Dear Family and Friends,
Although the piece that just ran on our program World Report was my swan song on HDNet, it was satisfying, because while everyone surely won’t agree with the conclusions I reached, it’s on an important topic that is terribly complex and equally controversial: childhood vaccinations and autism, not only the long-running debate about cause-and-effect, but the federal government’s inconsistency dealing with it.
For starters, for the sake of those of you who don’t know much of anything about autism, I should define it. The only trouble is, each definition is presented differently. The first website that comes up when you Google “autism” is an agency within the National Institutes of Health and it describes autism this way: “A pervasive developmental disorder… that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain’s normal development of social and communication skills.” The site goes on to say, “Autism is a physical condition linked to abnormal biology and chemistry in the brain. The exact causes of these abnormalities remain unknown, but this is a very active area of research. There are probably a combination of factors that lead to autism.”
Wikipedia gives this description: “Autism is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior. These signs all begin before a child is three years old. Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood.”
Then there’s the website of the United States Surgeon General: “Autism, the most common of the pervasive developmental disorders (with a prevalence of 10 to 12 children per 10,000), is characterized by severely compromised ability to engage in, and by a lack of interest in, social interactions. It has roots in both structural brain abnormalities and genetic predispositions, according to family studies and studies of brain anatomy.”
Or you can just take it the way I described it in the program as I introduced two young women who I’ll tell you more about later in this letter. What you need to know now is, both of them are autistic, but each was treated in a different way when it came to making a claim for lifetime care: “Both girls are brain-damaged, and both have limited language and socialization, lots of repetitive movement, no eye contact, no tolerance for change.” One thing I left out, but a common trait according to parents of autistic children, is tantrums. Severe tantrums, sometimes with no discernable catalyst.
In short, autism, no matter what words we use to describe it, is the result of some kind of disorder in the brain. And that is a key word: it is a disorder, not a disease. What this means is, it’s not something you can detect by testing someone’s blood. Or mapping their genome; so far, although scientists have been searching for an “autism gene,” (which in fact the Surgeon General declares a high priority), they haven’t found one. You wouldn’t even find autism in an autopsy. It doesn’t have a physical component; it is a set of behaviors. In other words, if someone exhibits the symptoms of autism, they are autistic. Or, to use the medical lingo, they are on the “spectrum of autism.”
Read the full piece online here: http://www.ageofautism.com/2011/10/journalist-greg-dobbs-on-the-sausage-making-of-his-worldnet-autism-vaccine-story.html