Brad Handley Offers Us A Chance To Evaluate

6 Feb

A couple of days ago, Brad Handley wrote a blog entry on Age of Autism called ‘DR. NANCY MINSHEW & ME: WHO’S CRAZY?’.

Let us instead examine Brad’s criteria for deciding on who is crazy and who is not between Dr Minshew and he.

I disagree with almost every single thing you have written or said about autism. Since we both can’t possibly be right, one of us has to be crazy. I’m scared to death it might be me. As a psychiatrist, I thought you could help.

Says Brad to Dr Minshew in an email. He then continues with:

It is maddening for parents like me that our “experts” can’t agree on the most fundamentally important and critical data point in the entire field of autism: is prevalence truly rising or not? This very binary notion impacts everything else. If it’s growing, it’s the environment. If it’s not, it’s genetics. From you perspective, “The increase in number of cases reflects the increase in recognition of verbal children.” I was confounded by this point, because I can’t find a single sentence in the scientific literature to support this. What I do look to is the following:

OK, lets pause. Brad says there’s no scientific literature to support the idea that there isn’t an epidemic. We’ll come back to that. Firstly, however, he cites a few bits and bobs to support his hypothesis that there is.

First off he cites:

[1]Report to the Legislature on the Principle Findings from The Epidemiology of Autism in California: A Comprehensive Pilot Study MIND Institute, UC Davis, Oct 2002.

This is not in the scientific literature. It is not peer reviewed. According to Brad’s own specified criteria of utilising the scientific literature, he cannot cite this document.

The second (and last) paper he cites is:

[2]National Autism Prevalence Trends From United States Special Education Data. Pediatrics, March 2005. Craig J. Newschaffer, PhD..

Using Special Education data has been debunked in a paper published four months after that Newschaffer paper. The author (James Laidler) says:

Many autism advocacy groups use the data collected by the US Department of Education (USDE) to show a rapidly increasing prevalence of autism. Closer examination of these data to follow each birth-year cohort reveals anomalies within the USDE data on autism……These anomalies point to internal problems in the USDE data that make them unsuitable for tracking autism prevalence.

and Shattuck says:

The mean administrative prevalence of autism in US special education among children ages 6 to 11 in 1994 was only 0.6 per 1000, less than one-fifth of the lowest CDC estimate from Atlanta (based on surveillance data from 1996). Therefore, special education counts of children with autism in the early 1990s were dramatic underestimates of population prevalence and really had nowhere to go but up. This finding highlights the inappropriateness of using special education trends to make declarations about an epidemic of autism, as has been common in recent media and advocacy reports.

So thats the sum total of Brad’s ‘science’ regarding the autism epidemic. A non-science report and a twice debunked study.

Is there actually anything in the scientific literature that suggests the ‘epidemic’ is not anything of the sort?

Variation in the administrative prevalence of ASD is associated with education-related spending, which may be associated with better-trained educational staff who can recognize the problem, and more and better trained in-school specialists who can provide screening. It is also associated with the availability of health care resources. Increased access to pediatricians and school-based health centers may lead to improved recognition of ASD. Interstate variability in the identification of ASD should be taken into account when interpreting the results of prevalence studies based on administrative data and the associated system characteristics taken into account by policy makers working to improve the recognition of ASD.

David S. Mandell, ScD; Raymond Palmer, PhD

The incidence of research-identified autism increased in Olmsted County from 1976 to 1997, with the increase occurring among young children after the introduction of broader, more precise diagnostic criteria, increased availability of services, and increased awareness of autism. Although it is possible that unidentified environmental factors have contributed to an increase in autism, the timing of the increase suggests that it may be due to improved awareness, changes in diagnostic criteria, and availability of services, leading to identification of previously unrecognized young children with autism.

