Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Myths about autism

I've got a new editorial in Wednesday's USA Today on the subject of the autism-vaccine myth. Check it out, complete with a photo of Jenny McCarthy, myth purveyor. She's telegenic and appealing, but not exactly a go-to person for brain science. So look at her - but then read my article.

Many brain myths are harmless, such as the idea that we only use 10 percent of our brains. But the false idea that vaccines cause autism is actively harmful to children! I am particularly motivated because I am a recent father. I don't want my daughter to get any diseases. Vaccination, both for her and for everyone she meets, is an essential way to keep her safe.

If you are interested in more myths and truths about autism, read these pieces about whether the incidence of autism is increasing (also see this and this), why parents may be prone to believing these ideas, and some interesting truths about autism.

In addition, the vaccine hypothesis has, by now, been thoroughly tested - in the US, the UK, Denmark, Sweden, and Japan - with overwhelmingly negative results. It's time to spend research dollars on other ideas, where they can do the most good.


Mark said...

Please take a look at the poling case recently conceded, the court ruled that vaccinces induced "autistic like symtoms" in hannah poling.
there are 4000 more cases waiting to be heard.
It appears that for a small number of children with a mitochondrial disorder vaccines can cause a condition that is diagnosed as autism. my child like Jennys also had bad reactions to shots and is now making a remarkable recovery using diet like jennys.
take a look at my blog there is an interesting youtube clip showing the effect of just soya on my child.
I know personally several children who have lost their diagnosis of autism (that have the assessments to prove this) how can this be possible unless the fundamentally understanding of autism is wrong.


Sam Wang said...

Mark, thank you for writing. The federal court settlement arose based on a particular hypothesis that has not been proven, and is currently regarded by scientists as highly speculative. Currently, the question of what causes autism is in many ways an open question. This is why research is required.

As far as treatment goes, if you find that a particular dietary change helps your child, keep doing it.

Scarchin said...

I loved your editorial column! It inspired me to buy your book (on the way via mail).

As someone who works with autistic kids, I'll tell you what you probably already know - get ready for the storm!

The parents are understandably very very emotional about this issue - and their emotions blind them to any rational approach to facts.

Best of luck!

I'll post after I read the book.

Sam Wang said...

Peter, thank you for the kind words.

You are right that I am getting a lot of email, some supportive, some not. In writing the op-ed, I did the same thing that we did throughout the book: I went through the peer-reviewed literature and synthesized the body of work into a form that a regular person can understand. However, people with a strong interest in vaccine-autism speculations are quite resistant to evidence.

One major problem is that there's little coverage of all the leads that autism researchers are pursuing, and so there's no competing storyline. Also, the field is only now starting to attract a new wave of researchers, so progress will take some time. At some point I'd love to write about that subject as an insider. My laboratory's work, while in the category of basic research, is related to autism.

Enjoy the book!