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A simultaneously sympathetic and unsympathetic commentary on an antivaccine screed

The false idea that vaccines somehow cause or contribute to autism has been a common theme on this blog, and I’ve spent considerable verbiage discussing why anyone would think that vaccines are in any way associated with autism when the science is quite clear that they are not. If there’s one thing I’ve been consistent in saying is that it’s not because antivaccinationists are stupid (well, at least not most of them; some are spectacularly stupid). It’s because they suffer from the same cognitive biases that all humans suffer from that lead us to confuse correlation with causation, jump to conclusions, and be subject to confirmation bias. One majoor—perhaps the major—difference between skeptics and cranks like antivaccinationists is that skeptics recognize human cognitive weaknesses that allow us to be misled so easily by spurious correlations. We realize that, far more often than we are prepared to believe, things really do happen by coincidence. When there are enough numbers, and there can be a lot of coincidences. For instance, given the millions of children at the age when autistic symptoms most frequently reveal themselves and given that that age happens to coincide with a lot of vaccines, it would be shocking if there were not thousands of children every year who develop their first symptoms of autism in relatively close temporal proximity to a series of vaccines. To individuals whose children do register these symptoms within a few days after vaccination, it can appear all the world as though the vaccinations caused it. Add a bit of confirmation bias, in which people remember details that fit in with their preconceived notions and tend to forget the rest, and it’s very easy even for intelligent parents to mistake correlation for causation and blame vaccines for their children’s autism.

Science is, in essence, inoculation against these tendencies to draw false confusions and to confuse correlation with causation, a weapon against the limitations of individual observations. However, it always interests me “what we’re up against,” because it goes very much against the grain to think scientifically. Our brains are not hard-wired that way. Learning to accept science over one’s own observations does not come naturally; so it is not surprising that so many people have a great deal of difficult doing just that.

These were my thoughts the other day as I read a post on that other wretched hive of scum and quackery, The (Not So) Thinking Moms’ Revolution, entitled If not us, who? TMR, as you might recall, is kind of an unofficial offshoot of that antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism. At least it shares some bloggers. Be that as it may, what this TMR post might help readers understand is that there’s another component to the antivaccine idea that vaccines cause autism, and that’s raw emotion. It’s often a visceral emotion that is so strong that it precludes any sort of clear thinking or the application of even basic skepticism. At least, that’s what Poppy, the author of this post, shows, as she describes…well, I’ll let her tell it:

I made a coffee, sat on my dark patio, and enjoyed the pre-dawn silence for a bit. I started to read my newsfeed and a few PMs on my phone and like a freight train, I started sobbing. REALLY sobbing….like THE UGLY CRY…boogers dripping and all. My body trembled. My chest got tight. I started to sweat. It was visceral.

Memories came flooding back. In my Mind’s Eye, I saw J getting his shots. I’m holding his little leg, whispering in his ear, “It’s ok baby, you’re fine” as he screamed, his little body tensing up as the needles went into his chunky little thigh….one after another. Memories of the projectile vomiting that lasted for over a year of his life. Images of the yellow, toxic shit. I can still smell it. Images of the bizarre sores that developed on his little body. Of the thrush. Of the petit mal seizures. All flashing through my head like a twisted flip book you made as a kid.

None of this should have happened. I realized I was having a PTSD moment.

There’s no doubt that the image of a needle being stuck into a baby is a very powerful one. I’m not a parent, and even I understand that; so imagine what it is like to parents. To them it can appear that their baby is being turned into the proverbial pin cushion. It doesn’t matter that science tells us that the vaccines being injected are very safe and will protect their children against diseases that were once fatal. Something about the act of sticking needles into a baby triggers something very visceral in parents. Parents who are skeptics have told me that even they were bothered by it; so imagine what sorts of emotions can be triggered in parents prone to vaccine denialism. Then, if a child of such parents develops autism by random chance alone within a short time period of a series of vaccinations, the idea that it was the vaccines that caused the autism will become unshakable.

So it apparently was with Poppy. She has in her mind linked vaccines with her child’s autism and other health problems so powerfully that no amount of evidence and science will shake it. So powerful is the image that she even appears to be suffering from a bit of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complete with flashbacks and crying jags. She then justifies it with a series of antivaccine tropes and canards, including the claim of an “autism epidemic,” that autism, ADHD, asthma, allergies, seizures, and neurological damage are running rampant among our children thanks to—you guessed it—vaccines. What apparently brought this PTSD-like reaction on was, of all things, Dan Burton’s recent autism and antivaccine hearings. That this hearing was nothing but a mummer’s farce devoid of substance doesn’t matter to Poppy. In fact, she blames vaccines so much that she can write something like this:

This week has been a roller coaster, to say the least. I have experienced that gamut of emotions over the past few days. Disgust, celebration, rage, vindication, and sadness….a deep, terrible sadness. I keep thinking to myself, “If something had been done after the hearings 10 years ago, maybe my babies would have been spared from this hell. Maybe YOUR babies would have been spared.”

So.many.babies.

So. Much. Use. Of Bad. Cliche. Seriously.

It is rather sad to see just how strong the illusion is. it’s so strong that Poppy believes that if the government had dones “something” (exactly what should be done is never really specified), then many, many babies would be spared from autism. Never mind, once again, that there is no compelling evidence that vaccines cause autism, much less that somehow eliminating vaccines or “taking the toxins” (the nonexistent toxins) out of them would “save” so many children from autism. Nor would the “biomedical treatments” (a.k.a. pure quackery) favored by the antivaccine movement to “treat” autism have made a difference, either. Using completely non-science-based treatments would certainly not have “recovered” autistic children who wouldn’t have improved through normal development anyway.

