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Brightness in Otherwise Dark Autism Media Coverage

Posted Aug 27 2010 12:00am

Sapling By Anne Dachel

Mainstream press coverage of autism has been so overwhelmingly bad for so long that I have no expectations when I scan the news.  Newspapers and TV stations will casually announce that one percent of children have autism.  The public is left to deal with the frightening admission that no one knows what causes autism so there’s no way to prevent it.  And there’s no cure for autism.

The message in the media is that if you’re unfortunate enough to be the parent of an affected child, there’s little medical science can do.  If you’re planning to have a baby, you’ll just have to take your chances.  Most parents still hear the same thing from doctors that I did 16 years when my son was finally diagnosed at age seven.

Slowly, in isolated news reports, that’s changing.   Two stories in this otherwise long, hot media summer were outstanding.  On June 21 there was a report from ABC15 in Phoenix .  (HERE)

The title was an immediate attention-getter: “Valley doctor says moms can help prevent autism before and during pregnancy.”  Viewers watched an interview with Dr. Cindy Schneider, a local physician who is also the mother of two children with autism.   Among her comments was the statement, “The genes are the gun, the environment is the trigger.”  Those of us in the autism community who believe that toxins everywhere are having a devastating effect on the quality of our health, easily identify with that claim. 

The reporter presenting Dr. Schneider opened the story by saying, “A Valley doctor is helping moms when it comes to autism.  …There are ways to reduce the risk even before you get pregnant.”

Dr. Schneider was covered saying that there are ways to lessen your chances of having a child with autism.  She talked about vitamin D and eating healthy.  One toxin to avoid was specifically noted: Moms were told to eliminate exposure to mercury.  While the news report didn’t specifically mention thimerosal in vaccines, the public was told about “high mercury fish [and] the silver fillings that are really fifty percent mercury and probably should be called mercury fillings.”

I found information on what Dr. Schneider is doing to address autism on her site. (HERE) .  Here parents can learn about biomedical treatment, diet, supplements and more. 

 I talked to Dr. Schneider and asked her questions about her work and about the autism epidemic.  (HERE)   While ABC15 didn’t include her views on vaccines, she told me that avoiding mercury includes thimerosal-containing vaccines like the flu shot.  Regarding her own children, she said, “In my opinion, mercury and pesticide exposure caused immune dysregulation which led to multiple food allergies and autoimmune reactions.  They were then unable to mount a proper immune response to the live MMR vaccination and had significant adverse reactions to it.  I know now that they have genetic weaknesses in their ability to methylate folic acid and B12, make glutathione (the body’s primary antioxidant and detoxification compound), and clear pesticides.  They also have mitochondrial defects that make their nervous systems particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures and viral infection.”   

She also sees the attitude of the medical community changing, especially among younger doctors.  “As more and more physicians witness their children develop autism, the medical community is changing.  Other physicians see the improvements in patients who undergo biomedical treatment and become more open minded and genuinely interested in learning more about the biochemical and metabolic abnormalities we are correcting.  Residents and medical students are less likely to believe current dogma and more likely to read the related medical literature, which will eventually lead to better care for the majority of children.”

She told me about treatments used at her clinic and she was candid about the attitude of the medical community when it comes to autism.  “I am working with other researchers to develop a panel of genetic and metabolic tests that will identify at risk children who may require an alternate vaccine schedule and close developmental and medical monitoring.  Meanwhile, I expect autism rates to continue to rise as more and more vaccines are added to the schedule and families continue to believe that the chemicals they use in their homes are innocuous.”

The next story that got my attention was on July 10.  It was from WBIR-TV in Knoxville TN and the title simply was “New autism clinic opens in Northwest Knoxville.”  (HERE)   In reality, it was a look at the power of parents who have no choice but to take matters into their own hand.  Determined moms came up with the Optimum Health Wellness Center to help families living with autism. (HERE)   Debi Haney, one of the women running the center, was interviewed in WBIR news story.  She told about the struggle she faced trying to get help for her autistic daughter.  Haney said, ‘So many families are going out of state to get what we should be able to get here.’

‘I've taken my child as far as Maryland, Nashville, Birmingham - there's just been nothing here - and I finally just got so frustrated with it, after the third time my child was hospitalized, I went back to college and got my nursing degree, so I can tell you, that's how frustrating it is.’

This is a place that will offer real help for parents with autistic children.  WBIR reported, “The center will focus on biomedical treatment, which seeks to diagnose whatever gastrointestinal issues or nutrient deficiencies the patient may have.” 

The women in charge are trying to provide help at affordable costs.  ‘Our goal is that no family should be turned away if they don't have the money," Haney said. "We would like to be able to offer these services as low-cost and free for those, and there are some grants available from some autism organizations, we just want to work with the community as a whole and try to see that every kid that needs treatment gets treatment.’

I had the opportunity to talk to Debi Haney about their new clinic and about what they offered for autistic children. HERE  She said, “Optimum Health Wellness Center's protocol used to help those with autism is ever-evolving as we learn more from the autism community and uses a holistic, individualized program. We have both attended DAN! Conferences and follow their guidelines of treating the gut, inflammatory issues, and restoring nutrition. Irina, our family nurse practitioner, has also studied Dr. Amy Yasko's protocol.”

She also talked about the attitude of the medical community when it comes to autism.

“I have found the nursing community to be accepting that autism is pandemic and there is a need for effective treatments. Most nurses I have met know someone affected by autism and they understand the frustration of an already fragmented health care system made worse by the lack of knowledge and understanding of autism and its treatments. However, those in the medical community for the most part are not prepared to educate themselves and/or advocate at the level needed for better treatments and research unless they are personally vested. The vast majority of those I have met still depend too much on CNN or Fox News to provide them with their knowledge base of autism, and still spend little time with continuing education regarding autism research and treatments.”

And she made it clear why the new Knoxville autism clinic is so important: “My experience so far is when we talk to a family, they are near tears to finally have someone within their own community that understands their frustrations, the lingo, and respects their struggles. I often spend a little time just listening to them share their stories and situation because they are so void of any practitioner's office understanding, much less caring and acknowledging of their situations. I have spoken with families from the newly-diagnosed to adults with autism. They have different paths in some ways, but the ultimate goal regardless of age is to help their child live a more functional life and want to do what ever they can to facilitate that. The most common phrase I have heard is, ‘I'm so glad there is finally a place that understands.’”

It’s so exciting to see these two stories from separate parts of the country, both saying basically the same thing: There are biomedical ways to treat autistic children and this help will improve their symptoms.  I look forward to more local news stories about real help for autism.  There are more and more parents who are not willing to simply accept that behavioral therapy is the only option available.  There are independent doctors taking the lead in providing things like diet, chelation, and hyperbaric oxygen treatment.  And if mainstream medicine doesn’t wake up to the truth about treating autism, they’ll find that no one is listening to them anymore.

Anne Dachel is Media Editor of Age of Autism.





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