“Almost autism”: A new diagnosis created by antivaccinationists

Is it just me, or are medical propaganda films becoming the preferred media for “brave maverick doctors, dubious doctors, and quacks to promote their wares? I just pointed out how everybody’s favorite “brave maverick doctor,” he of the therapy for cancer for which there is no compelling evidence but that he keeps administering anyway, using the clinical trial process to avoid pesky rules about administering unapproved drugs and that is nothing more at its core than an orphan drug without compelling evidence for efficacy and of the “personalized gene-targeted therapy for dummies” based on nothing but arrogance of ignorance regarding genomic medicine, is going to be lionized again in a sequel to a previous movie that lionized him. (Obviously, I’m referring to Stanislaw Burzynski.) The movie, as I’ve pointed out before, was made by a filmmaker whose business is to make promotional videos for corporate clients. Before that there was the antivaccine propaganda piece known as The Greater Good, in which vaccines were portrayed as a cause of autism, sudden infant death syndrome, and a variety of other diseases. This was a movie produced by a homeopath named Leslie Manookian, who is also apparently tight with all-purpose quack (in my opinion) Dr. Julian Whitaker, who also happens to be tight with Stanislaw Burzynski and will be appearing in the latest Burzynski medical propaganda film. Other recent movies of this ilk include Simply Raw, touting raw vegan diets as a cure for, well, almost everything; The Beautiful Truth, a documentary promoting the quackery known as the Gerson protocol; and at least a couple of films I haven’t reviewed (but might), such as Cut, Poison, Burn, a pro-cancer quackery film.

Sadly, it looks as though I’ll soon have to add another quack movie to the list. This time around it’s another antivaccine movie, Canary Kids: A Film for Our Children, which is being touted by the antivaccine quackery propagandists at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism. They even have a trailer:

The makers of this film sure aren’t shy about promoting it—or making hyperbolic claims for it:

We live in a media age. It is time for a big media solution. It is time for a ground-breaking, paradigm-shifting film, made by an award-winning director, that will raise awareness in a meaningful and powerful way. A film that connects the dots for people. A film that shows how all children in this country are a part of the autism epidemic. A film that can be seen in theaters across the country.

I present to you, Canary Kids: A Film For Our Children. This is a documentary film that is being funded by us, the parents, the scientists, the writers, the advocates, the people who “get it,” who want everyone else to “get it” too. But we need your help.

I’m beginning to think that it’s a general rule among cranks, “brave maverick doctors,” and quacks that, if you can’t convince scientists and physicians based on high quality scientific and clinical trial evidence, then make a movie! Maybe I’ll call that Orac’s Law. Oh, wait. I’ve called too many other postulates “Orac’s Law.” Maybe I should publish a list of them, along with corollaries, kind of like the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition. Maybe I could call them “Orac’s Rules of Woo.”

My egomaniacal desire for laws and postulates named after me that can be quoted in skeptical wikis aside, this movie looks bad. Real bad. As bad as the latest Burzynski hagiography that’s going to be released direct to DVD in less than a week and a half. It’s hard to tell, because obviously the Canary movie isn’t done yet, and the purpose of this announcement is to hit up the faithful for money. Using a survey that found that people who watched Food, Inc. actually changed their behavior with respect to the sorts of food they purchased, the makers of this new antivaccine movie state explicitly what their goals are for this movie. They are, quite simply, to do grave damage to public health by undermining confidence in the vaccine program and to promote the quackiest of quackery to be used to “recover” autistic children:

So imagine the statistics coming out upon the release of Canary Kids:

People who watched Canary Kids were more likely to:

  • refuse vaccination and/or question their pediatricians about the safety and efficacy of vaccines
  • refuse antibiotics for their children’s ear infections or viral sore throats
  • eat organic whole foods
  • try homeopathy before pharmaceutical medications
  • replace toxic cleaning and personal care products with safe, green alternatives
  • write their Congressmen about toxic exposures in their communities

Now, that is the kind of change that can stop a health epidemic in its tracks.

No, that’s the kind of change that can cause a health epidemic by decreasing the number of children protected against vaccine-preventable diseases, thus degrading herd immunity and guaranteeing that the incidence of serious childhood illnesses will increase manyfold. It’s also the sort of change that could guarantee that children will die of diseases they don’t have to die from as parents choose quackery like homeopathy before they choose real medications.

This is the sort of change we don’t need.

