Autism quackery in my second hometown

My first hometown, as many readers of this blog know, is Detroit, where I spent the first ten years or so of my life. My second hometown, as I pointed out a while back when a particularly loony city council candidate caught the eye of the skeptical blogosphere.

Unfortunately, I just found out that there’s some more looniness going on there in a little more than a week. My cousin e-mailed me this notice:

Event: Mrs. Michigan Autism Lecture

Date: Thursday, October 15, 2009

Time: 6:30pm Location: Zerbo’s Health Foods

Event Details:
Heidi Scheer is a national spokesperson for Autism Awareness and the Biomedical Approach to treating autism. She serves as an advisory board member to the American Medical Autism Board and is the co-chair for the annual International Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Heidi and her husband Doug (a professional magician) enjoy performing and volunteering for local chapters the Autism Society of America and The Judson Center Autism Connections program. She has been featured on numerous television news reports as well as on Lansing’s “Current Affairs” with Michigan Representative Cathy Angerer. After meeting with Governor Granholm, Heidi received a proclamation declaring April 5th as “Autism Intervention Day” in Michigan. She also co-wrote and produced a short film titled “Gannon’s Story” that has been inspiring families worldwide. Heidi is the mother of three beautiful children: Carson, Gannon, and Ella. Her middle son Gannon is affected by autism and is on the road to recovery thanks to biomedical interventions!

Oh, no. Autism “biomed” quackery right in my second hometown!

We’ve met Heidi Scheer before. She was (and, I think, still is) Mrs. Michigan. (Oh, joy! Just what my home state needs, a woo-friendly, “biomed” advocate with an autistic child to use whatever luster the Mrs. Michigan name has to promote autism quackery.) When last we met Ms. Scheer, she was busily helping to organize an autism quackery conference in Novi, Michigan. Speakers included:

  • Steven Bockmann, parent advocate
  • Phillip DeMio, MD
  • Patrick Elliot, DO
  • Dr. Don Galovich, DC, Chriopractic Physician
  • Kristin Selby Gonzalez
  • Boyd Haley, PhD
  • Jerry Kartzinel, MD
  • Raun Kaufman, Autism Treatment Center of America
  • Bette Lamont, MA/DMT
  • Nicole Poirier Keenan, DC, Chiropractic Physician
  • Monica Mackenzie, Certified Family Nurse Practitioner
  • James Neubrander, MD
  • Mary Tocco, vaccine & natural health speaker
  • Angela Woodward, Physician to Parent Liaison and other exciting acclaimed speakers in ASD-related fields.

Nothing like a bit of Boyd Haley and his mercury mania and “mad child disease” to bring “respectability to a conference! Moreover, Scheer is clearly in the anti-vaccine camp, too, as this quote from February reveals:

“I want parents to know there is help,” said Scheer who still is uncertain if vaccines caused Gannon’s problems. She believes some children have stronger immune systems, like her older son Carson, and are not affected by certain additives such as mercury. Daughter Ella though had 23-days of diarrhea after her 6 month vaccination.

“I’m not saying I’m totally against vaccines, but parents should be diligent about seeing what’s in the vaccine. I also have a problem with the schedule of how closely vaccines are given.”

“Not sure” if vaccines caused Gannon’s autism? I call B.S. You’ll see why a little later in the post. The fact is that Ms. Scheer has made it very clear on multiple occasions that she thinks vaccines caused Gannon’s autism. Indeed, I wonder if Ms. Scheer will be saying the same sorts of things at Zerbo’s, you know, the whole “I’m not anti-vaccine; I’m pro-safe vaccine” schtick that anti-vaccine advocates of “biomedical” quackery like to parrot. It sounds as though she’s also fallen for the whole “too many too soon” propaganda slogan promulgated by Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy, and crew. In other words, she’s a true believer in the myth that vaccines somehow caused her son Gannon’s autism and the biomedical quackery used to “heal” or “recover” autistic children from “vaccine injury.” Moreover, she is into all sorts of autism woo:

Gannon [Scheer’s son] stopped responding to his name and his speech came to a halt more than six years ago. Devastated, Scheer began researching treatments and found many children with autism have food sensitivities.

The Commerce Township mother removed gluten from his diet even though the speech therapist told her there was no scientific evidence it would work. In three weeks Gannon’s 3-year battle with diarrhea ended. He spoke his first sentence and behavioral problems such as biting other children began to subside.

With further research, Scheer discovered DAN (Defeat Autism Now), a project of the Autism Research Institute to educate parents and clinicians about biomedically-based research and safe and effective treatments.

Gannon underwent a variety of alternative therapies from supplements to chiropractic, chelation (removal of heavy metals from the body), and hyperbaric oxygen therapy to treat underlying causes of symptoms. Today Gannon, age 8, can speak fully. He is above grade level academically. Scheer’s advice to parents is never give up.

Scheer’s a veritable Jenny McCarthy of Michigan, she is. Of course, given her previous statements, I doubt that she’d consider that the insult that I intended it as. Indeed, her movie, Gannon’s Story, was featured on the anti-vaccine crank blog Age of Autism:

Oh, no! Right from the very beginning, it’s all misinformation and pseudoscience. Do you see why I called Ms. Scheer on her B.S. earlier in this post? Just look at the video, which she had made before that interview (and which I hadn’t seen before it.) Right off the bat, the video begins by playing the “toxin” gambit, ominously flashing the words, “mercury” (the idea that mercury causes autism is a failed hypothesis), “aluminum,” “antifreeze” (there is no antifreeze in vaccines), “aborted human fetus cells” (a common anti-vaccine distortion), and “formaldehyde” (the world’s dumbest anti-vaccine gambit) before launching into a photo of vaccines and syringes. What follows immediately is the usual anti-vaccine tactic confusing of correlation with causation, complete with shots of Generation Rescue propaganda advertisements. There’s a truly idiotic bit about how autism rates are skyrocketing and that it is assumed to be the vaccines, you know, just like the correlation between lemon imports from Mexico and the decrease in the auto fatality rate. There’s also the standard bit that goes something like, “The CDC assures us vaccines are safe, but ‘thousands’ of parents and quacks–sorry, I mean doctors…no I don’t–believe that vaccines cause autistic regression.” Yes, the main planks of the anti-vaccine movement are all right there, all in the video that Ms. Scheer produced. Even “better,” it’s sponsored by by Lee Silsby Compounding Pharmacy, one of the “proud’ sponsors of Age of Autism

It’s also rather interesting to note that the video wasn’t mentioned in the story I cited above. Perhaps that’s because even the credulous reporter who interviewed her would probably have realized just how nutty Scheer’s beliefs are about vaccines if she actually watched the video. It’s also amazing how Scheer is, like Jenny McCarthy, a proud graduate of Google University. She spends a few days Googling autism and various treatments, and suddenly she thinks she’s an expert. Truly, the arrogance of ignorance is on display here!

Once again, it’s depressing to see this sort of advocacy of quackery infiltrate my hometown. I wonder what would happen if some skeptics showed up at this talk to ask some inconvenient questions of Mrs. Michigan. I’ll have been in Chicago; so I’m not sure if I can go, but if you are in southeast Michigan and can make it to Zerbo’s on October 15, don’t you think it would be fun to make a woo-meister squirm? Tell her Orac sent you.