Friday, March 28, 2008
Autism & CNN

By Tim Langmaid
Medical News Managing Editor

Autism is what every parent of an autistic child says it is. It also is what doctors and scientists say it is. Parents, people with autism and doctors agree on many aspects of the brain disorder. They disagree on a number of issues as well. There are contradictions and controversies and perhaps, above all else, moving and emotional stories to be told about autism and its impact on individuals and the people who love them.

There is so much to autism that CNN has begun special coverage we're calling "Autism - Unraveling the Mystery." This broad, deep examination of autism is being featured online and on CNN, CNN International and Headline News.

Today you can learn more about autism here at Visit often, because many articles and videos will be added between now and Thursday. Also, check out Empowered Patient here. Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen offers guidance for parents who think they may have a child with autism.

Saturday and Sunday on CNN, "House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta" is dedicated to investigating autism. The program includes Gupta's interview with Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. Tune in at 8:30 a.m. ET Saturday and Sunday.

Beginning Monday you will see additional stories on autism on "American Morning"
and throughout the day. Gupta will examine the mysteries and myths of autism. We'll spotlight insurance and therapy issues and take a close look at aging with autism.

On Wednesday, the first U.N. World Autism Awareness Day, our coverage continues with more online material and an hourlong special simulcast on CNN and CNNI. "We Have Autism" focuses on the experiences of families living with autism around the world. The program airs at 12 p.m. ET/4 p.m. GMT.

On Wednesday night, be sure to watch a special hour of "Anderson Cooper 360" reported by Gupta. "Finding Amanda" tells the story of one woman's atypical life with autism. We see the way she interacts and communicates with the world and how she inspires a young man named D.J. "Finding Amanda" airs at 11 p.m. ET.

CNN's reporting on the global impact, latest science and controversies related to autism is designed to raise awareness of this brain disorder and provide useful information and insight. I hope it will inspire you. Check out our Impact Your World Web site here for ways you can help people with autism.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

Thank you CNN and Dr. Gupta for providing such extensive coverage. As the parent of a four year-old with autism, it is empowering and encouraging to know that our story, and the stories of families around the globe, will be told.

Thank you!
Could it be something other than thimerosal - which is now removed from most vaccines -that could be a causal factor in autism, and perhaps other neurological and even autimmune disorders? When in the "natural world" would an infant ever encounter multiple micro-organisms at one time, for which the body must then make antibodies against? Would a 2 month old really be exposed to pneumoccal pneumonia, h-flu, pertussis, diptheria, tetanus, rotovirus, and hepatitis B all at once? Even though the vaccines introduce inactive forms of the microbes, the body is still challenged to make anti-bodies. Could this be over-taxing an immature immune system, resulting in some case in adverse and irreversible effects? Just posing the question.
As an educator with a degree in science, I fully understand the importance of the vaccine program in being out first line of defense against diseases that can become pandemic. However, as a parent of a child with autism, I still strongly believe that the methyl mercury that was used as a preservative in his vaccine helped to cause his autism. Our Texas Parks & Wildlife provides a warning about eating more than 8 ounces of fish per month. I believe that the possible combination of mercury contamination from the environment plus the methyl mercury in the vaccine could be the link that is missing. The problem is we have only been able to get hair analysis on my son's autism. If the medical studies have tested the baby teeth of the children with autism, I think we would be able to zero in on a possible link. But, has the medical community looked into doing a study of baby teeth? I doubt it? And why has the work of Venjendra Singh of Utah gone quietly unnoticed by the media?
Thank you Dr. Gupta for the show this morning. I like the fact that Dr. Gerberding was asked a little more directly to face the facts.

It was impressive all the websites that were given and it would look to the general public that support for parents is out there. Bottom line is that you have to make your child a guinea pig to get support.
It is very frustrating.
I read the transcript of the Julie Gerberding interview. Doctor, I wish you would press harder when Ms. Julie starts spouting off her 'scientific research shows no link between autism and vaccines' bit. Where is the study that would put this to rest once and for all - a study of the vaccinated vs. never vaccinated? The CDC is only one step away from saying something like - "Hey, fevers from vaccines might cause autism, but a kid will certainly get a fever if he/she contracts measles, so better just to vaccinate." If this is the case, where are all the autistic people from natural measles and chicken pox infections? I'm grateful for your open mind on this and your continuing reporting - but the CDC is responding 15 years too late to this crisis. THey need to be pressed harder - millions of kids are being damaged while they hem and haw and refuse to alter the vaccine schedule.
Hi Tim,

Well here I am at work, just wanting to say thank you for getting all this autism stuff out to the world. I see where one may click to find out ways to "help people with autism". And all I can think was, "Is there some way to click for info on how I can clue in to the world?"

