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The Amish and Autism

Posted Apr 23 2009 3:28pm

We all seem to pay attention to information sources that reinforce our beliefs. Conservatives watch Fox News and Liberals read the New York Times. It is pretty much the same way with the autism and vaccine controversy. I have heard from a couple of people “They did the study—the Amish don’t get autism.” We seem to take this kind of intellectual laziness for granted. It is in our politics, it is in our educational system and our news media are full of it. People who tend to believe in the medical establishment commonly say that there is no proven link to autism and vaccines. They feel as strongly—and with as little proof as the first group.
I looked for the fabled Amish study and could not find it. What I did find was a series of articles by a reporter, Dan Olmsted. Mr. Olmsted reasoned that if vaccines were causing autism, we should be able to look at an unvaccinated population. He wrote a series of articles on autism and the Amish and came to the conclusion that the Amish did indeed vaccinate, but they did less vaccination than the general population and have less autism—at least according to Mr. Olmstead.
One article he wrote was about children being cared for by Homefirst Health Services in Chicago. Many of the families using the clinic home school and tend not to vaccinate. To quote Dr. Mayer Eisenstein, “We have a fairly large practice. We have about 30,000 or 35,000 children that we’ve taken care of over the years, and I don’t think we have a single case of autism in children delivered by us who never received vaccines.” Dr. Eisenstein makes the point that these observations do not rise to the level of an actual study, even speculating the families with autistic children may have moved or stopped going to the clinic. It is unlikely, but possible.
Of course Dan Olmstead has been criticized for his work. Articles have been written stating the he did not look very hard when looking for autism among the Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. “The idea that the Amish do not vaccinate their children is untrue,” says Dr. Kevin Strauss, MD, a pediatrician at the CSC. “We run a weekly vaccination clinic and it’s very busy.” Dr. Strauss also notes that the Amish don’t vaccinate as much as the general population. He also says, “Autism isn’t a diagnosis - it’s a description of behavior. We see autistic behaviors along with seizure disorders or mental retardation or a genetic disorder, where the autism is part of a more complicated clinical spectrum.” Fragile X syndrome and Retts is also common among the clinic’s patients.
Olmstead’s critics say that Olmstead has not proven there is a connection between vaccinations and autism. The gorilla in the room is the fact that these critics haven’t proven that there isn’t. The research denouncing the idea that mercury in vaccines could be causing a problem says things like, “Gee, we gave the kids vaccines and tested the blood, stool and urine for mercury and didn’t find any.” or, “Gee, the Danes use a lower level of mercury in their vaccines and they have as much autism as we do.” or, “Gee, we checked kids with autism and those without and the mercury levels were about the same.”
All of the medical journals sell ads to drug companies. Is there a better way to corrupt your findings than money?
Autism basically didn’t exist until the 1940s—it started after we started vaccinating children. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the vaccines are to blame; our environment has also gotten worse since the 1940s. But if there were real scientists in the medical community, they would compare the health of a population that does not get vaccinated to one that does get vaccinated. In the mean time, maybe it isn’t unreasonable to put the burden of proof on those who think that vaccines are a good thing, because they really haven’t proven that there is no connection between vaccines and autism.

There is more information about autism and other health issues available for free at
http://www.wholehealthweb.com

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