Wow! Today's episode was pretty heated! I have to tell you that I was totally exhausted, mentally, after this show. I am soooo tired of not getting an answer to the debate over vaccines and autism. A lot of valid points were made from both sides in this show, but I'm sure most parents out there are still wondering if it's best to vaccinate or not.
While I'm not going to get into all the research here (it's just too much information to sift through), I do suggest an excellent book called The Vaccine Book, written by my brother Dr Robert Sears. He offers an excellent review of all the research that has been done on vaccine safety. You will get to see the list of studies that showed no link between vaccines and autism, and you will also see the list of studies that showed a possible link. None of these studies are absolutely perfect, but I think that there is more evidence to show no link.
Fortunately, there is going to be more research until we get to the bottom of this. I like the CDC's (Center for Disease Control) take on this: "Despite the lack of a proven scientific link between vaccines and autism, the CDC feels that ongoing research is needed to take a closer look."
What is autism? It is a brain disorder that begins in early childhood and persists into adulthood. It affects 3 critical areas of development: communication, social interaction and creativity.
"They just don't connect with other people - they're in their own world."
1 in 150 children have autism - that's over 1 million children in the United States.
When to suspect your child might have autism:
If your child shows any of the following, you should ask your doctor for a complete evaluation for autism:
· By age 6 months: your infant is NOT smiling or making joyful expressions.
· By 9 months: no back and forth interaction with you. This could be verbal or non-verbal – i.e. laughing when you do something funny or when you play peek-a-boo.
· 12 months: no babbling: babababa, gagaga, dadada, mamamama.
· 16 months: no discernable words: mama, dada, hi.
· 24 months: no two-word phrases: hi mama, want cookie, bye dada.
· Regression of language or social skills at any age: stops smiling, stops making eye contact, stops talking.
· Doesn't play with toys in a "normal" way: instead of pushing a toy car around, he only likes to spin the wheels or constantly stacks the cars.
· Constantly walks on his toes
· Is excessive with certain behaviors like constantly spinning in circles, flapping his hands, banging his head.
If your child is diagnosed with autism, be sure he gets a full evaluation to rule out other problems that can mimic autism. He needs to get several blood tests to check for genetic problems like Fragile X syndrome, and a brain MRI to check for certain brain problems that can look like autism.
There are many therapies for autism, and many parents find that different combinations work for different kids. Jenny McCarthy's book is an excellent resource to guide parents through all the possibilities. You'll want to join parent support groups, and work with your local early intervention programs. The biomedical intervention that Dr Jerry Kartzinel helped pioneer has been very successful (I have known Jerry for many years, and think he is doing some great work).
To see more from this episode, click here.