Archive for the ‘Vaccines’ Category

Autism, Inoculations, and Fantasyland

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Recent news about the increase in measles that has sprung up in California, has brought about the usual media finger-pointing, claiming that the cause is unvaccinated children whose parents unnecessarily worry about the risk of autism.

As documented in my previous posts on this topic, this physician believes in the value of those twentieth century miracles. Nonetheless, a lingering question remains, “Are all of the vaccinations safe and effective for all young children?”

The Three Main Reasons for the Measles ‘Outbreak’

Lack of Knowledge

We really don’t know the reason(s) for the newest episode. The increase may have little to do with lack of compliance by anti-vaccination zealots. Many of the infected individuals were Disney workers who had probably already been vaccinated, and were no longer immune. Plus, the venue is an international attraction, with visitors from all over.

The Wakefield Effect – Any time there is any story involving vaccines and ASD, the controversial and now-infamous British study that implicated measles virus as a possible cause, seems to mar all perception and reason. Media pundits are quick to avail themselves of that ill-fated research.

Conventional medicine is still debating whether increases are merely due to changes in diagnostic criteria. Every week a new association pops up; including maternal weight, paternal age, environment and toxins, stress, and circumcision. If compliance is the issue, certainly such confusion shakes one’s faith in the ‘science’.

Polarization

The experts would have a great deal more validity and success, if they could add more understanding and kindness to their approach. Those who question the status quo are considered kooky, ignorant and ill-informed. That creates more polarization, with fewer parents possibly choosing to vaccinate.

Pro-vaccination declarations are rarely equivocal, and conclusions no longer contain the statement, “The topic deserves further study.” Anti-vaccination supporters suffer a similar shortcoming, and conspiracy theories are a scientific distraction. There doesn’t seem to be any compromise position.

Issues, such as the recent CDC whistle-blower case, or reports of safety violations have not been adequately addressed.

There still aren’t any definitive, prospective, randomized, controlled, double-blind crossover studies with long-term outcomes evaluating various vaccine schedules to document safety. Holistic medicine is frequently chastised by the establishment for such an omission in alternative protocols.

Lack of Confidence & Trust

A great deal of money is handed to drug manufacturers to manage these vaccination programs. Concerns abound about whether large multi-national companies always have our best interests in mind.

The Flu vaccine fiascos that permeate each winter do not engender a great deal of confidence about how our medical establishment handles the inoculation issue.

The government continues to send out inaccurate and conflicting messages regarding our public health. Antibiotics in our food are proven unsafe, but the practice continues. There were 2 cases of ebola and Congress appointed a ‘czar’, but they couldn’t confirm a Surgeon General.

Public trust in the FDA and CDC has been eroded by frequent lapses in judgement and execution.

Conclusion:
The vast majority of the scientific literature is quite insistent that there is no relationship between the present vaccine schedule and ASD. To all of the experts, ‘true’ scientists, and colleagues – I get it!

That fact remains that there are too many parents who have noted developmental regression proximate to a childhood vaccination. They deserve better answers.

Five Steps to Improving Vaccination Compliance

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, “The Anti-Vaccination Epidemic”, Dr. Paul I-never-met-a-vaccine-I-didn’t-like Offit whined about the ignorant public, The Wakefield Effect, “fringe” doctors, foolish families and the “inaccurate” media. The subtitle, Whooping cough, mumps and measles are making an alarming comeback, thanks to seriously misguided parents, sums up the position of Dr. He-ain’t-Jonas-Salk.

The mainstream approach to the childhood vaccination-autism controversy is that there is no blame on the part of the ‘experts’ or the doctors who follow the pharmaceutical industry’s dogma. The logic that says,”If you knew how bad those diseases were, you would believe,” doesn’t work on me. I have lived through many previous epidemics.

The major problem is trust. Confidence in the government is at an all-time low. More than half of the population doesn’t trust the FDA. That bureaucracy can’t manage to stop antibiotics in our food, even when there is evidence of negative effects.

The CDC has similar problems. The current whistle-blower incident, involving questionable data inclusion/exclusion affecting an association with MMR and autism in African-American males, hardly discourages vaccine skeptics. Furthermore, the present viral epidemics appear to reinforce public fear about the competence of that prestigious organization. It was media scrutiny that prompted investigators to secure the living quarters of the Texas ebola patient!

