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LBRB on Facebook

22 Aug

I finally got around to creating a ‘Fan’ page on Facebook for LBRB as an alternative to the Networked Blog. I do understand theres an unofficial page floating around but please consider this the official LBRB page.

Also please take the time to click the ‘like’ box (below on the right) to add to the number of fans LBRB has (currently…erm…1…me)

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism

7 Jun

There’s a new blog/book project in town and its right here (or @thinkingautism on Twitter or here on Facebook).

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism (TPGA) is the book and website we wish had been available when our children with autism were first diagnosed.

Think of us as a little bit of Snopes for the autism community — trusted, accurate, and friendly. Our essays will cover informed approaches to autism and autism treatments, as well as the personal experiences of people with autism and their families.

There’s a great team of people behind this project and I for one am greatly looking forward to the content they put out.

Bernadine Healy gets it wrong

17 Apr

Following Bernadine Healy’s April 14th post in USNews, Orac dealt her a dollop of respectful insolence which is a very good read, as are the comments.

However, I wanted to do a kind of accounting on Healy’s post, to see just how firm a grasp on the whole situation she has. So, lets start.

McCarthy and Carrey and two colleagues from the autism advocacy group she founded, Generation Rescue…

Oops. Sentence two, first error. McCarthy did not found Generation Rescue, JB and Lisa Handley did.

…and parents are raising legitimate concerns, yet unanswered…

I have been on the front line of this debate for the last six years. Once upon a time the question ‘do vaccines cause autism’ _was_ a legitimate one to ask. But that question has been asked and answered. Since about 2003/4 there have been _no_ legitimate concerns raised by parents or anyone else. The MMR question has turned out to be both a con and the result of bad science. The thiomersal question is just a defunct hypothesis, given that thiomersal was largely removed from vaccines by 2002 and yet autism rates continue to climb. Despite desperate attempts to rebrand the autism/vaccine question (aka when you know you’re right and yet turn out to be wrong, know you’re right with something else) into questions about greening vaccines when simple searching reveals that newborns contain most vaccine ingredients either naturally or via breast feeding. Or the hellacious vaccine schedule despite the fact that the UK for example has a higher rate of autism (1 in 100 vs 1 in 150) but a lower amount of vaccinations.

This controversy might be resolved if we can focus on a few big questions, with an open mind…

Mistake number three. There is no controversy. In the field of _science_ asking the _scientific question_ ‘do vaccines cause autism’, there is no controversy at all. What there is is a very good and well executed media campaign to manufacture one. However, the facts remain the facts – no vaccine, no vaccine ingredient and no vaccine schedule either solely or together cause autism. There is simply no sound science to support that set of ideas. If there is a controversy it is how the media continue to let people stoke the fire of this idea.

Influenza vaccine, mandated here starting at age 6 months…

Mistake number four. As far as I can tell, the flu vaccine is not mandatory in the US. Certainly this article covering the 2008/09 flu season states:

It will not be mandatory for every child to have the flu shot…


…a study from Canada last year found that delaying the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccination just a few months decreased by 50 percent the risk that a child develops asthma…

Mistake number five. This has absolutely no bearing an autism. The article is entitled ‘The Vaccines-Autism War: Détente Needed’. Not ‘vaccines, asthma, maybe other stuff as and when I think of it-autism war’. As such this strawman argument has nothing to do with autism.

(Side note: Healy says we should read two doctors thoughts on the pros and cons of a flexible vaccine schedule. It maybe will come as no surprise that the doctor who thinks the US needs a flexible vaccine schedule is ‘Vice chair, Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine’ of the AAP).

The goal is to get all kids appropriately vaccinated…

Mistake number six. The organisation Healy references at least twice, Generation Rescue, have this on the front page of their Facebook Group

“I found that the whole vaccine business was indeed a gigantic hoax…” –Dr Kalokerinos MD June 1995

“There are significant risks associated with every immunization and numerous contraindications that may make it dangerous for the shots to be given to your child…” — –Dr. Robert Mendelsohn MD, pediatrician

Onward again.

