Gryffin's Tail has moved!

Gryffin's Tail has a new home. It got too hard to mirror to this site. I don't maintain this site anymore.

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To all my email followers, I've transferred the Feedburner address to the new site so you should start receiving emails again. I didn't know this page stopped mirroring until a day or so ago. I'm sorry you've missed out for the last few months but the good news is that I don't post much so it'll be easy to catch up!



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Monday, June 15, 2009

On vacation!

I'm on vacation for the next few weeks so posts will not be as forthcoming as I've been lately. I'll try to make sure that I continue to post but forgive me if I'm a bit lax. I'll have a lot to go through when I get home and that's motivation for me to at least try to get some things posted while I'm away! ;)

We went to Stone Mountain in GA and the boys had a great time! Gryffin found a group of friends to play with after the laser show with their light up swords and it was great to see other kids respond to his requests to be involved. We've had one incident already where I had to tell a young lady at the pool that she didn't have to let him play with his toys but being mean wholly unnecessary. She changed her attitude quick but it's nice to not have to force the issue. Good kids are always a pleasure to be around and I was so pleased that he found some! Tynan was a bit shy so he didn't join. He very sadly looked up at daddy and said, "Daddy, will you play with me?" It was so pitiful that it melted the world around us... He's only 3 so he was a bit afraid of the other kids but he and daddy did get some good playing in!

Great program for kids

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Play games for free right here on our site! Click a button below to play. We have multi-player and single player games. In the future we'll add features enabling you to save records, tailor content for differentiated instruction, and pinpoint student problem areas!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Laten herpes virus infection in human trigeminal ganglia causes chronic immune response

Am J Pathol. 2003 Dec;163(6):2179-84.

Latent herpesvirus infection in human trigeminal ganglia causes chronic
immune response.

Theil D, Derfuss T, Paripovic I, Herberger S, Meinl E, Schueler O,
Strupp M, Arbusow V, Brandt T. Department of Neurology, Klinikum
Grosshadern, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany.

The majority of trigeminal ganglia (TGs) are latently infected with
alpha-herpesviruses [herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) and
varicella-zoster virus (VZV)]. Whereas HSV-1 periodically reactivates in the
TGs, VZV reactivates very rarely. The goal of this study was to determine
whether herpesvirus latency is linked to a local immune cell infiltration in
human TGs. T cells positive for the CD3 and CD8 markers, and CD68-positive
macrophages were found in 30 of 42 examined TGs from 21 healthy individuals.
The presence of immune cells correlated constantly with the occurrence of
the HSV-1 latency-associated transcript (LAT) and only irregularly with the
presence of latent VZV protein. In contrast, uninfected TGs showed no immune
cell infiltration. Quantitative RT-PCR revealed that CD8, interferon-gamma,
tumor necrosis factor-alpha, IP-10, and RANTES transcripts were
significantly induced in TGs latently infected with HSV-1 but not in
uninfected TGs. The persisting lymphocytic cell infiltration and the
elevated CD8 and cytokine/chemokine expression in the TGs demonstrate for
the first time that latent herpesviral infection in humans is accompanied by
a chronic inflammatory process at an immunoprivileged site but without any
neuronal destruction. The chronic immune response seems to maintain viral
latency and influence viral reactivation.

Publication Types:
* Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
PMID: 14633592 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

12: J Immunol. 1996 Oct 15;157(8):3542-9.

Persistent cytokine expression in trigeminal ganglion latently infected
with herpes simplex virus type 1.

Halford WP, Gebhardt BM, Carr DJ. Department of Microbiology,
Louisiana State University Medical Center, New Orleans 70112, USA.

Following ocular infection, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1)
establishes latency in trigeminal ganglion (TG) neurons. Using reverse
transcription-PCR, cytokine gene expression was analyzed in the TGs of mice
infected with HSV-1. IL-2, TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, IL-10, and RANTES mRNAs
were readily detected in TGs taken from mice 7 days postinoculation (PI).
Likewise, IL-2, IL-6, IL-10, and IFN-gamma protein were detected by ELISA of
TG homogenates. Between 5 and 45 days PI, IL-10, IFN-gamma, TNF-alpha, and
RANTES mRNAs were detected in nearly 100% of latently infected TGs (latent
infection was confirmed by reverse transcription-PCR detection of HSV-1
latency-associated transcripts). T cell-associated cytokine and chemokine
mRNAs (IL-2, IL-10, IFN-gamma, and RANTES) were still detected in the
majority of latently infected TG samples taken between 60 and 135 days PI.
In contrast, these cytokine mRNA species were rarely detected in uninfected
TGs. Measurement of serum Abs to HSV-1 at different times revealed that
anti-HSV-1 Ab concentrations approached a plateau in mice by 30 days PI but
remained at high levels 67 and 125 days PI. Although there was molecular
evidence of an ongoing immune response to HSV-1 in latently infected TG,
histologic analysis indicated that very few mononuclear cells remained in
the ganglion 60 days PI. Collectively, the results suggest that residual
lymphocytes encounter viral Ag during HSV-1 latency with sufficient
frequency to remain activated. The paradox of a persistent immune response
against a latent infection is discussed.
Publication Types: PMID: 8871654

Monday, June 8, 2009

Newsweek’s Newspeak: Pharma’s Weapon Against Oprah

From AoA:

Newsweek jake By Jake Crosby

On the cover of last week’s Newsweek issue was a photo of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, with a huge scowl on his face. On his forehead were the words, “EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT IRAN IS WRONG.”

