Wednesday, October 25, 2006

An Island of Rationality

The following was overheard in EOHarm recently:

However, unless mercury is somehow being slipped into children in greater amounts now than in the 90's, mercury does not seem to be the main cause of autism now. And no, I don't think the mercury in the flu shots is capable of offsetting the mercury infants got at birth, 2, 4 and 6 months in the 90's. Flu shots present smaller doses at later ages, and the big flu shot push for kids didn't get started until 2004 anyway.


The message has not had any replies, and it's not clear if the person who posted is still in the list after such a blasphemous remark.

This was written by someone who does believe vaccines have "almost everything to do" with autism. But this person does take the time to look at the actual CDDS numbers and not just claims about the numbers, and clearly has some skills that allow her to interpret the numbers. For her critical thinking, she should be commended.

I should note that she claims to believe in the work of the Geiers, which is actually inconsistent with her analysis of the CDDS numbers.

She expresses concern about the "57% increase in the 3-5 year olds" (in the last 4 years). And makes a good case about prevalence, which follows.

Let's assume the 1 in 166 for ASD (which includes Asperger's and PDD_NOS, not included in these numbers) is going to be close to what you would get based on people that were 3 to 21 in 2002. The US Census Bureaus says that California has approximately 500,000 people of each age in the younger ages – or 57,200 people with ASD. The 2002 full autism numbers for ages 3 to 21 add up to 15,939, or about 27.9% of the ASD population and also about 1 in 600 for the entire age cohort. The 2006 group of 3-5 year olds represents 0.41% of the California population age 3-5. If you assume these number will increase 62% in the next 4 years, as did the 3-5 group from 2002, you get 0.67% of the population, or 1 in 150 -- FOUR TIMES THE CURRENTLY REPORTED RATE!!!


I do also share her concern that the current prevalence of 40 in 10,000 for the 3-5 cohort is higher than expected for Autistic Disorder, and this prevalence is still growing at a fast pace. That is, it's not clear when it will level off, and we can't assume there's a magic number it cannot go over. But it's not as bad as she thinks. Anecdotally, some PDD-NOS and Asperger's does get included in the CDDS numbers. Besides, in psychology there's a debate about the existence of Asperger's. Some researchers are saying that DSM-IV Asperger's is impossible to diagnose, and that virtually all children diagnosed with Asperger's actually have Autistic Disorder. If this opinion becomes mainstreamed, what do you think the end result might be in terms of caseload?

Additionally, it's unlikely that the 62% increase will be maintained over the next 4 years. Growth expressed as a percentage necessarily decreases over time.

She adds:

We really [need] to get to the bottom of this. The effects on society are almost too big to contemplate.


The fact that more and more children are being labeled with all sorts of cognitive disorders is a valid concern, in my opinion. Sami Timimi, for example, is an outspoken critic of psychiatric over-labeling. He says that we'll end up with a generation of grown-up children who have been unnecessarily convinced that they are defective. But should we be concerned about an increasing number of people becoming disabled? I think we should be really concerned about this if, say, the prevalence of institutionalized developmentally disabled individuals were increasing. (However you look at it, more institutionalization is not a good thing). But it's not increasing. In fact, it has dropped a little in the last 14 years in California, according to the CDDS numbers. If our concerns are not consistent with reality, what is the use of our advocacy?

10 comments:

  1. I think the EoHarm group is disintegrating. Lenny's fighting with one of the ladies from Safe Minds. Erik Nanstiel seems to be distancing himself from DAN! and aligning himself with the Geiers. The Geiers aren't being invited to DAN conferences any more because of their Lupron schtick. Buttar just bit the dust amongst the DANites when Dr. Quig dissed TD DMPS as worthless. I think the whole mercury mom thing is getting more pathetic all the time. They are backbiting and in-fighting. Pretty soon someone will forget to send a check to Kirby and he'll be off onto something else.

    This person with the rational comment about vaccine mercury is probably working on her own explanation of who is to blame. The "environmental pollution" meme is gaining traction among the parents, but they won't have the big outlays of cash from leading parents to push this agenda into the media like they did for the antivax version. The lawyers won't be there inciting the more wealthy ones to invest in a media blitz. Who are they going to sue to recoup their money? The cognitive dissonance is greater too, because with vaccines one can point the finger at the evil CDC who "forced" them to vaccinate their kids. But no one forces people to buy ant and roach killer or hair dye or new toxic wall-to-wall carpet. No one forces them to buy non-organic vegies. There's all that potential for personal guilt that most people don't want to touch.

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  2. Blasphemy! Watch out for Ayoub in a black helicopter.

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  3. The "environmental pollution" meme is gaining traction among the parents

    The funny thing about that one is that its epidemiology suffers from the same exact confound as the TV study.

    Further, the TV study is actually more sophisticated, because it does a regional correlation in addition to a time-based correlation, by county, in several states, and it adjusts for any time-invariant by-county effects.

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  4. Part of me almost hopes that the TV study is a hoax intended to make people wake up and stop applying simplistic thinking to complex biological issues.

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  5. Eh, the "vaccines cause autism" cadre will always be there. I think some of the money will dry up as the less ingratiated parents realize they're going down a dead end. Sympathetic legislators and celebrities will move on to some other cause celebre. I think many others will just quietly fade away, just like nobody talks about secretin much anymore.

    But the hardcores and those with the most to lose (both professionally and financially) will hang on to this pathetic theory until the bitter end. Eventually, they'll be marginalized like the true anti-vax groups like the NVIC, with little or no influence. They'll shout "mercury causes autism" from their bullhorns in front of the U.S. capitol building with 19 of their hardcore fans, looking for all the world like those freaks that prophecize the end of the world every five seconds.

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  6. Sami Timimi, for example, is an outspoken critic of psychiatric over-labeling. He says that we'll end up with a generation of grown-up children who have been unnecessarily convinced that they are defective.

    The first thought that came to my mind when I read this was: Is there ever a situation when it is necessary to convince children that they are defective?

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  7. The first thought that came to my mind when I read this was: Is there ever a situation when it is necessary to convince children that they are defective?

    Took me a bit to get your meaning, but you're right, Abfh. It should never be considered necessary to convince children that they are defective. That's Timimi's wording. He's a psychiatrist, BTW. But he's one of the few visible psychiatrists who has specifically said approaches other than medicalization should be pursued -- I take that to include neurodiversity, acceptance, and so on.

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  8. What will it take to convince followers of Neurodiversity that their thinking is defective?

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  9. "Sami Timimi, for example, is an outspoken critic of psychiatric over-labeling. He says that we'll end up with a generation of grown-up children who have been unnecessarily convinced that they are defective."

    Tinny Sami is obviously an idiot, who has no faith in other professionals like himself. Parents wouldn't allow that to happen to their children. The fact that he has coined that phrase tells me he is defective.

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  10. I don't think it's the prevalence of the labels, or the prevalence of applying disability labels to kids so long as they apply. But it is when it is stated, overtly or implied, that disabled equals defective, that we run into trouble. I've known I was autistic pretty much since I was diagnosed. But it was never implied by my parents (or even, luckily, the professionals) that I was defective for it. Later when my dad's co-worker was dismayed that he'd let me have a label, I was utterly confused, that this woman was talking about autism like it was a bad thing.

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