I am at work and the bullying here is so bad. On Thursday my coworker's were making fun of me. They started out by using "she" and a code name for a former female coworker; I guess they used her name since her hair looks like mine; there was only one other female present and she's the girlfriend of our dept's. right hand man, so I knew it wasn't her they were making fun of. For hours I had to hear them saying thing's like "She's YOUR girlfriend!" and another guy would say "No way man, I'm not THAT desperate. She's YOUR girlfriend!". And this went on all night. Finally they started calling me "it". I guess when you are "different", you can become an "it" to your coworkers! When I gave them a dirty look, things got worse. Then they started saying "Let's go get (supervisor's name) and give "it" to him, he needs getting some" (I take it he's divorcing). For those who never have had Asperger's welcome to my life in hell. It has been like this nearly every single day of my 3 plus years here.

I work for a newspaper by the way. Where we're supposed to report on this behavior, not be the ones doing it. I hate being different all the time. I don't live on a different planet: I live right here on Earth, but I swear it's like living in a volcano. Every day I wake up it's a different kind of hell for me; that's what autism has done for me. Maybe CNN will help others, but I don't feel like life will ever be good for me again.
Dr. Gupta and CNN,
Please continue to push the idea of a well-done study of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated populations of children. The smaller ones already done suggest not only a link to autism, but also to other chronic childhood illnesses such as diabetes, allergies, ear infections, ADHD, aggression, etc. We deserve better answers than we are getting, and until we do, many of us will not participate in the vaccine program any further.
I'm a mother to a 6 y/o boy with severe autism. I am so glad that alot of the discussions regarding autism revolve around their intestinal issues. Which is why I'm writing. My son was very sick and stopped eating. I ended up taking him in January to Thoughtful House in Austin, TX, from our home in British Columbia, Canada. He was seen by Dr.Krigsman. In the end he was diagnosed with esophagitis, gastritis, severe colitis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. He was in a tremendous amount of pain, but him being non-verbal, couldn't let me know. He is now on alot of medication, and an elemental diet. Up to 80% of ASD children have GI issues. I had to find this out on my own. This needs immediate attention, this could have been fatal for my son.
I'm so happy that it is finally coming out, these kids need more than they are getting.
I have two children, and after much consideration I decided not to vaccinate them. Although i'm not entirely against vaccines, but I feel very strongly about waiting 6-8 months until the blood brain barrier to build up. Anything you put in a baby before the bbb is build up will go straight to the baby's brain. Why isn't this information shared with others. I was told the reason they give baby's vaccines at 2 months is to save money. So I would never tell any parent not to give there kids vaccines, but I want to share with the world to wait atleast 6-8 months. I have chosen not to give my children vaccines at all, mainly due to the fact that I believe in a very strong immune system. I want to make a documentary on this issue and I would love to be on your show. Thank you and may all baby's be safe.
I think it's great that your tackling this issue, but what we all need is to seriously look at the research on both sides.
Who conducted the studies? who paid for the studies? and are they studies that examine which parts of our world is being effected by autism. It's my understanding that some counties have stopped giving the MMR like Japan for instance. I would like to know if these reports are true. I'd also like to see you bring in some scientist/doctors who are against vaccinations so we can see what they have to say. It seems the CDC is not willing to debate these people and give logical explanations to refute their findings. This raises considerable questions that they either feel above the people and have the right to dictate to them about their own bodies and the bodies of their child or that they can't infact stand up to the othersides science.
I worked with a 5 year old autism boy who was not only autistic but deaf. His mother would not accept what society told her. That he would never improve and just give him drugs to make him act like a zombie. She found a article on treating autism with diet, where they are Gluten Free Casein Free. I personally witness this beautiful boy who was learning one to 5 words a month and would never look at you in the face, let alone hugs and kisses, to opening the door to let me in and learning 200 or more words a month. He looked at our faces and interacted with the therapy instructors. I am a true believer of this diet. This boy was agressive and turned into a sweet boy.
Thank you Mr. Langmaid and Dr. Gupta for your efforts in helping raise awareness about autism.

As a father of an affected child it means a lot to me that CNN is taking the time to present excellent coverage of this topic.


Father of an affected child.
It is very encouraging to see the wide range of information dealing with autism being presented to the public by CNN. I am disappointed with the lack of details on this subject matter. Specifically the professionals who are involved are not explained, nor their role in the education process. As an occupational therapy student I urge your program to discuss an OTs role in the early intervention with children who are on the autism spectrum. I also wanted to suggest that your program discuss, how under IDEA, children can receive intervention for free. You had a segment about the cost of raising a child under these conditions, and I don’t believe that you explained well enough for the public how schools pay for these services. The reason that children and their parents don’t start EI early enough is because the parents were not told that any child can have an OT, PT, and a SLP assessment. Please do the responsible thing and provide a more in depth discussion for the free services available, and the information available. explains in depth what an OT’s role is in early intervention.
Tim Dionne, OTS
University At Buffalo
Dear Dr. Gupta and CNN,

We would like to thank you for your extended coverage of autism and bringing awareness of the disorder to a new level. As parents of a sixteen year old son with ASD we have struggled for many years to meet his needs while just trying to understand what those are.