Ahmadinejad received considerable attention for denying the Holocaust. He held a convention inviting well-known Holocaust deniers including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and launched a Holocaust denial cartoon contest. And yet, Newsweek oprah Oprah Winfrey was not portrayed any better on the cover of Newsweek’s latest issue, showing an outrageous photo of her, the title over her face reading, “CRAZY TALK.”

Newsweek will portray a prominent TV show host as horribly as it did a Holocaust denier, but will take the rather bizarre views of a neurodiversity proponent little known outside the autism community seriously. Two issues ago, the magazine gave coverage to the ND Ari Ne’eman, ignoring requests of other autistics including myself for an interview. I wrote a letter to Newsweek in anticipation of Ari’s’s article asking the magazine to give equal time to a non-ND autistic person, receiving nothing more than an automated response. I then submitted what I sent to the magazine as an open letter to Age of Autism thinking that might pressure Newsweek to at least publicly acknowledge the counterpoint to neurodiversity among autistic people. No such thing happened. Then the Ari Ne’eman piece ran online a week later and then in the May 25th issue, where he professed his anti-cure views while expressing an unfounded fear of the unproven idea that autism can be prevented through eugenics. (HERE)

Now Newsweek’s June 8th issue has solidified my worst fear: that my open letter to them had been written in vain. The cover article was a 9-page hit piece on Oprah Winfrey, of all people. (HERE) I read in Newsweek’s issue prior to the one where the Ari Ne’eman article ran that the magazine is operating in the red. (HERE) Now why would a faltering magazine write a smear issue of a celebrity who owns a net worth of several billion dollars and whose TV show is among the highest ranked in history? A big hint can be found in the subtitle, “Wacky Cures & You.”

Since Oprah has given Jenny McCarthy her own show, I can guess what one of those “Wacky Cures” would be. Sure enough, under the overblown title of the story that is even larger than the one on the cover, was the “wacky cure” I expected: “Eradicate Autism!” Strange the magazine would call this “wacky” after publishing an article two issues ago interviewing Ari, who not only fears an eradication of autism but that it will be done by eugenics, as if that’s anywhere close to being a possibility. And yet, the authors in the latest issue think it is “wacky” that Oprah interviews Jenny McCarthy who says she cured her son of autism with widely used treatments. Perhaps Newsweek takes the neurodiversity line that “autism is not a medical mystery that needs solving.” That would explain this discrepancy, though I tend to doubt it.

More likely, the explanation is that 10 of the 31 pages of ads are for pharma, 5 of them for Wyeth, including an inside-cover triple-page ad. Naturally, a failing magazine is going to want to receive more ad dollars by running more articles pleasing to sponsors. It seems practical and makes sense, though unethical, dishonest, defamatory and morally reprehensible all at the same time.

The first portion of the article slams Oprah for inviting Suzanne Somers on the show for promoting her own “natural” hormone replacement therapy. It involves hormones synthesized from plants rather than the typical horse urine, saying what Somers uses is not actually natural nor FDA-approved. Fair enough, I don’t have an opinion on the benefits or problems with HRT, but perhaps Newsweek can also run an article on the 5000 lawsuits Wyeth is facing for the damages attributed to its own, admittedly unnatural, FDA-approved version. If they did, it would help their case of proving Ms. Somers’ alleged belief wrong, that “the media” is “in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry.” But I guess that’s about as likely as Newsweek interviewing me to balance out their coverage given to Ari Ne’eman.

After criticizing Oprah for interviewing Suzanne Somers came the expected criticism of her interviews with Jenny McCarthy. The very first thing the article makes clear is that she is a former Playboy model, as if having large breasts has to do with anything. I think a J&J manufactured, FDA-approved autism drug, Risperdal, growing milk-producing breasts on boys is more relevant, but that’s just me.

Then Newsweek makes the statement that “researchers” have not found a link between vaccines and autism. This, however, is hardly surprising, especially since Wyeth, a company that gave Newsweek ad money to run this piece was the same company to give grant money to the scientist-for-hire that led the most recent sham study obfuscating the vaccine-autism link published in Pediatrics earlier this year. Presumably, only the researchers who’ve received money from the same source as this magazine count. Hypocritically, the article then lamented that McCarthy’s views went “virtually unchallenged.” Leaving one-sided views “unchallenged” is precisely the problem with this magazine.

The hypocrisy doesn’t end as Newsweek then accused Oprah of doing to CDC officials exactly what it did to me in anticipation of its article for Ari Ne’eman: not inviting someone representing the counterpoint for equal coverage. Only in my case, I requested equal time and was ignored. It is true that Oprah read a CDC statement to offer an alternate viewpoint instead of having a guest from the agency appearing on her show, but blaming her for that is blatantly absurd and ignorant.

