Age of Autism’s “Reporter of the Year” strikes (out) again

I can only guess that being voted Age of Autism’s “Reporter of the Year” went to David Kirby’s head. Of course, the only real competition was Dan Olmsted, who apparently couldn’t find the Clinic for Special Children in Amish country (or, more likely, didn’t bother to look for it) yet bravely claims there are no autistic Amish (which probably explains why he no longer works for UPI); Steve Wilson of WXYZ News in Detroit, who trotted out long-discredited canards about mercury in vaccines to produce a dishonest, fear mongering report and then showed up in the comments of a blog to make a fool of himself; or Sharyl Attkisson, whose bias against vaccines and Kool Aid addiction that leads her never to find a story with an antivaccine slant she didn’t like and whose being in bed with Age of Autism and Generation Rescue shows what sources she values, led her to trash Paul Offit based on dubious information. That’s not much of a field.

In any event, David Kirby has once again demonstrated his mad reporting skillz in a post on that repository of antivaccine pseudoscience and quackery, The Huffington Post, entitled Obama Transition Website: “Recovery from autism is neither possible, nor desirable.”

There’s just one problem. No such thing appears on the Obama Transition Team website, The statement appears in this post, 10 Autism Controversies by Kristina Chew (who also blogs at Autism Vox), on

No wonder David Kirby blogs for Age of Autism and The Huffington Post instead of having a real job at a real newspaper or magazine. He can’t tell the difference between the official Obama Team Transition website and blog and a political and social networking blog that predates Obama’s election and has nothing to do with Barack Obama or his transition team! Indeed, a quick look at the site should have made that evident, which makes me wonder if David Kirby even did the most rudimentary poking around on Indeed, given that he munged the URL in his link, one guess that perhaps he did not. Be that as it may, as Kevin Leitch notes, Kristina Chew and Dora Raymaker have been appointed as the resident autism bloggers for

Indeed, Kirby even gets himself into a high and mighty lather over Kristina’s observation:

“Recovery from autism is neither possible, nor desirable”

It’s hard to believe that those words would appear anywhere on an official website of the United States Government. But there they are, on the new Autism Blog of President Elect Obama’s transition team at

They were written by the two women the Obama people hired to head up what could ostensibly be described as the “National Autism Blog” – Kristina Chew, who has a son with autism, and Dora Raymaker, an adult on the autism spectrum.

Personally, I’d be overjoyed if the Obama Transition Team hired Kristina to do a “National Autism Blog.”

He then spouts the usual claim that all these “biomedical treatments,” the vast majority of which are the rankest quackery, have “recovered” many autistic children:

Based on my personal experience over the past five years, it is. I have met dozens of children who are now completely, or almost completely “recovered” from the disorder. They have had their diagnoses taken away. Their state-sponsored services have been happily jettisoned.

These kids are virtually indistinguishable from their peers – with girlfriends and boyfriends, teammates and college plans.

But they did not just spontaneously recover – they were recovered, through behavioral therapies, dietary changes, vitamins, biomedical interventions, or various combinations thereof.

So, the people who were chosen to run Obama’s autism blog don’t want to find treatments for autism. They don’t believe that autism is epidemic, and don’t think there are environmental factors involved in its cause.

In fact, they are not particularly interested in even finding out why children have autism in the first place.

There’s just one problem. As pointed out by Prometheus, autism is highly variable in its course. There are often periods of no progress followed by periods of rapid progress, at variable intervals. As many as 19% of children may progress so much that they lose their diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder. If a parent keeps trying different interventions, it’s almost inevitable that one or more of them will coincide with periods of rapid improvement, leading the parent to think that the treatment “worked.” It’s also likely that a significant number of these children would have lost their diagnosis of ASD anyway. That’s why it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to tell if an intervention for autism is effective without good randomized, double-blinded clinical trials. In any case, those making the claims of “hundreds” or “thousands” of “recovered children” can never seem to produce any good case studies. Certainly a convincing case study, documented meticulously, would be publishable in the peer-reviewed medical literature. Why is it impossible to find any such case reports in reputable journals when searching PubMed?

Here’s the best part of Kirby’s post, too:

I have written to and asked them if Mr. Obama shares the view that autism is purely genetic, and that it is not only impossible, but “undesirable” to try to recover children from its grips.

Parents such as Dr. Chew have the right to withhold autism treatments from their son. And they have every right to question – and even criticize – those parents who do want to treat and recover their children.

And I understand that this is a blog – it does not necessarily reflect the official thinking of the incoming Administration.

But it is fair to ask where Barack Obama and his health team come down on this important issue – Do we as a nation try to “recover” children from autism, or do we not?


I will let you know if I hear back from the Transition press office.

Please do, Mr. Kirby. Please do. I’d be most interested in seeing the response

I’m sure some poor low level flack got Kirby’s note and is scratching his head. He’ll then do a little digging and find that you messed up and He’ll be highly tempted to tell Kirby what an idiot he is, but political organizations and press offices just can’t do that to reporters, even one as dubious as David Kirby. Instead will, if the Obama Transition Team Press Office responds at all, send Kirby some polite boilerplate about wanting to hear all sides and how Kristina’s view does not represent the view of the Obama Transition Team (because it was never sanctioned by the Obama Transition Team in the first place, something that should have been obvious to a reporter with the mad reporting skillz of David Kirby). Kirby will then gleefully post it as “proof” that Barack Obama is down with Jenny McCarthy, J.B. Handley, and the whole Generation Rescue and Age of Autism crew that the government should waste millions or billions of dollars researching Jenny’s favorite quackery. (He won’t say it that way; Kirby’s far too slick and unctuous. I’ve just taken the liberty of pre-emptively translating what Kirby is likely to say.)

I can only wonder how long it will be before Kirby realizes what an utter fool he’s made of himself (yet again) and drops this post down the memory hole, along with all the comments chastising Kirby for his error. Don’t worry, though. I won’t let him. I’ve saved a web archive of the post, as well as its text and a screenshot. We wouldn’t want the Ministry of Truth over at AoA to rewrite history, would we?

Generous and benevolent blogger that I am, I’ll also give David Kirby a word of advice. It’s very dangerous to post late at night and then go to bed. If you’ve screwed up big time (as you did here), there will then be several hours where you won’t be monitoring comments and e-mails to you telling you that you’ve screwed up will not be seen. It will be several hours during which commenters will have fun at your expense and during which other bloggers (like me) can notice your screw up and respond before you can send the post down the memory hole or post an addendum correcting your mistake.

Just a word of friendly advice…

ADDENDUM: Liz Ditz and Kevin Leitch have also had a bit of fun at David Kirby’s blunder. Kev nails it when he points out Kirby’s hubris at putting words in Obama’s mouth and that it appears to be AoA’s animus at Kristina that shines through more than anything else in his post.