Banner
    Parent of Autistic Child Battles Pseudoscience
    By Enrico Uva | March 18th 2011 10:28 PM | 5 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Enrico

    I majored in chemistry, worked briefly in the food industry and at Fisheries and Oceans. I then obtained a degree in education. Since then I have...

    View Enrico's Profile
    My mother-in-law recommended a certain pediatrician when we moved back to Canada from the U.S. Things seemed to go smoothly with our healthy daughter, but I grew suspicious of his abilities when a discussion exposed his poor understanding of the genetics of blood types. A couple of years later, when we told him that we suspected our two year old son was autistic, he brushed it off claiming, “Yeah, sure. Everybody’s autistic nowadays.” When we insisted on a referral, he recommended a psychiatrist whose specialty was dealing with eating disorders.

    Every question the psychiatrist asked us seemed to be straight out of an old edition of the Merck Manual. I had a copy of the latter and its outdated article on autism. After two short observations, he labeled our son with P.D.D, pervasive developmental disorder. As a precaution he did refer us to someone with more experience, even though he claimed that no sound diagnosis could be made before the age of five. The next psychiatrist analyzed our answers to a long questionnaire, watched our son make a mess of her office and correctly concluded that he had a serious case of autism.

     I don’t want to focus on the negative aspects of parenting an autistic child. Even though he only started to call us Mom and Dad at the age of 7, he has learned to do things the rest of the family enjoys like bicycling and hiking. Last summer over a period of two weeks he hiked 88 km of mountain trails in Gros Morne and Gaspe. My wife joined a local foundation and helped raise over a million dollars that has gone towards the purchase of a respite center. Meanwhile I’ve learned to plaster, unclog major toilet problems and repair broken furniture to keep our home intact.

    But after 12 years of living with autism, my main advice to parents is to avoid the pseudo science. If you have not done so already, look at the data(http://www.autism.com/pdf/providers/ParentRatings2009.pdf) from over 27 000 parents, compiled by the Autism Research Institute, and you’ll see that so much of what has been tried on these poor kids does not work. Given that these are not even controlled studies, the effectiveness of the various drugs and diets is probably even worse than what’s reported. Some acquaintances have recommended outlandish hyperbaric oxygen treatment and stem cell transplants. A dentist we know even blamed autism on the mercury amalgam in my wife’s fillings. In her rationalization, she claimed that mercury and oxygen had the same valence number. I didn’t realize until then that it was possible to get a dentistry license while being clueless about basic chemistry.

    In November 2002, when my son was four, the New England Journal of Medicine reported, Of the 537,303 children in the cohort (representing 2,129,864 person-years), 440,655 (82.0 percent) had received the MMR vaccine. We identified 316 children with a diagnosis of autistic disorder and 422 with a diagnosis of other autistic-spectrum disorders. After adjustment for potential confounders, the relative risk of autistic disorder in the group of vaccinated children, as compared with the unvaccinated group, was 0.92 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.68 to 1.24), and the relative risk of another autistic-spectrum disorder was 0.83 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.65 to 1.07). There was no association between the age at the time of vaccination, the time since vaccination, or the date of vaccination and the development of autistic disorder…. This study provides strong evidence against the hypothesis that MMR vaccination causes autism. With such research I tried to deflate the arguments of dozens of mercury-conspiracy theorists, but it fell on deaf ears. Some even tried expensive and dangerous chelation therapy. Aside from the charlatans that exploit parents, there’s also an army of special educators in schools and government centers, many of whom have the best intentions but are not scientifically trained due to the low standards of university education departments. If you can, avoid them too.

    Comments

    Have you even tried to help your child? Diet? Detoxification? My daughter, until the age of 12, had autism! She shows no signs or symptoms of austim. From a case of autism, diagnosed at the age of 4, then through a couse of biomedical interventions she has recovered!!! Diet, hyperbarics, b12, chelation, etc. are the true keys! 'Science' isn't always right. Look at the results and the healing taking place. Our dauther IS recovered! Just take a look at the link you provided above http://www.autism.com/pdf/providers/ParentRatings2009.pdf it clearly shows that chelation, b12, hyperbaric, diet, etc makes a difference. Please get the help your child needs. He too can recover!

    logicman
    ... it clearly shows that chelation, b12, hyperbaric, diet, etc makes a difference.

    No it doesn't.

    In case I missed something and need a sight test, where in that pdf does it mention chelation therapy?
    UvaE
    Unless new chelating agents have surfaced recently, they are ineffective at binding alkyl mercury compounds(which includes the common methyl mercury). Chelation works with inorganic mercury(meaning that's its not bonded to a carbon-hydrogen compound). The preservatice thiomersal is metabolized to ethyl mercury, which is an alkyl mercury. Reference: Casarett's and Doull's Toxicology: The Basic Science of Poisons. In general that's the way chelating works : a metal ion forms bonds with the chelating agent. Examples from nature and the home: iron ion with heme groups in hemoglobin; magnesium ion in chlorophyll or calcium ion binding to ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid(EDTA) in Tylex, the common shower glass cleaner. Among Inuits, mercury poisioning is prevalent among unaware pregnant mothers who consume large quantities of contaminated fish. Their children then suffer psychomotor retardation; these children not only learn to talk later(12 or more month delay) but walk later. But most autistic children experience no delays in learning how to walk. Babies truly exposed to methyl mercury prior to birth do appear normal initially. The problems surface later, and this is probably at the root of the autism-mercury myth.
    UvaE
    Have you even tried to help your child?
    What do you think? 1. Occupational Therapy, 2. Applied Behaviour Analysis. 3. Risperdal--what was then the only approved drug for very aggressive behaviour in autistic children, but its effects wore off after about four years. (subsequently switched to Zeldox). 4. Melatonin to increase the duration of what were 5-hour nights of sleep for him---never worked, but I was tempted to try it. Zeldox has helped him get more sleep, for now.
    logicman
    Enrico: not only is anonymous rude, but whoeveritis is unable to read a simple data table.

    The only mention of chelation is in a footnote to a list of antifungals:

    "Antifungal drugs and chelation are used selectively, where evidence indicates they are needed." 

    [my emphasis]
    There is no mention of chelation therapy whatsoever.  That makes the comment by anonymous one of the two most extreme cases of confirmation bias I have ever come across.

    The other one was regarding the meaning of "for certain cases" where the reader had latched onto "for certain" as PROOFTM of 100% certainty! :)