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Trump is only the latest charlatan to use the anti-vaccine community

15 May

When Donald Trump was running for president (has he ever stopped running for president and started governing?) the anti-vaccine community threw full support behind him. They were excited because here was a candidate who publicly accepted and promoted the fake and damaging idea that vaccines cause autism.

Before running, Trump supported the idea that vaccines cause autism in twitter. During the campaign he stated his support for this failed idea clearly in a debate. So it’s no wonder that the anti-vaccine community backed him.

Then, a few weeks ago Trump said this, in response to the recent measles outbreak:

“They have to get the shots. The vaccinations are so important. This is really going around now. They have to get their shots.”

That didn’t sit well with the various anti-vaccine groups. But allow me to take a moment to look at the viewpoint during the campaign. In specific, think about this–while campaigning did Donald Trump appear to be a candidate who would do well by the disability communities? Would someone like my kid benefit from a Trump presidency?

Clearly not. It’s not even a close question. And yet, even autism-parent anti-vaccine activists were pro Trump. Even though life would be harder for their kids after Trump. Even though there would be less support for their kids. Even though Trump would heighten stigma of disability.

One would think that parents of disabled children would run to vote for anyone else. Anyone who even paid lip service to supporting their children.

But the anti-vaccine autism parents didn’t. And I wasn’t surprised.

These are the same parents who:

chelated their kids (even though autism looks nothing like mercury intoxication, could cause harm and in at least one case did cause death)

dumped synthetic chemicals mislabeled as as “supplement” on their kids’ gluten free waffles.

promoted bleach enemas for “treating” autism

injected children with filtered urine

chemical castration of disabled children as a purported “cure”

The list goes on and on. But what do all of the above “therapies” have in common? OK, what do they have in common besides being bogus? They are all promoted by people who say vaccines cause autism.

So I wasn’t the least bit surprised that the anti-vaccine autism-parent community backed Trump. Not for a moment.

Remember back during the campaign when JB Handley (anti-vaccine activist founder of the Age of Autism blog) wrote Trumps Stands with my Son, I Stand with Trump

In it he stated:

But, I will make the point to you anyway: Donald Trump is the best thing that has happened to our kids in a very long time and I hope we can all lay down our issues and stand with him.

Because Handley is a “one issue voter” and that issue is the (failed) idea that vaccines cause autism

Did it matter that Trump had no plan for supporting people with disabilities?

Did it matter that Trump openly mocked people with disabilities?

Did it matter that Trump didn’t have the backbone to actually apologize for such a crude attack, stigmatizing disability?

Did it matter that Trump was pushing to remove the Affordable Care Act, which has allowed many autistics to get medical insurance? As part of that push Trump wanted to remove coverage for people with pre-existing conditions? One would think that pre-existing condition coverage would be a priority for Handley and the anti-vaccine community.

Did it matter that Trump was planning to gut funding for support services for people with disabilities?

Or, to put it simply, did the anti-vaccine community actually put people with disabilities in into their decision to support Trump? No. Not even close.

Trump said vaccines cause autism. And with that Trump got their vote.

Did Trump ever stand with any autistic? Anyone’s child? Anyone’s son? Nope. Trump stood with the anti-vaccine activists themselves.

And now Trump has abandoned them. It may only be for now. But the anti-vaccine community isn’t large enough and the sentiment against them is rising.

Here’s a response to Trump from Kim Rossi at the Age of Autism blog:

From an MSNBC report yesterday: President Donald Trump commented on the recent measles outbreaks, saying that people “have to get their shots” and called vaccinations “important.”

Will the First Lady share her children’s vaccination status, please? We would have like to have seen the Obama girls’ records too. No partisanship here at AofA. Both sides of a rotten apple with a pharma profit core.

Trump is now part of the “rotten apple with a Pharma profit core”.

No partisanship, eh Kim? I guess you finally realized that being a charity (the Age of Autism converted to a charity a few years ago–before the election) actually means having to follow the laws imposed on charities. Like abandoning the clear partisanship you showed in promoting Trump’s candidacy.

So Kim…JB…and the rest of you: Trump fooled you. Did you stop for a moment and think, “wow, I can be fooled. I wonder who else has fooled me in the past and who is still fooling me now?”