But Poppy is angry, too. So angry:

This happened to our kids. We are NOT F*CKING CRAZY! We are not looking for someone to blame. We are just every day, regular people. Just Moms & Dads that wanted to have children who grew up to be happy and healthy people. Who grew up to be successful in whatever they chose to do. We had dreams for our kids.

And there’s the real reason. A good rule of thumb is that whenever someone says she is not looking for someone to blame, she’s looking for someone to blame. Yes, that’s exactly what Poppy is doing and what many antivaccine parents are doing. They can’t believe that they have a child who is not “normal” or a child with special needs significant enough that he might never live independently. Something must have stolen their “real” child from them, and vaccines are a convenient all-purpose bogeyman to blame. They are basically in mourning for the loss of the idealized “normal” child that they think they should have had, a child whom they view as being trapped in an autistic shell (thanks to vaccines) but can be “recovered” with the appropriate “biomedical” quackery.

Poppy is correct, though, that antivaccine parents are not crazy, much less “f*cking crazy.” They are simply people with the same cognitive quirks that you and I have but who are not willing or able to overcome them. Instead, they choose to wallow in what might have been and rail against imagined enemies who stole their “real” child away and left them the autistic child. And, yes, they really believe this. Given that, is it any wonder that confirmation bias that worsens with time as they think about their child’s first symptoms of autism, plus confusing correlation with causation, topped off with guilt because they think they caused their child’s autism by letting those evil doctors vaccinate him, can result in screeds like Poppy’s and the many similar screeds that can be found on Age of Autism and other rabidly antivaccine blogs?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

135 replies on “A simultaneously sympathetic and unsympathetic commentary on an antivaccine screed”

“Science is, in essence, inoculation against these tendencies to draw false confusions …. ”

But, the incidence of these tendencies was declining before the inoculations were developed!

Poppy is correct, though, that antivaccine parents are not crazy, much less “f*cking crazy.”

I think you are being way too kind here. I think there is something terribly wrong with those who dwell on this to the extent they co-opt psychiatric disorders, spend inordinate amounts of time with their online “support systems”, form political parties and hold their own crank conferences.

It’s always all about them and their children are objects that fuel their twisted need for identity and purpose.

@ science mum

I think you can sympathise with them to some extent. After I received my Aspergers diagnosis as an adult, the starkness of the possible future laid out to me by the psychiatrist seemed to dash my hopes, leading to periods of hating alternately, myself, the autism and normal people.
Thankfully, having studied science at uni had innoculated me against quakery and rational thought reasserted itself.

How easy it must be for the parents who have not had the benefit of scientific thought, and are living without hope, to be trapped in a cycle. We should pity the parents, and save our ire for those cranks that take advantage of them and trap them in that mindset.

I think you can sympathise with them to some extent.

Not any more I’m afraid. I used to but having kind of immersed myself into “their world” has left me with disdain for them and the utmost sympathy for their children.

After I received my Aspergers diagnosis as an adult, the starkness of the possible future laid out to me by the psychiatrist seemed to dash my hopes, leading to periods of hating alternately, myself, the autism and normal people.

Well that just plain sucks and I’m truly sorry that that shrink had the hubris to portray your future in such bleak terms. I’m happy to hear that you overcame it.

How easy it must be for the parents who have not had the benefit of scientific thought, and are living without hope, to be trapped in a cycle. We should pity the parents, and save our ire for those cranks that take advantage of them and trap them in that mindset.

I’d really like to but I’m just not that good of a person. It brings me grief to think of how they treat their children and how they are harming them physically and psychologically because they have chosen to embark upon a path of hatred, despair and selfishness. My pity is reserved for the children who will not be allowed to fulfill their potential because they are being conditioned to see themselves as damaged.

Of course they’re looking for someone/something to blame. Because if there isn’t that ‘someone/something’ then they’re lost.

It has to be the vaccines. It can’t be Mom (or Dad’s) genes – because then it’d be *their* fault – and they’re fine, aren’t they?

There must be a scapegoat for them. There is no random chance, no nothing. Everything has a cause/effect – and it begins and ends with vaccination to them.

Oh. Lord. Really.
At any rate, I just scanned her TMR archives and notice that I’ve been reading their epistles for nearly a year!
I recall that early on, Ms Poppy explained how she got her ‘nym: she looked over the provings for “homeopathic autism opium” which matched her son EXACTLY! OBVIOUSLY, she opines “like heals like”: she had had Stadol during his delivery. So the connection is apparent. ( see “Voodoo Magic Sugar Pills”)

She wrote about upticks in her child’s syndrome co-inciding with his parasites’ increased activity during the full moon ( see ” Bugs, Moon Cycles and Lunacy”)** and the self-explanatory, ” Garbage In, Garbage Out”. Another post, ” Freedom of Choice” is decorated with an emblematic [email protected]@bis leaf. That is certainly a load of execrable ideas for a period of only 10 months.

But her sisters in drama-queening rival her histrionics: I sometimes feel like I’m observing a contest about who has the most horrid life, who hates the Establishment most and who is the greatest martyr to her child. Make that *fighting* martyr: they’re simultaneously fighting and self-sacrificing themselves.
( more)

** I’ll say.

I already made a dismissive comment about Poppy on another thread, and while I respect Orac for giving her concerns a fair hearing, I still can’t summon a lot of sympathy for her. I spent several years doing admin work in a treatment centre for the developmentally disabled, so I do have a lot of sympathy for the extra stresses that a special needs child can put on a family. However, I also saw many examples of parents who managed to adjust their expectations and accept professional advice and support without all the grandstanding and melodrama that’s the hallmark of the Thinking Moms. And I have zero tolerance for the way the Moms are always referring to their kids as “damaged” or “empty shells.” No child is going to thrive when their parent has that kind of attitude toward them.