Anyone following this controversy long enough, no matter what opinion they have, knows the CDC has a track record for silence. Even Peter Hotez, quoted in Paul Offit’s book and head of the Sabin Vaccine Institute that receives millions in annual funding from Merck, Wyeth, Sanofi-Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline, knows this. He is a vocal denier of any kind of link between autism and vaccines, but complained of how silent the CDC was on this controversy. If blatant ignorance could not explain Newsweek’s mischaracterization of the CDC as willing to participate in interviews, then dishonesty will.

On Gardasil, the HPV vaccine linked to at least 32 reported deaths, and thousands of adverse events including seizures and paralysis, Newsweek is no better. The magazine once again criticized Oprah for inviting a medical professional, Christiane Northrup, onto the show to express her concern over the safety of Gardasil, using the CDC and the FDA’s party line to say the deaths are unrelated. Yet, when compared to a control vaccine for meningitis, Gardasil had 3 times as many emergency room hospitalizations and 30 times the number of side effects. Newsweek didn’t report this fact, or what the CDC and FDA had to say about it. Though if it did, they would surely decline an interview. Instead, the magazine attempted to discredit the Gardasil skeptic by mentioning her superstitions involving “tarot cards.”

Yet Newsweek strangely had nothing to say of the person serving as CDC director who presided over the childhood vaccine program when I was born, James Ostermann Mason. He is currently a member of the board of trustees for religious group: “Evergreen International.” Its mission is to help homosexuals “diminish same-sex attractions and overcome homosexual behavior,” by the faith of Jesus. Ultimately, it attempts to cure homosexuality, and not with vitamins, chelation, or even hormone treatment, but with religion. But like Ari’s eugenics fear, it did not make Newsweek’s category of “wacky cures,” I wonder why…

In a classic case of double standards, the role of Newsweek quickly changes from prophet to tabloid the instant subjects change from the CDC to Oprah. One gimmick no good tabloid reporting can go without is the use of paparazzi photography to smear the targeted celebrity. The front cover says it all, with a huge close up of Oprah revealing tears in her eyes, then another photo of her in red curlers, followed by another in which her hair dominates the image, as if to say she is all hair and no brains.

I could only imagine the number of photos there are of Oprah, and the kind Newsweek has chosen are the kind that would fit perfectly well in the National Enquirer, a tabloid. With Newsweek losing money as conceded in the May 18th article entitled, “Reinventing Newsweek,” this is apparently what the magazine is reinventing itself into.

Newsweek not only takes on the role of a tabloid in its targeting of a particular celebrity, but also in its promoting information of the same level of absurdity as they accuse Oprah of publicizing: neurodiversity, eugenics fears, FDA-approval for drugs such as the apparently still dangerous HRT and Risperdal that grows milk-producing breasts on young boys, as well as the stance of a public health division that was once directed by a man who now devotes his life to “curing” homosexuality with the help of Jesus. One can therefore argue this magazine has been doing plenty of “Crazy Talk.” Of course, what is taken seriously versus what is dubbed “wacky” by this news-turned-tabloid magazine has no bearing on what actually is wacky versus what isn’t.

What matters is if Newsweek’s articles fit its agenda. In a magazine filled with pharma ads, accused in 2001 by five consumer groups of breaching journalism ethics by working with the lobby group PhRMA, having a special advertising relationship with pharmaceutical corporations and allowing its publication to be used by pharma lobbyists for public relations purposes, Newsweek’s agenda is no secret. One consumer advocate described Newsweek as “an infomercial masquerading as medical news” and “an example of corruption in journalism. Newsweek has surrendered its professional credentials by shamelessly engaging in disease mongering aimed at increasing profits for the mental health industry.”

Newsweek doesn’t report medical facts, it attempts to define them, even accusing others of the same bias and absurdity it perpetrates. It considers the help Jenny McCarthy gave her son “wacky,” but takes Ari Ne’eman’s fear of eugenics seriously. Similarly, Newsweek baselessly accuses Oprah of not inviting anyone from the CDC on her show to debate Jenny, but had no problem ignoring my request for an interview to balance out the coverage it gave Ari. This will no doubt add to the media-distorted public perception of how autistic people view their condition, not that Newsweek cares. Newsweek has become Newspeak.

Jake Crosby is a history student at Brandeis University, and a Contributing Editor of Age of Autism.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dr. Andrew Wakefield on The Poisoning of Young Minds

More from AoA:

Indoctrination By Dr. Andrew Wakefield

Like it or not, there is an unrelenting debate about whether vaccines have poisoned the minds of some children. That vaccines may do so is acknowledged (by, among others, autism expert Professor Sir Michael Rutter ) and is not actually the debate at hand; the real questions are, which children and how many? The base of the tsunami that is the autism epidemic – one sustained hitherto, by competing arguments for the rising number of diagnoses and those invested in non-environmental causes – is no longer able to support its top. In accordance with simple wave mechanics, the tsunami’s slope is too great and breaking is inevitable. Breaking, for the purpose of this metaphor, extends to the shoreline’s horizon, from the child to the family, to schools, to the state budget, to public confidence in healthcare infrastructure, and beyond.