I doubt it. And that’s too bad. You all could do a lot to undo the harm you’ve caused.


By Matt Carey

Why I don’t like “Happy Mother’s Day: Mothers Lie”

13 May

The essay is structured as “you were pregnant. You had hopes and dreams. Then you got a shock–your kid wasn’t what you hoped for.”

Why do we keep telling parents that story? The only reason there is a shock is because we don’t remind parents that disability is real. And that the dream lives on–having a family, loving a child. It isn’t disloyal to the parents or the child to accept the possibility that a child will be born or acquire a disability. And it would help child and parents if we as a people did this more.

A list I joined a long time ago is run by someone very active in the anti-vaccine/fake-cure movement. And every year I get sent the “inspirational” essay: Happy Mother’s Day: Mothers Lie. I truly dislike that essay.

I’ll put it below.

The short version of why I dislike this essay has to do with this one phrase:

You didn’t volunteer for this

Let me add another phrase from the essay:

You’re a woman who doesn’t have time to step back and put things in perspective

I’m a father, not a mother, but allow me to use my own experience. Having a disabled child has forced me to put things in perspective. It took years, and help from a lot of people. Shan, I’m thinking of you and other parents, but mostly from adult autistics.

So, with all that time and help, here’s my perspective for our family. The truth of the matter is we did volunteer for this. “This” as in: we decided to have a child. Perspective means I’ve stripped this down to the basics. We volunteered to have a child. And we were lucky enough to get a child. We are lucky enough that our child is alive. I’m lucky my wife survived pregnancy. I wanted a child I could love. I wanted a child I could try to help find their own identity, their own way, their own life. To help them pursue happiness, on their own terms.

Ms. Borgman, I appreciate what you were trying to do with this piece. I really do. But a lot of parents never get past the “what I hoped for was…” phase. Hitting mothers with this every year doesn’t really help. In the autism community we see parents who never accept who their child is, and focus on who their child was “supposed” to be. What the parents hoped for. They focus much of their energy in anti-vaccine action, because they are convinced that autism is “vaccine injury”. They become targets for charlatans selling all sorts of fake and even abusive “therapies”, because they want to “recover” their child. Note the term: recover. They aren’t trying to treat a condition, they are trying to regain what they feel they have lost.

Believe me, I am in awe of mothers. My wife especially. She had a better perspective on disability before we had children than I had even after our child was diagnosed.

It’s great to hope and dream. I’ve never stopped. But we need to ground our future parents before diagnoses as to what to expect. And that acceptance is a very valid option. That being the parent of a disabled child is more challenging, but it doesn’t require a super power.

In my opinion our culture needs to reassess how we view and discuss disability. And how we view the hopes and responsibilities of starting a family. Here’s a simple example of what I mean–I did a quick search on the site for the famous book “what to expect when you are expecting”. I used the term “disability”. Here’s what I got:

Here’s what I noticed–the first two hits are for (1) having a child while disabled and (2) disability insurance for maternity leave. Only when we get to (3) are we seeing disability for the child. And this is under “first year”. We really need to be educating people about disability before pregnancy. During pregnancy. You can’t fully prepare for the news that your child is disabled. But, then again, you can’t fully prepare for life with any child. What you can do is do some preparation.

You may be thinking that I’m saying “don’t encourage parents to hope.” Far from it. But hope and acceptance are both good things.

Another way to look at it is this. The essay is structured as “you were pregnant. You had hopes and dreams. Then you got a shock–your kid wasn’t what you hoped for.”

Why do we keep telling parents that story? The only reason there is a shock is because we don’t remind parents that disability is real. And that the dream lives on–having a family, loving a child. It isn’t disloyal to the parents or the child to accept the possibility that a child will be born or acquire a disability. And it would help child and parents if we as a people did this more.

Here are the sorts of corrections I’d suggest. First this phrase:

“Every mother wants a baby that can see, hear, run, jump and fire neurons by the billions.”

Perhaps this version wouldn’t change your story that much?

Every Mother wants a baby. Full stop. Remember that, you wanted a baby. You hoped that your baby would be able to see, hear, run, jump and fire neurons by the billions. But you knew that your child might be disabled.