My own child is neurotypical, but there are several families in our wider social circle who have kids on the autism spectrum (the high-functioning end). They have all accepted their kids’ diagnoses and are pursuing appropriate therapies, but even they wonder sometimes about whether they should have had their kids vaccinated. As long as Poppy and her ilk keep spewing out their misinformation, they’ll be adding an extra burden of guilt on people who already have enough to worry about. Not to mention that all their “activism” does is divert attention and resources away from credible research into the causes of autism.

The needle trauma I do understand – I cried more than my son did when he got his first shots, but I knew I’d have to suck it up because there was no way I was going to leave him unprotected. I’d never forgive myself if he caught a vaccine-preventable disease just because of my squeamishness. But sitting around constantly obsessing about it like Poppy and stewing in misdirected rage should be a sign that it’s time to seek professional help. Unfortunately, the way she’s chosen to deal with it is to surround herself with equally angry people who reinforce her dysfunctional coping mechanisms and the delusion that they are all warriors fighting some great battle. McCarthy’s Minions.

I’ve said it before: TMR and AoA ( and lesser evils) are like group therapy gone awry- rather than encouraging more realistic ideas, they demonstrate woo-centric, combat-chic parenting and self-aggrandising disregard of experts.

I think that they serve as role-models to inductees and benefit from the prestige they enjoy amongst their sisters in this scewed sorority: they share this with other fighting mothers from other anti-vax consortiums- there are quite a few *nouvelles* celebrities clawing their way up the ranks from follower to leader- first you comment, then you write, then you get a book deal or a speaking gig. Their spokes-models relish their highly visible presence at conferences or governmental hearings, as we’ve witnessed recently, starring in videos that are circulated by facebook amongst the faithful.

So being a warrior mother can lead to fame and fortune, thus they recite the lines that have made their thought leaders famous, like so many mini- AJWs: little ‘Andreas’ spreading the bad word of bad science like fertiliser- hoping that newbies might emulate THEM .That’s a prescription for raising self-esteem: funny, but I like the OTHER way better- working hard and accomplishing things in reality, not fantasy land.

@DW – I had to wade in after those teasers and oh, my aching brain. What a wackjob! Those poor children.

@Denice
It’s an echo box, basically. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time getting Angry About Things On The Internet, it’s that echo boxes, no matter what they’re echoing, turn ordinary, good people into screeching loonies.

Allow me to play Devil’s Advocate, the take-home edition, for just a second here. Even if vaccines did cause autism, the utilitarian way of looking at it is that we’re trading dead children for autistic children. Autistic child beats dead child any day of the week.

Except that this is not good enough for parents who see their autistic children as “gone” or “dead to the world”. Then the utilitarian view doesn’t really apply because it doesn’t matter how many vaccine-preventable deaths have been avoided. In their eyes, we’re still losing kids.

So Poppy’s reaction of pseudo-PTSD is kind of understood. In her mind, she really did lose a child. None of the plans she may have had for that child will materialize, if I’m reading her statements correctly. So, in my opinion, she and other parents have a very selfish view of vaccination and autism. That is, if vaccines work, it’s for their own benefit. If they cause autism, it’s a personal thing.

Of course, this is all if and only if vaccines cause autism, which they don’t. With that knowledge, it becomes very hard to be sympathetic to this woman or anyone feeling “PTSD” over their child’s vaccines. It does a disservice to servicemen and servicewomen who have been to war and have psychological scars from that… Or to victims of abuse.

But that’s just me, of course.

@ Miss Mayinga:

Sure. However they are acting out their fantasies by political action and instructing others about how to ‘take care’ of their children. It is very insulated and incestuous: if you look at AoA’s recent post by Brian Hooker, you’ll notice that the interconnections between the principals are rather shocking and their reach is a little frightening.

I have seen how vested interests in woo have sent their minions scurrying to their phones and send buttons to affect legislature in more than one place ( see ANH, Gary Null, Mike Adams etc.)

Something must have stolen their “real” child from them, and vaccines are a convenient all-purpose bogeyman to blame.

So is the anti-vaccine movement to some extent an updating of the changeling myth? It kind of makes sense: both beliefs claim that the “real” child was lost-either literally or metaphorically-and replaced by one that is “wrong”–autistic, a fey, whatever.

If you believe that your child was stolen from you and replaced with a changeling or that your child became autistic because of a vaccine that you were “forced” or “tricked” into giving your child, then you’re off the hook. The child’s odd behavior isn’t your fault. Not a reflection on your parenting skills or your genetics, just bad luck or bad advice. Someone else is to blame.

Even more disturbingly, there seems to be a parallel use of the meme to excuse hating the child. I’m always struck by the amount of animosity that people in the anti-vax movement display towards children with autism. I understand mourning the loss of the imaginary “perfect” child, but what about the real child in front of you? Isn’t s/he worth anything? Well, often not to the parents who believed that their child was a changeling-and sometimes killed them to get their “real” child back. And apparently not to people who believe that their children are “lost” to autism and are willing to subject them to any risk from the known dangers of chelation to untested “stem cell therapy” to the risk of dying of infectious disease by refusing further vaccines.

And in order to absolve themselves of guilt for assisting the doctor in *destroying* their child ( i.e. vaccinating), they need to attack SBM and cast aspersion on the government, pharma, media. The child almost seems superfluous at times.

