days and left to urinate in a corner reminds us all of how desperate life can be for autistic adults particularly those who are too severely affected by their autism disorders to be able to tell their stories when abused by those who are supposed to provide them with care. 

Few stories have been as revolting  and disheartening though as that of the two staffers at the Plus Group Home facility in Long Island arrested in 2007 for repeatedly beating a 50 year old autistic woman with a coat hanger and a shoe. Another employee witnessed the assaults and torture and informed police.  A recovered video camera recorded the assaults  as reported by the New York Daily News:

Two staffers busted for beating autistic woman


Sunday, August 19th 2007, 4:00 AM

Cops nabbed two employees of a Long Island group home - and are looking for two more - who repeatedly beat a 50-year-old autistic woman with a coat hanger and a shoe as a hidden camera taped the attacks.

Nelly Gedeon, 20, and Johny Djhon-Felix, 33, employees of Plus Group Home Inc. in Uniondale, L.I., have been charged with torturing the disabled woman at least four times between Aug. 9 and 16.

The attacks were caught by a video camera cops installed in a vent.

"These people are hired as health care professionals and their job is to care for these people, so it's unfortunate they've abused their position and mistreated this patient," said Nassau County Police Sgt. Michael Williams.

The abuse was first caught on tape Aug. 9 when the employees were taped hitting the woman on the head. Three days later they were taped kicking her in the buttocks, hitting her in the head with a wooden coat hanger and hurling it at her head. Gedeon was also seen hitting the woman on the head with a shoe, police said. An Aug. 16 video showed Djhon-Felix hitting her on the head and shaking her while pulling her hair.

"The defendant [Djhon-Felix] noticed his actions were being recorded by a hidden camera that he disconnected and stole," cops said. The camera was recovered.

Plus Group Home Executive Director Terri Cancilla said an employee notified police of the suspected abuse.

"Safety is a priority," said Cancilla. "We hope this sends a message that this kind of abuse won't be tolerated."

Friday, February 04, 2011

Will Criteria D Actually Be Required in Diagnosing the New Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1?

In order for the New Autism Spectrum Disorder to be diagnosed pursuant to the DSM-5, Criteria A, B, C, and D must all be met.  That is what the DSM-5 says according to the web site.  But will Criteria D, Symptoms together limit and impair everyday functioning actually be present in practice?  Or will psychiatrists and psychologists diagnose Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder without any real limit or impairment in everyday functioning?

I had previously asked if any of the well known, apparently very high functioning persons with autism or Asperger's Disorder would lose their diagnoses under the new criteria.  The other side of the coin, of course, is the possibility that Criteria D will not be required in practice.  

I have met persons with Aspergers who clearly have limitations in everyday functioning and I am not suggesting that anyone with Aspergers could not really meet a limited and impaired everyday functioning test.  There are, however, some very successful persons with a high functioning autism or Aspergers disorder who do not have any obvious limit or impairment including some who can function in high level government, legal and media settings. Presumably everyday functioning is an everyday, common sense, criterion. But how some of these people were diagnosed with an ASD even under the current DSM-IV criteria is beyond my understanding as a layperson. Given the careers that some have built as spokespersons for the autism community, will public pressure  be exerted for professionals to go easy on Criteria D in diagnosing the New Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Will Critieria D actually be required in practice in diagnosing the New Autism Spectrum Disorder under the DSM-5?  I guess the answer will be found in future prevalence studies and debates. 

Restored: Spurwink Mowbi Autism iPhone App Announcement Page Is Back Online

The Spurwink Mowbi autism iPhone app announcement page now seems to be restored.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Spurwink and Mowbi Autism iPhone App Launched and Left in Limbo

Well that was short and sweet. My New England Patriots Super Bowl hopes lasted longer than that in this years playoff game against the Jets.

Early this morning, very early, I woke and went on line. I checked for autism news on Google where I found and blogged the announcement of a joint Spurwink Mowbi autism iPhone App.  Later today Bruce McIntosh informed me that the page announcing the App launch had been replaced with an Error 404 page not found announcement.