I would change the last paragraph from:

You are the mother, advocate and protector of a child with a disability.
You’re a neighbor, a friend, a woman I pass at church and my sister-in-law.
You’re a wonder.

to something like:

You weren’t fully prepared for this. You are the mother. You are an advocate and protector of a child with a disability.
You’re a neighbor, a friend, a woman I pass at church and my sister-in-law.
You’re a wonder.
But, most of all, you are a mother.

Actually, I’d probably not use “you’re a wonder”, but I did say I am in awe of mothers. So there’s that. But the whole “you’re a wonder” message makes expectant parents think, “maybe I’m not up to the task.”

I don’t usually like it when people tell me how to write, or what to write about. I’m not suggesting you rewrite. But perhaps take a look at what these changes do to the message. Let’s move away from our society’s ideal that it is somehow romantic to look back on when we were naive and ignorant about our children possibly being disabled. That leads to regret and holding on to a feeling of loss. And that leads some parents into a very bad place. It keeps some parents from ever accepting their child’s disability. Perhaps you don’t know, but there is a segment of the autism parent community that thinks acceptance is a bad thing. Boggles the mind, but it’s true.

If nothing else, I can say that it would have helped me a great deal if we had changed the message long ago. Before I had kids.


By Matt Carey

here’s the essay:

Happy Mother’s Day: Mothers Lie

By Lori Borgman

Expectant mothers waiting for a newborn’s arrival say they don’t care what sex the baby is. They just want to have ten fingers and ten toes.

Mothers lie.

Every mother wants so much more.
She wants a perfectly healthy baby with a round head, rosebud lips, button nose, beautiful eyes and satin skin.
She wants a baby so gorgeous that people will pity the Gerber baby for being flat-out ugly.

She wants a baby that will roll over, sit up and take those first steps right on schedule (according to the baby development chart on page 57, column two).
Every mother wants a baby that can see, hear, run, jump and fire neurons by the billions.
She wants a kid that can smack the ball out of the park and do toe points that are the envy of the entire ballet class.
Call it greed if you want, but a mother wants what a mother wants.

Some mothers get babies with something more.

Maybe you’re one who got a baby with a condition you couldn’t pronounce, a spine that didn’t fuse, a missing chromosome or a palate that didn’t close.
The doctor’s words took your breath away.
It was just like the time at recess in the fourth grade when you didn’t see the kick ball coming, and it knocked the wind right out of you.

Some of you left the hospital with a healthy bundle, then, months, even years later, took him in for a routine visit, or scheduled him for a checkup, and crashed head first into a brick wall as you bore the brunt of devastating news.
It didn’t seem possible.
That didn’t run in your family.
Could this really be happening in your lifetime?

There’s no such thing as a perfect body.
Everybody will bear something at some time or another.
Maybe the affliction will be apparent to curious eyes, or maybe it will be unseen, quietly treated with trips to the doctor, therapy or surgery.
Mothers of children with disabilities live the limitations with them.

Frankly, I don’t know how you do it.
Sometimes you mothers scare me.
How you lift that kid in and out of the wheelchair twenty times a day.
How you monitor tests, track medications, and serve as the gatekeeper to a hundred specialists yammering in your ear.

I wonder how you endure the clichés and the platitudes, the well-intentioned souls explaining how God is at work when you’ve occasionally questioned if God is on strike.
I even wonder how you endure schmaltzy columns like this one-saluting you, painting you as hero and saint, when you know you’re ordinary.
You snap, you bark, you bite.
You didn’t volunteer for this, you didn’t jump up and down in the motherhood line yelling,
“Choose me, God. Choose me! I’ve got what it takes.”

You’re a woman who doesn’t have time to step back and put things in perspective, so let me do it for you. From where I sit, you’re way ahead of the pack.
You’ve developed the strength of the draft horse while holding onto the delicacy of a daffodil.
You have a heart that melts like chocolate in a glove box in July, counter-balanced against the stubbornness of an Ozark mule.

You are the mother, advocate and protector of a child with a disability.
You’re a neighbor, a friend, a woman I pass at church and my sister-in-law.
You’re a wonder.