Fortunately, I doubt that a movie that will obviously not be as slick as Food, Inc will be as influential. The message is also likely to be so heavy-handed that people will likely tune it out as an advertisement, which is what it will be, more or less, specifically an advertisement for autism biomed quackery. It is, however, interesting to me primarily because apparently the movie is going to codify the sorts of things that antivaccinationists have been saying, in which vaccines apparently cause pretty much every chronic disease known to children because, well, vaccines are evil in their eyes. Certainly no science links vaccines with these problems, but science was never the strong suit of people like the makers of this film.

In fact, this film will create a diagnosis that will boil down to “vaccines cause every chronic health problem children experience.” You think I’m joking. Take a look. The name of the condition, according to the film, is “almost autism.” What constitutes “almost autism”? Almost everything. Basically, the filmmakers are trying to suck all parents into believing that their children are part of the “autism epidemic” (that almost certainly is nothing of the sort), whether their children have autism or not. In service of this “rebranding,” they redefine GI problems, asthma, pretty much any behavioral problem, or any chronic problem as “not autism”; i.e., caused by the same things they believe to be causes of autism, including (of course) above all vaccines. The filmmakers are very blatant about admitting that their movie’s message is all about marketing:

What is going to make someone come out to see Canary Kids? Canary Kids is not just about autism. For too long, people not directly affected by autism have looked the other way, because they can’t relate to autism. They don’t know what it is, they don’t see how it impacts them. They may not come out to see a film about autism, but they will come out to see a film about their kids.

Most people don’t understand that the asthma epidemic is directly related to the autism epidemic or that the obesity epidemic is related to the autism epidemic. They don’t yet see that the same environmental factors (pharmaceuticals, vaccines, toxins, diet, etc.) that cause symptoms of autism in one child are the very same environmental factors that cause symptoms of asthma in another.

I dont’ know if this tactic is evidence that these people are true believers or truly cynical. It’s probably both, although I don’t know which predominates. Basically, because their message isn’t resonating very much outside of their little collective of vaccine-autism true believers, they’ve decided that the way to reach out is to try to convince parents whose children have any sort of health issue at all that the evil vaccines done it and that their children have “almost autism.” In this, they seem to be appearing to redefine autism to the point of their definition being no definition at all other than any condition their fevered imaginations come to view as being caused by vaccines, regardless of how they do it.

But who is this group that is making this movie? We learn that it’s a nonprofit organization called Epidemic Answers, which until now I had never heard of before. It was formed by a woman named Beth Lambert, whom I had also never heard of before, which just goes to show that, no matter how much I think I know the players in the antivaccine movement, I never quite do. There’s always someone out there attacking vaccines or forming some organization or nother whom I don’t hear about until for some reason he or she pops up on my radar. Then, when that happens, I try to find out who the person is and what she stands for.

In the case of Lambert, it’s easy. She bills herself as a former healthcare consultant (whatever that means) and teacher. It’s pretty clear that she has no formal medical training, because if she did she would certainly advertise that on her book (yes, she’s written a book), A Compromised Generation: The Epidemic of Chronic Illness in America’s Children. She wrote it with a dietitian named Vicki Kobliner who runs a company, Holcare Nutrition, that touts “gluten-free, dairy free, low allergen, GFCF, SCD, GAPS, FODMAPS, and other appropriate diets” to treat a whole host of conditions. She’s also into “functional” medicine:

Through established scientific research and laboratory testing, functional medicine recognizes that ADHD is associated with imbalances in the levels of micronutrients (or vitamins and minerals used by the body for basic functions), neurotransmitters (necessary brain chemicals), and excesses of heavy metals in the body, among other dysregulated processes. Through diagnostic laboratory testing, clinicians can evaluate a particular patient’s imbalances and look for what might have contributed to these imbalances. For instance, deficiencies in micronutrients in the body (such as zinc, selenium, magnesium) can be explained by looking at the diet and how effectively or ineffectively the body assimilates these nutrients into the gastrointestinal tract.

Sadly, functional medicine is pure pseudoscience, as Wally Sampson has explained. It postulates “imbalances” in hormones and neurotransmitters, oxidation-reduction, detoxification and biotransformation, immune function, inflammation, and cell structure. It’s all so vague that these “imbalances” could mean almost anything, and when practitioners of “functional medicine” refer to them they usually do. Perhaps the most famous practitioner of “functional medicine” is Mark Hyman, known for creating “Ultrawellness,” the very name of which should tell you pretty much all you need to know about functional medicine. Yes, it’s quackery, full of supplements, dietary manipulations, and “detoxification.” “Imbalances” must be measured through a battery of lab tests and corrected with whatever woo functional medicine practitioners can dream up.

