Dec 10, 2013
What Really Causes Autism? Thousands of Parents Still Blame Vaccines
Posted on Jul 22, 2009
By Scott Thill, AlterNet
But parents of autistic children have heard all kinds of theories before, some of them that sound like they came right out of Leary’s book, and none of which have seemed to help stem the increase in autism. During the ’50s and even to our current era, the "Refrigerator Mother" theory has posited that cold, distant and otherwise abusive parenting is partially to blame for children diagnosed with autism or schizophrenia. This psychogenic thesis was indirectly put forward by Child Psychiatry author Dr. Leo Kanner, who founded the first child psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University Hospital and, together with Hans Asperger, pioneered the modern study of autism. Children exposed from "the beginning to parental coldness, obsessiveness, and a mechanical type of attention to material needs only … were left neatly in refrigerators which did not defrost. Their withdrawal seems to be an act of turning away from such a situation to seek comfort in solitude."
And while the theory has been largely discredited in America, other countries still find some merit to it. As the Guardian reported in 2007, South Korea and Seoul National University’s influential child psychiatrist Michael Hong has openly disputed the consensually accepted rise of autism, putting the numbers closer to 1 in every 10,000 children. ... Hong claims that much of what is now diagnosed as autism can be attributed to reactive attachment disorder, in which children between six months and three years—autism’s sweet spot, if you will—fail to form normal attachments to their parents because of neglect, abuse, separation or just a general lack of responsiveness or attention to their attempts to communicate.
Once you factor in the dramatic rise in the toxicity of our environment or the often unnecessary desire to narcotize our socialization with prescription drugs that come with their own basket of nightmare side effects, including death itself, reasons to unconditionally trust the scientific, medial and pharmaceutical industries have a tendency to disappear outright. In June 2008, the Archives of General Psychiatry published a government-funded Yale University study that concluded citalopram, an antidepressant widely used to treat depression and mood disorders, was no better than a placebo for autistic children’s repetitive behaviors, such as flapping or rocking in an agitated manner. Of course, the list of ways citalopram can fuck you up is much longer than the list of ways it can help. But that didn’t stop doctors from prescribing it to autistic kids, or slow down its profitability. In the last decade, Forest Laboratories, which marketed citalopram as Celexa in the United States, saw its stock surge from around $10 a share to around $50-$80 a share, until the econopocalypse, and perhaps the Yale study, brought it back to Earth.
"According to my friends who’ve attended medical school, much of their time is spent learning the pharmacokinetics of prescription drugs," Jane Johnson, director of the Autism Research Institute’s Defeat Autism Now! project and co-author, with Dr. Bryan Jepson, of Changing the Course of Autism, explained to AlterNet via email. "This is unique to the United States; in other countries, it’s still understood that nutrition plays a vital role in health. But parents can be part of this problem: It’s much easier to simply give a pill and call it a day. I have to admit I’d prefer that myself."
In short, if scientists, doctors and pill-pushers want to get anywhere with not just anti-vaccine crusaders but autism itself, they are going to have to, whether they like it or not, acknowledge that they are not exactly flawless gatekeepers when it comes to public interest. In fact, that they could be wrong about a great many of things. Especially when it comes to a disorder like autism, which is simply, perhaps purposefully, awash in indefinition. And if the rise of autism can indeed be traced back to diagnosis alone, as some doctors argued to me off the record during research for this article, that would be on the medical community as well. They simply cannot escape being part of the problem, as well as part of the solution.
"Their role could be best described as self-protective and fear-based, in that sound science has not been pursued for fear of what may be discovered," claimed SafeMinds president Theresa Wrangham, in an email to AlterNet. "The restoration of trust in vaccines will follow when independent, unbiased studies are conducted, the true risk and benefit of vaccines in use today are known, and at-risk populations are identified." "Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability, with a 10 to 17 percent annual growth rate, but diagnosis and increased awareness alone do not seem to account for that dramatic increase," Lee Grossman, chief executive officer of The Autism Society of America, asserted via email to AlterNet. "It is an incredibly complex condition. The saying goes that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism."
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