Oh no! SB277 is causing autism (except it isn’t)

1 May

When I first started looking online for autism information I was constantly hit with people using public data from California to try to convince me that vaccines cause autism. David Kirby was particularly effective at raising fear. Too bad he didn’t stick around and apologize, as the data now show he was clearly wrong.

Kirby was claiming that the rate of identified autism in California was going up, correlating with more mercury in vaccines. California removed mercury, and autism did not go down. It’s a great lesson. It’s easy to scare people, sell books, get fame. It takes a lot of guts to admit one was spectacularly wrong. Kirby chose the easy road.

That said, we still see armchair epidemiologists trying to make California autism data fit their pet theories. (Yes, SFASA, I’m thinking of you while I write this. But you aren’t the actual topic of today’s post). So I wasn’t surprised to see that people on Facebook were abusing California autism data to scare people about vaccines. You see California passed SB277 a few years ago, eliminating the personal belief exemption for vaccines. In other words, fewer people could opt out of vaccines for their kids. Kids entering preschool (age 3), grade 1 (age 5) and grade 7 (age 11) had to comply with the new law. The kids had to get up to date on vaccines.

Because of this, people are focusing on 3 year olds to see if the data from the California Department of Education indicates a jump in autism People are claiming that the number of 3 year olds in autism category climbed faster than did 4 year olds. And this, of course, means that SB277 caused more kids to get vaccinated and vaccines cause autism. Because everything means vaccines cause autism. (click to enlarge)

(Before one goes too far into this, SB277 doesn’t apply to special education students. So, those 3 year olds didn’t need catch up shots. But, don’t let important facts get in the way of claiming vaccines cause autism.)

When someone makes a claim like that the first thing I think is, how noisy are the data? The second thing I ask myself is, what are they not showing me. In this case, why did they tell us about 3, 4 and 5 year olds and then skip 6 and 7 year olds and show 8 year olds? What happened with those 6 and 7 year olds that they didn’t want me to see? For that matter, what happens with kids older than 8?

So I pulled the data and looked. And I made a table. Because listing these numbers like they did makes it hard to actually compare results. I don’t think they intentionally made it hard for people to compare. I just think they were sloppy. I strongly suspect they were trying to hide something, but not in failing to make a simple table. That all said, here are the number of students in the autism category by age for California in 2015 (pre SB277) and 2017 (post SB277). (click to enlarge)

In the Facebook post we were presented this question:

Other age groups increased 13-15%. What has happened to these poor 3-year olds?

But, we can clearly see that other age groups increased by numbers well outside that 13-15% range. For example, 6 year olds (remember how they just skipped that age group) saw an 18% increase. Not the 24% increase seen for 3 year olds, but a sizable increase. Which might have led a reader to ask, “hey, are these data just noisy?” And, “why didn’t you show me that data point?” Or, “what are you trying to hide?” or “Are you purposely cherry picking to make your point?” Or, “I’ll give you the benefit of doubt and assume you just don’t know what you are doing. Which, given that you believe vaccines cause autism is a very safe bet.”

Let’s keep digging. What does happen with, oh, 16 year olds? OH MY GOD! SB277 caused a huge 22% increase in autism in 16 year olds! That’s almost as big as for 3 year olds! Vaccines are to blame!

Of course, 16 year olds weren’t affected by SB277. They didn’t have to catch up on shots. In other words, there’s scatter in the data. It’s not “Other age groups increased 13-15%” as claimed. It’s “other groups increased between 6-22%.”

Remember how SB277 required older students to get catch-up shots? Like 5 year olds and 11 year olds? 5 year olds were what the Facebook poster used as their baseline, 13% increase. That’s actually below the average increase (which was 16%). How about those 11 year olds? 9% increase. Well below average. So, SB277 caused more autism in 3 year olds, but less in 5 and 11 year olds? Those kids were protected by catch up shots?

No. Let’s say it again–people are trying to put significance on noise. And I think they know it, that’s why they are not showing you all the data. That’s the polite way to say, I think they are trying to mislead you. Maybe they actually believe their claim and, you know, just don’t want you to be confused with all that data that conflicts with their claim. Maybe they believe vaccines cause autism because they have no real skill analyzing data and studies.

There are more important questions here. Questions that actually matter to the autism community.