William J. Barbaresi, MD; Slavica K. Katusic, MD; Robert C. Colligan, PhD; Amy L. Weaver, MS; Steven J. Jacobsen, MD, PhD

We observed dramatic increases in the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder as a primary special educational disability starting in the 1991-1992 school year, and the trends show no sign of abatement. We found no corresponding decrease in any special educational disability category to suggest diagnostic substitution as an explanation for the autism trends in Minnesota. We could not assess changes in actual disease incidence with these data, but federal and state administrative changes in policy and law favoring better identification and reporting of autism are likely contributing factors to the prevalence increases and may imply that autism spectrum disorder has been underdiagnosed in the past.

James G. Gurney, PhD; Melissa S. Fritz, MPH; Kirsten K. Ness, MPH; Phillip Sievers, MA;Craig J. Newschaffer, PhD; Elsa G. Shapiro, PhD

Brad continues:

You say vaccines are proven to not cause autism and that parents should vaccinate their children.

Dr. Minshew, you are either being intellectually dishonest on this point or it is outside of your expertise as a psychiatrist to understand the vaccine-autism issue, Let me explain:

Brad _seems_ to be basing this belief on the news article he quotes:

Dr. Nancy Minshew, Director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Excellence in Autism Research, says it’s time to end the debate [about vaccines and autism] because research overwhelmingly proves there’s no connection and parents don’t need to worry about that anymore. Minshew says it’s time real experts dispel the rumors for concerned parents. “They deserve to hear the evidence, the real evidence. So I thought, ‘Enough is enough,'” she said. Minshew says people’s lives are at stake because some kids aren’t getting vaccinated for life-threatening diseases due to incorrect information. Since Thimerosal, an ethyl mercury preservative, was banned from most childhood vaccines in the U.S. seven years ago, autism rates have continued to increase – disproving the link. Minshew says it’s only a coincidence that toddlers are vaccinated around the same time autism is usually diagnosed.

Minshew did _not_ say ‘vaccines are proven to not cause autism’, that is what the article she was quoted in says. You can tell the bits she actually said as they will be surrounded with quote marks.

– Thimerosal was not banned from vaccines as you are quoted as saying, so this is a falsehood.

Minshew was not quoted as saying this. This is a falsehood.

– Thimerosal did not come out of vaccines seven years ago as you are quoted as saying, so this is a falsehood. In fact, it’s still in the overwhelming majority of the flu shot supply at full dose- the flu shot was recently added (2004) to the CDC’s recommended schedule.

Once more, Minshew was _not_ quoted as saying thiomersal came out of vaccines seven year ago. This is a falsehood. Your statement that it is still in the overwhelming majority of the flu shot is speculative and without foundation – unless you have something to back that up….?

And in *fact* – although Minshew never claims it, a CDC meeting reported on a study that said:

N.I.P. estimated the amount of thimerosal in provider vaccine inventories in a survey conducted September 20, 2001 to February 20, 2002. The targets were a convenience sample of providers getting site visits from public health officials across the country. Inventory counts were done of all refrigerators for D.T.a.P., Hib, and hep B pediatric vaccines. The thimerosal classification was based on the lot number information, which was verified by the manufacturers. In September 2001, 225 sites were canvassed, and 447 by February 2002…..During the visits, the providers were surveyed about thimerosal-containing vaccines in their inventories. Of the 447 interviews, 83.5 percent reported no thimerosal-containing vaccines in stock at any time since October 2001.


in September 2001, only 5.6%1 of all vaccines contained thiomersal. By Feb 2002, only 1.9% of all vaccines contained thiomersal.

(NB: The 5.6% figure seems to be a typo in the report. It should be 56%. From 33,500 doses out of 63,600; to 2,796 doses out of 149,147)

– If you believe that focusing on a single ingredient in vaccines (mercury) exonerates vaccines in totality, that’s an impossibility. We have grown our vaccine schedule from 10 vaccines in the early 1980s to 36 today. Yet, we never test the “combination risk” of so many vaccines. No one, except Generation Rescue, has ever studied unvaccinated children and looked at their autism rates. We never look at the aluminum that replaced thimerosal, the live viruses, or the many other toxic ingredients in vaccines at all.