How to Improve Vaccine Compliance:

1. It is difficult to believe that an agency has ‘learned from its mistakes’ when they don’t even own up to them. There have been problems in the past. A neurologic illness has been related to some vaccines, and the Swine Flu ‘epidemics’ were debacles. Public trust would best be furthered by declaring, “We understand what happened and those issues are behind us,” if it’s true. If it isn’t, caution is warranted.

2. Pediatricians need to give better advice. Often, the doctor who professes vaccine safety also missed the child’s ASD diagnosis. Parents are not “bad”, “ignorant”, or misinformed. They simply don’t agree, and professionals should be armed with the facts, not paternalistic warnings.

3. Doctors need to listen. A previous sibling or relative with autism is cause for concern. Fevers or illness that followed other vaccinations should be highlighted in the chart, not dismissed. Co-morbidities, such as eczema or asthma need to be controlled, before adding to the immunologic load.

4. Research that challenges the norm warrants evaluation, not immediate dismissal. Instead of proclaiming the autism-vaccination question a dead issue, confidence would be elevated by experts who calmly declare, “That study deserves further attention.”

5. A practitioner’s willingness to agree to an individual family’s reasonable request to adjust the number and frequency of ‘shots’ will be met with more, not less, compliance. Furthermore, kicking an insubordinate family out of the practice is neither ethical nor helpful.

The present strategy of threats and intimidation is not working to decrease the number of families who either choose an alternative schedule, or the risky position of total noncompliance.

Further understanding and kindness is the best prescription for a more successful approach.

A Vaccination Booster?

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Regarding any association between ‘shots’ and the occurrence of ASD, the vast majority of accepted scientific evidence supports vaccine safety. Yet, for a great number of families, the term ‘vaccine safety’ is an oxymoron.

When childhood inoculation schedules light up the social media radar screen, there is often an increasing demand for my professional assessment.

"My child has made alot of progress.
 I have learned to pick my battles. So we have won some battles...
 What is your opinion on the current Vaccine CDC Controversy?...
 I feel soooo let down by my government!
 I need to hear from a Professional that is honest and caring...
 What would Dr. Udell Do? (Please say hello to Karen)"

The issue:
A now unavailable, already discredited, (formerly) published ‘study’ in the journal Translational Neurodegeneration, made claims about an increased risk of autism after MMR vaccinations in African-American males. Assertions surfaced about the validity of data collection and evaluation, implicating a government cover-up. That fueled online finger pointing.

The press loves a fight, especially when it involves those anti-vaccination kooks.

The light:
Well, there really was no light. The 10-year-old study in question was appropriately explained. Given design and outcome measures, the conclusions in that paper seem valid. As long as Dr. Thompson, the whistleblower, remains at lawyers’ length from public questioning, little ground is gained by explanations from anti-vaccination spokesperson, Dr. Brian Hooker.

Solid evidence is lacking about whether autism may be triggered by certain vaccinations, various dosages, schedules, in susceptible individuals, in the presence of certain physical findings, and depending on previous medical or family history, sex, age, etc. Then, there are external difficulties, such as the quality of storage and labeling, which have been brought into question.

NEVER? Impossible?
The government notes that ‘shots’ are responsible for fevers (up to 25%), seizures and neurologic disruption.
But not autism.

The heat:
CNN dredged up The Wakefield Effect; stories concerning any non-conventional point-of-view regarding autism should be assumed as false, and they could be dangerous.

Talking heads derided “those zealots” who are despoiling herd immunity with ignorant, self-centered beliefs. Still, in a highlighted measles vignette, the group-in-question was Amish! Such issues are extant in other religious organizations, as well. Autism outcome is not their primary concern, and that isn’t going to change with any CDC proclamation.

Admonishment from detached media ‘pundits’ further marginalizes affected families who are so baffled by what happened to their perfectly developing infant or toddler.

Conclusion:
We don’t even know what autism is, what causes it, or what has led to the increasing number of patients. Yet, the powers-that-be seem so sure about what doesn’t cause the problem. And often, about what doesn’t help, either.

Nothing has changed. I cannot get my head around the disconnect between public and medical opinion.
Two people get the ebola virus and we’re all running for the hills.
Autism as an epidemic? Not sure about that one.