It is obvious that vaccines trigger autism in many children. We know this. Even if you wish to deny the connection to autism directly, it is undeniable that vaccines can maim, kill. On we go… to support those children injured by your unsafe vaccine program. Yes, I know that you screen posts here… I imagine you see them before deleting them though.

Another human tendency that is rarely mentioned in this context is the rush to replace “I don’t know” with an explanation, any explanation. Even the most scientific and skeptical-minded among us do it. I do it, you do it, everyone does it, somehow, sometime. We swim in a sea of “This MUST be the answer” and notice it less than the air we breathe. It lies beneath every religion. It leads the law to convict the innocent. It starts fights and it starts wars.
I have read that in the Lakotah language, the word for “mystery” translates out as something like “a thing I don’t understand yet.” Whatever the faults there may be in Lakotah culture, this is one idea that is worth borrowing. It seems such an enlightened attitude, one we all would do well to adopt and promote.

And in other news, Kirby has a new list:

Like many people, I thought the autism-mercury-vaccine discussion was essentially over. But clearly, it is not. And though many fretted that the controversy would drive fearful parents away from vaccination, the opposite it true: US rates remain at all-time highs.

Critics of the committee will say its members are mere politicians and we must listen to scientists. But when it comes to autism’s causation, the scientists in the room that day had little to say.

Guttmacher didn’t “know all the studies in the autism literature,” but said he’d “be happy to look into them.”

Below are 30 recent studies that support a potential role for environmental factors, including mercury and vaccines, that Guttmacher and the committee might want to read.

I’ve edited the list of 30 studies to include proper citations; email me if you want it (I’ve already sent it to Orac, Ren, ToddW and Science Mom).

Many of the papers are beyond my technical capacity to address.

@Dianne:

So is the anti-vaccine movement to some extent an updating of the changeling myth? It kind of makes sense: both beliefs claim that the “real” child was lost-either literally or metaphorically-and replaced by one that is “wrong”–autistic, a fey, whatever.

I hadn’t thought of it like that, but it makes a lot of sense. In addition, both involve dangerous actions to regain the “real” child: the changeling myth by giving the child foxglove and exposing it to force the fairies to return the child; the vaccines myth by subjecting children to chelation, stem-cell therapy and the Lupron protocol, amongst other things.

I just read Kirby’s post. What an ignorant, dishonest tosser and as if on cue, the mercury militia out to worship him. Any wagers that they haven’t even looked at his Gish Gallup to see what an unbelievable abuse of the scientific literature he just perpetrated?
Hint: Most about methylmercury, in vitro studies, pre-natal environment, co-opting the mito craze and a few from that twit DAN! doc Rossignol.

@ Old Rockin’ Dave:

Some folk in psych imagine people as ‘naive scientists’ ( in some cases, VERY naive) who attempt to understand what makes the world- and all of us- tick. Piaget saw young children as “experimenting” with objects, dropping them, over and over. Kelley said we “constructed” the world by hypotheses that we test; attribution theorists believe that we think largely about causation to function in the world so we can PREDICT what’s coming next, keeping uncertainty at a minimum. There’s a Virgil quote – “To understand the causes of things”- that’s used as a motto somewhere, IIRC.

Greater toleration of uncertainty involves dealing with frustration, an ability that is supposed to develop during adolescence along with other things ( as part of executive functioning, social cognition, formal operation thought). As I said, SUPPOSED to develop.

Many of the anti-vaxxers I read attribute blame ( for autism) on doctors, pharma, governments instead of accepting that it JUST MIGHT HAPPEN TO PEOPLE ( i.e. *de novo* mutation), have roots in heredity or be some other UNCONTROLLABLE factor. Attributing outcomes to uncontrollable – or unknown- variables might make some people feel more helpless. I have often felt that much of what these advocates for anti-vax do- in their fervent scurrying about and preaching to the choir – and other preachers- is done to HELP themselves, first and foremost, to make themselves FEEL better ( thorugh venting) and make up ( by inaugerating a new web-based career of sorts/ being an authority) for their disappointmeny at not having a ‘perfect’ child. -btw- I don’t think that ‘perfect ‘children exist.

Like many people, I thought the autism-mercury-vaccine discussion was essentially over. But clearly, it is not.

So what’s Kirby’s current theory to distract from his wrongness about thiomersal? Mercury from non-vaccine exposures, interacting with vaccines to explain an non-existent phenomenon?
I haven’t had enough coffee to try making sense of it myself.

You know, I used to feel quite emotional every time I opened a little pink vial of polio vaccine and dropped the drop into the baby’s mouth. I never did it without thinking of the terror of my parents when my sister went down with what was thought to be polio (it wasn’t) and their joy when the Salk vaccine was given out, and how very, very wonderful it is that a routine drop of pink liquid had abolished so much awful potential suffering… emotion is part of the human condition. How grateful I am that my children are safe, and how sorry I am that another poor mother has a handicapped child.

So what’s Kirby’s current theory to distract from his wrongness about thiomersal?

Who was it that had the theory their child was alchemically transmuting other elements into mercury, because no matter how much they chelated them, more and more mercury still kept coming out in their urine?

Is this crowd entirely dependent on old Isaac Asimov stories?

They would be more amusing if they were, as a number of them were simply jokes. I liked his story about the United States interstellar spaceship that was torn apart by a black hole; all that was left was a star-mangled spanner.

The amount of groveling over at HuffPo is truly disturbing.

I see what you mean. Some BS never dies, it seems.

Wait. What?

Having a child with Autism leads to PTSD in the parent?

Seriously?

