Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Bad Science

I've rearranged the furniture some, adding some links under a heading I've chosen to label "Science." The truth is that the links are to blogs that post, at least sometimes, about autism. You can find a bunch of other links over at my friend Kimmah's place, if you don't like my links.

Most of those who read this blog know that my wife Ilse's son Bam-Bam is autistic. I've done some reading about autism, but not much, and I haven't troubled myself with any intimate familiarity with controversies related to autism, although I've been aware of them.

Here's my view: I accept Bam-Bam for himself. He is a happy kid who lights up when he sees me, who wants me to play with him and hug him and wrestle with him and bathe him and put him to bed and give him pizza or chips or cheeseburger and wake him up in the morning (when he doesn't do that on his own at 4 AM) and put him on the bus. This kid loves me and I love him. He is a sweet and stunningly smart kid who happens to be different, and who happens to have some trouble communicating. And by different, I don't mean "sick" or "disordered" or "damaged." I mean different. Bam-Bam views things through his own lens, and who the hell doesn't? His lens just isn't shaped the same way as mine.

Whose is?

There are people like us. There are people whose children are far more severely challenged than Bam-Bam. Some of them are like us; they accept that their children are what they are. They help as best they can, as we do. Some of them are horribly burdened by their childrens' needs. We're lucky; Bam-Bam needs a little help in the shower and in the bathroom, and we and the kid need to work a little when he's trying to communicate with us. He needs to be watched or gated in, but he respects baby gates and stays where he's supposed to; in fact, sometimes he thinks he's gating us out, and that's the way he sometimes likes it.

There isn't a cure for Bam-Bam. We can treat symptoms and change behaviors. That's what we do. That's what science--and experience (we'll come back to this)--tell us to do. We can work with him to help him develop independent skills. We can work with him to find his place in this wrong society that is not well-suited to allowing him a place. That's what responsibility and decency tell us to do. He is what he is, and some of that can change as he grows and ages, and some of it can't. What we can give him is a context and some tools to adapt as well as he can. We don't mope about this. It is what it is.

There are other people. Some of them have children who are less severely challenged than Bam-Bam, or far, far more so. These people cannot accept. They believe their children are damaged, disordered, sick. They believe there is an identifiable cause. They believe there is a cure, a magic bullet that will suddenly erase their children's symptoms and undesirable behaviors and leave them with theoretically normal children. Most of them believe that there is an identifiable cause, and namely their childrens' childhood immunizations. They advocate not immunizing children. They believe that there is a giant conspiracy between Big Pharma and the government to cover up a causal connection. They seek compensation from pharmaceutical companies and the government. They chelate (chemically cleanse) their children to remove mercury, the agent that they believe responsible for their childrens' conditions. Unfortunately, a common side effect of chelation is fatality. I am neither joking nor exaggerating.

Of course, it's very difficult to prove a negative, but all efforts--numerous efforts--to scientifically link autism-spectrum diagnoses to childhood immunization have failed. Utterly. There is no demonstrable connection between vaccines and autism. None. The links under the "Science" heading can lead you to a host of technical data on this, if you're interested, but the bottom line is this: there is precisely as much evidence that stuffed animals cause autism as there is that vaccines cause autism. The theory that there is a causal connection between vaccines and autism is as valid as the theory that copulating with a virgin cures syphilis. I am neither joking nor exaggerating.

Such organizations as Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now, along with a host of others, to whom I will never link, are proponents of this vaccine nonsense. Beware of them. Please, please, please do not give them your money.

The short of the furniture rearrangement is this: I tripped over some anti-vaccine propaganda on, of all places, the Huffington Post, and did some more reading, and discovered that HuffPo is a notorious hotbed for these insane persons, apparently because Ariana Huffington is pals with Bill Maher, who is an anti-vaccination nutbar. I'm done with HuffPo (I was done with Maher a long time ago). That got me reading. That got me linking.

Sorry to inflict a completely humorless post upon you, my gentle and loyal and loving readers, but I had a little story to tell here. End of story.


Sasha said...

Bill Maher also believes that eating meat causes cancer and all manner of social ills. He loves PETA and is on the board.

My link to the HuffPo disappeared some while back but thank you for the warning not to ever go there.

And BamBam is, indeed, a sweet and beautiful child.

Sasha said...

And seriously, I thought that thimerisol thing was killed long ago. But Wampum quoted these California fairly recently:


Landru said...

Scientifically, yes. Dead as a doornail. But balls are not secured, and hearts and minds will not follow.

Swami said...

Ban-Bam is very lucky to have you for a dad, Landru! Very lucky!

I know there is no magic cure for my son with autism, but I still want the Blue Fairy to come and wave her magic wand if she can.

I think my adult kid is pretty much harder than Bam-Bam. Less communicative abilities certainly. He also has all the size, speed and aggressiveness that made his dad an NCAA national champion athlete. When you have autism on top of those qualities this makes you a "scarey person" so far as everyone who is not his parent is concerned. It's not good to be a scarey person.

My kid is also one of the Changelings, who was very smart, very social and normally talkative before losing it all within a few days. Literally a couple of days. An emerging personality was all but wiped out.

I know there is no cure that will "normalize" him (whatever that actually means) but the brain is a complex & inter-related thing. Some event - or some thing - changed it/him. So I will always look for some thing to help him jump back into the "normal" pool of people. His life will be so much better.

I can double-track while I do this: accept him for who he is now and at the same time keep looking for ways to help him be better than he is. All parents do this, for all their children. I just have to look at a different variety of things to help him be who he wants to be.

I mentioned the Blue Fairy at the top of this comment. When he was 8 & 9 years old my son wore out the Blue Fairy scene on our tape of Pinochio - the one where she waves her magic wand and turns Pinochio into a Real Boy. In those days when he virtually never made eye-contact he looked right at me and said one of his few full sentences: "Max be Real Boy." He did this several times, and waited expectantly. His favorite toy (after snap-together beads and trains) was a magic wand.

He wants help.
He asked me for it.

So I will keep looking even if some of the things I look at don't make sense. It never made sense that he lost what he lost that week in February of 1987.

Sorry for the long, ramblng comment.