I know this is controversial...and thus that I might be stepping on some toes here...but this is also a field that I have much personal experience in as well as have researched extensively through college, graduate school, and post-masters study for registration. so there is your disclaimer...I am emotional about this topic as well as well-versed....
This rant of sorts all culminated from listening to NPR this morning regarding Jenny McCarthy and her "cure & cause" for her son's autism & regarding the astounding numbers of parents who are choosing not to vaccinate.
I recommend highly to anyone who comes to me w/ a question about Autism or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) to get MORE than one opinion. And these opinions should not come from celebrities.
I have no doubt that Jenny McCarthy and other celebrities w/ children w/ Autism are like any parent w/ a child w/ an ASD...they research. However when you are researching and you are emotional and you are searching for answers what you find may be self-serving & not serving for the whole.
In my disclaimer I wrote that this is a topic I am emotional about...I have a brother on the spectrum. However I have been working w/ individuals on the spectrum and researching the spectrum since long before my brother was diagnosed. And honestly, my brother is so high functioning "curing" him isn't something we are looking for as a family, "understanding" him is, "teaching" him is, and helping him to become the most independent and happy person he can be is our mission.
I know that what I am writing may relate to other special needs and that people w/in the disabilities community often tire of the buzz and attention and funding Autism gets. But I want to speak specifically to this disability because it truly has some issues surrounding it that are subsets to itself entirely. The hottest topic about autism is the origin.
"How did my child get autism"? Science hasn't found a gene or a chromosome abnormality or an environmental certainty to the origin of autism.
When you are told that your child has a chromosomal abnormality it has a finality to it. You have a way to accept it, even if there is a genetic predisposition, you could still can come to the realization that it was just a fluke, a blip on the radar.
Autism is different. You are told that your child has something that no one has any idea why he/she got. There is no genetic marker, there are trends but the trends offer little comfort. The trend is that ASD have become extremely more commonly diagnosed and recognized in the last 20 years and that it is a somewhat overwhelming ratio of 1:4 girls:boys on the spectrum. So the parent (naturally) wants to know "why?"
There isn't much comfort in the trends/statistics. Some families have more than one child on the spectrum, some have only 1 and many other children who aren't affected, some mothers smoke, some families have developmental disabilities in their family history, some don't, some children need the gluten diet, some don't, some have co-morbid conditions such as schizophrenia, add, or adhd, expressive language disorder, ocd and/or mental retardation, others have no co-morbid conditions. When one studies the statistics for long enough it's easy to begin believing that there is no cause, that kids are willy nilly being affected w/ ASD, that suddenly the hand of a higher power points at the child and says "you".
What makes me emotional is when someone comes along and proclaims that they have the cure to Autism, or even have found the cause for that matter. This upsets me so much because it seems cruel to tell such a vulnerable set of our society "there's a cure." I highly recommend Autism's False Prophets. Furthermore, I highly suggest that people are familiar that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) reports that Thimerosal: an agent containing mercury and thought to be tied to Autism in regards to the MMR (measles mumps rubella) vaccine, was stripped from all childhood vaccines in 2001, with the possible exclusion of some influenza vaccines.
Perhaps someday there will be a way to prevent Autism and ASD. Perhaps there will be a definitive study that finds it's cause and it will be backed by other studies. I am praying there will be such a study.
Unlike Andrew Wakefield's (a study linking vaccines to Autism, specifically the MMR shot) study that was ultimately disproved by many other studies.
Isn't it nice that compulsory vaccination has made diseases like polio, smallpox, and neonatal rubella so uncommon that people think the vaccines are more dangerous than the diseases themselves? I'd like to hear what antivaxers would say if they traveled to a country where vaccines aren't available and saw all the children who end up crippled and dead from preventable diseases. I think it's a misrepresentation of the facts to say to viewers of a morning show: "Don't vaccinate your child, they could get Autism." Or Jenny McCarthy exclaiming on Larry King live (transcript below) that she would prefer her son get measles than Autsim.
When a large group of people do not vaccinate history shows us that these preventable diseases will reoccur. In fact last year in Denver there was a huge outbreak of children with whooping cough. And what is irresponsible to not present that these diseases can be FATAL to children. There is no scientific evidence that concurs w/ Jenny. She may not be lying, semantically speaking, but she's wrong and it's dangerous.
But please don't take mine or Jenny's word for it. Look for yourself and keep looking.
Further reading below:
this that refutes Jenny's argument of ether, anti-freeze and mercury in vaccines. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=9
Jenny & guests on Larry King Live http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0804/02/lkl.01.html
Andrew Wakefield's study details: http://briandeer.com/mmr-lancet.htm
ALthough gluten-free diet helps some children who have Autism, it is sadly not the "cure", there isn't a magic bullet so to speak. Sadly when emotions are involved it is hard to rely on anecdotal evidence. If you have a good day w/ a child w/ Autism following the Gluten free diet you may believe it's because of the diet, and if you have a bad day you may think that without the diet it would have been worse. Unfortunately, any first year research student can tell you there are far too many variables. Also...no doctor has been presented as of yet that corroborates her claims that her child has "recovered from Autism". Could he be progressing? I believe absolutely, I also pray that he is!