Tag: autism epidemic

Are You Too Scared to Vaccinate Your Kids?

These days, if a parent suggests to their pediatrician that they might want to skip or delay their child’s vaccines, it is typically not because they are afraid of any association with autism, or because they have been influenced by Jenny McCarthy or Andrew Wakefield, or even because they have done a lot of research.

It is mostly because they are scared.

Are You Too Scared to Vaccinate Your Kids?

What are they scared of specifically?

“In today’s world, smallpox has been eradicated due to a successful vaccination program and vaccines have effectively controlled many other significant causes of morbidity and mortality. Consequently, fear has shifted from many vaccine-preventable diseases to fear of the vaccines.”

Marian Siddiqui et al on the Epidemiology of vaccine hesitancy in the United States

Surprisingly, there often isn’t anything specific that they are scared of. That’s unfortunate, as it makes it harder to offer reassurance when they don’t have specific questions or concerns.

Still, something is scaring these parents, sometimes to the point that they have panic attacks if they even think about vaccinating their kids.

“…many parents are inundated with horror stories of vaccine dangers, all designed to eat away at them emotionally while the medical and scientific communities have mounted their characteristic response by sharing the facts, the data, and all of the reliable peer-reviewed and well-cited research to show that vaccines are safe and effective.”

Federman on Understanding Vaccines: A Public Imperative

What has them so scared?

Could it be:

Whatever it is, it builds up to the point to where these parents fear the risks of vaccines more than they fear the risks and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases.

As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks.
As more people are vaccinated and diseases disappear, they forget how bad those diseases are, skip or delay getting their vaccines, and trigger outbreaks. Photo by WHO

That’s not surprising.

After all, why fear polio, measles, diphtheria, or tetanus, etc., if you have never had or known anyone that has had one of these now vaccine-preventable diseases? Why fear them, if you have never known anyone who has died with one of these now vaccine-preventable diseases?

And why trust that you should vaccinate your kids when you are likely inundated with messages about vaccines being poison, a Big Pharma conspiracy, or that you can just heal your child with some garlic and essential oils if they get sick?

Reducing Anxiety from Vaccinations

Have any ideas on how to get over your anxiety about vaccinations?

To start, learn that vaccines are safe, necessary, and they work to protect your kids and that all of the messages you are hearing about vaccines that have been scaring you aren’t true. You have probably already realized that on some level, but there are cognitive biases, heuristics, and logical fallacies that work together to change our perception of risk, keep us believing things aren’t true, and in this case, can keep you from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

It can also help to learn to think critically and be more skeptical about the things you see and read about vaccines, especially if you aren’t sure about the source of the information.

“The Internet has been identified as an important source for parents to seek and share vaccine information. There are concerns that parental fears or hesitancy on childhood immunizations are increasing due to the popularity of social media and exposure to online antivaccination sentiment.”

Tustin et al on Internet Exposure Associated With Canadian Parents’ Perception of Risk on Childhood Immunization: Cross-Sectional Study

Don’t let a small, yet vocal anti-vaccine minority scare you into a poor decision about your child’s vaccines.

What to Know About Being Too Scared to Vaccinate Your Kids

Parents who are inundated with anti-vaccine messages and misinformation sometimes get too scared to vaccinate their kids, fearing vaccines more than they fear the diseases they prevent.

More on Being Too Scared to Vaccinate Your Kids

Can I Give My Kids Tylenol When They Have Their Vaccines?

Many parents ask about acetaminophen (Tylenol) when kids get their vaccines.

Is it okay to give kids Tylenol when they get their shots?

The Tylenol and Vaccines Controversy

As you can probably guess, there is no real controversy about Tylenol and vaccines.

Instead, what we are talking about are the myths surrounding Tylenol and vaccines that anti-vaccine folks have created, including that:

  • giving Tylenol right before a child gets their shots somehow increases the risk that they will have side effects
  • giving Tylenol right after a child gets their shots somehow masks the symptoms of serious vaccine damage
  • giving Tylenol after the MMR vaccine is associated with developing autism

Fortunately, most parents understand that like other anti-vaccine misinformation, none of these statements are true.

