You know, “Dr. Bob”, minority health disparities are HUGE in the autism community.

1 May

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

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13 Responses to “You know, “Dr. Bob”, minority health disparities are HUGE in the autism community.”

  1. A Cranky Spider May 1, 2015 at 20:54 #

    He doesn’t even try to listen to autistic people and he aligns himself with people who want to bleach us!

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 1, 2015 at 21:05 #

      Yep. I’ve never heard a story of any of these “name brand” autism doctors speaking out against any other. “You want to promote bleach enemas? Sure, join the club!”

  2. Todd W. May 1, 2015 at 21:00 #

    Dr. Bob speaks from his position as a white male of better than middle-class means. How very insulting to the millions of people in this country that are underserved because of racial and economic inequality. You highlight the issue of the underserved autism population, which is just one part of the health disparities issue. That Dr. Bob pooh-poohs such concerns speaks to his immaturity and self-centeredness.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 1, 2015 at 21:27 #

      When is there ever a reason to say, “you, over there. Your community’s needs are so much less than ours.”?

      • Shay Simmons May 1, 2015 at 22:31 #

        “Dr” Bob falls into the trap one sees with so many single-issue zealots. Any acknowledgement of another problem devalues theirs, because it’s all about them, amirite?

  3. Heather Vanderweide May 2, 2015 at 19:22 #

    Wow, I think it is incredibly ironic that Dr. Bob considers himself to be working “in the trenches” (referencing his statements on the TACA blog) from his cash-only practice in SoCal.

    Does he even understand how silly he sounds?

    • Lawrence May 2, 2015 at 21:55 #

      He seems to have a severe case of “lack of self-awareness.”

      He claims to be not “anti-vaccine” yet his only sources of information are rabid anti-vax websites like the National Vaccine Information Center…..

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 4, 2015 at 14:57 #

        And there’s that picture he has standing arm in arm with Andrew Wakefield.

        Whatever his stance on vaccines he’s very bad at discerning sources of quality information.

  4. Science Mom May 4, 2015 at 15:11 #

    Before Dr. Bob sent his Vaccine Book forum down the memory hole, I had an opportunity to “debate” him frequently and have collected some real gems of quotes he made such as, “Plus, I am not a research type of person. I read and learn and pass on what I know, but I am not a scientist type.”

    Yes, this is the man who claims to be a vaccine and autism expert and wrote books about vaccines and autism.

    • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 4, 2015 at 19:06 #

      Other “Dr Bobisms”

      “When outbreaks of measles and mumps do occur (and they will!), and the parents of any unvaccinated children refuse the full MMR (but make it known they would happily accept the single component vaccines), the government might take notice”

      And when the government does take notice, Dr Bob steps in to tell the government there’s no problem.

      Even though in the same article he stated

      “While most kids weather the disease without problems, occasional complications do occur. The risk of suffering a fatality from measles is about 1 in 1000 to 1 in 3000 cases.”

      I wonder if he’s been quoting that fact while lobbying furiously against vaccine bills.

      He did block the wayback machine from recording the actual discussion to that article. Too bad.

      • Sullivan (Matt Carey) May 4, 2015 at 19:36 #

        Or this one. How do you define “rare”? According to the Sears family, 1 in 1000 is “rare”

        “Measles is a viral benign illness causing fever, cold symptoms and rash. It occurs in outbreaks. Rarely is it life threatening, and approximately one in every 1000 cases can be fatal or cause brain damage from measles encephalitis. Only several hundred cases occur each year in the U.S.”

        https://web.archive.org/web/20040825092626/http://askdrsears.com/html/8/T085200.asp

  5. Victoria Gillen May 7, 2015 at 18:25 #

    In the wake of Ferguson, Staten Island, and other violence, I am reminded that (at least in NYC) those in the classically defined “distressed socio-economic strata” – i.e. black students, get an “emotionally disturbed” Dx for the same behaviors seen as ASD. People with the ASD DX get support in school, and depending on where they are on the spectrum, support for the rest of their lives. People with ED get segregated settings and often end up in jail… and may be killed for non-compliance by security/police/wardens.

  6. Dr. Johnson April 8, 2016 at 04:09 #

    Sincerely appreciated your article.

    You present good ideas on how to eliminate health disparities that contribute to gaps in life expectancy that exist by race in America.

    Again, Great work!

    Very respectfully,

    Dr. Johnson

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