This story is a tempest-in-a-teapot based on a decades-old study when the incidence of autism was 1/110. The rate has nearly doubled since that time. Rather than deriding those who question the gods of medical science, it’s time to delve even deeper into the factor(s) producing this modern epidemic.

Miracle Mineral Solution Treatment for Autism

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

I hadn’t really expected MMS to gain any traction as a viable autism treatment. It seems complicated and scary, and the FDA first issued a warning about it four years ago. Perhaps there is no measurable re-emergence, but it seemed so when I attended the Autism Today Second Conference in Miami this week.

I sat among eighty mostly-bewildered parents, representing children who are so affected that they are attracted to outlier theories and treatments. This is largely because the information supplied by the conventional medical community is so woefully inaccurate, incomplete, and unproductive for many patients.

Due to some scheduling glitches, this conference ended up focusing on the very controversial topic of MMS. The treatment was explained by Ms. Kerri Rivera, “a biomedical consultant for an autism clinic in Puerto Vallarta,” and mother of recovered child. Her experience was then authenticated by Dr. Andreas Ludwig Kalcker, inventor of “The Parasite Protocol,” which is an essential element in the therapy.

The Chlorine Dioxide Protocol is not about bleaching your kid. That was the first message. Well, it’s not about making your intestines white, but the word does mean “to sterilize.” Anyway, that refers to sodium hypochlorite, according to Ms. Rivera, not the chemical that MMS is utilizing. In that sense, it’s not about dipping your child in Clorox. Except that Chlorine dioxide is used in “stripping textiles and industrial water treatment,” and it does involve purging and cleaning the “excess of pathogens.”

  • The diet – organic vegetables and meats. GF/CF/SF/sugar free (especially fruits).
  • Supplements – Stay away from all anti-oxidants.
  • Main Ingredient – Ocean water and acid (lemon juice, e.g.), to make a dilute solution of Chlorine Dioxide.
  • How it is administered – Doses and administration depending on a pre-established protocol, plus alterations depending on symptoms and response to treatment. In the gut, it is supposed to remove the biofilm and so expose organisms that get flushed through the G-I tract. Breathed into the lungs, it addresses asthma and bronchitis. The cutaneous route helps eliminate bad skin cooties and detoxify. Enemas and rectal suppositories to directly address lower intestinal issues. There is also and Eye and Ear spray form.
  • What happens – The elimination of bad bacteria (and, admittedly some good ones – but they have a product to fix that), viruses, fungi, and worms. Lots of worms. Plenty of worm pics. Worms that no laboratory in the world, apparently, can document.
  • Acceptable additional treatments listed as HBOT, chemical chelation and GcMAF, probiotics, l-carnosine, carnitine, plant fatty acids, GABA, digestive enzymes, tryptophan, DMG and TMG (the last 2 are anti-oxidant precursors).
  • She claims to have helped over 6000 families, and 131 cases of patients losing the diagnosis.

The ‘Parasite protocol’ was presented by Dr. Andreas Ludwig Kalcker, who recommends Chlorine Dioxide treatment.  He lists his credentials as, “… first licensed in economics and later in biophysics and alternative health (Ph.D)
Although his German accent is compelling, the science that he presented was not. He listed the symptoms of parasites and noted similarities to many autistic behaviors (?cause and effect?). He claims that his key discovery was that regressive autism is due to “Parasitological Vaccinosis“. That term describes toxins that are later released by parasites in susceptible children who become vaccinated.
He made many grand overstatements, using real research papers that only prove the one point, frequently mixing apples and oranges. Slides such as “Larval migraines induced by vaccine,” not only lack a scientific citation, I couldn’t find any match over the entire Internet.

In the Q&A session, I asked a simple question, “131 ‘cured’ is the numerator, what is the denominator?” This resulted in Ms. Rivera and Dr. Kalcker blustering about how that number couldn’t be documented, and how it wasn’t really important. That begs the comment, “Well, if you don’t know how many have been treated in this manner, you also wouldn’t really know how many have experienced significant negative reactions.”