Why do some folks believe it?

Well, there have been studies warning people about giving Tylenol before vaccines. It had nothing to do with side effects though. They suggested that a vaccine might be less effective if the child got Tylenol before his vaccines. It is important to note that they never really found that the vaccines didn’t work as well, as all of the kids in the study still had protective levels of antibodies, they were just a little lower than kids who didn’t get Tylenol.

Other studies have found the same effect if Tylenol was given after a child got his vaccines. Although interestingly, other studies have found that giving Tylenol after vaccines does not affect antibody titers.

“Antibody titres to diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and pertussis bacteria of the placebo (n = 25) and acetaminophen (n = 34) groups did not differ significantly from each other. It is concluded that acetaminophen in a single dose schedule is ineffective in decreasing post-vaccination fever and other symptoms.”

Uhari et al on Effect of prophylactic acetaminophen administration on reaction to DTP vaccination

Giving Tylenol after the MMR vaccine is not associated with autism.
Giving Tylenol after the MMR vaccine is not associated with autism.

The only thing that this had to do with side effects though, is that the kids who got Tylenol had a little less fever.

Could giving Tylenol mask something like encephalitis, which some anti-vaccine folks think can be vaccine induced?

Nope. It typically can’t even keep someone from getting a febrile seizure.

What about the association of MMR, Tylenol and autism? Although one study did suggest that to be true, the study, a parental survey, was found to be “fatally flawed.”

Can I Give My Kids Tylenol When They Have Their Vaccines?

So, can you give your kids Tylenol when they get their vaccines?

The better question is, should you give your kids Tylenol either before or after they get their vaccines?

Have some Tylenol or Motrin on hand after your kids get their vaccinations, just in case they need a dose.
Have some Tylenol or Motrin on hand after your kids get their vaccinations, just in case they need a dose. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

Notwithstanding the very small chance that giving Tylenol might cause decreased immunogenicity (lower antibody production) if you give it before your kids get their vaccines, since there is a good chance that they won’t have any pain or fever and won’t even need any Tylenol, then why give it?

Skip the “just in case” dose and wait and see if they even need it.

What about afterwards?

If your kids have pain or fever and are uncomfortable, then you should likely give them something for pain or fever control, such as an age appropriate dose of either acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Will that cause lower antibody production? Maybe. Will that mean that their vaccines won’t work. That’s doubtful. It certainly won’t lead to increased side effects though, unless they a reaction to the dose of Tylenol itself.

Should you give a pain or fever reducer after a vaccine “just in case?” Again, there is a good chance that your kids might not need it, so it is likely better to wait and see if they do, instead of giving a dose automatically after their shots.

There is even some evidence that giving acetaminophen or ibuprofen before vaccines, or as a routine dose right after, especially with booster shots, doesn’t really prevent side effects that well anyway. They work better if given on an as needed basis instead, and these kinds of doses are less likely to be associated with decreased antibody production.

What to Know About Tylenol and Vaccines

Giving a pain or fever reducer either before or after your child’s vaccinations likely won’t affect how it works, but since it often isn’t necessary, it is likely best to only given one, like Tylenol or Motrin, if it is really needed.

More on Tylenol and Vaccines

How to End the Epidemic of Bad Books About Autism

Looking for a book about autism?

There are a lot of good ones, including NeuroTribes and the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism.

Unfortunately, there are an awful lot of bad ones too.

How to End the Epidemic of Bad Books About Autism

Why are there so many bad books about autism?

That’s easy.

JB Handley is the latest to write a book about vaccines and autism, moving the focus to aluminum, now that it has become obvious that removing thimerosal from vaccines didn't affect autism rates.
JB Handley is the latest to write a book about vaccines and autism, moving the focus to aluminum, now that it has become obvious that removing thimerosal from vaccines didn’t affect autism rates.