Autism iPhone App Launched by Spurwink and Mowbi

Spurwink and Mowbi have launched an iPhone application to help persons with high functioning autism and Aspergers in social situations.  The Mowbi Mobile Commerce site posted a promotion yesterday Spurwink Launches Autism App with Mowbi:

"In effort to provide the highest level of mental health support to children, teens, adults, and families, Spurwink has launched an iphone application that assists adolescents and adults who are living with autism. App Publishing, a division of Mowbi LLC, developed this groundbreaking application.

The autism application is specifically designed for teens and adults on the autism spectrum, including Asperger’s and other developmental delays. This autism app helps support adolescents and adults in social situations, by providing scenarios about every day communication with friends, classmates, and other people users might encounter."

In all honesty I wouldn't have paid too much attention to an announcement about a new mobile application, connected to autism or not if it weren't for the involvement of Spurwink an evidence based treatment and care facility for persons with autism and other disorders.  Spurwink has featured prominently here in New Brunswick, Canada as the facility to which some autistic New Brunswickers have been sent for treatment because we lack a facility that can provide high quality evidence based residential care and treatment for the most severely challenged autistic youth and adults. 

I have no opinion or knowledge to share on iPhone apps generally, or on this one specifically, other than to say that Spurwink's participation in development of the application will certainly attract attention and possibly add credibility to the application. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Pandemrix Swine Flu Vaccine and Narcolepsy: Lesson for Autism Research?

                                                         (AFP Photo and Caption)

As the parent of a soon to be 15 year old boy with severe Autistic Disorder I have never attributed his autism disorder to vaccines. I have always accepted the view of public health authorities that there is little or no evidence linking autism to vaccines. With that mindset I never endorsed Jenny McCarthy's views of autism and vaccines although I admired her courage in fighting for her son.

At the other end of the vaccine autism battlefield I support vaccine programs generally as vitally important public health tools but I have become increasingly concerned by the campaign to discredit those who question vaccine safety and the certainty with which Vaccine Generals like Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. David H. Gorski aka Orac have declared that all vaccines and vaccine ingredients can never cause any autism disorder in any child.  Given the lack of certainty about what autism is biologically, given the shifting autism definitions used to attack what appears to be an obvious and astounding increase in autism disorders,  I don't see how the epidemiological studies can be that definitive. A particular question for me is whether the studies have actually ruled out the possibility that vaccines given to pregnant women might cause or trigger autism in the children they are carrying. Another major question arises from the failure to conduct studies comparing autism rates in existing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. 

Dr. Offit is the gentle, sweater wearing uncle type who poses for an adoring media and declares parents to be timid fearful sorts who can not understand science and the big picture.  Dr. David H. Gorski, aka Orac, is the snarling pitbull who delivers incessant attacks on vaccine questioners AND actual anti-vaxxers with scientific terminology like WOO, QUACK, IDIOT  and so on.  Both may soon be called on to lead their minions into battle again with news of a study out of Finland, as reported by AFP, which found that children injected with the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine were nine times more likely to contract narcolepsy than those who were not vaccinated  :

"Children injected with the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine were nine times more likely to contract narcolepsy than those who were not vaccinated, a preliminary study by Finland's National Institute for Health and Welfare, THL, showed Tuesday.
"Currently, the most likely explanation is that the increase in narcolepsy is by joint effect of the vaccine and some other factor(s)," THL said.
The institute stressed in its preliminary study that more investigation was needed, but said young people aged four to 19 had a "manifold increased risk of falling ill with narcolepsy" if they had been inoculated against swine flu with Pandemrix."


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder which causes extreme fatigue and often results in the patient falling soundly asleep without warning, even in the middle of an activity.
Doctors in Finland reported a more than trippling of narcolepsy cases during the swine flue pandemic, and THL said "the risk of falling ill with narcolepsy among those vaccinated in the 4-19 years age group was nine-fold in comparison to those unvaccinated in the same age group."
"The observed association (with the vaccine) is so evident that it is unlikely that other so-called confounding factors could fully explain the phenomenon," THL said, adding its next step was to evaluate if other factors had created "joint effects" with Pandemrix.