Is she really that fragile?

Or is she broadening the definition of PTSD so she can be included?

Kind of like broadening the definition of ASD’s leads to a larger number of children diagnosed with it.

I haven’t had enough coffee to try making sense of it myself.

Dude, I’m guessing it’s going to take substances far more psychotropic and quite illegal to even begin to make sense of “their” physiology.

Instead, enjoy a nice cognac and forget you ever read Kirby et al.

Off-topic, but of possible interest Orac, is a post a bunch of people are talking about – http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist/2012/12/05/hivaids-stigma-canadian-edition-lite/

Basically, as I understand it (and it was clarified in the comments – have to read them), it is better for an HIV positive person (a “poz”) to infect (or “convert”) a partner through unprotected sex than for that person to tell them ahead of time and maybe face prejudice or discrimination. It’s definitely a WTF? read. Maybe I’m missing the point, but such criminal negligence is horrifying to me.

It’s this video response by Thinking Moms’ Revolution to the congressional Autism hearing, specifically Ari Ne’eman’s testimony.

http://thautcast.com/drupal5/content/progress-autistic-adults-arent-my-child-so-they-should-shut-front

Contrary to my usual practice, I am linking to Landon Bryce’s article on the video rather than the original because….the video uses the makers’ children to horrify and appall. It’s dehumanizing to the children and the manipulation is disgusting.

I am searching for a phrase; this video is the opposite of inspirational porn

For values of “Asimov” that include Arthur C. Clarke.

My memory fails me yet again – at least that explains why I couldn’t find that story among Asimov’s works.

Jesus H. Christ…are we again excusing these “warrior moms” (and dads), for abusing their kids?

The “clincher” for me was the MMS industrial bleach enemas for imaginary parasites and the do-it-yourself “fecal transplants” for *treatment/cures/recovering* their autistic children, that appears on ASD threads.

Sometimes “sh!t happens” and the healthy and the neuro-typical child that you planned for, is born with a developmental disability.

Thank G-d we have moms like Autismum who blogs about her beloved Cledwin, and provides us with reliable information about parenting a child with an ASD….

http://autismum.com/2012/11/20/reasons-not-to-mess-with-an-autism-mom/

Contrary to my usual practice, I am linking to Landon Bryce’s article on the video rather than the original because….the video uses the makers’ children to horrify and appall. It’s dehumanizing to the children and the manipulation is disgusting.

As usual, I’m taking your word for it and if I watch that right now I’ll probably end up with a hole in my wall. WTF is wrong with these people?! Why can’t they see what they are doing to their own children FFS. It’s always about themselves.

“It is obvious that vaccines trigger autism in many children. We know this. Even if you wish to deny the connection to autism directly, it is undeniable that vaccines can maim, kill. On we go… to support those children injured by your unsafe vaccine program. Yes, I know that you screen posts here… I imagine you see them before deleting them though.”

Your knowledge of Orac’s policies on deleting posts is as accurate as your imaginings about vaccine injury. Please reconsider your confidence in what you “know”. I

Your knowledge of Orac’s policies on deleting posts is as accurate as your imaginings about vaccine injury.

Perhaps “deleting” is some sort of colloquialism for “I disappear in lieu of defending.”

It is obvious that vaccines trigger autism in many children. We know this.

Sorry, no. The idea you are describing is an article of faith in many denominations of antivaxism, but there is no solid evidence that even a single case of autism was ever triggered by vaccines, and considering how relentlessly certain parties have pushed the search for such evidence, that’s pretty good evidence that there is no causal connection.

Even if you wish to deny the connection to autism directly, it is undeniable that vaccines can maim, kill.

Yes, in very rare cases, vaccines have injured their recipients. Then again, there is barely any object or substance on earth that the same can’t be said of. The question is, are children more likely to be injured by the vaccines, or by the diseases they protect against? If your answer is “by the vaccines,” it means you need to stop getting your information from such cruddy sources.

On we go… to support those children injured by your unsafe vaccine program.

I sincerely doubt you’ve ever seen even a single child who was in fact actually injured by a vaccine. If we went back to the time of the Salem witch trials and asked the parents there to point out the children harmed by evil Satan-worshipping witches, they’d point to a lot of children. Today we know that, no matter what was wrong with those children, the cause wasn’t hexing by witches.

Yes, I know that you screen posts here… I imagine you see them before deleting them though.

You must be thinking of someplace else, like AOA, where posts that don’t agree with the common opinion are screened out and suppressed. We don’t do that here. The most that happens is that moderation software holds up certain posts (usually because they included too many URLs or because they used what looks to the computer like bad language) until they can be manually checked and approved. And guess what, that happens to everyone; whether you’re Orac’s biggest fan or his biggest detractor, if you put three URLs in your comment or an f-bomb, you’re going to have a wait before your comment shows up.

@Columbina –

I was also diagnosed with Asperger’s and ADD as an adult, via neuropsychological tests ordered by my psychiatrist.

Somehow, it didn’t surprise me much, as I always got on better with those outside my age group, and I was always lost in space when the material being taught was something I’d already learned. I pity the children rather than the parents in this case. They consider themselves persecuted for having “defective” kids who will never live up to their vicarious dreams, while they spend all theirtime money on quack “cures”, bogus conferences, whining on websites, considering themselves martyrs, and blaming vaccines for ruining their so-called lives.

BTW, my parents never even considered any of that, I was the eldest daughter of 5 and had to set a good example for my younger sisters.