Just about every anti-vaccine expert out there also thinks that they are an expert on autism. In fact, they think that they have all of the answers and can even help you cure and prevent autism.

That’s why there are books like:

  • The Autism Book: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery, and Prevention by Dr. Bob Sears
  • Preventing Autism: What You Can Do to Protect Your Children Before and After Birth by Dr. Jay Gordon
  • Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism by Jenny McCarthy
  • Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines – The Truth Behind a Tragedy by Andrew Wakefield
  • Vaccines, Autism & Chronic Inflammation: The New Epidemic by Barbara Loe Fisher
  • The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic by Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill

What do all of these books miss?

“Autism, as I see it, steals the soul from a child…”

Dr. Jerry Kartzinel writing in the introduction to Jenny McCarthy’s first autism book Louder Than Words

Besides the fact that there is no autism epidemic and that vaccines are not associated with autism, they miss that they are actually hurting autistic families.

“Doctors who first worked with children with regressive autism back in the early 1990s found that one of the biggest “wows” came from treating intestinal yeast overgrowth, and this benefit holds true today. Children whose diarrhea doesn’t go away with the GFCF diet usually show resolution with yeast medication.”

Bob Sears, MD on The Autism Book

From restrictive diets and antifungal drugs for yeast infections to bleach enemas and detox therapies, these books often push expensive, often unproven, sometimes disproven, and dangerous  non-evidence based biomedical treatments and cures on hopeful parents of autistic kids.

Don’t help them by buying or promoting their books.

Instead, look for better books by folks who are really helping autistic kids and don’t think they are damaged, or books by someone who is actually autistic.

What to Know About the Epidemic of Bad Autism Books

There are a lot of good books out there with helpful information if you think that your child is autistic, has been  recently diagnosed, or if you simply want to learn more about autism. It’s time to stop the epidemic of bad autism books.

More on the Epidemic of Bad Autism Books

Vaccines and the Latest Autism Prevalence Report

The Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network recently released a report that showed a 15% increase in autism prevalence rates.

What does that have to do with vaccines?

Well, nothing, unless you are an anti-vaccine group that is continually trying to associate vaccines with autism.

Trends in Autism Prevalence

Just about everyone understands that autism prevalence rates have been increasing over the years. It is what makes some folks think that there is a real autism epidemic.

Using ADDM Network numbers, it is easy to see the trend:

  • 1 in 150 children in 2000
  • 1 in 150 children in 2002
  • 1 in 125 children in 2004
  • 1 in 110 children in 2006
  • 1 in 88 children in 2008
  • 1 in 68 children in 2010
  • 1 in 68 children in 2012
  • 1 in 59 children in 2014 (the latest, 2018 report of children born in 2006)

As in previous years, this new report generated headlines from anti-vaccine groups, who continue to think that any increase in autism rates is a new reason to blame vaccines.

Of course, as it is has been shown over and over again, vaccines are not associated with autism.

These CDC reports should even take away any last idea that they are.

Why?

If there was any association with vaccines, then why are autism rates so widely different in the 11 states that are tracked by ADDM?

Are immunization rates different in those states?

Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network

Anyone who has read the latest report on autism rates understands that it “is not a representation of autism in the United States as a whole, but is instead an in-depth look at the 11 communities in the ADDM Network.”

Those communities have changed for each report, but this time they were in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

key-finding-asd-prevalence
Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder Among Children Aged 8 Years — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 11 Sites, United States, 2014 (2018 report)

Even then, the ADDM Network doesn’t look at all of the children in those states. They are mostly looking at children near large institutions that are hosts for the ADDM Network, such as the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, and Rutgers University, etc.

The 325,483 8-year-olds in the latest ADDM Network report were born in 2006 and live in:

  • part of Maricopa County in metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona
  • 75 counties in Arkansas
  • Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson counties in Colorado
  • Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties in Georgia
  • Baltimore County, Maryland
  • parts of two counties (Hennepin and Ramsey) including the large metropolitan cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Louis, and St. Louis City counties in Missouri
  • Essex, Hudson, Union, and Ocean counties in New Jersey
  • Alamance, Chatham, Forsyth, Guilford, Orange, and Wake counties in North Carolina
  • Bedford, Cheatham, Davidson, Dickson, Marshall, Maury, Montgomery, Rutherford, Robertson, Williamson, and Wilson counties in Tennessee
  • Dane, Green, Jefferson, Kenosha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Rock, Walworth, and Waukesha counties in Wisconsin

Why is this important?