As expressed by top autism researcher, Dr. Martha Herbert, I do not believe that parents who attend these conferences are “gullible, dangerous, and/or don’t love their children, and the people who pass them off are snake oil salesmen.” I was there to learn about new ways to approach our most resistant patients, not to criticize. Advertising MMS in this manner is not the way to go about proposing innovative and controversial treatments. It promotes The Wakefield Effect.

Dismissing conventional medicine as being completely ignorant and challenging treatments from all sides takes strong scientific proof. Proof of concept in animal models and proof of efficacy and safety in appropriate human treatment trials. To be specific: no, I would not recommend this treatment for my patients. There is too much missing information. A few pictures of recovered children and parental testimonials should not sway a prudent professional.

At The Child Development Center, we have improved the lives of many of our patients by addressing and treating G-I health with a proven, safe, well-tolerated protocol. Nutritional status must be evaluated, treated and monitored. With appropriate behavioral therapies, child development gets on the right track.

For successful autism treatment, each piece in the puzzle has to fit into the bigger picture.

Autism Wars II: The Wakefield Effect

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

This month, Pediatrics published a paper indicating that there was, in fact, a “greater prevalence of GI symptoms among children with ASD compared with control children.” 
OK, so far.
Not really groundbreaking information, but it did appear in a mainstream, well-respected, scientific journal.

Somehow, the authors felt compelled to include an opinion that the medical profession has been delayed in studying this gut-autism association. The Discussion section includes, “Previous controversy surrounding the MMR vaccine and proposed causal link between ASD and infection of the GI tract probably deterred investigators from dedicating resources to examine GI functioning in this population while fostering uncertainty in the ASD community regarding the validity of this line of inquiry.
Not OK.
Investigators are not prevented from pursuing certain lines of thinking. In fact, there are several follow-up studies challenging the original postulation. That’s science, right?

Shortly thereafter, Forbes autism blogger, Emily Willingham, followed with a piece actually naming the culprit. She tattled that it was the nefarious Dr. Andrew Wakefield. He is the British pediatric-surgeon-gastroenterologist-fallen-from-grace who has been accused of concocting the measles-vaccine-autism association in order to gain riches and international fame. Thanks, Em, otherwise we wouldn’t have known who they meant.
Really not OK.
The science writer penned another less-than-illuminating piece. She posited her somewhat unconventional point of view that anxiety is the cause of many G-I disturbances, rather than the other way ’round. What has that got to do with “Blame Wakefield For Missed Autism-Gut Connection”? Has that delayed ‘Dr.’ W’s research, as well?

Yikes.
Can we get some facts straight here?

Fact: The title of the original article in question was, Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children.
It began as a series of case reports, which has been totally blown out of proportion. Some of the patients had an autism diagnosis, assigned by other specialists.

Fact: The conclusion of that paper, We have identified a chronic enterocolitis in children that may be related to neuropsychiatric dysfunction. In most cases, onset of symptoms was after measles, mumps, and rubella immunisation. Further investigations are needed to examine this syndrome and its possible relation to this vaccine.”
Does that sound like science or sedition?

Fact: Dr. Leo Kanner, father of modern child psychiatry and inventor of the “autism” classification in the 1940’s, first reported on 11 patients, 8 of whom had G-I signs and symptoms. He called the problem a psychiatric disorder. That delayed correct diagnosis and treatment for about 50 years (and continues to slow the process because of the ASD inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).
Anyone angry about that?

Fact: Bruno Bettelheim helped prolong the ‘Refrigerator mom’ theory throughout the 60’s and beyond.
With a thick Austrian accent and faked credentials, he appeared on talk shows and became famous with that stupidity, not infamous.

The Wakefield Effect
Why is there such an emotional connection with this condition? It’s the Wakefield Effect. Because of this debacle, anything having to do with autism that is not sanctioned by the mainstream is considered an aberration; including special diets, yeast in the G-I system, vitamins, and toxins in the environment. Regarding certain establishment fixtures, such as vaccination, anyone who pursues a course of action other than the teachings of the Church (Big Pharma+ Conventional Medicine) is to be expelled from the religion and sent packing to other ports of call. With the availability of the Internet and Social Media, innuendo turns into truth.

I have met Dr. W and heard him speak several times. He is good-looking, articulate, charismatic, and tells a compelling tale. He probably could have continued his research, and even received funding, if he had followed his original work with more humility and sense of uncertainty. If this was a hoax or part of some grander plan, it has certainly failed as he (and his work) falls into obscurity.