It is interesting that a direct comparison of narcolepsy rates was made between those who were vaccinated with the H1N1 vaccine and those who were not. On the autism front former CDC directors Dr. Bernadine Healy and Dr. Julie Gerberding have both been reported in the past as stating that a comparison of autism rates amongst existing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations could and should be done. Their advice has been actively resisted by public health spokespersons. Dr. Offit and Dr. Gorski, each in their own way, will now undoubtedly be called upon to quell any concerns about vaccines and narcolepsy.

Meanwhile the comparative study of autism rates in existing vaccinated and unvaccinated populations will not be done. Unfortunately.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Autism Expert Paul Offit and Neurodiversity Ideology

Left  - Autism Expert Dr. Geri Dawson
Right -  Infectious Diseases Expert Dr. Paul Offit

AOL, in March 2010, posted an autism interview under the misleading title Autism Experts on Causes, Cures and Controversies. While the title referred to multiple autism experts the interview actually included one autism expert Dr. Geri Dawson of Autism Speaks.  It also included Dr. Paul Offit.

The Offit Offensive has been underway for a couple of years with heavy mainstream media, eg. the New York Times,  coverage of his books and with opportunities galore for interviews and serious discussion of vaccine issues eg. the Colbert Report. The icon of the "do not ask questions about vaccine safety " army which currently prevents media coverage of autism issues UNLESS they relate to vaccines was exposed in an AOL interview  (Geri Dawson of Autism Speaks was also interviewed) as someone with relatively  limited knowledge of autism who was prepared to grasp at anything that exonerated vaccines as a potential cause of some cases of autism.  To that end Dr. Offit warmly embraced the Neurodiversity ideology |(which does not view autism as a disorder,) sympathizes with very high functioning autism advocates and shows no awareness of the effects on everyday functioning of those with severe Autistic Disorder.

Some examples of Dr. Offit's autism awareness from the AOL interview Autism Experts on Causes, Cures and Controversies:

"AOL Health: Reports say that one in 110 American children is affected and that we are in the midst of an autism epidemic. Is this really an epidemic? Why now?

Offit: It's not an actual epidemic. In the mid-1990s, the definition of autism was broadened to what is now called autism spectrum disorder. Much milder parts of the spectrum -- problems with speech, social interaction -- were brought into the spectrum. We also have more awareness, so we see it more often. And there is a financial impetus to include children in the wider definition so that their treatment will be covered by insurance. People say if you took the current criteria and went back 50 years, you'd see about as many children with autism then.

Dawson: We know that the broadening of the diagnosis, as well as more awareness and access to services, accounts for some of this increase, but these variables don't account for all of the increase. Over the last two decades, the prevalence of autism has increased by over 600 percent. Between 2004 and 2006 we saw a 57 percent increase. A large percentage is unexplained, and that's why there is a focus on identifying environmental factors.

Alleged Autism Expert Offit relies on unidentified  people who say there were about as many children with autism 50 years ago?  Apparently autism expert Dr. Offit doesn't read information by people at the CDC and IACC who say based on research that approximately 50% of the increase in autism diagnoses is unexplained by diagnostic definition change, increased awareness or access to autism services.

From the CDC web site which states that autism is actually increasing:

"Does thimerosal cause autism?

Research does not show any link between thimerosal in vaccines and autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder. Although thimerosal was taken out of childhood vaccines in 2001, autism rates have gone up, which is the opposite of what would be expected if thimerosal caused autism."

Obviously the CDC would not have cited increased autism rates as support for the view that thimerosal does not cause autism if the increase were not real. AOL asked about causes of autism:

AOL Health: What causes autism?