“Autism prevalence among black and Hispanic children is approaching that of white children,” said Dr. Stuart Shapira, associate director for science at the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “The higher number of black and Hispanic children now being identified with autism could be due to more effective outreach in minority communities and increased efforts to have all children screened for autism so they can get the services they need.”

It shows that “there continue to be many children living with ASD who need services and support, now and as they grow into adolescence and adulthood.”

Immunization Rates and the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network

It also helps to dispell any last ideas that vaccines are associated with autism…

Just look at the immunization rates in the ADDM Network counties (4 doses of DTaP, 3 doses of IPV, one dose of MMR, 3 doses of Hib, 3 doses of HepB, 1 dose of Varicella, 4 doses of Prevnar, flu shot, and 1 dose of HepA by age 36 months) and compare them to the autism rates in those same counties.

 

County Autism Rate Immunization Rates
Maricopa (AZ) 1 in 71 DTaP 82%, IPV 91%, MMR 90%, Hib 91%, HepB 93%, Var 88%, Prev 75%, flu 32%, HepA 78%
Boulder (CO) 1 in 72 DTaP 87%, IPV 95%, MMR 93%, Hib 89%, HepB 90%, Var 93%, Prev 80%, flu -%, HepA 65%
Jefferson (CO) 1 in 72 DTaP 86%, IPV 93%, MMR 91%, Hib 90%, HepB 94%, Var 90%, Prev 83%, flu 48%, HepA 69%
Cobb (GA) 1 in 59 DTaP 83%, IPV 94%, MMR 91%, Hib 88%, HepB 93%, Var 91%, Prev 80%, flu 40%, HepA 21%
Baltimore (MD) 1 in 50 DTaP 91%, IPV 95%, MMR 95%, Hib 94%, HepB 95%, Var 93%, Prev 86%, flu 46%, HepA 61%
Hennepin (MN) 1 in 42 DTaP 88%, IPV 93%, MMR 92%, Hib 88%, HepB 93%, Var 90%, Prev 82%, flu 42%, HepA 47%
Ramsey (MN) 1 in 42 DTaP 87%, IPV 96%, MMR 93%, Hib 91%, HepB 94%, Var 93%, Prev 79%, flu 42%, HepA 63%
Jefferson (MO) 1 in 71 DTaP 83%, IPV 95%, MMR 90%, Hib 92%, HepB 95%, Var 87%, Prev 82%, flu -%, HepA 51%
Essex (NJ) 1 in 34 DTaP 81%, IPV 91%, MMR 91%, Hib 93%, HepB 91%, Var 91%, Prev 69%, flu -%, HepA -%
Hudson (NJ) 1 in 34 DTaP 78%, IPV 91%, MMR 91%, Hib 92%, HepB 91%, Var 91%, Prev 70%, flu -%, HepA -%
Ocean (NJ) 1 in 34 DTaP 84%, IPV 91%, MMR 91%, Hib 92%, HepB 91%, Var 83%, Prev 74%, flu -%, HepA -%
Union (NJ) 1 in 34 DTaP 89%, IPV 92%, MMR 92%, Hib 91%, HepB 94%, Var 91%, Prev 79%, flu -%, HepA -%
Davidson (TN) 1 in 64 DTaP 89%, IPV 95%, MMR 95%, Hib 93%, HepB 94%, Var 94%, Prev 84%, flu 50%, HepA 35%
Dane (WI)
1 in 71 DTaP 87%, IPV 93%, MMR 93%, Hib 88%, HepB 93%, Var 90%, Prev 82%, flu -%, HepA 45%

If vaccines were associated with autism, what should you see? Higher rates of autism in the areas with the highest immunization rates. You don’t see that in any of this data though, do you?