Rather than discuss biology, genetics, objective research strategies and prospective trials that could assure safety and effectiveness, the public is fed dogma and discord. The wrong line of reasoning is being followed and now appears in more diverse venues, including popular, financial and even scientific publications.

Perhaps it is less interesting and more complicated, but the best antidote to the Wakefield Effect is for medicine to drop this non-issue and move on. The media wants controversy, but parents want answers.

A Mother’s Intuition About Autism

Saturday, May 10th, 2014
Mother's Day 2014

Mother’s Day 2014

Every new patient at The Child Development Center has a unique history and physical presentation. Often, however, the children share the experience that their mother:
a. Already knew, or highly suspected, ASD, and
b. Heard the doctors proclaim that they were “reluctant to make a diagnosis, at this time, because the child is so young.”

Is there any other serious medical condition that carries this ‘wait and see’ attitude? “It’s probably not cancer, so let’s wait a few months and see what grows.” “The eardrum looks red and is bulging, if the fever gets any higher we will consider antibiotics.” “I hear wheezing, call us in a day or two.” And vaccinations? The first one is foisted upon newborns, with many more to follow, in order to prevent disease.

Study after study documents important gains that come from early intervention for developmental delays. Despite that, there are neurologists and psychiatrists who continue to claim that “You can’t make the autism diagnosis before the age of 2 or 3.” That imposes a waiting period, postponing intervention at the most critical juncture of development.

In order to assign an accurate diagnosis, both the DSM IV, and the present iteration of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5.0, contain the stipulation that delays should be noted in early childhood. The previous manual stated, “Delays or abnormal functioning… with onset prior to age 3 years… ” The present DSM 5.0 describes, “Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).” There is no mention of a waiting period.

Yet, in the midst of this epidemic, and with all of the press coverage about the rise in autism, mother is usually the one who makes the diagnosis. Is it any wonder that the parents go to the Internet to get their information or seek alternative treatments when the doctors weren’t even willing to assign a diagnosis, let alone suggest any therapy?

At our Clinic, there are now many younger siblings of children who carry a ‘Spectrum’ diagnosis. Some demonstrate developmental red flags. A 2 year-old male who doesn’t speak and walks on hs toes but shows good eye contact. A 1 year-old female who turns to her name, but doesn’t stand or vocalize. A six month-old boy who suffers from GERD, eczema and chronic diarrhea.

The youngsters were all high-risk and the mom couldn’t sleep, worrying about the future. What is wrong with offering immediate action targeted to specific symptoms? The youngest children can use a probiotic, stop using PPIs and stay away from antibiotics. The older ones need speech and language, OT, ABA and/or PT. STAT.

These are real examples of some brothers and sisters who have gone on to neuro-typical development. Did earlier intervention prevent autism? Bottom line – who cares?

Try this analogy: It is the Middle Ages and The Plague has struck several neighboring cities. The first sign is a flu-like illness that rapidly advances, ending in death. So, when a local sufferer visits the doctor because of a runny nose and sore throat, the physician should be thinking “The Black Death,” not a cold.

Twentieth century poet Helen Steiner Rice wrote, “A mother’s love is patient and forgiving when all others are forsaking, it never fails or falters, even though the heart is breaking.”  When Mom thinks that something is wrong and the doctor dismisses it, saying “It will probably will go away,” families should run, not walk, to a professional who will listen.

Happy Mother’s Day
f
rom Dr. Udell
and the staff at the Child Development Center

The Autism Wars: Frank Bruni vs. Jenny McCarthy

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Perhaps to mark the end of Autism Awareness month, but seemingly out of the blue, New York Times op-ed contributor, Frank Bruni, decided to weigh in on the vaccination-autism non-connection issue with this April 21, 2014 article. He accused Jenny McCarthy of being an “agitator… the intemperate voice of a movement that posits a link between autism and childhood vaccinations and that badmouths vaccines in general, saying that they have toxins in them and that children get too many of them at once.”

