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Review of the Introduction of Age of Autism – the book.

23 Aug

So begins the Olmsted/Blaxill upcoming book ‘Age of Autism’.

…instead of taking Kanner’s word for it, [we decided] to learn about these previously anonymous families ourselves. We took clues from his extensive case descriptions and started uncovering the identities of the original families. Time and again, we connected the occupations of the parents to plausible toxic exposures and especially to a new mercury compound first used in the 1930s as a disinfectant for seeds, a treatment for lumber, and a preservative in vaccines. Yes, the parents’ professions were clues— but not to their obsessions or their marriages or their parenting or their genetic oddities; instead, they pointed to a strikingly consistent pattern of familial exposures to the same toxic substance.

(emphasis authors, inserts mine)

This is the paragraph that sets the authors hypothesis out. When we look at it carefully, we can see exactly what its purpose is – its purpose is to fit a set of preconceived ideas that revolve around one central disproven hypothesis – that mercury in vaccines (thiomersal/thimerosal) causes autism.

I haven’t yet read the rest of the book but I’m pretty sure what I’m going to find. To talk about that now would just be conjecture however, so lets stick to what we have here.

According to Olmsted and Blaxill, syphilis treatment, hysteria, mental illness and a variety of modern illnesses are all caused by mercury. I’m very much looking forward to reading this section too. Olmsted & Blaxill use Pink disease (a definite form of mercury poisoning which looks nothing like autism to ‘justify’ the inclusion of these illnesses in the Introduction.

Blaxill and Omsted detail how they went on to meet “Donald T.” one of Kanner’s original cases:

By any mea sure, he has fared astonishingly well. President of his college fraternity and later the Forest Kiwanis Club, a pillar of his Presbyterian church, he had a long career at the local bank, plays a competitive game of golf, and regularly travels the world. We learned how “Donald T.” went from being the first unmistakable case of autism to the first unmistakable case of recovery.

So on one hand we have the doom and gloom of Pink disease (a foreshadow of autism according to Blaxill & Olmsted) which killed hundreds and then actual autism which doesn’t seem that bad. I’ll be very interested to see how Blaxill & Olmsted narrate Donald T.’s ‘recovery’…or could it have been that Donald T. was in fact one of the first cases of autism who also either moved ‘off the spectrum’ (as a certain percentage of autistic people do) or…y’know…he simply progressed as he got older. My guess is that Blaxill & Olmsted will reveal that Donald T. had some kind of miraculous exposure to a chelating agent or multi vitamins or some form of extreme biomed. Lets see.

The whole Introduction is about 6,000 words long. I can’t possibly attempt to review the whole thing and I won’t attempt to review the whole book either. These are the sections of the Intro that caught my eye particularly. Maybe others who have access to the Intro will tackle more. One thing you can be sure of, LBRB will be here to catch and expose the errors.

The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide – A Susan Senator Interview

25 Mar

Blogger and autism mom Shannon Des Roches Rosa has an interview up with author and Autism-Hub blogger, Susan Senator.

Did you know that autism parents can choose an identity other than Avenging Warrior or Martyr? That it is reasonable to aim for happy lives for us and our children, despite our kids’ challenges? If this is news to you, then you need to read Susan Senator’s forthcoming The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide, A.S.A.P.

Des Roches Rosa shares a little bit with readers about her own autism mom experience reading Susan’s first book, Making Peace With Autism, and then explores the makings of the new book, The Autism Mom’s Survival Book.

On the question of how to decide which, of a variety topics, to include in her new book, Susan answers:

I looked through my own blog and at many other autism blogs to figure out what was on people’s minds. What were the basic parts of adult life and how were autism parents dealing with those parts? Did they feel successful?  If so, what could they pinpoint that had helped them? What became clear to me was that autism moms and dads did, in fact, find joy and satisfaction in their lives but that they had learned a new way to see their lives, to see success.

From the interview, it’s apparent that the book will touch on many topics in family life, and likely include perspective from dads. I’ll be interested to read more about “parents taking time for themselves”. It seems so important, yet so hard to really put into practice a lot of the time. Des Roches Rosa also points out her own interest in Susan’s honest discussion of residential placements, but there’s a lot more to be learned about Susan and her forthcoming book in the interview.

Please don’t take my short note as coverage of the topic, go read the interview and enjoy another round of apt blogging from Squidalicious.

Interview: Susan Senator and The Autism Mom’s Survival Guide

Lies, Damned Lies and Science

7 Apr

Prior to starting a family I was already a skeptic and a subscriber to Skeptical Inquirer. This means I looked twice at the “helpful” information I got from all sides. From whether or not my baby would be a boy or a girl, what might have caused his seizures (like that fact that I drank milk, which was offered as an explanation after the “helpful” person was told he was infant only on breastmilk), the assurances I got that he would talk “when he was ready” or that someone’s cousin four times removed or Einstein did not talk until age three, five, or thirty-five (by the way, the Einstein is a total myth, don’t believe it — and don’t accept your child being compared to Einstein, he really had several flaws! See Private Lives of Albert Einstein, I should mention that sitting in therapy waiting rooms does provide lots of reading opportunities), and most recently I was told to try cranial sacral therapy (like a light head massage is going to “fix” the pathways in the brain that make him different!).

There is a tendency for people to give unsolicited advice to young parents, and that seems to double when it involves a child with a disability. Not only does the amount of advice double, but the relative distance from reality increases exponentially. While a parent of a typically developing child would be told to buy a certain organic baby food or to try some kind of “teach your baby calculus” computer program, the parent of child on a different developmental path would be encouraged to try a myriad of supplements, various odd treatments and to try the “miracle cure” they heard from some famous guy on the news.

How does a parent of a newly diagnosed child wade through the “help”, and determine what is real and what is hype? Well there is help, and it is not a cure all, but a book that shows how to look and science and separate fact from hype: Lies, Damned Lies and Science by Sherry Seethaler, a science writer and education at the University of California in San Diego..

It is not a long book, and is separated into short chunks to help explain the basics of science, why disputes in science is not really a bad thing, how to interpret numbers, and who the stakeholders on an issue are, and why they are important. She includes many real world examples and even comparisons to situations in the Harry Potter book where he excels at potion making by using the notes in the margins of an old book.

In Chapter 7, “Fun Figures”, there is a subsection titled “Ask whether a statistical change reflects reality or the way the data were collected.” Readers of this blog should be very familiar with the example she uses. They will also be familiar with the tactics described in Chapter 9, “All the Tricks in the Trade”, especially the section on pseudo experts.

This is a quick, actually quite a fun book to read. It can be a bit repetitive, but that is in part makes it easier to understand the concepts. I knew much of the information (like statistics), but I still learned a great deal. Check it out of your local library, and even purchase a copy for those friends and relatives who keep giving you all sorts of “advice.”