The counties in New Jersey, with the highest rates of autism, have good immunization rates, but they aren’t much different from the immunization rates in Colorado counties or Arizona counties with much lower autism rates.

Some other things we know about vaccines and the latest autism report?

  • in 2006, when those kids were born, New Jersey had one of the lowest rates for getting newborns a hepatitis B shot on their first day, as recommended, at just 23%. Arizona, with a much lower rate of autism, did much better, getting 65% of newborns their birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine on time. In fact, Maricopa County had one of the highest rates, at 71%.
  • fewer than half of their mothers likely received a flu shot during their pregnancy, even though they had been recommended since the 1990s
  • extremely few of their mothers received a Tdap vaccine during their pregnancy, as this didn’t become a routine recommendation until 2011

Does any of this surprise you?

How can vaccines be associated with autism, when counties that have higher immunization rates have lower rates of autism?

What to Know About Vaccines and the Latest Autism Prevalence Report

The latest Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network report on autism prevalence from the CDC shows a rate that has increased to 1 in 59 children. And as county level trends in vaccination coverage show no correlation to those autism prevalence rates, folks will hopefully stop trying to associate vaccines with autism.

More on Vaccines and the Latest Autism Prevalence Report

America’s New Normal: Propaganda About the Unhealthiest Generation

My son started to have migraines when he was about 11 years old.

Must be stress, BPA, poor eating habits, all of the screen time, or vaccines, right?

“Americans spend the least on food, the most on health care, have the most highly vaccinated kids, and have the sickest kids of any industrialized country. More kids than not are now chronically ill, developmentally delayed, and eating or injecting prescription medications from cradle to grave – which is going to be a quicker trip for them than it was for their parents, according to data on life expectancy in the US. We are inured to childhood autism, epilepsy, allergy, asthma, diabetes, obesity, Crohn’s disease and cancer. We are dying younger. We are going backwards.”

Judy Converse on America’s New Normal: Chronically Ill Kids

That likely seems like a young age to get migraines and would fit well with the narrative that kids today are part of the unhealthiest generation ever.

Except that I started to get migraines at about the same age, and so did my mother. Like many of the other conditions that seem to be ballooning today, migraines have a genetic component.

The Unhealthiest Generation?

The CDC has long kept statistics on everything from asthma and cancer rates to diabetes and life expectancy rates and helps folks see how healthy kids really are today.
The CDC has long kept statistics on everything from asthma and cancer rates to diabetes and life expectancy rates and helps folks see how healthy kids really are today.

Who says that today’s kids are part of the unhealthiest generation ever?

Mostly anti-vaccine folks who blame vaccines for making kids unhealthy and alternative medical providers who think their holistic remedies will fix all of the problems they see in our unhealthy kids who they claim are full of “toxins.”

Toxins? If you are going to believe that our kids are all sick, then you have to buy into the narrative that toxins are everywhere, especially in vaccines, and they are making kids sick.

Of course, none of that is true.

Vaccines are safe and work to prevent us from getting sick and there are 2 to 3 million fewer deaths in the world each year because people are vaccinated and protected.

“From developing groundbreaking treatments for deadly chronic diseases to saving babies who are born premature, pediatric researchers have increased the ability of children to live full and fulfilling lives that only a few decades before would have been tragically cut short.”

Sandra G. Hassink, MD on the 7 Great Achievements in Pediatric Research

And today’s kids, all 73.6 million of them in the United States, aren’t the unhealthiest. They are actually a very healthy generation, being born with the lowest child and infant mortality rates ever, low rates of hospitalizations, and one of the highest life expectancies in history.

Our Healthy Kids

How do we know today’s kids are healthy?