In this corner – Foodie Frank
Who is Foodie Frank to attack Gorgeous Jenny? His bio in the Times describes, “Over his years… he has worn a wide variety of hats, including chief restaurant critic… Rome bureau chief…  also written two New York Times best sellers: Born Round (“as in as in stout, chubby, and always hungry”), and Ambling Into History, (about George Bush)… coauthor of A Gospel of Shame: Children, Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church.” Wikipedia adds that he “… became the first openly gay op-ed columnist…” of the Times.

Nothing in Mr. Bruni’s curriculum vitae points to any learned knowledge of science, biology, immunology, ecology or child development. The only extant association between Mr. Bruni and autism is this vacuous article that he penned. There is no evidence that he possesses any special information. Oh, that’s right, he did say that Yale’s autism expert, Dr. Fred Volkmar, told HIM that the vaccination controversy “diverts people from what’s really important, which is to focus on the science of really helping kids with autism.” A diversion from the important stuff, huh? As in, this bullshit op-ed story.

And, in this corner – Gorgeous Jenny
And what role does Jenny McCarthy play in this complicated, emotional and misunderstood quagmire that is the present autism epidemic? Her pediatricians didn’t even know what she was talking about when her child was diagnosed with autism. The conventional medical community says that, “Autism is what it is… you got what you got… deal with the situation and get (really expensive and difficult-to-find) therapies. Good luck.”

Parents are admonished not to listen to anyone who says that they can help with medical treatment, other than the standard psycho-stimulant meds. Even if Mom witnesses a change (from a GF/CF diet, e.g.), professionals warn that “It’s probably just a coincidence, like that disproven vaccination theory.”

Ms. McCarthy warned the country and the world that a storm was coming. Regarding ASD, doctors have displayed ignorance at best, and have even caused harm, due to delays and misdiagnosis. And, while we’re on the subject, if it turns out that her son, Evan, has one particular version of autism, that hardly constitutes some sort of fraud for the purpose of gaining visibility. Smack of bullying, Frank?

The child’s complicated diagnosis – made by the doctors –  doesn’t make McCarthy someone “who sows misinformation, stokes fear, abets behavior that endangers people’s health.”
Only the CDC, FDA, and AMA are allowed to do that.

I have been witness to the miraculous improvements served by childhood vaccinations. I recommend them to our patients; perhaps more diligently than might serve the ‘herd’, however, in susceptible individuals, doctors need to be very conservative. It shouldn’t be so complicated for the medical community to produce independent, prospective studies about the present vaccine schedule with 3 year follow-up aimed at developmental outcome, especially as it applies to higher risk infants.

No Winner is Declared
My advice is for Mr. Bruni to go back to his core competencies, Ms. McCathy to continue to fight for her child and help raise money for autism awareness-treatment-and-prevention, and for medical science to work on a better explanation(s) for this epidemic.

An agitator produces lots of heat with little light.
What a desperate mother does, is search for answers why her perfect, beautiful toddler became non-responsive and stopped talking.

Worried About Autism – Where to Begin?

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Not uncommonly, The Child Development Center receives emails such as this one:
Stumbled upon your website, and I have found it to be very informative. My 3 year old has just been diagnosed with Autism, although I do not really believe that he is autistic, because in some rare moments, I find he displays “normal” for lack of a better word, tedencies. He makes eye contact, he tries to express himself, he doesn’t point, but shows me where he wants to go and what he wants. Although, at the same time, many of the other signs are obviously there. Anyways, my reason for emailing you is that we live <<outside the US>>, and I wanted to know if there are any practitioners that you could recommend that we see in our neck of the woods?

In the past, parents would seek assistance and counsel from their child’s pediatrician or family physician.
Doctors take note: this is a serious shortcoming on our part if we do not understand how to diagnose, work up, treat and counsel families about the most important childhood epidemic of the 21st century.
Specialists take note: giving a parent a ticket for various therapies will not stop the family from seeking other opinions and treatments.

Step 1: Use an online tool, such as the M-CHAT, to learn if the child fits criteria for autism. The diagnosis is imprecise, at best, and misleading, at worst, because families may feel hopeless and believe that Rain Man is their child’s future. The behaviors that rule the diagnosis IN are the important ones, not the activities that do not fit the general perception of this disorder. In the case above, the child is starting to develop more typically by pointing and making eye contact, which is a positive sign toward recovery. What should concern any family (and the doctors) is lack of speech (or loss, even worse), and the “other signs that are obviously there.”