Go through these data a few times and you should start asking yourself: why does the autism count increase for older kids? 13 year olds in 2015, there were 5874 counted as autistic. 2 years later (as 17 year olds) there were 6084. If autism is obvious, you can’t miss an autistic no way no how, how exactly did 200 or so more of these kids get counted as autistic?

Simple answer–many of these 200 kids were missed before. They were missed. They didn’t get supports and services based on their disability. And this shouldn’t happen. Autism counts, like these, aren’t an accurate count of the real number of autistics in a population. But the fact that autism counts aren’t accurate doesn’t play into the epidemic playbook. This isn’t just a problem for the anti-vaccine community. Yes, they’ve never cared about actually helping autistics. But consider SFASA (San Francisco chapter of the Autism Society of America). That’s a group whose purpose it is to serve autistics. All autistics. No matter whether they have intellectual disability or not. No matter whether they are identified or not. But SFASA denies that autistics have been missed in the past.

Ah, I digress. Back to double checking the anti-vaccine activist claims. So, 3 year olds across the state saw a big jump in the autism count from 2015 to 2017, right? If this is real, then the jump would have to be seen in various locations across the state too, right? For example, in Los Angeles Unified School District (largest in the state), we’d see the same result, right? Simple test. Let’s do it.

LA Unified counted 737 3 year olds as autistic in 2015. They counted 783 as autistic in 2017. That’s a 6% increase. That’s a lot less than the 24% statewide. So if we take the theory that “SB277 caused a jump in autism across the state” then in LA Unified, SB277 is preventing autism!

The anti-vaccine movement has always taken just the data that supports their theory and ignored the rest. They have also always used fear. This is just another small chapter in that story.


By Matt Carey

What Autism Awareness Means

3 Apr

We are often told to be “aware” of autism. But what does that do, really? With awareness comes acceptance. And for my son acceptance means being able to live his life.

A few years ago, I took my son for a walk to our local shopping center. We have done this every weekend day since he was in a stroller. This time we passed Nicco’s hardware store, where they always keep a stock of the American flags my son likes to buy. When they see us pass, they often start a fresh batch of the free popcorn he loves.

At the donut store, Mary and Monica helped him learn to buy things and to wait his turn. We’ve been doing this for years, but they never lose enthusiasm. At the bagel store my son walked right up to the counter as where Sylvia handed him his favorite cinnamon raisin bagel with her traditional “this is for you!” To this day, the workers at the bagel store hand him a bagel with a smile as he walks in. He eats while we wait in line to pay.

At our local market, I got distracted, as parents are wont to do. And my son wandered off, as children are wont to do. I ran to the door panicked because I had to make sure he was safe from traffic. Once I was pretty sure he was still in the store, I ran from aisle to aisle, yelling his name. Still scared. And what I found was a neighbor smiling at me, pointing and saying, “he’s over there”.

She knew us. She was aware that he needed support. When she saw him alone, she kept an eye on him.

He was 7 years old then. He’s 14 now. He still needs a lot of support, and always will.

When my father was growing up, people like my son would be institutionalized. When I was growing up, people with disabilities were hidden. Now that my son is growing up, he lives in a time and a community in which people are aware that he needs support. They accept him and know he deserves respect.

Awareness means my son can be in a community. Acceptance means he can live his life.

With a Perspective, this is Matt Carey.

The above was given as part of the Perspectives program on KQED radio. The original, complete with audio, can be found on the KQED website at What Autism Awareness Means

This is what I presented last year on KQED Radio, and I posted here on LBRB shortly after that. I present it again as we reach another Autism Awareness Day and month.

Kim, the Age of Autism has gotten worse under your leadership

26 Mar

Kim Rossi runs the blog “the Age of Autism”. She’s a parent of three autistic kids. In the past, AoA was managed by someone without any real connection to the autism community: Dan Olmsted. Sadly, Mr. Olmsted passed away (I very much disagree with what Mr. Olmsted did but I never wished him personal ill). So now Kim is in charge.

