David Kirby, author of “Evidence of Harm, Mercury in Vaccines and the Autism Epidemic” has finally agreed that there is no autism epidemic.
“My hunch (and yes, that is all it is) is that most of these kids do not have “autism” at all, and it’s probably time we started calling it something else.”
He calls this “something else” Environmentally-acquired Neuroimmune Disorder. And he no longer thinks that it had to be caused by mercury in vaccines. Now the mercury is gone it is being caused by
“radical changes in our environment over the last 10-20 years. There is something, or more likely some things in our modern air, water, food and drugs that are making genetically susceptible children sick, and we need to find out what they are.”
So all the award winning journalism that went into the book, all the scientific research he quotes to support the idea of an autism epidemic caused by mercury in vaccines, all this is dismissed on the basis of a hunch. Oh, and there is the small fact that, contrary to Kirby’s prediction, autism is not going into decline now that all mandatory vaccines for children in the US are mercury free.
My hunch is different to Kirby’s. My hunch is that the people he listened to were wrong. The science he quoted was wrong. The book he wrote was wrong. And his latest response shows that he is still wrong.
He begins with an appeal for sympathy.
“I continue to be vilified by critics who insist that mercury does not cause autism, that autism is a stable genetic condition, and that it cannot be an “epidemic.””
Vilified? His ideas have been criticized. He has been presented with counter arguments. But personal vilification? I suggest he visits the Hating Autism blog to read some really vile things written by one of his supporters about autistic adults who disagree with him.
He goes on to propose a truce with the “neurodiversity” community. His quote marks suggest he does not fully accept the validity of the concept of neurodiversity. He certainly does not understand it. For he goes on to refer to the “neurodiverse” as synonymous with Asperger Syndrome. I suggest he reads my article on Neurodiversity and Kev’s excellent blog from yesterday.
The nature of the truce is this. He supports the rights of the “neurodiverse” to be respected and accepted. But he wants them to accept that they have nothing in common with the really severe autistic children he has met.
- I am talking about kids who begin talking and then, suddenly, never say another word.
- I’m talking about kids who may never learn to read, write, tie their shoes or fall in love.
- I’m talking about kids who sometimes wail in torture at three in the morning because something inside them hurts like a burning coal, but they can’t say what or where it is.
- I’m talking about kids who can barely keep food in their inflamed, distressed guts, and when they do, it winds up in rivers of diarrhea or swirls of feces spread on a favorite carpet or pet (no one said this kind of “autism” was pretty).
- I’m talking about kids who escape from their home in a blaze of alarms, only to be found hours later, freezing, alone and wandering the Interstate.
- I’m talking about kids who have bitten their mother so hard and so often, they are on a first name basis at the emergency room.
- I’m talking about kids who spin like fireworks until they fall and crack their heads, kids who will play with a pencil but not with their sister, kids who stare at nothing and scream at everything and don’t even realize it when their dad comes home from work.
These are the kids I want to see cured. And I don’t believe they have “autism.”
Let us go through that list.
- This looks like regressive autism. It accounts for a minority of autistic cases but figures are hard to come by as it is not always certain whether studies are measuring it against DSM-IV autism, or with the whole autistic spectrum. There is a further confound because, as I argued in a much earlier blog, much of the evidence for regression comes from parental reports. And it is not always clear whether they are reporting regression or failure to meet expected milestones. It is also necessary to exercise caution when dealing with parental evidence. [...]“ A review of each record showed that in 13 children the history given by the parents had changed after the extensive publicity about MMR vaccine and autism. Before the publicity the parents often reported concerns early in their child’s life, usually before their first birthday; the current history for the same children recorded symptoms as developing only after MMR vaccination, in some cases shortly after.”
(Taylor, Miller, Lingam, Andrews, Simmons & Stowe (2002) Measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination and bowel problems or developmental regression in children with autism: population study British Medical Journal, 2002, Vol. 324, pp. 393-396)
- This describes a lot of the children I teach. Some are autistic. Some are not. And note Kirby’s use of “may never.” Hardly a reliable diagnostic criteria.
- These children are ill and should be taken to see a doctor.
- Ditto. It would be interesting to discover if gut problems are more prevalent in autistic children and, if so, why. But in epidemiological studies where full health checks are done on all the autistic children who are identified, they have found the same rate of gastro-intestinal problems as in non-autistic children. Kirby here seems to be equating diarrhoea with smearing. Others who have commented on Kirby’s blog have pointed out that problems with smearing are unpleasant but they pass. They make a lot of other important points as well. Please read.
- Escape artists. They have always been with us. Take Gabriel. He is non-verbal, still not toilet trained and in residential care. And he will be 30 next year. That sort of blows away Kirby’s hunch that, “It can only be attributed to radical changes in our environment over the last 10-20 years.” Gabriel’s mum, Kate Rankin, wrote a book about him. I met her at a book signing and she is a very nice lady.
- Harming self and others is a common problem among autistic children who get into a rage or are frustrated by our inability to understand what they mean. Teaching effective communication skills helps. Teaching non-autistics to listen and learn from autistics also helps. Even the so-called “neurodiverse” have problems with people not listening or not understanding their needs. Read Ballastexitenz‘ latest on what happens when an apparently “low functioning” member of the “neurodiverse” is disregarded on a visit to the ER.
- He is talking about autistic kids here. And many of Kirby’s “neurodiverse” had similar childhoods. It was worse for a lot of them because they did not get a diagnosis. It was not that they were mislabeled as quirky or nerdy. They were totally misunderstood. When I was at that book signing with Kate Rankin I also met Gunilla Gerland. Her book about growing up with undiagnosed autism, A Real Person, disposes of the myth that the “neurodiverse” have an easy ride of it and have nothing in common with their more severely autistic brethren. And if they did get a diagnosis it was for a psychiatric disorder they did not have. Then they were not only mis-diagnosed. They were also mis-treated with psychiatric drugs they did not need. The kids Kirby is talking about are also being mis-treated. This time it is chelation for their non-existent mercury poisoning. Kirby’s book and its attendant publicity has doubtless led many other parents down this path. His book truly is “Evidence of Harm.”
So Kirby is trying to divide articulate and educated autistic adults from the rest of the autistic spectrum, who, on the basis of a journalistic hunch, are to be reclassified as suffering from Environmentally-acquired Neuroimmune Disorder. We do not know know what causes this, although Kirby, as befits an altie, chelation shill, still insists that mercury is “a logical candidate.”
Kirby’s message is to be thankful for being educated and articulate and to abandon those less fortunate autistic brothers and sisters to the likes of Generation Rescue and Safe Minds. Divide and rule anybody? If Kirby expects us to accept this nonsense I have a hunch that he may be about to experience some real vilification.