One easy way is to compare them to kids in the past…

If you have only been listening to the alarmists who talk about the unhealthiest generation all of the time, you likely wouldn’t know that:

  • while 2.6% of kids were thought to be in fair or poor health in 1991, that is down to just 1.8% today (2015)
  • fewer kids today (4.5%) report having had an asthma attack in the previous year than they did in 1997 (5.4%), and that fewer kids have asthma today (8.5%) than in 2003 (8.7%)
  • since 1997, fewer children, whether or not they have insurance, are visiting the emergency room
  • fewer children are requiring overnight hospital stays, down from 5.5% to just 2.1% today (2015)
  • rates of hay fever or respiratory allergy are down since 1997, from 17.5% of kids to 15.6% of kids today (2015)
  • rates of epilepsy have been stable in children for at least 40 years
  • fewer kids have multiple ear infections since 1997, when 7.1% of kids had 3 or more ear infections, to just 5% of kids today (2015)
  • fewer kids are being prescribed antibiotics
  • childhood cancer rates have been rising, but only slightly, and mortality rates have been declining
  • suicide rates are rising, but only from historic lows – they used to be about the same or higher in the early 1990s

Of course, some conditions are on the rise, including ADHD, type 1 diabetes, food allergies, eczema,  obesity, and most autoimmune diseases.

“A few conditions have decreased because of prevention (eg, lead encephalopathy), a few represent relatively new conditions (eg, human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection), and some have increased after dramatic improvements in survival for individually low-prevalence childhood conditions that previously had high fatality rates (eg, leukemia, cystic fibrosis, congenital heart diseases). Most growth, however, reflects dramatic increases in incidence of a few high-prevalence conditions.”

James M. Perrin, MD on The Increase of Childhood Chronic Conditions in the United States

And autism rates have been up, but we mostly know why.

“…the numbers of people born with autism aren’t necessarily increasing dramatically. It’s just that we’re getting better and better at counting them.”

Emily Willingham

Although we don’t know why most other conditions are trending up (it isn’t vaccines), we will hopefully continue to develop new theories and reverse those trends.

It should be reassuring that many of the trends do show that our kids are indeed healthy.

What to Know About Our Healthy Kids

From gun violence and climate change to the threat of emerging infections, out children do face many threats and are certainly under a lot of stress. There is no evidence that this is the unhealthiest generation though. If anything, they are on track to be one of the healthiest.

More on Our Healthy Kids

Misdiagnosis of Kids with Autism and Vaccine Injury

Awareness of autism has greatly increased in recent years.

Some people are even suggesting that we have gotten to the point where autism is being over-diagnosed.

Remember when folks got upset because Seinfeld said that he might be on the autism spectrum?

Misdiagnosis of Kids with Autism and Vaccine Injury

Although autism might be over-diagnosed in some situations, it is just as likely to be under-diagnosed in others. That’s especially true when you hear about misdiagnosed autistic adults. No, not adults who were misdiagnosed with autism, but adults who are actually autistic, but were misdiagnosed with other conditions, like schizophrenia, anxiety, or personality disorders.

It is also probable that autism is actually sometimes misdiagnosed. That’s right, there are some other conditions that can be confused or misdiagnosed as autism.

“Generation Rescue believes that childhood neurological disorders such as autism, Asperger’s, ADHD/ADD, speech delay, sensory integration disorder, and many other developmental delays are all misdiagnoses for mercury poisoning.”

When Generation Rescue, Jenny McCarthy‘s autism organization, was founded, they believed that autism was caused by mercury poisoning. Actually, not just caused by, but that autism actually was a “misdiagnosis for mercury poisoning.”

No one really seems to believe that anymore, but there are some other conditions that can legitimately be misdiagnosed as autism.

Many people see Jenny McCarthy battling doctors to save or recover her son as being anti-autism.
Some people say that Jenny McCarthy’s son might have been misdiagnosed with autism and might actually have LKS instead.