But another form of poison has been insinuated into the collective conscious of young, able minds that threatens like an aftershock on the seabed. Although the tendrils of this poison are deeply embedded in the history of human conflict, its main roots are to be found in the propaganda of emergent Nazi Germany circa 1935. As an example, a math question to German children in schools where Jewish children were limited to 1.5% by 1935 and banned from education altogether by 1939, reads as follows.

The Jews are aliens in Germany – in 1933 there were 66,060,000 inhabitants in the German Reich, of whom 499,682 were Jews. What is the percent of aliens?

It was deemed important, indeed necessary, to sow the seed of anti-Semitic propaganda early into young, fertile Aryan minds. Before continuing, I acknowledge that mere mention of the Third Reich and anti-Semitism risks an emotive distraction from the point this article seeks to make. It is notable, however, that the Holocaust analogy has already been exploited in a different and deliberately pejorative context in an attack against those concerned with issues of vaccine safety in the promotion of Dr Paul Offit’s book Autism’s False Prophets by the New York Times. Second, let me make it clear that this article is about manipulation and is not about me.Recently I was provided with the text of another exam paper, this time from the UK’s Jan 2008 national General Certificate of School Education (GCSE) biology exam (higher tier), which students are now being given as part of their preparation for the 2009 exams. It read as follows:

The MMR vaccine is used to protect children against measles, mumps and, rubella.

(a) Explain, as fully as you can, how the MMR vaccine protects children from these diseases.

(b) Read the passage.

Autism is a brain disorder that can result in behavioural problems. In 1998, Dr Andrew Wakefield published a report in a medical journal. Dr Wakefield and his colleagues had carried out tests on twelve autistic children. Dr Wakefield and his colleagues claimed to have found a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Dr Wakefield wrote that the parents of eight of the twelve children blamed the MMR vaccine for autism. He said that symptoms of autism had started within days of vaccination. Some newspapers used parts of the report in scare stories about the MMR vaccine. As a result, many parents refused to have their children vaccinated. Dr Wakefield's research was being funded through solicitors for the twelve children. The lawyers wanted evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers.

Use information from the passage on the opposite page to answer these questions.

(i) Was Dr Wakefield's report based on reliable scientific evidence?
Explain the reasons for your answer.

(ii) Might Dr Wakefield's report have been biased?
Give the reason for your answer.

Let us pause there in order to reflect upon the question. While several quanta removed from the implications of the Reich’s insidious mathematics test, the coercive subtext is the same. It was set, apparently, by teachers trained in science. It was set for children whose futures depend upon providing answers that will allow them to pass the exam, i.e., by expressing views consistent with those of the State. It is intended to embed opinion.

First, I will deconstruct the passage that the students are given to read.

Autism is a brain disorder that can result in behavioural problems.

Actually, rather than being a brain disorder, autism is a disorder that affects the brain. A growing body of published evidence indicates that for many children, autism is a systemic disorder affecting the immune system, the intestine, and various metabolic processes such as those responsible for detoxification. Similarly, Sydenham’s chorea and Pediatric Autoimmune Neurological Disorder Associated with Streptococcus (PANDAS) are systemic disorders associated with adverse neurologic and behavioral consequences following streptococcal infections of, for example, the tonsils rather than the brains of susceptible children.

In 1998, Dr Andrew Wakefield published a report in a medical journal. Dr Wakefield and his colleagues had carried out tests on twelve autistic children.

I, and twelve other well-respected physicians and scientists, published the report that described the results of clinical tests carried out on twelve sick children who were admitted to the Royal Free Hospital under the care of a senior pediatric gastroenterologist for investigation of their clinical symptoms. An apparently novel inflammatory bowel disease was discovered and has since been confirmed in five different countries. The paper was a case-series (rather than an analytic study, e.g., a case-control study); this was clearly stated in the paper. It is a typical and well-established mode of presenting medical cases with similar features. It is a hypothesis-generating study that is a precursor to analytic studies in which inclusion of controls is appropriate.

Dr Wakefield and his colleagues claimed to have found a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism.

We specifically stated in the paper that the findings did not prove an association – let alone a causal association – between MMR vaccine and the syndrome that was described.

Dr Wakefield wrote that the parents of eight of the twelve children blamed the MMR vaccine for autism.

Appropriately and accurately, we reported the parental histories of developmental regression following MMR vaccination in eight of the twelve children. No one would have suggested censoring, for example, parental reports of natural chickenpox if this is what had preceded their child’s regression.

He said that symptoms of autism had started within days of vaccination.

We did not say this; we provided an account of the parental reports of the “onset of first behavioral symptoms,” which had often started within days of receiving the MMR vaccine.

Some newspapers used parts of the report in scare stories about the MMR vaccine. As a result, many parents refused to have their children vaccinated.

