Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Autism Midyear Review

Boy oh boy has 2010 produced a rash of autism stories in the press and in showbiz. From the very beginnings of this blog we've been openly fascinated by the topic, if not wholly persuaded there's any serious role for HBOT in the treatment of children with this all-too-prevalent condition. Our evaluation of the medical evidence stands firmly on scant. Yet we follow the autism news faithfully and here share our bookmarks to mark the midyear.


As the autism spectrum widens to include more disorders, such as Asperger syndrome, the CDC now reports the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is approaching 1% of US children aged 8 years, and says: "Although some of these increases can be accounted for by improved identification and awareness, the steady increase in ASD symptoms in the population possibly reflects increased risk, particularly among males."

Searches for risks in environmental toxins or any specific chemicals or pollutants behind local autism clusters turned up little or nothing. (Wow, did Nicholas Kristof ever miss the mark.) But here comes the blockbuster headline from the front lines of the vaccine war.


British medical journal The Lancet took the almost unprecedented action of retracting a 1998 paper that suggested vaccines cause autism. At the risk of offending our welcome guests from the autism community, we always found the evidence against vaccines flimsy and Dr Andrew Wakefield's ill-gotten results a menace to the public health.

In the wake of The Lancet news Adam Winkler, writing for The Daily Beast, marvels at "how much ordinary people distrust the major medical associations and health organizations," and so do we. Lian Kupferberg Carter, writing in The Huffington Post, calls for civility, and so do we. Dr Glenn Goodhart of Atlanta Hyperbaric quite astutely observes, "Few minds will be changed by The Lancet retraction," and we reluctantly concur.

A study into the genetic roots of autism, published in Nature and surprisingly well covered by USAToday, produced more questions than answers—just the latest smudge on the shiny hopes for the Human Genome Project.


In another harsh setback for the antivaccine movement, three judges ruled against a class action by 5,000 families of children with autism seeking compensation from the federal vaccine fund.

The father of a 7-year-old Chicago boy, engaged in a bitter divorce and custody battle, sued two Defeat Autism Now! doctors over "medically unnecessary and unjustified" chelation therapy. Litigation is pending.


After watching CNN's Sanjay Gupta interview author Karl Taro Greenfield one Sunday morning, we spent the entire afternoon in an armchair at the local bookstore devouring Boy Alone, a most original and powerful memoir about autism and family and language and memory and buy it.

The New York Times added six must-see autism stories to its excellent Patient Voices series.

There's plenty of Emmy buzz surrounding Claire Danes's portrayal of autism hero/advocate and animal behavior genius Temple Grandin on HBO. We first noticed Grandin some 15 years ago in the book An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks. She last drew our attention in February with her amazing TED lecture. The world needs all kinds of minds, indeed.

On Showtime the documentary film "Dad's in Heaven with Nixon" earned rave reviews, too.

Quick, take one more look at that CBC story that stirred up such a hornet's nest in Canada.

Maybe the highlight of the television season was The Vaccine War on PBS's Frontline, whose website also offers a rich page of links to answer the question, What's behind the rise in autism? Absolutely stellar and refreshingly frank reporting on a tough subject.

Finally, in related news, Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey are splitsville.

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