Robert “Dr. Bob” Sears is advertising himself again on the TacaNow blog. He’s telling us all about how he was an early adopter on biomed approaches to autism and how it’s all about listening to the parents. He tells us about how it all started with a parent asking for a prescription for an antifungal. No discussion of actually testing the kid for a fungal infection, just the standard story: parent asks, DAN doctor writes prescription story, DAN doctor takes credit for any gains, and no mention ever of any adverse reactions.
So, clearly, a case of same old/same old. So why write about it here? Because once again “Dr. Bob” shows how out of touch he is with the needs of the autism community. Oh, sure, he knows what parents at conventions like AutismOne want to hear (snarky remarks about vaccines and, you, the parents are always right). But what is one of the biggest problems in the autism communities right now? And has been for, well, ever? Disparities in diagnosis and access to treatment.
Here’s an example: racial and ethinic minorities are vastly under diagnosed and under served. In my state (same as “Dr. Bob’s”) if you are Hispanic, you are about 70% less likely to get special education services under the autism label as if you are white. I’ve plotted it out for my district that that ratio has remained basically constant for the past 14 years (as far back as the data are available).
I’m sure “Dr. Bob” can rattle off the latest CDC autism prevalence figures, or at least some of them. But if one actually reads the report, what does one find?
Non-Hispanic white children were approximately 30% more likely to be identified
with ASD than non-Hispanic black children and were almost 50% more likely to be identified with ASD than Hispanic children.
Given that, take a look at what Dr. Bob wrote on the TacaNow blog:
Yet, there is a shadow over all this success: April was supposed to be Autism Awareness Month. Did anyone even know? I checked the CDC website, and they proclaim April to be National Minority Health Month, with the catch phrase “Learn about CDC and HHS efforts towards eliminating health disparities,” as if THAT is the most important health crisis facing America today.
If “Dr. Bob” really believes that biomedical approaches are so helpful, why discount the need for outreach to minorities? Really, we have a HUGE problem with under diagnosis of autism in California among minorities. But you seem unaware of this.
One does wonder how many minorities, especially those with low incomes are served by the Sears clinic. I grew up in “Dr. Bob’s” home, Orange County, going to school along side farmworker kids. There’s a huge population of underserved minority kids there.
As an aside, here’s how one does an internet search, “Dr. Bob”. Top hit is Announcement: Autism Awareness Month and World Autism Day — April 2015. But that’s an MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) from the CDC, and as a doctor you must follow those, right? Especially since the MMWR’s include, say, information about the recent California measles outbreak which you downplayed.
Here, while we are at it, let’s do another google search. The word “minority” on the “Dr. Bob’s” family website (askdrsears.com).
Gee, 5 hits. One on how only a minority of families skip the MMR vaccine. Only one on racial/ethinic minorities, an article on lice.
No hits for “Hispanic” on the Sears family website.
“Dr. Bob”, if you want to pretend to speak for the autism communities (you don’t), at least show us the respect of acknowledging one of the big issues in our community: under served and under diagnosed populations.
Of course, to acknowledge these points you have to also acknowledge that autism isn’t always diagnosed, and that we need awareness to get diagnoses and services to these communities.
Which is to say, you have acknowledge that autism “rates” are under counts. And that doesn’t fit with your ideas on vaccines causing autism, does it? Or did I misread you when you wrote that you were waiting to “proclaim from the rooftops” that the MMR causes autism? (odd how you edited the original version of that article to remove that comment, isn’t it.)
Seriously, “Dr. Bob”. Get out of the corner of the autism community you profit from and take a hard look at what we really need.
By Matt Carey