Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Kirby: It's About "Rivers of Diarrhea" and Kids who "Spin like Fireworks"

If you thought David Kirby's "mercury defenders" post was odd, wait until you read his latest installment titled There is no autism epidemic. Already Kev and Kristina have addressed the arguments and claims in Kirby's post, so what I want to do here is look at the likely intentions and assumptions behind the post.

Let's start by noting that this is apparently the first time David Kirby has commented on the neurodiversity movement. He feels neurodiversity advocates are among the most vocal of his critics, who he claims are trying to "vilify" him. He must be referring to rebuttals of his arguments, calls for him to source unlikely claims and to come clean on prior predictions.

These adults argue passionately that autism is neither a disease nor a disorder, but rather a natural and special variation of the chance genetic imprint left upon human behavior.
Perhaps Mr. Kirby is reading this blog. Maybe I should consider renaming it to "Natural and Special Variation". He's clearly making some generalizations. For one, the neurodiversity movement includes many non-autistic parents of autistic children. Additionally, while I do believe that various genes must be important factors in autism, there's no denying that the environment and epigenetics must also play a role (as they do in nearly everything about humans). There's also no denying that various environmental causes of autism are known, e.g. congenital rubella.

Certainly, Kirby's 2007 CDDS prediction must be on his mind. He must expect the community of bloggers who closely follow and are skeptical of the thimerosal hypothesis to be the ones to ask him to come clean on that prediction. And most of that community, surely not all, is made up of neurodiversity advocates. Under these circumstances he's decided to offer a "truce" of sorts. The "truce" consists of, get this, proposing that he's not been referring to "autism" all along, but to a new disorder he's made up called "Environmentally-acquired Neuroimmune Disorder" (END). Of course he's not being serious or candid about this, but let's play along. The criteria for the new disorder he's made up is roughly the following:

A. The child begins talking, and then suddenly never says another word. (END must thus be a subset of CDD).

B. Child may never learn to read, write, tie their shoes or fall in love. (Not really part of criteria, but an unspecified expectation about the syndrome I'm guessing).

C. Child wails in torture (usually at odd hours of the night) because something inside them hurts like a burning coal.

D. Child has inflamed, distressed gut, and bowel movements wind up in rivers of diarrhea or swirls of feces spread on a favorite carpet or pet.

E. Frequently escapes from home, and is found freezing wandering around.

F. Child spins like fireworks, and may crack head as a result.

G. Child stares at nothing and screams at everything.

H. Child bites mother.

I think he forgot "breaks mother's arm". I would suggest comparing notes with Mark Geier.

I doubt there's any validity in defining a new syndrome in this manner. But what's clear from Kirby's post is his intention to shock by means of gross descriptions such as "rivers of diarrhea". Of course autistic kids have diarrhea. More often than non-autistic kids? Maybe, I don't really know. There are no rigorous studies on the matter as far as I can tell. Has David Kirby never had a diarrhea attack?

There are obviously a number of incorrect assumptions that went into Kirby's mental gymnastics, which I think are the following:

  1. Autistic self-advocates and children of neurodiversity advocates do not have these characteristics.

    This has been debated repeatedly. See, for example, this and this.

  2. All children of mercury militants do have these characteristics.

    This is false. There are many mercury parents of kids who aren't too obviously autistic. Furthermore, children of prominent curebie parents are growing up, and some do not seem to agree with curebie-ism, as they are apparently starting to revolt.

  3. There is an epidemic of END.

    There is no way to know this, as there is no epidemiology on the characteristics Kirby describes. What is the evidence of an increase in the prevalence of these characteristics?

  4. END is caused by thimerosal.

    Those symptoms (rivers of diarrhea, spinning like fireworks) certainly do sound like symptoms reported after instances of mass mercury poisoning from historical reports, right?

It's difficult to find any merit in Kirby's latest attempt at arguing who knows what.

There's another Geierism in the post which I wanted to address:

American kids are in huge trouble. One in six has a learning disability.
Is this true? Please provide a source Mr. Kirby. It appears that the prevalence of learning disability in the US is 1.69% (source) or 1-2% (source), even though approximately 2.5% of the population scores below 70 in IQ tests (which is a stable rate, BTW). If we go back to a 1981 study, it appears that 10% of children were identified as being at risk of learning disability. That was long before the "epidemic" of neurological disorders. I have found other studies with somewhat higher rates, but nothing near 1 in 6 children.

I guess it depends on how it's defined. If you make dyslexia a learning disability, and you include every child who is even a little dyslexic, then sure, 1 in 6 is plausible.

But perhaps David Kirby is referring to the prevalence of psychiatric conditions among children, and if you consider that the prevalence of ADHD in children is about 10%, I can see how 1 in 6 might be right. But then what does ADHD have to do with the END syndrome of Kirby's post? I fail to see the connection, and in fact, it makes no sense for him to consider ADHD after stating he's only concerned about "severe" symptoms.

There's a picture of a 1926 American Eugenics Movement exhibit over at The exhibit reads:

  • Every 48 seconds a person is born in the United States who will never grow up mentally beyond that stage of a normal 8 year old boy or girl.

  • Every 16 seconds a person is born in the United States.
In other words, 1 out of 3 persons born in the United States had a considerable mental handicap in 1926 according to that exhibit. Mistaken and biased? Perhaps, but the type of discourse is very similar to that of David Kirby or Mark Geier, isn't it?


  1. I guess there are a few other "symptoms" I could add to Kirby's list---one might say that this current posting of his is suffering from a mild bout of logorrheat.

  2. Gasp, the utter inconvenience of a fecal-soiled "favorite carpet".

    Actually, perhaps Kirby has accurately represented his followers quite well - big on drama, straw man arguments, appeals to fear and pity and ZERO science.