This is misleading and without any evidential basis. Asked what vaccination strategy I would recommend, I suggested in 1998 (and now) a return to single-spaced vaccines. This recommendation was based upon extensive research by me into the safety studies of measles-containing vaccines, compiled into a report that was several hundred pages long. The conclusions of this report with respect to the inadequacy of MMR vaccine safety studies have since been endorsed by the gold-standard scientific review by the Cochrane collaboration. However, while a fall in uptake of MMR was reported following our publication, figures for the reciprocal uptake in single vaccines were not. I have contacted private UK clinics providing single vaccines and I am informed that they have administered tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of doses, none of which are documented in the official statistics. Bizarrely, when the demand for single vaccines was at its highest, the UK government revoked the license for importation of single vaccines in August 1998, six months after I had made my recommendation. Parents with genuine safety concerns about MMR were denied a choice of how to protect their children: the UK government had decided to put protection of policy before protection of children. Beyond this point, vaccine uptake may genuinely have fallen, for which the government with its “our-way-or-no-way” policy must take responsibility.

Dr Wakefield's research was being funded through solicitors for the twelve children. The lawyers wanted evidence to use against vaccine manufacturers.

This is false. The allegation that The Lancet paper was funded by the Legal Aid Board (LAB) through lawyers looking to sue vaccine manufacturers was made by a freelance journalist who simply got it wrong and whose claims have now been discredited by the evidence. Not one single cent of LAB funding was spent on The Lancet report. In fact the funding for the LAB study (a separate viral detection study) was not even available to be spent until nine months after the children in The Lancet study had been investigated, their results analyzed, and the paper written and submitted to The Lancet for possible publication. These are matters of fact.

In other words, the students’ required reading is substantially false or misleading. And yet in order to gain marks, the students, whatever their understanding of the true state of affairs, are required to endorse the errors of their examiners or fail on the question. The examiners provide a breakdown of their marking scheme:

Answer (i) Was Dr Wakefield's report based on reliable scientific evidence?

A. No (any two from sample size small [only twelve], conclusion based on hearsay from parents, only eight parents linked autism to MMR, no control used (two marks)

First, the question is confusing. A report provides facts, its conclusions (if any) are based upon evidence. The options given for a correct answer completely fail to understand the nature of a case series (such as Kanner’s original description of autism in eleven children), which is essentially an uncontrolled report of the children’s history backed up, where available in our case, by contemporaneous developmental records and GP reports, and clinical findings including a detailed analysis of the children’s diseased intestinal tissues.

Answer (b)(ii) (yes) being paid by parents / lawyers (one mark)

As stated above The Lancet 1998 paper was not funded in any way by Lawyers. And rewarding the answer that I was being paid by ‘parents’ is extraordinary; it not only bears no resemblance to the truth, but it finds no mention in the paragraph upon which the examiners base their question.

Finally, to part (a) of the exam question: “can we explain how MMR vaccine protects children from these diseases.” A simple answer - one pleasing to the examiners - would be: by the induction of specific, life-long antibody and cellular immunity that produces high herd immunity and interrupts chains of virus transmission. While this may get a good mark, it would be false. In truth, there is much that is not known about vaccine-induced immunity. The legacy of mumps vaccination – a policy forced on reluctant Public Health systems in the US and UK, essentially through commercial pressures – has simply made mumps a more dangerous disease. Mumps is a trivial disease in children but substantially more dangerous in adolescents and adults. The vaccine does not protect enough children, and what protection it does confer, does not last - even with boosters. The effect has been to leave pubertal and post-pubertal individuals susceptible to mumps and its complications. Measles vaccine comes considerably closer to the examiner’s preferred answer, although waning immunity is also a problem that may not be overcome by booster doses, a practice that has yet to be studied adequately for safety. The long-term consequence of waning immunity at the population level is an issue of genuine concern.

I would score precisely zero for my response. But what of those who face the question in the future or who have already taken the test? The examining board was sent a series of searching questions by a journalist about this issue. Immediately, the exam paper was taken down from the website. What happens now? Will the students who have already answered the question pass if their answers conform to the dictate of the public health apparatchiks, or will they fail because their answers are wrong? And the science graduates who set the question – on what did they base their position? From their response to the journalist’s questions, the answer would appear to be, the integrity of the Sunday Times – so much for due scientific process. Where does that leave the prospects for tomorrow’s medical science? Consider the recent revelation during the course of Vioxx class action hearings: the publishing house Elsevier (owner of The Lancet and over 500 other medical and scientific titles) created six fake journals that were dressed up to look like scientific journals, funded by Merck without any disclosure, and strongly favorable to Merck in their content. And Merck itself, a company whose suggested corporate policy on Vioxx apparently included “seeking out [dissenting doctors] and destroying them where they live.” Parents of the world’s remaining neurotypical children might wish to consider this when discussing career choices.

‘Corporate government’ is heavily invested in propaganda, many of the techniques of which are a legacy of the Third Reich. It is difficult to believe that it was not influential in setting the UK school’s biology curriculum. For their efforts, Julius Streicher, the Reich’s apothecary of young Aryan mind poisoning, would have given the GCSE examiners and whoever was pulling their strings no more than a six out of ten and a “see me after class.” Streicher was tried and sentenced to death at Nuremberg. Who knows where he might otherwise have ended up?