Step 2: If you can, find a knowledgeable practitioner with proven results. At the last meeting of Special Needs Pediatric doctors, there were fewer than 150 participants. Admittedly, there are simply not enough specialists for a condition that affects 1/68 children. The best place to start is the clinician directory at www.medmaps.org. Choosing one of the MAPS members will assure you that the clinician has studied (and been tested on) multiple courses in the most basic and advanced science of ASD.

Step 3: List all of the child’s other medical conditions and work with your pediatrician to address them. Diarrhea, constipation, reflux, asthma, eczema, allergies, recurrent infections may be the primary reasons for behaviors, such as aggression and fog, assigned to the ASD diagnosis. Ask the doctor to check the complete blood count, vitamin D levels, liver, kidney and thyroid function. Get an audiology examination. For the extremely restless, melatonin is a great anti-oxidant and sleep aid.

Step 4: Don’t give your child PPIs for GERD (smaller, frequent feedings and proper positioning), or Miralax for constipation (try probiotics and fiber). Refuse to give antibiotics with every fever elevation or ‘cold’, and question ALL medication advice, such as pre-treatment with Tylenol, or giving vaccinations while the child is ill.

Step 4: In the absence of any other assistance, at least try the gluten free-casein free diet for a few months. What have you got to lose? And, while we’re on the subject of diet, the fewer toxins the better. Try not to cater to the child’s favorite foods, if they are full of sugar or artificial coloring and flavors. Children do not know what is best for them. Especially if outdoor play is minimal, supplement with multivitamins, including C and D3, and fish oil.

Step 5: There is no magic pill, so far. Start appropriate therapies, such as speech and language, OT or behavioral intervention as soon as possible. Your healthier child will progress much faster when proper behaviors are emphasized. Rethinkautism.com can be a valuable tool, particularly when a therapist is not available.

Parents who seek opinions about their child’s unusual development are probably thinking autism, somewhere in the back of their minds. However, after experiencing the denial that is part of the grieving process, the reality of actually believing the diagnosis has to motivate parents to research, ask other parents and take action.

Even for families living in the remotest locale, something can be done to help your developmentally high-risk child.

Autism Un-Awareness

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

March 27-March 29, 2014. The MedMaps.org meeting of Special Needs Pediatricians in California.

Friday, March 28, 2014. The CDC announcement that “about 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)…”

Wednesday, April 2, 2014. Autism Awareness Day (and Month).

Pretty much, such news should have set off a call to action, don’t you think? Nevertheless, there seems to be very little traction. We’re already into the 3rd week of the month, and it doesn’t seem that publicized questions go beyond, “So, do you really think that there is more autism, or have we just changed the criteria?” And, as always, the vaccination issue… Or, nothing.

With deference to those with autism who are pleased with their life and lifestyle, what other childhood epidemic has gotten so little attention? In my youth, polio created summertime panic for our mothers, and we were often kept indoors (and that was pre-ac, where I lived). In 1952, at its highest incidence, combined cases (paralytic and non-paralyzing) occurred in ~58,000 out of a population of 158 million people, with approximately 37 million susceptible youth. That was a risk of 1 per 2000 children.

Some may argue that, “Polio carried the risks of death or paralysis, this is just autism.” “Just autism,” is not a term that I have heard any parent express. Ergo, we need to erase Autism Un-Awareness.

Knowledge and experience will get us beyond this rhetoric. The first part is expanding daily. The associations between autism and inflammation, G-I heath, environmental toxins and genetic susceptibility continue to be re-confirmed in the conventional scientific literature.

Parents now request much more information about pre-pregnancy and maternal health. Families bring younger and younger children for evaluation. Developmental delays that were previously considered as ‘minor,’ or ‘normal’ may get evaluated and addressed. Sadly, the pediatric community continues to follow a more traditional course in the diagnosis and treatment of this epidemic. Children, nowadays, don’t appear to simply ‘outgrow’ slow language development in the presence of some repetitive or unusual movements. Medical evaluation and intervention do not appear to be consistent with their version.