Consider Landau-Kleffner syndrome (LKS), which is also known as Progressive Epileptic Aphasia or Aphasia with Convulsive Disorder. Children with LKS develop normally, but then have:

  • a severe regression in language functioning, with a progressive loss of speech, especially receptive speech or understanding what other people say
  • seizures, including focal motor seizures, focal seizures that become tonic-clonic seizures, atypical absence seizures, and atonic seizures.
  • behavioral problems, including having poor attention, being hyperactive and aggressive, and having anxiety

LKS can be difficult to diagnose because the seizures can be subclinical (only recognized on an EEG) at first, so the child may have already regressed by the time they have obvious seizures. And they might improve as the seizures are treated.

“After 35 years as a speech pathologist, I’ve seen many children with a diagnosis of autism that turned out to be a combination of language delay, sensory issues and apraxia.”

What If the Diagnosis of Autism Is Wrong?

Other conditions can have signs and symptoms that overlap with autism too (although they also sometimes occur with autism), making a misdiagnosis possible, including:

  • anxiety
  • childhood apraxia of speech – children with this motor speech disorder have a hard time talking
  • language delays
  • selective mutism – only affects children in some situations, like at school, but they talk well at home with close family
  • sensory issues
  • 22q11.2 deletion syndrome – a chromosomal disorder that causes many signs and symptoms, including some that resemble autism

But how can a child be misdiagnosed with autism?

“…inexperienced professionals, with narrow, preconceived notions of what ASD is, may place too much weight on symptoms that although associated with ASD, are not necessarily definitive of ASD. In other cases, and as noted above, problems in social relatedness and social interaction observed during the diagnostic process, may be artifacts of the unfamiliarity and artificiality of the setting itself.”

Barry M. Prizant On the Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder

It shouldn’t be hard to imagine that a child could be misdiagnosed with autism, especially as there are more children with suspected autism, including children getting screened at an earlier age, meaning that there is a big demand for autism evaluations.

“Ideally, the definitive diagnosis of an ASD should be made by a team of child specialists with expertise in ASDs.”

AAP on the Identification and Evaluation of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

Unfortunately, that can mean that some of those evaluations are being done by health care providers without any added expertise in formally diagnosing autism, including some pediatricians, neurologists, counselors, and social workers, etc.

While many health care providers can evaluate and diagnose autism, from a child neurologist, developmental pediatrician, and child psychiatrist to a child psychologist, speech-language pathologist, pediatric occupational therapist, and social worker, they should all have expertise in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

Getting the Diagnosis Right

Why is it so important to get the diagnosis right?

Most importantly, a correct diagnosis means that a child will get the right treatment as early as possible. Also though, in an age when some parents still try to associate vaccines with autism, a misdiagnosis can be especially problematic, perhaps leading to a vaccine injury story.

Remember back in the 1970s when many parents blamed the DPT vaccine for causing their kids to have seizures and brain damage? We now know that some, if not many, of them had Dravet syndrome, a genetic condition (SCN1A mutation) in which children develop severe, fever-related seizures before their first birthday.

“We present here the cases of 5 children who presented for epilepsy care with presumed parental diagnoses of alleged vaccine encephalopathy caused by pertussis vaccinations in infancy. Their conditions were all rediagnosed years later, with the support of genetic testing, as Dravet syndrome.”

Reyes et al on Alleged cases of vaccine encephalopathy rediagnosed years later as Dravet syndrome

In addition to the seizures, these children have developmental delays and autism-like characteristics. They don’t have a “vaccine encephalopathy.” Just like autistic kids don’t have mercury poisoning or any kind of vaccine damage.

What to Know About the Misdiagnosis of Kids with Autism and Vaccine Injury

To help avoid a misdiagnosis, if possible, a team of child specialists with expertise in evaluating kids with autism spectrum disorders should see your child with suspected autism.

More on Misdiagnosis of Kids with Autism and Vaccine Injury

Vaccines and Autism Redux

Is it true that only one ingredient (thimerosal) and one vaccine (MMR) has ever been looked at for its relationship to autism?

No, as you can probably guess, it is not.

“This meta-analysis of five case-control and five cohort studies has found no evidence for the link between vaccination and the subsequent risk of developing autism or autistic spectrum disorder. Subgroup analyses looking specifically at MMR vaccinations, cumulative mercury dosage, and thimerosal exposure individually were similarly negative, as were subgroup analyses looking specifically at development of autistic disorder versus other autistic spectrum disorder.”

