Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Autism: The Great Denial


AUTISM: THE GREAT DENIAL
- Jagannath Chatterjee

The astounding 2000% increase in autism since Leo Kanner reported it in 1943, has left the establishment baffled and in a quandary because it has not yet been able to put a finger on the cause and the global nature of the problem. This is in direct contrast to cases of, say gastrointestinal distress, that can be traced within 24 hours to the particular batch of food imported from a particular country. So what is happening here? Is the establishment inefficient or is it hiding something?  

Let us see how it is reacting to the epidemic. At first it was ignored but then parental concerns and the resultant furore forced them to admit that there was indeed an increase in number of cases. Then there was suppression and antagonism when doctors like Andrew Wakefield traced a particular type of autism to the MMR vaccine. Soon it was declared that Wakefield was a "disgraced doctor" and that his case study was "fraudulent". He was de-licenced and he had to relocate to the USA. The labels on him soon threatened to fall over as his popularity actually soared among the victims and affected families and the "fraudulent" charges proven fraudulent as the doctor involved with the fraudulent part denied it was fraudulent and the journalist Brian Deer, under stress after the Murdoch affair, declared that he never accused Wakefield of fraud. Others have now replicated Wakefield's findings and, despite BMJ's renewed attempt to malign him (which actually backfired as the American's rejected it outright), doctors have now started quoting the published studies of Dr Andrew Wakefield. 

Now the establishment is hellbent on denying the epidemic. Not only are industry sponsored doctors and scientists saying this but the mainstream media too has jumped in, which is unusual in itself as they are loathe to touch any story that can remotely hurt corporate interests.  

The Los Angeles Times has done a series of articles denying the epidemic, and saying that improved diagnosis and greedy parents eager to label their children as autistics to get pecuniary benefits have led to highly inflated figures. They also say that autism always existed, it was simply not diagnosed. They have also repeatedly blamed the parents and families almost going back to the dark days of autism when "refrigerator mothers" were blamed for the condition. In some cases they have even blamed autism on "over concerned" parents.They have even questioned the diagnosis itself as they say autistics are simply a different set of children and they have criticised parental attempts to heal the children. Clearly there is desparation written all over these articles.

In India the industry sponsored speakers on autism are tracing the disabilty to "parenting genes" and worse, "the selfish gene". Clearly no one has the faintest idea about what autism is all about because they will never ask the autistics themselves or wonder why parents of autistic children are fighting guilt and withdrawing into depression themselves. They are, to put it mildly, terrified of the truth. A reputed doctor the President of a renowned Indian medical body, not knowing that I was working on autism, did tell me that autism was genetic and that by 2038, the complete human genome would have been mapped and then it would be possible to "edit the autism gene" and thereby totally get rid of the problem. I did collect his email address and hope to correspond with him to know what further information he has on the subject. This was in the massive headquarters of the organisation which, the President himself said, was built with funds from the pharmaceutical industry and had a very big well furnished conference hall where almost every week industry sponsored meetings were held to educate the doctors on the latest advances in medicine. 

It is not very difficult to refute these extraordinary claims. First, if autism always existed, then where are the adult autistics? Second, no mother or family, will ever dub their children as anything but normal. In fact the opposite is true as parents have ignored the obvious signs in their children, put them into normal schools, and resented the society's reaction to the anomalies in their children. They have even fought their doctor's diagnosis. It is with great difficulty that doctors and school managements have counselled these parents to take their children to special schools. And, besides some measure of help in the USA, parents the world ever are completely left in the lurch going bankrupt in their efforts to heal the children.

It has also been alleged that autistic children have recovered "spontaneously", cruelly ignoring the tremendous steps the parents have taken, often without any medical help, to research their children's condition on their own and virtually treating them on their own, sometimes with the help of homeopaths and other alternative doctors, to get their children out of the spectrum. Some children who have been minimally affected have recovered as they age with their supple bodies being able to undo much of the damage on its own based on the body's own healing ability. But it is questionable if all of them have outgrown all of their anomalies, as many of them have spoken and described how they have learnt to cope with their remaining symptoms. 

The series of articles on the Los Angeles Times also point out that this disease seems to cluster more among affluent and educated families having better access to medical care. Critics have pointed out that it is exactly this population who are like to overmedicate themselves during pregnancy and ensure wholesale compliance of all the recommended vaccine shots. In India too we see that the rate of autism in urban areas is three times that in rural India. 

So it is entirely "coincidental" that the early autism cases were noticed after the addition of Thiomersal in vaccines, discovered after the DPT vaccine was introduced, and rose steadily parallel to the growth of the recommended vaccination schedule. Even today it is "coincidental", that autism rates are highest (now 1 in 91) in the USA which has the highest number of recommended vaccines. It is also "coincidental" that populations who do not vaccinate their children record no cases of autism. 

It also "coincidental" that the powerful lobbies have denied research into vaccine safety, have ignored genuine and severe criticism of their own studies denying the link between vaccines and autism, and continue to divert precious research funds to probe the genetic origins of autism while the largest of those studies have proven that the huge genetic changes noticed (changes to thousands of genes and mutations in several hundreds) are not traceable to the parents and that the role of environmental toxins cannot be ruled out.

It will take a massive uprising to stop the mudslinging and get a clear picture. Unless that is done billions of children world wide will continue to be encapsuled in their own terrifying worlds. 

The link to the Los Angeles Time series is here;
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-autism-day-one-html,0,1331687.htmlstory

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