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Features of autism

Posted Mar 28 2009 3:50pm

I was planning on writing something about this for the 1 year anniversary of when the Department of Justice concession to Hannah Poling was leaked.

Why wait until now? Because it was basically impossible to discuss this last year. Immediately after the leak, the phrase “features of autism” was made into a running joke. The vaccines-cause-autism people all made great fun of how the government coined the phrase, presumably to avoid using the simple word, autism.

Anyone want to go back and l ook at the document now? Search for the word “features”.

First hit:

Dr. Zimmerman observed that [Hannah Poling] watched the fluorescent lights repeatedly during the examination and would not make eye contact. Id. He diagnosed [Hannah Poling] with “regressive encephalopathy with features consistent with an autistic spectrum disorder, following normal development.”

Note that that’s in quotes: “ features consistent with an autistic spectrum disorder”. That’s right, Andrew Zimmerman, Hannah Poling’s own neurologist used the phrase “features of autism” about her, long before the Department of Justice ever did.

This is the same Andrew Zimmerman who submitted an expert report on Hannah Poling. This is the same Andrew Zimmerman who wrote an expert report, for the government side, in the Autism Omnibus Proceeding.

Not the only place “features” is mentioned in the Rule 4© report, either:

Second Hit:

[Hannah Poling] was evaluated by Alice Kau and Kelley Duff, on May 16, 2001, at CARDS. Pet. Ex. 25 at 17. The clinicians concluded that [Hannah Poling] was developmentally delayed and demonstrated features of autistic disorder.

So, why is it surprising that the Department of Justice would write:

In sum, DVIC has concluded that the facts of this case meet the statutory criteria for demonstrating that the vaccinations [Hannah Poling] received on July 19, 2000, significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in cellular energy metabolism, and manifested as a regressive encephalopathy with features of autism spectrum disorder.

That’s the third place that “features” is used in the concession document. But, hey, it isn’t funny to talk about Hannah Poling’s own specialists describing her as having “features” of an autistic spectrum disorder.

It is very easy to make more out of this than is warranted by the scant information we have available. We don’t know what is in the rest of the documents that were provided as part of the case. What we do know is that the U.S. government did not create the phrase “features of autism” to describe Hannah Poling.

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