June 24, 2005

Why This Matters

If it turns out that Chandler’s mercury is not from vaccines, and they are taking mercury out of vaccines, then why does this matter?

It matters for several reasons. First, it is not out of all vaccines. In California where I live, a law was passed disallowing it for use in vaccines for pregnant women and children under the age of 3, but that law does not go into effect until 2006. From what I understand, some children’s vaccines may still have trace amounts, all flu shots and some tetanus shots still have it at previous levels and the vaccinations that we ship overseas to third world countries still has it at previous levels.

Finding ways to stabilize vaccines for use in remote areas with out using mercury still presents a challenge. Because disease is so prevalent in these countries and vaccines so badly needed, and because thimerosal free vaccines may not last as long and are more expensive, the decision has been made to leave it in for these foreign vaccine programs. It may turn out that this calculated risk fulfills the short term task of keeping children with a much high mortality risk than ours alive, but if mercury is confirmed as a trigger for the disorder, the long term goal of preventing autism in these children may fall by the wayside.

This is certainly a very difficult situation for authorities to deal with, but ignoring research that suggests there is a link the wrong way to approach the problem. As many have noted, if the link is confirmed and the international community finds out that the US was knowingly putting children at higher risk of Autism with out providing informed consent, then the potential for backlash and foreign policy problems could be enormous.

As history teaches us, it is not the crime, but the cover up, that tears at society.

In addition, ignoring the link between mercury and autism has serious implications for autism treatment.

The history of autism treatment, like many mental health problems, is a sad one.

In the 60’s the highly lauded godfather of autism treatment was Dr. Bruno Bettleheim. He was a Freudian psychologist who had survived the Nazi death camps. He likened the withdrawal of children with autism to the emotional withdrawal that victims of holocaust displayed in the concentration camps. He reasoned that since the withdrawal of the Jewish inmates was in response to the hatred that their Nazi captors had for them, then the withdrawal of autistic children must be in response to the hatred that their mothers had for them. He labeled these women “Refrigerator Mothers” and blamed them for their children’s illness. When mothers tried to claim that they did really love their children, they were told that they were in denial of their real feelings, but that the children sensed their mothers’ true contempt for them and responded the only way they knew how, by withdrawing into themselves.

The recommended treatment was the removal of the child from the family into a Bettleheim approved institution, and years of psychotherapy and analysis for these mothers who were in such deep denial of their hatred of their own children.

The result, as you can imagine, was destroyed families and destroyed lives. Recently a documentary on this heartbreaking episode in history was released. “Refrigerator Mothers” airs occasionally on PBS. You can find more information on it at: http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2002/refrigeratormothers/

This remained the conventional wisdom in the medical community until a doctor by the name of Bernard Rimland dispensed with the idea that his son’s autism was caused by lack of love, and challenged openly Bettleheim’s theory.

He eventually gathered together a group of doctors who felt the same way. In the early 80’s they decided to ignore what the rest of the field had to say about the sources of autism and start over. What they began to find was that these children had clusters of medical symptoms and when these individual medical symptoms were addressed, their autistic symptoms decreased with some children making a full recovery from autism.

As more parents and doctors (usually with a loved one who had autism) discovered the work being done by Dr. Rimland and his partners, the Defeat Autism Now! Movement got under way as parents began to demand their children’s medical illness of Autism be treated with, of all crazy things, Medical Treatment.

This seems like a no brainer, yes?

But, as odd as it seems, the mainstream medical community resisted it. Doctors who treat autism medically were considered to be selling nothing but false hope to the families they treated. In effect snake oil salesmen.

Even more strangely, decades later, not much has changed in the mainstream medical community.

Where as 40 years ago the conventional wisdom was:

“The child has autism because the parents didn’t love him. You can put him in an institution, but it probably won’t do much good.”

Now the conventional wisdom seems to be:

“The child has autism because his parents gave him bad genes. You can give him speech and ABA therapy. It might work, but it might not.”

Local pediatricians are still not trained to screen for digestive problems, metal poisoning and metabolism problems and most do not refer the child to a doctor who treats autism. They do refer families to speech language pathologists, neurologists or developmental pediatricians, who in turn still may not refer to a doctor that treats the biological symptoms associated with autism.

Referral to all these sources is good and appropriate, but it is incomplete. Parents should have the option to fight the source of their child’s illness, not just the option of mitigating the symptoms of it with speech and behavioral therapy.

Still, all too often, the referral instead comes from another mom on the playground who notices that your little boy doesn’t talk and tells you not to believe your doctor when he said, “he may not get any better”. Then she introduces you to her son who says ‘hello’, and ‘mom can I have a juice box?’. Then she tells you that her little boy used to be just like yours and to find a DAN! Doctor.

So you do, and one day, for the first time in a long, long time, he looks at you right in the eye, gives you a big smile and calls you “Mommy”. And you cry, and you thank God for that mom on the playground and you become one of those moms yourself.

This is the typical experience of the parent of an autistic child in 2005.

So the big question is:

If tens of thousands of autistic kids are getting better, why is mainstream medicine so freakin’ slow to notice and jump on board with the new discoveries that are being made???

I believe the answer is Mercury.

Because one of the common things found in the screening that DAN! doctors do is mercury poisoning, and because there is mercury in vaccines, and because the establishment of a link between the two would be so devastating in so many ways, the entire DAN! Protocol is dismissed. Pediatricians don’t often refer patients to it and insurance companies almost never cover it. Even though it works. Even though even the most difficult cases show improvement

In ignoring the medical treatments for autism, the mainstream medical community is throwing my baby out with the bathwater.

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