So, Brad says that its not just mercury. Which is weird because in Feb 2005 (click the first video) he was saying:

What we immediately realised – and I think this is something that is a surprise to lots of people – um that autism is a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning. If you line up 100 symptoms of mercury poisoning and 100 symptoms of autism they are exactly the same

So, to borrow a phrase, both can’t be true….is it a misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning or is it the combination of vaccines?

– The parent reports of children going upside-down and developing autism right after vaccination continues unabated. Will you ever listen to them?

People such as Minshew have done nothing _but_ listen. Generation Rescue keep promising something for them to listen to but keep failing to provide it.

Brad continues:

It strikes me, and perhaps I’m crazy for saying this, that now that you have publicly reassured parents that vaccines are safe, that you may well be the last person on earth, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, to concede that vaccines are in fact playing a role in autism.

That, my friend, is called ‘projection’. Now you have publicly hemmed and hawed about what vaccines role is in autism and now all your projections and predictions have singularly failed to materialise (read the rest of that blog entry with the video for details), even with an overwhelming lack of any evidence whatsoever you will be the last person to ever admit you were plain old wrong time and time again.

And yet there’s more.

You never mention recovered children.

In all the writings and quotes of yours, Doctor, I didn’t read one thing about children who have recovered from autism. Have you ever met a recovered child? Would you like to? Would you care to scan their brains and see how they look? I heard a noted neurologist mention an idea that we should scan the brains of children newly diagnosed with autism, let their parents who want to treat the children biomedically, and then re-scan the brains of any children who have recovered. Does that strike you as an interesting idea?

Ah, the famous recovered children. I wrote about this awhile ago. The upshot of it is that when actually looks in detail at the kids Generation Rescue claims as recovered, kids who no longer have a diagnosis account for about 5-7% of the total he presents as recovered. Its a con trick. I even managed to get my own daughter listed as a recovery story on his website.

Brad continues:

As a courtesy, I forwarded the above piece to Dr. Minshew one day in advance of posting it on Age of Autism. What follows is a short email exchange between us:


Dr. Minshew:

What’s written below, by me, will be posted at The Age of Autism blog tomorrow. As a courtesy, I’m sending it to you first.

I have no issues with you personally. In fact, reading that you lost a child makes me very, very empathetic.

That said, it is my heartfelt belief that you are actually part of the problem with autism, rather than part of the solution. I’m sure that’s a comment you disagree with profoundly, but I really believe history will be a harsh judge of scientists like you who continue to deny the existence of a rising prevalence of autism and mistakenly reassure parents that vaccines are safe – a topic you can’t possibly be an expert on, by the way.

I also thought your email to Mr. —- reeked of intellectual arrogance in a very close-minded sort of a way. There are many well-credentialed scientists who would take exception to almost everything you believe about autism, but you speak with sweeping generalizations like you are in the only camp that actually knows where truth lies. I also found your continual reference to a court case in Maryland, while 2 tests cases before the Vaccine Court remain WIDE OPEN, to demonstrate either ignorance on your part or a case of selective fact gathering. What if the test cases in D.C. rule in favor of the plaintiffs?

So, I don’t expect us to be pen pals anytime soon, but I’m including the open letter to you below.


JB Handley


From: Nancy Minshew
To: J.B. Handley
Sent: Mon Feb 04 11:50:31 2008
Subject: RE: Nancy & Me: Who’s crazy

Mr. Handley none of you have permission to share emails that i have sent to you as individuals with anyone besides the intended receiver nor do you have permission to quote me publicly. Unlike the newspaper which was public, private emails to individuals sent confidentially are not for public quotation.


From: J.B. Handley
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2008 11:54 AM
To: Nancy Minshew
Subject: Re: Nancy & Me: Who’s crazy

Says who?

And, tough shit.

J.B. Handley


Nice guy huh?

And also further example of Brad’s hypocrisy. Our very first online set-to Brad commented (in the comment section) about me publishing part of an email he sent me:

Mr. Leitch sent me an email on my private email account, I responded, and he put my comments on his blog without asking me.

Which wasn’t strictly true but anyway – if I’d known how Brad would chop and change his mind I would’ve just said ‘tough shit’.

