A Tale of Two Autisms

It was the best of conferences, it was the worst of conferences. There were families living the reality and experts carrying the truth. These were my experiences at two very different autism conferences this past week. There were sharp contrasts in spirit, knowledge about this topic, curiosity, healthy skepticism, and life experience.

Let’s start with the first presentation, which was a panel of University of Miami autism doctors attended by 40 or so professional school students. I’ll called this ‘Autism I – The Scientific Autism Panel’:

  1. Originally just myself and the Chief of Pediatrics, the panel increased to include two additional well-known, well-published experts. Why add a psychiatrist and a genetics doctor… to defend the flawed/non-existent causation theory?
  2. ‘Conventional’ medical beliefs were in full regalia. When questioned by one of the wonderful, bright students as to whether it was “OK to fire patients from our practice?” the professor answered that the “American Academy of Pediatrics felt that it was best to continue to work on the patients and convince them of the decision to move forward with vaccination,” though personally, he thought that it was unethical. UNETHICAL?? Yo, bro, I have been a member of many-a-hospital-medical-ethics-comittees, and I would love to debate about that. I think that it was Mister Spock who once said, “Sometimes the good of the few outweighs the good of the many… or the one.” (or something like that). I feel that my loyalty is to the family sitting in front of me, and not the “herd” (as the general population is frequently referred to). That is especially true since I do not believe that all the studies show that all the vaccines are good all of the time. Too many variables there, doc, to be pontificating about the good of the many.
  3. A major reason for my presence there was to request young healthcare professionals (and their teachers) to inquire about the clinical condition of their patients before administering vaccinations. I was assured by the Chief that his colleagues and students certainly conformed to that practice routine. I am certain that most doctors never even GAVE a vaccination, let alone asked whether the child was recently ill, or did poorly with a previous vaccination, or whether there were other kids at preschool who were sick, etc.?
  4. Pretty much, the experts that I encountered that day were of the opinion that the course of autism was pre-determined. If  you got it, that was just a bad coincidence, and if you got better from it, that was a fortunate coincidence and if the child was really affected, there was little that could be done medically, other than treat the symptoms. Except, of course, traditional S&L, OT, PT and ABA. I felt that the other panel members were totally dismissive of the theories about causation and treatment. They were teaching future professionals.
Then there was Saturday’s presentation to “A Bridge To Healing” group in picturesque Palm Beach. Attendees were professionals and parents from the area who were interested in understanding biomedical intervention. I’ll call this one “Autism 2 – The Real Thing.”
  1. These folks were living the epidemic. There was no 20 minute theoretical discussion about an increased incidence of ASD. The questions that they asked revolved around what they could do to further their child’s development.
  2. When it came to the topic of vaccinations, I found that the audience was receptive to a schedule that was more appreciative of the needs of the few and the many, if it made more sense. I frequently encounter this sentiment; that there would not be so much polarization if the powers-that-be would reconsider a schedule with fewer vaccines, spaced farther apart.
  3. Their interest about the workup and treatment of a child’s condition led me to believe that parents were re-thinking their views about their child’s future and steps that they might take to address symptoms, and in a more natural way.
  4. The professionals in the audience were eager to understand how meshing biomedical and traditional interventions would produce superior results for their patients.

This is a time when parents are not on the same page as their doctors, which can’t be the best situation for affected individuals. From where I stood this past week, it’s the experts who could do “a far, far better thing,” and pay more attention to helping this growing patient population.

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