Many years ago I emailed Kim to propose that we start promoting some stories in parallel. That we find some stories that are important to all in the autism community and start getting some sort of unity in publicizing and advocating on those topics. Ms. Rossi was polite, but it was clear that this wasn’t going to happen. People told me that the primary (by far) focus of Ms. Rossi and the AoA blog was their vaccine stance (they are against vaccines. Yeah, Kim, I know you try to dance around that, but it’s true.). Then they promote bad “medical” approaches to “treating” autism. Yes, Kim, I’m thinking of the example where you sprinkled a novel, synthetic compound mislabeled and sold as a “supplement” on your kids’ food. Then comes attacking actual experts and expertise in areas like medicine, science and the like. Actual advocacy for autistic people is far down on your list.

But I look back on that and I think, you had at least enough advocacy that I thought you were actually interested in it.

No way in Hades I’d make that mistake now. I recently checked in on your blog and I was surprised to see how much worse it’s gotten. I decided to wait until I saw something that actually amounted to advocacy. It was a long wait.

Today you have two articles. One on the suicide of a Sandy Hook parent. It amounts to “Our lives as autism parents are so hard we might commit suicide too.”

The next one is about an autistic adult who was removed from his family in the UK. Actual autism advocacy. You copied the first 5 paragraphs of a news story and gave a link to the story. Your title? First focus “Secret Court”. Well, you tried. A little.

Below is a list of your recent articles. I went back until there was something like autism advocacy.

The world could be a little better for autistic people had you focused your advocacy on actual autism advocacy. Instead you became an anti-vaccine activist. You’ve failed your community. Hard.

Titles of recent AoA articles.

Father of Child Killed at Sandy Hook Commits Suicide in Newtown CT

Secret Court Hearing Takes Son with Autism Away from UK Mother

Women Demand Action from FDA About Breast Implant Danger

What Really Happened In Connecticut? Yale Bailed & Vaccine Knowledge Censorship Continues

Who Are the Anti-Vaxxers?

How Can Brown Injure You? UPS and Merck Want to Bring Vaxes to Your Door

Letter to the Presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about Vaccination Choice

Common Sense in the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Governor’s Home: Chicken Pox Once and Done

Student Paper: Vaccinate by Choice, Not by Force

Free Speech YouTubers Noticing Crack Down on Vaccination Topic

The Aspirin a Day Science is Unsettled and on St. Joseph’s Day No Less!

Yale Bailed! Expert Panel Reneges on Vaccine Mandate Debate with Robert Kennedy Jr

An article giving away a book that was donated to your site: “Outsmarting Autism, Updated and Expanded Build Healthy Foundations for Communication, Socialization, and Behavior at All Ages” (almost actually advocacy).

If Teen Consents to Vaccination without Parental Approval Who is Liable in Case of Injury

Robert Kennedy Jr Hosts Press Conference in CT “Should Vaccines Be Mandated?”

Special Education Taking Over in England (nearly on topic. Except your focus is on using the story to support for your failed epidemic idea, rather than actually advocating for better special ed).

Laura Hayes on PRN Radio Monday 3/18

On Vaccines: Our Legislators Don’t Know Vaccines

“Protocol 007”: Merck Scientists Accuse Company of Mumps Vaccine Fraud that May Be Endangering Public Health Today

Lawsuit Claimed Merck Overstated Mumps Vaccine Effectiveness: US Military Preparedness Takes The Hit

You Say Paro-TIE-tis, I Say Paro-Tee-tis Let’s Call the Whole Thing Mumps

#UsToo Open Letter to Washington State Legislators About SB5841 Removal of Vaccine Exemptions

Tesla Uses Merck Whistleblower Punishment Playbook: “Destroy Them Where They Live”

GMOs, Vaccines, Choice, and Informed Consent

Vexed by the Vaxxed: How Measles Is Smarter Than Your Average Bear

Action Alert: CA Senator Schiff Attacking Internet Free Speech

The New Irish Famine: Help for Students with Autism and Their Schools


By Matt Carey

Hey Amazon, here’s another autism-treatment book to consider delisting

15 Mar

As the parent of an autistic child, let me start by saying “Thank You, Amazon, for removing books with harmful fake autism treatments from your offerings.” Seriously. One great example is Kerri Rivera’s book on using bleach to “treat” autism.

For readers who don’t know about this, here’s an article on Disability Scoop: Amazon Yanks Books Touting Autism ‘Cures’.

That said, there are many more books that you should consider removing. One that comes to mind is The Autism Book: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention (Sears Parenting Library).