That same video That Liz Ditz linked to, is being touted on AoA and they also provided the link to the video on YouTube:

Skip the video…I didn’t…and I am appalled with the footage of children ASDs ….and a young man in the midst of a grand mal seizure. Scroll down to the comments where TMR’s LJ Goes is roundly criticized for posting it on YouTube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=_lo3Zny7WGE

@ Alain:

Best wishes ( right, I know that sometimes it’s bad luck** to wish someone good luck- especially *en francais*)

** not that I believe in luck per se.

The hearing could have used Congressman Waxman’s legilsative aide–the one when caught David Kirby, shall we say, taking liberties with the truth in a congressional briefing.

Scroll down to the comments where TMR’s LJ Goes is roundly criticized for posting it on YouTube.

Nice work from John Best there. I didn’t even know it was possible to get “too many negative votes” in YouTube comments.

One of the traits of autism is rigid, inflexible thinking. Is it just a coincidence that the type of rigid, inflexible thinking that enables the pathologically persistent belief in vaccines as the cause of autism exists in the parents whose progeny develop full blown autism? Are the autistic children of these anti-vaccinationists not falling so far from the tree? Are parents neurologically predisposed to such delusional irrationality also predisposed to bearing autistic children?

I am on the spectrum. I also never received the MMR vaccine. How does this square with vaccination as the cause?

Somewhat related to the topic,

On the return trip (I was carpooling with other peoples), we were 4 peoples. The driver who is going to cegep in police technics (Technique Policière in French), a linguistic student who’s looking to do her master in orthophonic and a cinema student.

One of the topic between the cop apprentice and the linguist was about autistic people and for reasons that I can’t find, I decided to stay silent about my diagnose (perhaps that I couldn’t get a word edgewise was part of the reason I stayed silent). The linguist was employee in a camp which had several autistic child (including a 27 years old autistic child according to the linguist) and they discussed about restraining techniques for the most part but also about power balance.

The only thing I had in mind is that I’d like to see these autistic “child” in action (most of the ones I know have bachelor level credential and higher) and when I was working at rivières-des-prairies (an hospital where a lot of neurodevelopmental work is done), there was really few autistic people who had behaviour problems like the “child” described by the linguist.

Alain

I have a 4 yo (and an almost 4 mo old) & she never had more than 3 shots at one time (2 in 1 leg, 1 in the other). I don’t quite get it when these people talk like their kids are being stabbed 5 times at once. Do some kids get more than 3 at a time?

As a side note, Orac, I would love if you spent more time on what patents claim to be doing to “cure” their child’s autism, mainly the diet angle. Between here and SBM, you’ve all given us enough to debunk anti vaxers, but I don’t know what to say when people say “so n so is like night and day since his mom put him on x diet”. Help would be appreciated

One consideration with these parents is how many of them have autism or “autistic tendencies” themselves. Being fixated on a subject, or on connecting far-flung details, or on some perceived slight in the past all sound par for the “spectrum” course.

Another obvious influence is the whole idea of “what if…” Running through the consequences of a past decision and what could have happened otherwise naturally lends itself either to self-agrandizing or blaming (or both). A line of thinking I have developed is that no decision is really a single event, and the ones that come to mind for my own life pretty well reflect where I was already coming from at the time.

David N. Brown

Bad Poet: Somehow, it didn’t surprise me much, as I always got on better with those outside my age group, and I was always lost in space when the material being taught was something I’d already learned.
I see someone like that in the mirror every day. I’d also like to say that I’m getting really freaking tired of ADD/ADHD being lumped in as examples of ‘vaccine damage.’ The idea that parents can look at a little kid and see nothing but damaged goods is disgusting.

I don’t mean to derail this, but I actually don’t think I had ever seen Best’s blog before. Impressively, he’s biting on “energy/quantum healing” for autism mercury poisoning and, despite his putative Jeffersonian leanings, crudely recycles two key talking points of the IWW, the abolishment of the wage system and full employment through reduced hours:

If the internet is shut down as some predict or, if Facebook blocks my group, I want everyone to do the same thing to spread the message of our unity. Get a piece of cardboard or a piece of wood and put it in front of your house or write these three words on the windows of your apartment that face the street: “NO MORE BANKERS”. When this everyplace, we will all stand together and we will end the use of money. We will be free…. We can work just a few hours each week to produce all of the goods and services we need.

Oh, and he thinks Bolen is an accomodationist, or something.

Ren –

we’re trading dead children for autistic children. Autistic child beats dead child any day of the week.

Sadly, we live in an ableist world, where people with disabilities (PWD) and people with mental illnesses (PWMI) are second class citizens.

If I had £1, even $1, for everyone who’d said to. my face “I would rather die than be like you” or “I’d be devastated if my kid ended up like you”, I’d have enough money to buy a kick-ar$e exoskeleton.

PWD and PWMI are seen as tragic, broken figures. We exist as warnings “You could end up like that if you do X”, or as a way to guilt-trip people “Stop complaining about washing up, some people have real problems”, and “Your knee hurts? At least you’ve got legs!”. Then there’s the “cripspiration” aspect, where people are either told “If she can do X with her disabilities, then what’s stopping you? Go for it! ” or “Look at the poor thing. Alone, suffering, hopeless. Your lost job doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?”

We’re pathetic, passive children who apparently cannot. active participants in our own lives. Through the lens of ableism we’re stripped of our agency, our sexuality, our individuality, and our voices. We become a homogenous lump of collective misery and grim fascination.

Given that, I can see where the horror of having a “damaged” child comes from. The truly awful truth is that this reaction is feeding the beast. It’s “proving” that people are better dead than defective, it’s adding to the very notion that spawned it in the first place, doubling down on the notion of disability, mental illness and non-neurotypicality, as tragedy.

