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Friday, September 10, 2010

Criticisms of Autism Speaks

The Association for Science in Autism Treatment and the Autism Science Foundation are criticizing Autism Speaks:

(September 10, 2010—New York, NY) —The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and funding autism research, today announced that it has signed on to an open letter written by the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT) to Autism Speaks, calling for Autism Speaks to revise statements posted on its website regarding autism and vaccines to bring them more in line with current science.

On its website, Autism Speaks writes, “Several epidemiological studies have explored whether either the MMR vaccine or thimerosal, a preservative previously used in vaccines, are linked to autism, and these studies have not supported a link. But these studies were not designed to identify effects in a small population of potentially vulnerable children due to rare genetic and/or medical conditions.”

The letter from ASAT asks Autism Speaks to correct its website, specifically where Autism Speaks suggests there is a credible scientific rationale for a “vulnerable population” hypothesis, the implication being that there is a group of children for whom vaccines may cause autism. No data yet exist that support a “vulnerable population” hypothesis; it is entirely theoretical. Moreover, because no criteria are offered by which a parent can determine whether his/her child is in this supposed “vulnerable population”, some parents may assume his/her child is in the risk group, and may then choose to withhold potentially life-saving vaccinations.

At The Age of Autism, Katie Wright criticizes an Autism Speaks adviser for endorsing Paul Offit's book:

So imagine my surprise when I read a glowing endorsement from Dr. Daniel Geschwind, well know genetics researcher who serves on the NIMH Scientific Advisory Panel, is a member of the six-person Autism Speaks scientific review panel and won the AS’ Scientific Service Award in 2008. Dr. Geschwind describes Paul Offit as a “brave and articulate champion of the truth” in Offit’s book advertisements. If Offit is the “champion of truth” does that mean that children who experienced severe adverse vaccine reactions and subsequent regressions are fakers or hypochondriacs? Do their parents have Munchansens by proxy?