As of right now, still for sale on Amazon.com.

This is by Dr. Bob Sears. As part of the Sears family, he may seem to have some credibility. Or you just missed it.

Dr. Bob promotes chelation, among other dubious ‘treatments’. Here is but one paragraph from his book:

Here’s a page by the Mayo Clinic on autism and chelation. It starts with this line:

Chelation therapy is not an effective autism treatment, and it may be dangerous.

Among the other questionable therapies you can find in his book are antiviral treatments, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and IV immune globulins.

If you are serious about removing books that promote potentially dangerous therapies, consider removing this one.


By Matt Carey

Anti vaccine activists are angry about a new study…and they didn’t even bother to read it

14 Mar

This is a big piece of what the “vaccines-cause-autism” idea is built on. Really bad analyses. Another study shows up showing that vaccines don’t cause autism. People immediately jump to give talking points to their community: “ignore this study! In fact, it’s just another conspiracy to defraud you!!!!!”*

But they know from history, their community doesn’t check. They don’t test whether the talking points hold up. Either that, or they really are this bad at simple math.

One reason I slowed down a lot on writing debunks of the “vaccines cause autism” community is that it’s very repetitive. It only takes a few minutes to see where they make their mistakes. I admit, I have the training and the time to do that checking, but it leaves me wondering. As in, it’s hard to not ask: “are they really this bad at science? Are they so biased they don’t know they are wrong? Or, are they lying?” I don’t know. What matters most is they are wrong. I am grateful that I had the time to spend checking their claims and was able to not get sucked into that world.

That intro aside, there was a recent study that, once again, shows that the MMR vaccine doesn’t increase autism risk. 21 years since Wakefield’s junk study and we are still spending time and money countering his misinformation. When you look at what the autism community needs, it’s just sad to see resources used this way. But I get it. The anti-vaccine community is doing real harm (note the rise in measles in the US and elsewhere). But, dang, I’d like more work done to help my kid.

So, what’s this new study? Measles, Mumps, Rubella Vaccination and Autism: A Nationwide Cohort Study. With the conclusion:

The study strongly supports that MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children, and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination. It adds to previous studies through significant additional statistical power and by addressing hypotheses of susceptible subgroups and clustering of cases.

Thanks for doing this, but, again, the results are not surprising in the least.

Naturally this brought about a big response from the anti-vaccine community. The go-to place for defense of “vaccines cause autism” used to be the Age of Autism blog. I went there and found they just recycled a piece from a guy named James Lyons Wieler. Apparently he was once a scientist, but he now seems to be a guy asking autism parents for money to write bad articles about how vaccines cause autism. In this case has found the “Smoking Gun” for why the MMR study is so wrong.

(1) The smoking gun is the study-wide autism rate of 0.9-1%. The rate of ASD in Denmark is 1.65%. Where are the missing cases of ASD? Given past allegations of this group’s malfeasance and fraud, the rest of the study cannot be accepted based on this disparity alone: the study group is not representative of the population being studied.

Clearly they must be fudging the data!!!!!

This appears to have become the talking point that the anti-vaccine community is passing around. It was picked up by Brian Hooker. He wrote “A Scientist’s Rebuttal to the Danish Cohort Study“:

1. Children were notably missing from the study sample:

First and foremost is the underascertainment of autism cases within their data sample. The study authors used Denmark population registries of children born in Denmark of Danish-born mothers which should reflect the current reported autism incidence in Denmark at 1.65% (Schendel et al. 2018, JAMA). However, the autism incidence within the sample of the Hviid et al. paper is 0.98%, meaning that approximately 4,400 autistic children are missing from this study. The authors do not discuss the discrepancy in the number of cases.

Again, his number 1 point, the missing children!

Even JB Handley (remember him? Yes, he’s back) wrote about this. Focusing his whole piece on this “missing” group in the MMR study: New Danish MMR study shows autism rate of 1 in 100—CDC should rush to Denmark!

2. The most compelling data in the study will never get covered: why is the autism rate in this study only 1 in 100?

Here in the U.S. we’re at 1 in 36! Shouldn’t CDC researchers rush to Denmark to figure out why their autism rate is so much lower than ours? For every 1,000 Danish kids, only 10 have autism. But here in the U.S., we have 28 per 1,000, that’s 177% more autism! I thought Paul Offit wanted everyone to believe the autism rate was the same everywhere? What gives?