@elburto

As we all well know, there are different kinds of people in this world. Some are good, honest people. Others are horrible pieces of crap that take up oxygen that would be put to better use in other applications. Those others are the ones that look at people with disabilities, or people who are just different, and see in them a warning, as you stated.

People are people are people are people. It is because we are people, human beings with feelings and emotions and all that good stuff, that we need to respect each other and take care of each other. If we don’t do this, our civilization collapses. It really does.

The very fact that AoA linked to that awful YouTube video posted by the TMR’s LJ Goes and the comments by the AoA parents, lead me to believe that we are dealing with parents who hate their autistic children.

What loving parent would ever videotape their autistic child in the midst of a tantrum or meltdown and put it up on YouTube? What loving parent would ever videotape their diapered child lying on the floor in the midst of a grand mal seizure and put it up on YouTube?

My son had thousands of grand mal seizures during his twenty-eight years of life. That YouTube video brought back sad memories of his struggle to survive those seizures.

@elburto
“Sadly, we live in an ableist world, where people with disabilities (PWD) and people with mental illnesses (PWMI) are second class citizens.”

As someone dealing with disability myself, I see it a little differently. The fault is with Nature, and people are only following nature’s dictates, albeit ungenerously. I’d rather they be honestly cold about it than fake-friends who disappear at the first sign of inconvenient weakness.

I share your feelings in general on the topic, but with respect to “ableism” I see that as a fact of life. I’d love to do a triathlon, but it’s nature not anyone’s attitude which now prevents that. Asperger’s is a bit different, as awareness and a little willingness on both sides can dramatically improve things.

@elbutro, also

“a way to guilt-trip people “Stop complaining about washing up, some people have real problems”, and “Your knee hurts? At least you’ve got legs!”. Then there’s the “cripspiration” aspect…”
Well said, those jibes have always inflamed me to revulsion. It’s sort of hard to argue with the “x is worse off than you” gambit, but it is actually a snide way of dehumanizing both the person the snarkspewer is speaking to and the poor, helpless cripple. Some people just want to make others feel guilty for living.

After my post above, I came across this quote from the philosopher and, perhaps not coincidentally, physician, Maimonides:
“Teach thy tongue to say ‘I do not know,’ and thou shalt progress.”

@badger3k – re your comment on:

“Off-topic, but of possible interest Orac, is a post a bunch of people are talking about – http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist/2012/12/05/hivaids-stigma-canadian-edition-lite/

Noted by several commentators is that the author of that article is using and trying to persuade (mostly through shouting, shaming, and insulting) people in his discussion thread into using terminology that largely originated in “bug chasing” / “gift-giver” contexts. Draw your own conclusions. I know I’ve drawn mine.

OT, should scientists participate more in debunking online nonsense?
quote: What all of this points to is scientists needing to be more involved in these sorts of comments. Now I don’t mean they should dominate or be the only voice heard. One of the greatest powers of the comments section is that alternative views get to be expressed and debated.
http://science.kqed.org/quest/2012/12/03/wanted-scientist-comments/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wanted-scientist-comments
Really?! Should PhD’s be expected to spend time patiently revisiting the science101 basics that school missed teaching?!

Really?! Should PhD’s be expected to spend time patiently revisiting the science101 basics that school missed teaching?!

Well think of it as self-enlightened interest. There have been many laypeople who have benefitted from a well-articulated point from an actual scientist in a comments section of a blog or forum. Helping others to understand some minutiae of science helps us too in many ways.

Spectator –

with respect to “ableism” I see that as a fact of life. I’d love to do a triathlon, but it’s nature not anyone’s attitude which now prevents that

Ableism isn’t preventing paraplegics from running marathons, or someone with Treacher-Collins Syndrome from being a supermodel. They’re just life, as you say.

What I’m talking about, when I talk. about ‘ableism’, is prejudice and active discrimination against PWD/PWMI, and decisions made by the legal system that disregard their/our safety and agency.

There’s institutionalised ableism where legislation targets PWD, or where organisations apply discriminatory actions toward them, and personal ableism, where violence and intimidation are directed toward people purely because of their disability.

Specific examples of the former are not allowing a chair user into a building because they are “a fire hazard”, refusing to employ someone because they’ve had treatment for depression or anxiety, not laying charges against someone who rapes people with developmental disabilities, with the excuse that they are “unreliable witnesses”

The latter includes attacking someone in the street because they use mobility aids, assuming that someone is “faking” their disability, and frequently reporting them to welfare agencies, which can lead to suspension of benefits, and conducting campaigns of harassment against families who have disabled children, or against adults with obvious disabilities.

In the face of all of that, refusing me a job as a police officer because I can’t walk, is just a cute joke about a normal facet of life.

The constant depiction of all disability, chronic illness, mental illness and non-neurotypicality as a “tragedy”, or a “waste of life”, only helps to fuel anti-vaxers and their attitude that risking death by VPDs is better than the (non-existent) risk of developing an ASD after vaccination.

There’s so much education and legislation necessary for Non-NT people, PWD/PWMI, and people with chronic illnesses to be viewed as normal citizens, capable of living up to their abilities (however limited they might be), with feelings and desires, and with the capacity to offer something positive to their communities and society at large.

Unfortunately, here in the UK, that’s happening in reverse. PWD are being targeted by the govt, portrayed as damaging and as wholly negative influences, and at the same time, death from VPDs are on the increase. I know correlation doesn’t imply causation, but casting PWD as agents of harm cannot be helping parents who are worried that vaccination could “damage” their child, or “replace” her with a another who one who isn’t “normal”. My heart breaks for the kids with ASDs whose own mothers and fathers blog and vlog constantly about how broken their child is, how they’re not the ‘real’ child that the mother gave birth to, and are subjected to harmful and painful “treatment” as a result.

