Friday, March 21, 2008

autism and that other word

I don't like to use autism together with that other word in the same sentence. That other word is vaccination. As a journalist, I feel that in wielding them side by side or in close proximity, I inevitably end up perpetuating the fictional link between the two--even if the sentence only repeats that the overwhelming body of scientific evidence points to zero connection between A and V.

The New York Times has a decent piece today about the public health risk caused by families that refuse to have their children vaccinated. Without getting tangled in an op-ed, let me just say that this trend is scary. Talk about scientific illiteracy is often a bit wonky and removed from real-world issues. Not this time. The fact that many of these parents are described as well-educated only drives home the point. (I also don't want to use "exempters" or "skeptics" when talking about the parents. It seems to whitewash culpability.) If devout Christian Scientists refuse to take a toddler to the hospital and the child subsequently dies from pneumonia, criminal charges will soon follow (one hopes). Yet these parents, who expose their kids to diseases like measles, and whose kids end up spreading the disease to other people in the community—this is substantially different?

As infuriating and frightening as some of this behavior may be, the quote I most appreciated in the Times article was more reflective, pulling away from the outraged tone that, as illustrated above, is rather easy to come by. Parents, after all, are engineered to worry about their children's health.

“The very success of immunizations has turned out to be an Achilles’ heel,” said Dr. Mark Sawyer, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego. “Most of these parents have never seen measles, and don’t realize it could be a bad disease so they turn their concerns to unfounded risks. They do not perceive risk of the disease but perceive risk of the vaccine.”


Jannalou said...

Thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

I read your article on Amanda Baggs. You must have learned that autism is caused by abusing LSD and magic mushrooms instead of from thimerosal in vaccines.
Thanks for figuring this out. I always blamed the mercury but now I know it was the LSD I used to mix in with my infant's formula that damaged his brain.
I wish I was as intelligent as you so this would have dawned on me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I get very frustrated by the refusal to DIE of the purported, magical connection between A and V.

My mother contracted rubella while she was pregnant with my sister. This was in the days before ultrasound. Accordingly, she waited 9 months to find out whether and to what degree my sister would be disabled. She contracted rubella from a family that visited us and hadn't been vaccinated. When they had been staying in our house for 3 days, the other mother casually mentioned that her kids had been sick with rubella the week before they visited, but that they were well over the fever now.

This is what I think of when people say that they are not taking a risk for their children with immunizations: this family certainly took a risk with my unborn sister. We had all been immunized, but my mother had not. One of my brothers contracted a light case of rubella despite the vaccination (as I developed a light case of mumps many years later, despite vaccination).

No one who has seen whooping cough in action would ever fail to vaccinate, either. Maybe it is me, but I believe it might be key to these parents' belief systems that the disease is, indeed, a remote idea while the risks involved in the vaccine are very real to them.

Anonymous said...

Nice work, David - so good in fact you got a rant from well known anti vaccine thimerosal loony John Best who I think you'll find was responsible for the second comment here - and didn't have the guts to sign in. You know you've struck gold in truth when you get that dummy calling you names. That's his MO - can't take it when he's wrong. Amanda was on the Spectrum from birth and he can't accept it because he's wilfully stupid.

Foresam said...

How nice to see the anonymous trolls from neuronitwitville never cease defending their fat actress.

Timelord said...

How nice to see a whining meglomaniac like you attack other people, Best! The anon is right, Amanda was on the Spectrum from birth. You don't know all the facts and you dont want to because Amanda scares the SHIT out of you!

Give it up, idiot!

David, something of interest given that Best brought up the LSD. Seems that research has been done on using LSD (controlled properly) to treat the symptoms of Autism. I wonder if it was the LSD that made Amanda appear "normal" at Simon's Rock? Might be worth looking into I think! Depends on when she took it of course.

Foresam said...

The LSD won't help you. When you're a born simpleton, you're out of luck.

Timelord said...

I'd prefer to be a "simpleton" in your eyes because it hides the real danger I pose to you. Thank you for the compliment. So when are you going to allow me the same rights you are demanding from Blogger hmmm?

Besides, I'd rather be a simpleton than a meglomaniac like you.

S.L. said...

Great post, thank you. You are right-on, these parents think measles (and all the other diseases that can be prevented via vaccines) are a walk in the park.

qchan said...


This has been great (and very much needed) coverage of the idea that autistic people aren't just "damaged" or poisoned or hopelessly disabled. I'm a parent of an autistic child whom i love and appreciate very much. I want to do everything i can to help him. But whatever approach we take with him has to involve treating him like an actual human being.

Anyway, just wanted to say thanks.