Hold on to your seat, Handley. It’s about to get discussed.

I had thought I’d take the easy route and just email the study author for an explanation. That could have answered the big question for Handley, Weiler, and Hooker. But that would take a day or two to get a response from Denmark. Why not just, you know, read the paper? Or, just the introduction?

Under the “Abstract” section of the MMR paper, which has the “missing” autistic kids and a lower prevalence rate:

Participants: 657 461 children born in Denmark from 1999 through 31 December 2010, with follow-up from 1 year of age and through 31 August 2013.

Under the methods section for the earlier Denmark paper, which has the higher prevalence rate:

All live births in Denmark between 1980 and 2012 were identified in the Central Person Register and followed through 2016 for an ASD diagnosis

It’s not that hard to compare the two studies.

One study looked at Danes born from 1999 to 2010. And took data from 2013. This is the MMR study.

The other study looked at Danes born from 1980 and 2012. And took data in 2016.

Apples, meet Oranges.

Seriously, people are surprised that they came to different answers as to the overall prevalence? I mean, this is your “smoking gun”? This is the best the “vaccines cause autism” community can do? If nothing else, one study took data later than the other. You are the “it’s an epidemic!” team, surely you accept that the autism rate is higher in the later dataset.

But, hey, this didn’t take the full 5 minutes I allocated to check the claims of this “smoking gun” against this new study. I still had 4.5 minutes.

So, let’s see if the data really are compatible. Can we take the data from the prevalence study and get the same number as in the MMR study? Yes, I’m a geek and this is what I do. But we just saw that 2 Ph.D.’s (Hooker and Wieler) and a business guy (Handley) didn’t think to do that. Is it really that hard? (I do wonder how Handley made money. Seems like he must have relied on someone else to do the numbers.)

I just wrote about the autism prevalence study: Yes, there are a lot more adult autistics than commonly thought. The real question is what we do with this information. I have the graph from the prevalence study, so I ran the numbers quickly. If we limit ourselves to the autistics in the MMR study (born 1999 to 2010) and take data in 2013, we get a prevalence value of 1.02%.

1.02% using the prevalence study. Compared to 1% in the MMR study.

They are the same. No “malfeasance”. No “fraud”. No “discrepancy”. And, Mr. Handley, no evidence you can use to blame the HepB vaccine for autism.

Now for the dull part. Here’s my math.

Step 1: I digitized the graph. The red points are where I took prevalence data from the graphs. Each line represents 2 birth years, so I took points where for the age of the average kid in each cohort in 2013.

Here’s the summary table from those data points.

I did this fast. Let me know if I made a mistake. That’s why I’m showing my work. It’s not precise because, well, it’s done by hand. Also, there’s the fact that the MMR paper was for kids born from 1999 to 2010. The prevalence study has kids grouped by 2 years. So I have data for 1998-99 where I only really want 1999. It’s good enough. The “age in 2013” is what the digitizer gave me for the datapoint positions I chose. I can’t get exactly, say, 10.5. But, again, it’s good enough.

Anyway, there’s no “smoking gun” as James Lyons Weiler says. There aren’t children “notably missing” as Brian Hooker claims. And the “most compelling data” according to JB Handley is just that he can’t read a scientific paper.

This is a big piece of what the “vaccines-cause-autism” idea is built on. Really bad analyses. Another study shows up showing that vaccines don’t cause autism. People immediately jump to give talking points to their community: “ignore this study! In fact, it’s just another conspiracy to defraud you!!!!!”*

But they know from history, their community doesn’t check. They don’t test whether the talking points hold up. Either that, or they (people like Handley, Hooker and the rest) really are this bad at simple math.


By Matt Carey.

*Yeah, you guys are pushing a conspiracy theory. I know you like to say “oh, he called us conspiracy theorists, therefore we don’t have to listen to him.” Surprise me. Grow a backbone and defend the points in this commentary rather than either (a) ignoring it or (b) dismissing it because I pointed out that you are claiming scientists conspired to fool the world.