    It would appear that Kirby has nowhere else to turn - there certainly isn't any science on his side. He can argue with straw man positions like "it's just better diagnosis" till the cows come home; it won't undo the diagnostic criteria changes or diagnostic substitution that has occurred.

  3. You have it all wrong. Mr Kirby was just trying to placate you. He doesn't fully understand that you knuckleheads will never learn that your kids need help and you're all too stupid to give it to them.
    I pity your poor children.

  4. Talk about appeals to fear and pity, Do'C. You must be a psychic :)

  5. 4 years ago we dealt with poop-art and tantrums that resulted in doorframes getting kicked out (how does a 50 pound kid do that?). Slowly a lot of it went away. We could focus on the occasional headbang or the stuttering or the avoidance of eye contact or the lining up of cars and trains, but we don't. Instead, we focus on an instance of him dealing well with a child grabbing a toy of his or the resulting smile when he strains to see his mother in the observation deck window while he and I do a swimming lesson.

    The glass is half full, man.

  6. In a river of diarrhea David Kirby will always float to the top.

  7. "In a river of diarrhea David Kirby will always float to the top."


  8. David Kirby has graduated from the Robert F. Kennedy School Of Invoking Disgusting Gastroinstestinal Images In Pathetic Anti-Vaccine Commentaries. With honors, apparently.

    I'm not so sure Kirby's even writing these pieces anymore. Maybe one of his buddies from SafeMinds or Generation Rescue got his username and password.

  9. And now there's this:

    I really just don't understand the point of exaggerating the negatives, why would you want to live your life like that? Why would you want to portray your children like that?

  10. I get it. It's all about convincing all of the social climbing, upwardly mobile losers you run with that your kid isn't weird or different - he or she is really poisoned. So many of these parents are so worried about "what kind of life" their kid is going to lead that they don't stop to think about what kind of person their kid is going to be.

  11. What I really fail to see is how all the diarrhea supports the ideas that:

    * Thimerosal (or whatever the toxin du jour is) causes the condition.

    * All the quack treatments might be helping and not harming these kids.

  12. So what does it mean if you 'spin like a firework' and DONT GET DIZZY? and therefore DONT fall down, because you AREN'T DIZZY? Head cracking therefore doesnt happen?

    I mean, really. How long does one have to supposedly be exploring the autism literature (oh god. I just bust a gut laughing at the idea of him actually doing RESEARCH) to know that a lot of stimming is self OT?

    *doesnt get dizzy unless very very very sick. then needs it pointed out that she's dizzy. It's that unfamiliar*

  13. David Kirby most certainly has had an attack of diarreah. Of diarreah of the mouth!

  14. Just read this on Kirby the Brain-dead's blog as part of my catching up on things here (and yes, I had to correct his punctuation for him... some writer, eh?!):

    "From their eloquent and well reasoned point of view, autism has no 'cause', and it certainly requires no 'cure'. To suggest otherwise is to brand these adults with the stigma of disease and disability, which is patently absurd given their educational and intellectual achievements."

    He says he's calling a truce and then comes out with shite like that?! Evidently he has no clue about the meaning of the word 'truce', and he is doing anything but calling one: he's yet again trying to piss us all off.

    The bit that shows his inability to accept the truth of the matter is this: "From their eloquent and well reasoned point of view, autism has no 'cause', and it certainly requires no 'cure'."

    Er, Kirby, hello?! our autism, like your evident stupidity, does indeed have causes. Sadly for you, it isn't mercury causing our autism; but it does seem to have contributed greatly to your stupidity. Everything has causes, and those causes can be very complicated. But mercury doesn't cause us to be autistic. Mercury, in a high enough dose, can and most likely will cause mercury poisoning... which is totally different from being autistic. I'm surprised that someone who uses the English language for a living hasn't yet figured out that one yet!

    David Kirby, you're a joke.

    And not a particularly funny one, either.

  15. I am totally and utterly shocked by the overload of information.I honestly had NO IDEA that there are people who speak of autism in such a way as David Kirby has.I am a 25 year old mother of a 4 year old boy whom was diagnosed with Austism 2 years ago.At 2,he did not speak,just babbled,was no where near potty trained,HAD DIARREAHA-cause he was allergic to Enfamil!! (thank you very much!!)anti-social,resulting in termination from 3 daycares because of untrained and uneducated providers.So i quit jobs and drop college courses frequently.I pulled my hair out in frustration over what to do,i would overt grocery stores, church, playgrounds,birthday parties...etc,just to releave us of the constant comments,stares and laughter my child and i were subjected to from strangers.I fought back,got him speech therapy,home schooling with professional instructors,OT,behavioral services,and parent training all for FREE,now he has over 1000 words in his vocabulary,can count to 100,recongnized all 26 letters at 3,can recongnize 7+ geometrical shapes,loves classical music and is 90% potty trained.The repetitive way that would annoy and confuse people, was simply his way of studying new information,that he processes,memorizes and hungers for more.He went from home schooling to pre-preschool,to preschool now by the end of this year, kindingarten readiness,he just made 4 years 1 week ago!!Oh did i mention HE CAN READ! Bottomline,i really just came looking for an Austism awareness symbol to put up on my "Yahoo" profile to educate others, and i stumbled across this and other articles.I could do nothing but allow the liquid to swell in my eyes,then flow uncontrollablly down my cheeks. I fear for my son's association with the world as he gets older,i want to be there every step of the way to accept the abuse for him.
    So then,until i read on and realized that: i'm not the only one hurt and armed to fight! Thank you to the speakers,parents and concerned citizens.
    We will continue our journey.

    To the "anonymous" cowards with the devilish comments:instead of hiding, just lie down so we can WALK OVER YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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