Anyway, Brad concludes:

This is my world, Dr. Minshew, it seems clear as day. It’s so different from yours, I really, really need to know: which one of us is crazy?

Lets recap. In Brad’s world science isn’t science unless he says it is. He can chop and change his mind without it invalidating his earlier, contradictory beliefs and its OK to be a massive hypocrite. Are these the actions of a crazy man?


12 Responses to “Brad Handley Offers Us A Chance To Evaluate”

  1. Kaiden February 6, 2008 at 12:30 #

    We all live in a mercurial world, and Brad is a mercurial boy.

  2. Joseph February 6, 2008 at 14:53 #

    Since we both can’t possibly be right, one of us has to be crazy.

    Ah, such remarkable command of logic.

  3. Joseph February 6, 2008 at 15:08 #

    If it’s growing, it’s the environment. If it’s not, it’s genetics.

    And again, same thing here, but I’m probably being picky. For a counter-example, see this about Prader-Willi Syndrome.

    From you perspective, “The increase in number of cases reflects the increase in recognition of verbal children.” I was confounded by this point, because I can’t find a single sentence in the scientific literature to support this.

    Here I’d have to sort of agree with Brad that Dr. Minshew’s statement is mistaken. It’s actually half right. Why couldn’t there be more recognition among non-verbal children?

    Actually, we don’t know where (in non-verbal vs. verbal) most of the new recognition is occurring. We can only speculate. But diagnostic substitution is clearly occurring, and there’s not only literature on that, but anoyone can go to and verify for themselves.

  4. Kev February 6, 2008 at 15:26 #

    _”Ah, such remarkable command of logic”_

    It makes me laugh every time he says something like that. Its like saying ‘since black isn’t white, one of them must be a frying pan’.

  5. notmercury February 6, 2008 at 15:33 #

    Since we both can’t possibly be human, one of has to be a toaster.

    Makes just a much sense.

  6. Orac February 6, 2008 at 17:33 #

    Since we both can’t possibly be right, one of us has to be crazy.

    Hilarious! Handley apparently really believes that if you’re wrong about an issue you must be crazy. Apparently it’s never occurred to him that noncrazy people are wrong about things all the time.

  7. qchan63 February 6, 2008 at 18:39 #

    I feel a bit guilty for admitting it, but i actually go over to that site for the laughs.

    Here’s my favorite part:

    “I also found your continual reference to a court case in Maryland, while 2 tests (sic) cases before the Vaccine Court remain WIDE OPEN, to demonstrate either ignorance on your part or a case of selective fact gathering. What if the test cases in D.C. rule in favor of the plaintiffs?”

    That’s right, Dr. Minshew — how dare you fail to base your arguments on court cases that haven’t been decided yet! In fact, how dare you fail to take into account that court cases not yet brought — perhaps to be filed sometime in the future by people who haven’t even been born yet — might favor our side!!

    Very telling that the dude took such exception to your earlier quoting of his emailed comments, Kev. Talk about selective …

  8. Patrick February 6, 2008 at 20:16 #

    “It is maddening for parents like me that our “experts” can’t agree on the most fundamentally important and critical data point in the entire field of autism: is prevalence truly rising or not?”

    Ooooh, Lying through the teeth now are we mr bad handle (on reality), isn’t the most critical data point for y’all litigants whether or not you can pin this on those evil vaccines?

  9. isles February 6, 2008 at 20:56 #

    Just as a side note, “the aluminum that replaced thimerosal” – ???

    aluminum = adjuvant
    thimerosal = antimicrobial
    NOT interchangeable. Not even related.

    And yet, these clowns know more about vaccines than allllll the scientists who are not on the Safeminds payroll and say vaccines don’t cause autism.

  10. _Arthur February 6, 2008 at 23:04 #

    The CDC publish the entire composition of vaccines on its website:

    You’ll notice that the MMR vaccine contains neither thimerosal nor aluminium oxyde.

    It does contain Sorbitol, how dreadful.

  11. bones February 7, 2008 at 14:09 #

    Heh-heh…that about says it all. Don’t it?

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