With so few practitioners willing to learn about and tackle this condition in an aggressive and non-traditional manner, experience is evolving at a slower-than-expected pace. Technological tools, such as relational databases, can play a significant role as conventional medicine catches up with the explosion of cases in such a disparate group of patients and practitioners. Autism360.org is a great example. (Thank you, Dr. Baker)

I’m not quite certain what percentage increase it will take to sway the general population that we have a real problem on our hands. Maybe it won’t be a percentage at all. President Roosevelt’s story warned a previous generation about polio. In 1963, the plight of President Kennedy’s premie spurred the development of NICUs with trained specialists to solve the problems of prematurity, while preserving healthy development. It took Magic Johnson to get the public riled up about HIV and the risk to the entire community. Angelina Jolie exposed the BRCA gene, etc.

Real autism awareness will come when we stop asking the old questions and start considering the condition(s), as it (they) is (are). Autism was around and has been creeping up on us. What we call ASD is a new disorder in a new century. Speaking of polio, epidemics were virtually unknown in the US until the 20th century.

New shit happens.

Is Tamiflu for You?

Friday, February 7th, 2014

As a physician who cares for at-risk infants and children, I am frequently asked to weigh in on the topic of flu vaccine and the medication, Tamiflu.

Ever since the introduction of Oseltamivir Phosphate, an anti-viral preparation to ‘cure’ influenza, controversy has ensued. There are a number of websites that discuss the issue in detail, pro and con.

Forbes magazine, which generally takes fairly conservative positions, recently published “The Myth of Tamiflu“. The FDA doesn’t seem to have a problem with it; even recommending Tamiflu for infants as young as two weeks.

Consumer Reports, recently concluded, “Not unless you’re very sick with the flu or … are otherwise at high risk.” That respected medical journal’s opinion was to administer Tamiflu to the group that might get ‘sickest’ from the disease.

Cost(s):
A typical course has been reported to cost $120, more or less. For an entire family of 4 or more, it becomes fairly pricey.
Does Medicaid or insurance pay? If they are willing to cover (call, push buttons, and argue at your own peril), you may have to wait until the prescription is authorized; thus, mitigating the “at the earliest sign of the flu” advice. Co-pays can be more expensive as well, e.g. $25 or more. Keep your Tamiflu coupons handy.

Benefit(s):
Symptomatic relief occurring 1-2 days (out of 1-2 weeks of influenza) sooner is possible, but that is no certainty. The condition may not be the ‘flu’, the virus strain may not show responsiveness, or the patient waited too long to initiate treatment.
Additionally, I am sure that Roche has a ‘Days of Reduced Productivity From the Influenza Virus’ PowerPoint slide to persuade beaurocratic personnel that their concoction is worthwhile.

Risk(s):
Warnings listed in the Physician’s Desk Reference include:
• Severe allergic reactions.
• Serious skin reactions.
• Neuropsychiatric events, signs of abnormal behavior – how can you tell about this in your ASD affected child?
• Dyspepsia (upset stomach), with increased rates of vomiting – which is a common symptom in children, and many with autism.
• Diarrhea – another frequent physical sign in our high-risk patient population.
• “Caution in nursing” –  but it’s recommended if you’re pregnant? Also, most babies should be nursing; so, it’s OK as a liquid, but not OK in breast milk?

The Genentech website cautions:
“People with the flu, particularly children and adolescents, may be at an increased risk of seizure, confusion, or abnormal behavior early during their illness.”
“The most common side effects are mild to moderate nausea and vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pain.”

Conclusions:
So far, the risks appear to outweigh the benefits of Tamiflu. The cost seems high, considering that the drug only results in a possible, slightly shortened course of the flu. There are important lingering questions; including, whether there are fewer complications and deaths.

Long-term outcomes will have to wait until Tamiflu is used long term. This medicine was not available in the last century, begging the question of how there could be truly valid safety information when this antiviral is administered to a 2 week-old infant.

Recommendation:
Healthy older children and adults who exhibit the onset and suffering, or wish to prevent the flu in their virus-ridden environment, and can afford it, might give it a try.

My preference is to prescribe Tamiflu to those who are not pregnant, breast feeding, or very young children, in the hopes of preventing infectious transmission to those who are at increased risk for complications, without incurring the risks of the drug.

The greatest benefit that I see, is to the pharmaceutical company Roche,
and its member company, Genentech.

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Brian D. Udell MD
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