"The Age of Autism: Mercury Medicine and a Manmade Epidemic" -- Lessons Learned
Posted Oct 29 2010 12:00am
By Julie Obradovic
Last week I had the privilege of introducing Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill as they stopped by Naperville, IL on their book tour. As I've mentioned before, their book had a profound impact on me; it's not every day you befriend individuals who will truly change the world and the course of humanity for the better. Granted, if there has been any bright spot in this Autism experience, it is that I have met many of those people, but these two gentlemen in particular have a special place among them. (Photo Mark Blaxill, Julie Obradovic, Dan Olmsted, Teresa Conrick.)
I don't think the significance of what they have uncovered can be over-stated. I have told them since the moment I finished reading The Age of Autism that I am humbled to know them. Perhaps it will be a while before people can come to terms with what they've written, but there is no doubt in my mind the day will come they are recognized for their triumphant achievement: bringing to light and beginning the end of The Age of Mercury. Nobel Prize. Pulitzer Prize. Either or both would be appropriate.
Unsure of how to express that in only the few minutes I had to introduce them, I tossed around some ideas of what I would say. Maybe I would share how I met them, or how they asked me to join the team here at Age of Autism. Maybe I would talk about our own experience and how grateful I am to Mark and the other original warrior parents. Maybe I would talk about blasting every article Dan wrote for his series to every person in my address book. I had a few ideas and decided it would be best to shoot from the hip with no script, just speaking from the heart.
About an hour before I left, I thought I'd try it out. No matter how hard I tried though, I just kept rambling, and as the time approached for me to go, I started freaking out. This wasn't good. No matter what I tried to say, I couldn't get across what I wanted. And then it hit me, just like that. I'll share it with you now.
In my "other" life as I sometimes refer to it, I am a teacher. I teach World Language (the new term to replace Foreign Language) at the high school level, primarily to very high achieving, highly motivated, college bound kids. Disciplinary problems are rare, and the parental support is stellar. I consider myself blessed, even if this group of students can present a different set of challenges than expected.
High achieving kids are tough in their own way. They are extremely hard on themselves and on their teachers. Many of them will tell you right to your face what they think of you, and they take a certain pleasure in catching you making a mistake. In the event you happen to make one, you can be sure you will hear about it. And if one thing holds true, they don't like being told when they do.
In the not so distant past, I have taken some criticism, and perhaps rightfully so, for commenting on scientific papers without a scientific background. My response to that has always been the same. What does it say about the science that someone without that level of expertise can clearly see the problems that those who consider themselves experts can not? None the less, I am not a scientific expert, I agree. I am, however, an expert at a few things. Teaching is one of them. It is my job to teach students how to pay attention to detail and how to reflect upon their work so they can grow. I believe I do it well.
One of the ways in which I do this is by having the students keep a file folder with all of their assessments throughout the year. At the high school level, quizzes and tests no longer make their way out of the classroom and onto the refrigerator at home. They traditionally stay in the filing cabinet for easy access in the event of a discrepancy on a grade. A few years ago, however, I realized students would learn a lot more if they got in the habit of keeping their own file folder in the classroom and reflecting on it often. Not only would they be afforded the opportunity to reflect on the work of the assessment being returned that day, but they would also have the opportunity to look at their work as a whole. I encourage the students to look for patterns, areas of strength and weakness, and is always the case when learning another language, unexpected misinterpretations.
Without a doubt every year, there are those students who want nothing to do with the process. They get their paper, look at the grade with an eye roll, and toss it right in the folder, listening politely but not intently to what I have to say as I explain the correct answers. And without a doubt every year, when I address those students and tell them they have no choice but to be engaged in the process, they come up with all kinds of reasons why they don't want to be bothered.
It was a stupid test. It was a stupid question. It was unfair. You didn't explain it clearly. You didn't tell us that would be on there. You didn't teach us that. How was I supposed to have known that?
No matter what the excuse, the root cause is always the same: Being faced with our mistakes is painful, especially when we thought we knew what we were doing. To deal with it, we make excuses, blame others, and even get hostile. Taking our pain out on others feels a heck of a lot better than acknowledging the problem in ourselves; rejecting accountability, especially when there are negative consequences, is even better.
And that is what The Age of Autism is really all about. Dan and Mark have presented the medical community, the government, and the pharmaceutical industry with powerful evidence of perhaps their gravest mistake ever, one that spans over 500 years: The unchecked and disastrous use of mercury in medicine. The evidence is so strong and so overwhelming as to what the results of that have been, I feel absolutely confident in stating the controversy over what caused Autism is over. Our children have the disease of the remedy, as was the case with neurosyphilis victims prior. End of story. (Read the book!)
What we will experience going forward, however, may be anything but. For if a 16 year old can get hostile at the sight of a D on a Spanish test, inclined to blame everyone but himself, explaining away the mistakes with lame excuses, the consequences being maybe a lower grade point average or the loss of the car keys for the weekend, imagine the emotional reaction we will get from those responsible for this situation. We're talking about the mass poisoning of humanity for centuries, with its most recent victims being children, coupled with a complete and total misinterpretation of the evidence leading to untold suffering and damages. Embarrassment, shame, guilt, blame, anger, distrust and despair will be experienced on so many different levels. There may even be criminal charges and foreign policy implications, not to mention the likely loss of reputations, careers, and livelihoods. There aren't a whole lot of people I know who would be too keen taking responsibility for this, and in the age of litigation, passing the buck, making excuses, finger pointing, cover-ups, and denial, I can hardly imagine the lengths that will be gone to to make Dan and Mark's findings go away so they don't have to.
The problem is, the evidence won't go away. And just as the saying goes, all truths pass through three stages: first they are ridiculed, then they are vehemently opposed, and finally they are accepted as self evident, so will this truth pass through these stages. For those who have the stomach to look, the truth is now in the third stage. For those who don't, they may find themselves in the second stage for some time to come.
The good news is though, there's only so long and so many excuses that can be made before you just look ridiculous. And even a 16 year old knows that.
Julie Obradovic is a Contributing Editor to Age of Autism