Taylor et al on Vaccines are not associated with autism: An evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies

Since much of the original focus about vaccines and autism was on the MMR vaccine and thimerosal, that’s where a lot of the research to reassure parents went first.

Other research has been done though too, so it really is safe to say that vaccines are not associated with autism, even though some may continue to see a correlation.

“To try to isolate the effects of thimerosal from other vaccine constituents, we performed a subanalysis comparing risks associated with diphtheria-tetanus-whole cell pertussis vaccine or diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis vaccine and Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine given separately or combined.”

Verstraeten et al on Safety of Thimerosal-Containing Vaccines: A Two-Phased Study of Computerized Health Maintenance Organization Databases

The great majority of parents know that:

  • it is not the MMR vaccine
  • it is not thimerosal or thimerosal containing vaccines
  • it is not the overall number of vaccines that are given to a child
  • it is not the timing of when the vaccines are given to children

And it hasn’t been just one or two studies that have shown that there is no association between vaccines and autism. There are dozens. There is also a comprehensive review by the Institute of Medicine and a very large meta-analysis that have come to the same conclusion.

Vaccines are not associated with autism.

Vaccines and Autism Redux

Could it be aluminum though?

Why aluminum? Because anti-vaccine experts cite some poorly done studies that try to say it is.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?”

Aluminum has become the new formaldehyde, which used to be the new thimerosal. It is apparently where the goalposts have shifted when some folks talk about vaccines and autism now that every knows it is not the MMR vaccine, thimerosal, vaccine overload, or the timing of vaccines.

But if studies have shown that it is neither the number of vaccines nor the timing of vaccines, then how could it be aluminum, an adjuvant in many vaccines?

It isn’t.

Aluminum is not the smoking gun or the missing puzzle piece that anti-vaccine folks will continue to look for.

What other myths about vaccines and autism have been coming up lately?

Have you heard the one about the court ruling confirming a vaccine autism link? It didn’t.

Did you know that the FDA officially announced that vaccines are causing autism? They didn’t, but do you know why some folks are now saying they did? Because of the old package insert for the Tripedia vaccine, which lists autism as a possible adverse event (without evidence of causation). The vaccine was discontinued years ago, but it continues to pop up as ‘new’ evidence for some as an association between vaccines and autism.

Or maybe you have heard these other new theories from the anti-vaccine movement as they desperately try to prove an association between vaccines and autism:

  • vaccines block folate uptake
  • MTHFR gene mutations
  • maternal immune activation
  • cytokine storms
  • glutathione depletion
  • glyphosate
  • DNA fragments
  • microbiota alterations
  • GI barrier defects
  • blood brain barrier permeability problems

You don’t even have to pick just one theory anymore (the fact that the MMR vaccine doesn’t contain thimerosal or aluminum kind of puts these theories into opposition with each other, doesn’t it?). You can choose for any or all of them to be true if you want. Using synergistic toxicity, you pick a few of your favorite theories and make them 100 times more likely to damage your child! Not really, but that’s how some anti-vaccine folks think.

“Autism is not an immune-mediated disease. Unlike autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, there is no evidence of immune activation or inflammatory lesions in the CNS of people with autism. In fact, current data suggest that genetic variation in neuronal circuitry that affects synaptic development might in part account for autistic behavior. Thus, speculation that an exaggerated or inappropriate immune response to vaccination precipitates autism is at variance with current scientific data that address the pathogenesis of autism.”

Gerber et al on Vaccines and Autism: A Tale of Shifting Hypotheses

Of course, none of them are true.

Vaccines are still not associated with autism.

What to Know About Vaccines and Autism

Vaccines are still not associated with autism, even though anti-vaccine folks continue to come up with new ideas for how it might be, from glyphosate and DNA fragments in vaccines to MTHFR mutations and maternal immune activation.

More on Vaccines and Autism