Dr. Andy Wakefield, MB BS FRCS FRCPath, is an academic gastroenterologist. He graduated in Medicine from St. Mary's Hospital (part of the University of London) in 1981, pursuing a career in gastrointestinal surgery with a particular interest in inflammatory bowel disease. He qualified as Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1985, and in 1996 was awarded a Wellcome Trust Traveling Fellowship to study small-intestine transplantation in Toronto, Canada. He co-founded The Thoughtful House Center for Children in Austin, Texas. You can read his full bio at the Thoughtful House website HERE.

A Tale of Autistic Blood

Absolutely fascinating.  A must read.
From AoA:
A Tale of Autistic Blood
Red blood By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.
This may be the most important article about autism I’ve ever written. But first I need you to do a little work. I need you to go to this site (HERE) and watch the approximately five minute long video comparing the blood of six autistic children put together by Mark Squibb.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

General Ed, A Dream Realized

My son is not your typical child with autism but really, what child is typically autistic? Over the years since he's been in school, I've always told the school district that he is not a good candidate for mainstreaming but the response has always been, "this is how we do it" or "children with autism do better with slow transitions". Unfortunately, how they do it and how my son does it are two very different things. My son does not do well with slow transitions. He does better if he's just thrown in the mix. He's an all or nothing kid. If the choice is between mainstreaming and full inclusion, ditch the mainstreaming because he isn't going to succeed in two class settings.

Mainstreaming is when they take a child, slowly build up the time this child will spend in a typical class until they are deemed able to be there full time. Generally, mainstreaming doesn't start until at least a month into the new school year. Long enough to understand the routine of the class they are entering. Of course, this does nothing for understanding the routine of the class they are going to mainstream into. Or build relationships and bonds with kids by starting a class from the very beginning and learning the routine and rules together. So by the time he starts the mainstreaming process, he has already understood that the SDC class is his class and he has formed relationships as best as he can with the kids in his SDC class that will allow such bonds and he enters a new class for an hour and a half a day with kids he has never met. This new class provides no bonds, friends are paired up already, and he doesn't view the teacher as his teacher. To him, this new class is a vacation from his other class; one he sometimes wants and sometimes doesn't.

This went on for two years. And for two years, I kept telling them it wasn't going to work. Academically, he's at or above grade level and he really doesn't belong in an SDC class. I've even been told by the school district that he doesn't even qualify for SDC but his behavior is preventing him from going into full inclusion. Behavior I always told them would happen if he was mainstreamed. I get notes from school on how can't focus, he doesn't sit still, he wants to roam around the room and play with toys, wants to talk to the kids, he pretends his hands are airplanes or he pretends he's a power ranger. (Hello!? Anyone home??? He's pretending! And wanting to talk and play with the kids! Isn't this supposed to be a good thing? Doesn't that tell you something??) He isn't bothering with the class because he knows it's not his class! He hasn't formed any relationship with the people and children in this class so why should he bother? He knows if he doesn't he'll get to go back to his class with his friends. Trying to make friends in a class that is set up for you to not get that chance is a pretty bum deal.

He's smart and he's very social. Even with a class full of kids that are either non-verbal or not social, he still manages to make friends. And he cares about them and wants to be with them. As his mother, I know that these are not the friends that will benefit him by modeling proper social skills and pragmatic language but I also can't deny that he cares about them and wants to spend time with them. He pushes them into a relationship that he wants but they aren't very good at cultivating so he does the work and they just need to play along. And many times they do. So again, why would anyone be surprised by the fact that he doesn't do well in the mainstream class when his friends aren't there?

Last summer I placed him in a typical summer camp because I knew that he could do it even if the school district didn't. It was such a wonderful experience and the staff gave me daily reports that I gave to the schoold district. He did so well and I even had an aide tell me she would never have known he had any issues if she weren't assigned to him as his aide. Ah, those beautiful words from this lovely angel! This was something he started from the beginning and was just thrown into and he did beautifully. And the school district was blown away but he was still placed into mainstreaming this year.

Now that you know the back story, let me tell about my latest IEP. I was in heaven! It was the best IEP I ever had and yes, even though he is only currently in SDC kindergarten, I've had a lot! I didn't have to ask for anything - it was all offered! I expected a fight with the current budget crisis and rumors had been flying around that were making me very nervous. I was basically offered the moon as far as I'm concerned!

So next school year, my son will repeat kindergarten only this time he will be in general ed, with a shared aide with several other wonderful services. I can't believe that it's finally happening and I will admit, I'm nervous. But I'm too excited for him to dwell too much on the nervousness. He will now get to experience starting a class with typical peers from the beginning, bond with them and gain much needed pragmatic language. He's always learned best from his peers and we will hopefully have found the last piece of the puzzle to full recovery. His last remaining issues are with expressive and receptive language and a lack of focus but maybe in this new, exciting and challenging environment, his language will catch up faster. An improvement in focus would be nice but that might be asking a bit much. We can dream, though! I had one dream finally happen, why not this one?