…Hannah Poling, for example, who has an underlying mitochondrial disorder and developed a sudden and dramatic case of regressive autism after receiving nine immunizations, later determined to be the precipitating factor…

Mistake number seven. Nowhere, repeat, nowhere has it been published that Hannah Poling’s vaccines were the ‘precipitating factor’ in her autism. If anyone thinks that it has been published I would like a link to that document. I’ve been asking for this for over a year now and no one has ever managed to show me where this is stated.

What _has_ been said is that following her vaccines hannah showed ‘features of autism’. As I have said numerous times, ‘features’ of autism is not interchangeable with autism. If it was, then the medical report co written by four doctors including Hannah Polings father Jon Poling would have simply said ‘autism’. In fact, this medical case study listed a number of symptoms (over 20) of which only three were found on the DSM (IV) (the official diagnosis for autism). She may well have been autistic and she was determined to have been vaccine damaged but that does not automatically mean one caused the other and in fact by the lack of any of the many other symptoms needed to reach a diagnosis of autism, we can see that they were not.

Amd again, onward:

Other children may have a genetic predisposition to autism, a pre-existing neurological condition worsened by vaccines, or an immune system that is sent into overdrive by too many vaccines, and thus they might deserve special care. This approach challenges the notion that every child must be vaccinated for every pathogen on the government’s schedule with almost no exception…

Not exactly any mistake here but this is very misleading. Its well know _already_ that some kids _do_ have conditions that are not amenable to vaccines. Less than 30 seconds of searching the CDC website led me to the appropriate information. I think it is incredibly disingenuous and very ignorant of Healy to comment in the manner she has.

Onward we trudge through the morass.

Paul Offit, an infectious-disease expert from the University of Pennsylvania who has been a frequent spokesman and adviser on vaccine policy (and by his admission has become wealthy by developing the now mandated rotavirus vaccine)

Mistake number eight. The Rotavirus vaccine has never been mandated anywhere that I can see.

So this is Dr Bernadine Healy, a scientist with 125 records in PubMed. Impressive until you realise that, just like this, they are 125 blog entries from US News. That means we can say that on average Healy has got 1,000 mistakes into PubMed.

Good going Bernadine.

Facebook is the new vaccines

11 Mar

I thought I’d maybe travelled a couple of weeks forward in time and was reading a particularly stupid April Fools joke news report when I saw the Daily Mail were reporting:

Of course, we do not know whether the current increase in autism is due more to increased awareness and diagnosis of autism, or whether it can – if there is a true increase – be in any way linked to an increased prevalence among people of spending time in screen relationships. Surely it is a point worth considering,’ she added.

‘She’ in this instance is Professor Susan Greenfield of Oxford University, which just goes to show that even a massively intelligent person can also be a monumental idiot on occasion too. Some other gems of wisdom include:

‘My fear is that these technologies are infantilising the brain into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights, who have a small attention span and who live for the moment.’

Buzzing noises and bright lights. I think these opinions reflect the lack of experience Professor Greenfield has with computers rather than any accurate reflection of how a PC or Mac actually works.

Note something about this totally ridiculous piece of journalism. They use buzzwords like Twitter and Facebook that the average uninformed Daily Mail reader might’ve seen but have no real idea about. They also clearly are talking about the opinions of one woman. At no point is any study or science referenced to support this Professors opinions.

In the eighties the Daily Mail was one of those newspapers convinced that ‘video nasties’ (straight to video low budget horror movies) would bring about the end of civilisation. In the nineties they were of course standard bearers for antivaccination beliefs. In the noughties they’ve published a few pieces on the evils of the nasty Intraweb.

But of course what really annoys me about this is the fastening on to autism. Its explained how naturally autistic people function online is a possible example of how the online environment (Facebook, Bebo, Twitter etc) are (oh dear god!) rewiring the brains of our children and making them autistic.

Never mind the fact that most new cases of autism are diagnosed in kids under three whos only interaction with a PC up to that point would be to try and push a rusk into the DVD tray. Never mind the fact that adult autistics are pretty wary of social networks at first. Lets just find another way to demonise autism and blame it on something else for which there is no supporting science whatsoever.