A pox on those parents.

Poppy is correct, though, that antivaccine parents are not crazy, much less “f*cking crazy.

Perhaps not *all* antivaccine parents are crazy; but the ones who blog for TMR most certainly seem to be.

In my opinion, of course.

I need some help. I work at Walgreens and have found that many of my coworkers are anti vax. Sure, the head Pharmacist and most but not all of his staff are not the problem. The store manager tells me you can’t reason with an anti vaxer. He has been working for Walgreens for 20 years and he’s tried and tried. It’s most of the floor staff, even management! I have been using this thread and will use the search feature to find all the debate points I need to prepare myself with a calm reasoned reply to their objections. If it takes every bit of my free time so be it! I do all the flu shot announcements at our store because I am so concerned about the number of people who tell me they never get the vaccine because they never had it before. Uggh. In fact, another friend of mine and ally in fighting ignorance is currently debating this issue on a thread right now at walgreens topix forum. I think the title is I’m not looking forward to the customers…
One of the pharmacy guys is trying to reason with them, but it is amazing how the anti vax crowd uses every stupid logical fallacy you can imagine!

What I don’t understand is why they latch onto vaccines amongst all the other things that a child is introduced to in those early years – maybe it’s central heating, or electromagnetic radiation, or fluoridated water, or laundry detergent, or nappies, or powdered formular and / or breast milk, or silicon teats, or television, or being picked up too much when they cry, or synthetic fibres, or artificial light, or processed cereals etc. etc.

There is no more evidence that vaccines cause autism than any of those other things.

I have to agree with Science Mom (as I usually do). The kindness and sympathy extended to parents like those at TMR is too much. Doing so tacitly legitimises their actions, words and view of autism and their children who, it seems, are the guinea pigs and dragon to be slayed in their healer-martyr-warrior fantasy.
They use their children to shut down debate, to engender pity (for themselves) and, to quote Liz Ditz, “to horrify and appall.”
They have given autism the stigma of infection by their use of the word “epidemic” and have denied the existence of adults with autism to the point of declaring liars those who have identified themselves as such. Parents like these have led many autistic men and women to view all autism parents with suspicion, And yet, when an autism mom pops up in many a thread and piles on the woe even fierce vaccine advocates back off (not here though, thankfully). This is what I mean http://autismum.com/2012/08/29/you-cant-possibly-know/

Further to Science Mom & Autismum’s comments, as far as I have seen (as the parent of a thus far neurotypical 15-month-old) the essence of good parenting, whatever the situation of your child or children, is advancing their interests, even at the occasional expense of your own.

The self-styled “thinking” mothers at Thinking Moms’ Revolution appear to me to be quite clearly advancing their own whims at the expense of their children’s interests. Worse yet, if they subject their children to quackery, they are almost certainly (IMO) violating their children’s rights, while disingenuously defending their behaviour with reference to “parental autonomy” (as if that can justify rights violations).

One of my wife’s best friends has a developmentally delayed child, so I have some sympathy for any parent in similar circumstances. But that sympathy ends in the face of people clearly overriding their children’s best interests, and even their basic human rights, in order to further their own self-image as persecuted martyrs and superlative parents.

The children of the “Thinking” Moms deserve all the sympathy & support we can give. Their mothers? Not so much (except for the baseline support we as a society give to all parents, which I dare say is inadequate in the case of parents of children with developmental delays (including but not limited to autism)).

Another example of “autism tragedy, poor me” parenting at Age of Autism, this time from Cathy Jameson in Soldier On

Reading several parent testimonies that were shared with me and also submitted to the Oversight and Government Reform Committee for the record in response to the Congressional Hearings on Autism brought me to a place I try not to visit.  It’s a place where Every now and then I find myself sobbing uncontrollably slumped in a corner in my kitchen on the cold tile floor.  I sit there unable to move.  Holding my chest as overwhelming emotions wash over me, I try to make sense of what has happened and what didn’t have to happen.  I shake my head back and forth without even realizing that I am shaking while screaming in my head (and sometimes out loud).  Last week the pain and sadness had me in that place again crying, “Why?  Why Ronan?  Why all of these children?  For the love of God, WHY?!” 

Those stories i cried through are testimonies that are now part of a permanent record of the investigation regarding the rise in the US autism rates.  Each documents and provides intimate details about normal births, perfect APGAR scores, beautiful babies handed to doting parents and what followed when parents submitted to what their doctors deemed, and our government approved, as best. 

Grrrrrrrrrrrrr

@Adam

I suspect it’s because vaccines include an injection, which seems unnatural compared to the other things. I mean, we have an inbuilt instinct to avoid being jabbed with stuff; in an innate way I think it makes some sense.

This is what makes little sense to me:

They have given autism the stigma of infection by their use of the word “epidemic” and have denied the existence of adults with autism to the point of declaring liars those who have identified themselves as such.

What do they think happens to the autistic kids anyway? Do they just never grow up? Do they die? Do they become ‘lost children’ hidden from the world? Do they *all* get reverted? Do they grow out of it (in which case, why the fuss)?

“It’s a place where Every now and then I find myself sobbing uncontrollably slumped in a corner in my kitchen on the cold tile floor. ”
Get a cushion or get over yourself, love.

Every now and then I find myself sobbing uncontrollably slumped in a corner in my kitchen on the cold tile floor.

I too know the agony of a failed souffle.

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