Who knows what this future will hold, it may be a miserable experience but I'm going to go with the idea that it's going to be fantastic. If that changes, so be it but for now I'm just going to enjoy this ride and expect the best!

During this IEP season, I hope you all have as wonderful an IEP experience as I did!

Study finds antidepressant doesn't help autistic children

From the LA Times

Nationwide research finds that citalopram is no more effective than a placebo and that its side effects are twice as bad. About a third of autistic kids take the drug, known as Celexa in the U.S.
By Karen Kaplan
June 2, 2009
An antidepressant commonly prescribed to help autistic children control their repetitive behaviors is actually no better than a placebo, according to a report published today.

Roughly a third of all children diagnosed with autism in the U.S. now take citalopram, the antidepressant examined in the study, or others that are closely related. The results of the nationwide trial, published in Archives of General Psychiatry, have some experts reconsidering the appropriateness of antidepressants and other mind-altering drugs used to treat children with autism spectrum disorders.

"There are tons of things being advocated as treatments for autism, some with appropriate caveats and careful explanations, others without any of that," said David Mandell, associate director of the Center for Autism Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who wasn't involved in the study.

An estimated 1.5 million Americans have autism, a group of poorly understood developmental disorders characterized by problems with communication and social interaction. One of the hallmarks of the disorder is obsessive, repetitive behavior such as flapping one's arms or hands or memorizing car makes and models. When those routines are interrupted, severe tantrums can result.

Only one medication -- the antipsychotic drug risperidone -- has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of irritability and aggression in children with autism. But doctors, frustrated by their limited options, haven't shied away from giving other pharmaceuticals a chance. Worldwide spending on drugs to treat autism is estimated to be $2.2 billion to $3.5 billion annually.

Because very few medications have been tested on autistic children in large, rigorous studies, doctors have looked to drugs that treat similar symptoms in other conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

That's what led physicians to a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, that help adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Their repetitive rituals, such as counting, cleaning or hand-washing, are reminiscent of the behaviors seen in autistic patients.

Doctors were also hopeful about SSRIs because the serotonin system is known to function improperly in people with autism.

But the medications will work only if the root causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder and autistic repetitive behavior involve the same biological pathways in the brain. The new study strongly suggests they do not.

"It just begs for a more careful understanding of the neurological underpinnings of the disorder," Mandell said.

Dr. Bryan King, director of psychiatry and behavioral medicine at Seattle Children's Hospital and leader of the study, said he was shocked to find that citalopram didn't help patients. Not only was the placebo slightly more effective, but the drug's side effects -- such as impulsivity and insomnia -- were at least twice as bad, the study found.

"I personally would have a healthy dose of skepticism about" prescribing citalopram or other SSRIs, King said. Citalopram is sold in the United States under the brand name Celexa.

In the study, King and his colleagues from six academic medical centers, including UCLA, enrolled 149 autistic children ages 5 to 17 whose compulsive behaviors were classified as moderate or worse. After 12 weeks, 33% of the 73 patients who took citalopram had improvements in repetitive behaviors as measured by clinicians and parents, versus 34% of the 76 patients who took a placebo.

If there hadn't been a control group for comparison, King said he would have been impressed by the improvement seen in the children who took the drug. "The decision would most definitely have been made to continue them," he said.

The study underscores the value of evaluating drugs in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, which are considered the gold standard of medical research, Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Yale Child Study Center in New Haven, Conn., wrote in a commentary that accompanied the study. In such studies, neither patient nor doctor knows who is getting the drug and who is getting the placebo until all the results are in.

"We need more studies of this kind to advance research and guide clinical practice," Volkmar wrote.

Placebo-controlled studies are especially important in evaluating medications to treat behavior and mood because patients are typically in a crisis state when they enroll in a clinical trial and could improve on their own in time, Mandell said.

What's more, the attention focused on children when they are in a trial tends to improve their behavior all by itself, Volkmar said in an interview.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. King and several of his colleagues have received research grants and other funding from pharmaceutical firms, including Forest Laboratories Inc. of New York, the maker of Celexa.

Potential for early-life immune insult including developmental immunotoxicity in autism and autism spectrum disorders: focus on critical windows of im

The full study is *not* free but if you have the several thousands of dollars to subscribe, click the title.

