Congressional Autism Hearing Recap

The stated goals of yesterday’s Congressional Oversight and Government Reform Full Committee Hearing: “1 in 88 Children:  A Look into the Federal Response to the Rising Rates of Autism” were to “…get a clearer picture on what is being done, what questions still need to be answered and what needs exist for those children, adults and families who live with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.” This hearing was notable for its precedent-setting inclusion of autistic representatives. Committee Chair Darrell Issa noted that as long as he heads the committee, it will stay open to autism concerns and may even try to find funding to address them. Video coverage of the entire hearing is embedded at the end of this post. The hearing witnesses (and each’s official testimony): Alan Guttmacher, M.D. (testimony) Director, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health Coleen Boyle, Ph.D. (testimony)…

Dangerous Interventions: MMS and Autism

Emily Willingham biologyfiles.fieldofscience.com Last week we became aware that a protocol for “treating” autism, called MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution), was presented at the most recent AutismOne conference. The convoluted science behind this “solution” would be enough to turn many people off, but the actual “treatment” is so abhorrent we wanted to make sure that people know the background of MMS. Warning: the links in this post may be a trigger because many of them point to communities that equate autism with damaged goods. -JBM AutismOne has a history of providing a platform for dubious “practioners” to showcase potentially harmful wares to a willing audience. The peddlers at this conference are no different from any other pseudoscience-pusher, including the fact that they are more than willing to take advantage of the pop culture fascination with autism, and induce a gullible audience to part ways with their money, regardless of how ineffectual,…

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Autism Misinformation: Putting My Foot Down (Part 2)

Jessica Severson theseversons.net Part one surveys the first part of the sequence of events by which research turns into pseudoscience, and “truth fades away in favor of headlines and pageviews and gossip.” Onward. Part Five: News Articles This is a process. First research, then op-ed, then press release and finally news articles. So what’s the headline of our news article? Top 10 Chemicals Most Likely to Cause Autism and Learning Disabilities. Guilty of serious fear mongering, no? A more accurate title may be: Researchers propose list of chemicals potentially tied to neurological development for further study. But I doubt anyone’s going to write that. The article itself, to be fair, is full of caveats. The reasons for the increase in autism are “controversial.” There is a “gap in the science.”  But then you get a sentence like this: But clearly, there is more to the story than simply genetics, as…

Autism Misinformation: Putting My Foot Down (Part 1)

Jessica Severson theseversons.net I am putting my foot down. As the parent of an autistic child I hear a lot about vaccines and about half a million other things that people think cause autism. I’m hyperaware of the attention autism gets in the media. So I know about the CDC’s new stats on autism rates. I know about the debate on whether the increase in autism is due to more awareness and diagnosis or more actual occurrences. (Personally, I find the former to be a serious factor, though who’s to say how much.) And I see all the articles that come out week after week about the millions of things that are linked to autism. There’s a recurring problem here. Valuable research is done. Research is disseminated. Information is reported. Articles are read. Findings are spread. And what starts in a lab ends up in a Facebook status. What starts…

Whacking Monkeys In the Name of Science

Emily Willingham  doublexscience.blogspot.com Natural News recently resurrected an OLD study about “monkeys with autism” that, when it came out two years ago (for the second time), was so egregious that many autism/science bloggers tore it to pieces. That hasn’t stopped Natural News from presenting it as “new.” So, we are running science editor Emily Willingham’s original reaction to the study, below. We also encourage you to read editor Liz Ditz’s overview of the entire history of this “study.” I was sitting across from a friend today at a picnic table when she received an email on her smart phone. A local parent who disseminates all manner of autism-related information and misinformation had circulated an email with a SafeMinds headline asserting that “scientific evidence” had emerged linking autism, vaccines, and mercury. Suppressing the impulse to hurl all over the beach towels at the prospect of yet another mole to whack (or,…

Pseudoscience Alert: Lyme-Induced Autism

Emily Willingham biologyfiles.fieldofscience.com This post was originally written in September, however questions and assertions about “Lyme-Induced Autism” still occasionally percolate online. Please do feel free to counter such concerns with a link to this analysis by our TPGA Science Editor. -The Editors —- In the “this isn’t science or news” category, a local Fox station story out of Sacramento. Let’s take this bit by bit, shall we? Headline: “Doctors find link between Lyme disease, autism” Problem 1: The story isn’t about “doctors” finding “links.” It’s about one doctor claiming to have seen children in her practice (more on that later) who are “cured” of their autism after treatment for Lyme disease after testing positive for it. In reality, the story presents only one example to support the claim. Problem 2: The story doesn’t show any “link” in the scientific sense of the word, at all. In fact, it produces no…

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Differentiating Between Real Science and Fake Science

Emily Willingham biologyfiles.fieldofscience.com Pseudoscience is the shaky foundation of practices — often medically related — that lack a basis in evidence. It’s “fake” science dressed up, sometimes quite carefully, to look like the real thing. If you’re alive, you’ve encountered it, whether it was the guy at the mall trying to sell you Power Balance bracelets, the shampoo commercial promising you that “amino acids” will make your hair shiny, or the peddlers of “natural remedies” or fad diet plans, who in a classic expansion of a basic tenet of advertising, make you think you have a problem so they can sell you something to solve it. Pseudosciences are usually pretty easily identified by their emphasis on confirmation over refutation, on physically impossible claims, and on terms charged with emotion or false “sciencey-ness,” which is kind of like “truthiness” minus Stephen Colbert. Sometimes, what peddlers of pseudoscience say may have a…

Questionable Autism Approaches: Facilitated Communication and Rapid Prompting Method

Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism no longer supports the conclusions behind the original version of this post, and in fact opposes efforts to deny autistic people communication options based on outdated and insufficient evidence. We will be posting a full statement on our current position shortly. Shannon Rosa TPGA Senior Editor August 5, 2016