So we know where Lambert and Kobliner are coming from, and it is not from anything resembling a science-based perspective. Not surprisingly, she believes that in addition to lifestyle and diet, vaccines and “toxins” from the environment are the root cause of autism and pretty much every other chronic conditions children can develop.

Interestingly, Lambert’s consulting work was done for pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, as we learn in this interview:

Oh, dear. Our evil Pharmacon Overlord Lord Draconis Zeneca will be displeased. A traitor! Joking aside (or is it?), she describes having a child with “almost autism,” who had sensory, skin, allergies, and behavioral issues. The funny thing is, apparently her pediatrician didn’t agree that the child had all these problems, because Lambert complains that every time she took her child to the pediatrician he would tell her that her child was fine and developing on-target. So Lambert went doctor shopping and found a “Defeat Autism Now!” (DAN!) doctor. As many readers know, DAN! was a name for a set of “autism biomed” quackery, and DAN! doctors were doctors who practice such quackery. They were listed on the registry of the antivaccine autism biomed group “Autism Research Institute,” but the DAN! classification was dropped after 2011, and the ARI no longer maintains a list of DAN! doctors.

And guess what? The DAN! doctor found stuff wrong with her child—a lot of stuff! (Funny how that works, isn’t it?) Completely unsurprisingly, the problems he found were the same as those that DAN! doctors always seem to find in autistic children! Surprise, surprise! Lambert also apparently used an “integrative” physician and dietician to do “comprehensive gut healing protocols,” whatever that means. She also worked with a homotoxicologist and a naturopath. In other words, she assembled a team of quacks and entrusted them with the care of herself and her children. I realize I’ve written a lot about naturopathy, which is a cornucopia of just about every form of quackery known to humans, but what is homotoxicology? It turns out that it’s a quack discipline concocted by a homeopath, Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg, who believed that disease was the body’s attempt to dispel “toxins” and that homeopathic remedies can be used to correct this.

So what is this movie about? This:

The Canary Kids Film Project will take 7 children with a diagnosis of autism, ADHD, asthma, chronic Lyme or some other amalgamation of chronic (environmentally-derived) symptoms and provide them with free healing and recovery services for the period of 18 months.

The film will document their recovery journey while simultaneously providing an exposé on the factors that contributed to their conditions in the first place. Most importantly, the film will connect the dots for people so that they understand that we are all a part of the autism epidemic: Asthma, ADHD, allergies, Lyme, OCD, SPD, LDs, diabetes, obesity, Crohn’s, colitis, rare autoimmune conditions . . . we are all affected.

So basically, Lambert will take seven children with “with a diagnosis of autism, ADHD, asthma, chronic Lyme or some other amalgamation of chronic (environmentally-derived) symptoms” and subject them to the the full Monty of autism biomed quackery, including “detoxification” and “supplementation” treatment in order to “heal” them. It is indeed pure propaganda, and I do appreciate that the commenters at the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism recognize it as such, for instance Jilly Ann Beret:

…we wont get anywhere until we have won the PROPAGANDA WAR . We have got to get it accepted as fact , that vaccinations are causing a health holocaust.
And that means reaching the masses with our message over and over again . We have to counter the blatant lies being spread by Governments and PharmaHarma and the media .
Only at the point do I expect will we get the full scientific resources we require to cure our children (with full Govt funding). I know everyone will ask what do we do until then , well there are plenty of people doing their very best trying to find the best protocol to fix the issue . And children are being recovered – much to the embarassment of the Govts and PharmaHarma .

To most of us here on AoA , its simply preposterous that anything else causes autism except vaccines . And the CDC and the Govts and the Pharma are fully aware of that fact too – they already know Vaccines cause Autism – and that vaccines cause much more besides – ADHD , sterility , diabetes just for starters.

Propaganda for antivaccine views and autism biomed quackery aside, I can’t help but wonder if, in fact, the motivation to produce this film is more than just a desire to sell the world on the idea that vaccines cause autism and all sorts of other health problems (almost autism). It would appear to me that the motivation is primarily to sell autism quackery to a broader audience by making a movie that will be in essence a series of testimonials. Does anyone believe that all seven of these children won’t improve? Of course they will, because the outcome is preordained and there wouldn’t be a movie if they didn’t all (or at least five or six of them) appear to make considerable progress. What a bargain for the mere price of $250,000, which is what Lambert is asking for! Sadly, I have little doubt she’ll get it and ultimately make this movie. Fortunately, on the surface it looks as though it will be so blatant that most people outside the autism biomed bubble will recognize it for the propaganda that it will be.