Autism can be very difficult to live with and was for our son as a toddler. He was self-abusive, feared nothing, could not speak, and was a eloping risk. He has traveled along the spectrum of the disorder from being very affected to a young man who is now in high school and recently made the honor roll.

Though the toll this has taken on our family would seem exhaustive to others, we feel that we could not listen to the doctor that originally told us we would have to institutionalize our son one day. He was only two and to hear those words were devastating.

As a family we did not give up and we'd invite folks to view the many i-reports our family has posted we hope as an inspiration to other families to reach for the stars for your child. The challenges may not be denied, however the triumphs no matter how small are all the more sweeter.

With much appreciation,
The Gammicchia Family
As a parent of a autistic child I know it takes a lot of efforts and hardwork to get the family together. Imagine a six year old suffering from acute pain some where but not able to communicate. I have learnt to deal with this for almost four years now.

Nature has it's way of getting even with people and when we suppress some disease, I feel nature always strikes back with a vengeance. When we suppress a lot of diseases with vaccines it emanates in some other form.

I have noticed that a lot of immigrants have kids with autism more than non immigrants and I have have the feeling that the vaccinations given to parents as part of the immigration process ( MMR) may have to do with it. The MMR vaccine on adults is of little consequence. The truth to the actual cause will never be out since the law suits will be catastrophic to all parties involved. One thing would be to atleast remove the mandate that all immigrants should be vaccinated for MMR.

The road is long and there will be a lot of stumbling blocks as to the true cause and I am sure folks like me are the ultimate sufferers and we have to live life by the day.
Dr. Gupta,

You mentioned in your interview with Dr. Gerberding that you have a 2 1/2 year old and a 1 year old. We know that you, as a father first ,are asking the same questions we parents are asking. "Is it the vaccines causing the autism?"

In 1983 only 10 vaccines were given before starting school. Now it is 36. Autism, ADHD, chronic ear infections, diabetes, etc.. all started to rise when more vaccines were added to the schedule. All this proof is already out there and parents are armed with information. Please, as a father, help protect your children too as well as ours and help bring out the truth. You suggested your pediatrician friends are considering spacing out the shots. They notice it too.

Thank you for bring this out in the open. Thank for asking the right questions and continue to ask them.
If thimerosal is no longer being used as a preservative, what is being used and is it safe?
I am a mother of 2 non-autistic children. However, they have attention problems and are getting sick all the time, and have chronic coughs. I have done my research and tried to eliminate all possible causes such as diet, enviromental toxins, amalgam dental fillings. And then naturally came to the topic of vaccination. I stopped vaccinating my children any further.

My 5 year old son was missing a booster MMR shot and his school(NYC public school) threatened me that he will be kicked out if he does not get this shot by December 10th, 2007. I had no choice but to get him the shot since I do not want him to be out of school.I feel very angry and frustrated that the school principal does not even want to know about this whole issue. She kept telling me that she gets penalized $2000 a day if she does not get all the children vaccinated. The school nurse who came from another progressive (NYC public) school told me that the parents held meetings with the department of ed and collected petitions and the school got some kind of waiver so unvaccinated children can go to school. Unfortunately in our school I was the first and only parent to raise the question.

I cannot wait for the day when the awareness will reach all the school system, and just like my native country Japan, vaccinating your children will be your own choice.
(I heard that they stopped the mandatory vaccine program because there are too many law that really true?)
There has been several warnings pertaining to plastic, baby bottles, and microwave. The thought came to mind: could plastic bottles be responsible for autism. Years ago - the only baby bottle was glass, then plastic bottles gradually came on the scene. It seems that when you heat plastic "anything" the plastic emits dangerous chemicals. Just a thought.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
CNN Comment Policy: CNN encourages you to add a comment to this discussion. You may not post any unlawful, threatening, libelous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic or other material that would violate the law. Please note that CNN makes reasonable efforts to review all comments prior to posting and CNN may edit comments for clarity or to keep out questionable or off-topic material. All comments should be relevant to the post and remain respectful of other authors and commenters. By submitting your comment, you hereby give CNN the right, but not the obligation, to post, air, edit, exhibit, telecast, cablecast, webcast, re-use, publish, reproduce, use, license, print, distribute or otherwise use your comment(s) and accompanying personal identifying information via all forms of media now known or hereafter devised, worldwide, in perpetuity. CNN Privacy Statement.