Offit: It has, at least, a genetic basis. A number of studies have shown a complicated genetic mutation. It's not like sickle-cell anemia, where a single gene has a single mutation, or cystic fibrosis, where a single gene has many mutations. With autism spectrum disorder, it appears that at least several genes have varying mutations.

Dawson: Genetics play a significant role. If we compare identical twins who have all the same genes versus fraternal twins who only share half their genes, the concordance rate is about 90 percent in identical twins and only 5 percent in the fraternal twins. But there's evidence that suggests that environmental factors can also play a role. Most likely individuals with autism have a genetic susceptibility that interacts with environmental factors. Research is focused on factors such as the prenatal environment, prematurity and exposure to toxins such as pesticides

Alleged autism expert Dr. Paul Offit makes no mention of possible environmental causes or triggers of autism disorders preferring to mention only genetic bases for autism.  Dr. Geri Dawson's reference to evidence of environmental factor involvement in causing autism is in fact consistent with modern scientific consensus as expressed by the the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee:

"As with many complex disorders, [autism] causation is generally thought to involve some forms of genetic risk interacting with some forms of non-genetic environmental exposure. ... In addition, a number of other environmental factors are being explored through research because they are known or suspected to influence early development of the brain and nervous system. Recent studies suggest factors such as parental age, exposure to infections, toxins, and other biological agents may confer environmental risk. ... Progress in identifying environmental factors which increase autism risk has been made recently (Eskenazi et al., 2007; Palmer et al., 2006; Palmer, Blanchard,; Wood, 2009; Rauh et al., 2006; Roberts et al., 2007; Windham et al., 2006), although this area of research has received less scientific attention and far fewer research dollars than genetic risk factors"[Underlining added - HLD]      - United States IACC (Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee)
Autism expert Offit may also want to consult the CDC web site on causes of Autism Spectrum Disorders:

"Causes and Risk Factors


We do not know all of the causes of ASDs.  However, we have learned that there are likely many causes for multiple types of ASDs.  There may be many different factors that make a child more likely to have an ASD, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors."

Once again, alleged autism expert Offit seems to be out of touch with mainstream scientific consensus on the role of non genetic factors in causing or triggering autism disorders.  Of course the use of the term disorder may be touchy for autism expert Offit who accepts the Neurodiversity views that autism is not a medical disorder and that autistic children will, if left without treatment, will improve over time:

"AOL Health: Do you believe that there is a cure for autism?

No. Children who show signs of autism sometimes can get better between 2 and 5, but it probably has nothing to do with the biomedical treatments -- they simply improve with time."

NOTE: Alleged autism expert Offit focuses on attacking biomedical treatments but makes no mention of behavioral intervention as possible explanation for autistic children's improvement.  Instead he embraces the Neurodiversity ideology which says let them be, just let them be ... there will be an answer ... they will get better on their own, let them be, let them be.

"AOL Health: What do you think of the theory promoted by many autistic rights organizations run by individuals with autism that society needs to accept neurodiversity and treat autistic individuals as people who think and understand the world differently?

It makes abundant sense. They are arguing that it's a way of being. It's a variance of normal. It should be looked at as such, not stigmatized. I've spoken to many of them, and they don't want to be seen as damaged.

One of the things that is so challenging about autism is the fact that there's so much variation in the way autism is expressed in people. Some individuals can have a productive and creative life, and they aren't looking for a cure. They're interested in being accepted and getting access to services to help them adapt to the world with their special skills. At the other end, there are children severely affected who have significant medical conditions, such as seizures, and have never spoken. For those individuals, the prospect of a cure for autism is really important. That results in a lot of different perspectives of where our priorities should be."

Alleged Autism expert Offit makes no mention of the children severely affected by autism disorder for whom the prospect of a cure is really important as noted by Dr. Dawson.  Of course Dr. Offit would not actually be able to speak to many of those who are non verbal with intellectual disabilities.  And he would not actually talk to their parents either since he would be too busy talking down to them about how vaccines have never caused or triggered the autism disorders about which he knows ... so much.