Authors: Rodney R. Dietert a; Janice M. Dietert b
Affiliations: a Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

b Performance Plus Consulting, 2006, Lansing, New York, USA

Early-life immune insults (ELII) including xenobiotic-induced developmental immunotoxicity (DIT) are important factors in childhood and adult chronic diseases. However, prenatal and perinatal environmentally induced immune alterations have yet to be considered in depth in the context of autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Numerous factors produce early-life-induced immune dysfunction in offspring, including exposure to xenobiotics, maternal infections, and other prenatal-neonatal stressors. Early life sensitivity to ELII, including DIT, results from the heightened vulnerability of the developing immune system to disruption and the serious nature of the adverse outcomes arising after disruption of one-time immune maturational events. The resulting health risks extend beyond infectious diseases, cancer, allergy, and autoimmunity to include pathologies of the neurological, reproductive, and endocrine systems. Because these changes may include misregulation of resident inflammatory myelomonocytic cells in tissues such as the brain, they are a potential concern in cases of prenatal-neonatal brain pathologies and neurobehavioral deficits. Autism and ASDs are chronic developmental neurobehavioral disorders that are on the rise in the United States with prenatal and perinatal environmental factors suspected as contributors to this increase. Evidence for an association between environmentally associated childhood immune dysfunction and ASDs suggests that ELII and DIT may contribute to these conditions. However, it is not known if this linkage is directly associated with the brain pathologies or represents a separate (or secondary) outcome. This review considers the known features of ELII and DIT and how they may provide important clues to prenatal brain inflammation and the risk of autism and ASDs.

Developmental Immunotoxicology: Focus on Health Risks

Click the title to download the .pdf of the full study.

Rodney R. Dietert*

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, C5-135 VMC, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell UniVersity, North Tower Road, Ithaca, New York 14853
ReceiVed June 1, 2008

Developmental immunotoxicity (DIT) has gained attention with the recognition that many chronic diseases of increasing incidence feature immune dysfunction as a component of the disease. The maturing immune system represents a vulnerable target for toxicants as it progresses through a series of novel prenatal and perinatal events that are critical for later-life host defense against a wide array of diseases. These critical maturational windows display a particular sensitivity to chemical disruption with the outcome usually taking the form of persistent immune dysfunction and/or misregulation. For this reason, health risks are significantly increased following early life vs adult immunotoxic exposure. Additionally, DIT- associated health risks are not readily predicted when based on adult-exposure safety data or via the evaluation of an unchallenged immune system in developmental toxicity testing. The same toxicant [e.g., heavy metals, 2,3,7,8-tetraclorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD)] may disrupt different immune maturational processes depending upon the specific developmental timing of exposure and the target organ dose at a given stage of development. Therefore, a single toxicant may promote different immune-associated diseases that are dependent upon the specific window of early life exposure, the gender of the exposed offspring, and the genetic background of the offspring. This perspective considers the linkage between early life chemical exposure, DIT, and the postnatal immune dysfunctions associated with a variety of childhood and adult diseases. Because DIT is linked to a majority of the most significant childhood chronic diseases, safety testing for DIT is a pivotal issue in the protection of children’s health.

Children Who Get Flu Vaccine Have Three Times Risk Of Hospitalization For Flu, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (May 20, 2009)

The inactivated flu vaccine does not appear to be effective in preventing influenza-related hospitalizations in children, especially the ones with asthma. In fact, children who get the flu vaccine are more at risk for hospitalization than their peers who do not get the vaccine, according to new research that will be presented on May 19, at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego.

Flu vaccine (trivalent inactivated flu vaccine—TIV) has unknown effects on asthmatics.

"The concerns that vaccination maybe associated with asthma exacerbations have been disproved with multiple studies in the past, but the vaccine's effectiveness has not been well-established," said Avni Joshi, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. "This study was aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the TIV in children overall, as well as the children with asthma, to prevent influenza-related hospitalization."

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend annual influenza vaccination for all children aged six months to 18 years. The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (3rd revision) also recommends annual flu vaccination of asthmatic children older than six months.

In order to determine whether the vaccine was effective in reducing the number of hospitalizations that all children, and especially the ones with asthma, faced over eight consecutive flu seasons, the researchers conducted a cohort study of 263 children who were evaluated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota from six months to 18 years of age, each of whom had had laboratory-confirmed influenza between 1996 to 2006. The investigators determined who had and had not received the flu vaccine, their asthma status and who did and did not require hospitalization. Records were reviewed for each subject with influenza-related illness for flu vaccination preceding the illness and hospitalization during that illness.

They found that children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization, as compared to children who had not received the vaccine. In asthmatic children, there was a significantly higher risk of hospitalization in subjects who received the TIV, as compared to those who did not (p= 0.006). But no other measured factors—such as insurance plans or severity of asthma—appeared to affect risk of hospitalization.

"While these findings do raise questions about the efficacy of the vaccine, they do not in fact implicate it as a cause of hospitalizations," said Dr. Joshi. "More studies are needed to assess not only the immunogenicity, but also the efficacy of different influenza vaccines in asthmatic subjects."

Adapted from materials provided by American Thoracic Society, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

iPhone can help autistic students communicate

Thought I'd share this gem of news!

Leslie Clark and her husband have been trying to communicate with their autistic 7-year-old son, JW, for years, but until last month, the closest they got was rudimentary sign language.

He's "a little bit of a mini-genius," Clark says, but like many autistic children, JW doesn't speak at all.

Desperate to communicate with him, she considered buying a specialized device like the ones at his elementary school in Lincoln, Neb. But the text-to-speech machines are huge, heavy and expensive; a few go for $8,000 to $10,000.

Then a teacher told her about a new application that a researcher had developed for, of all things, the iPhone and iPod Touch. Clark drove to the local Best Buy and picked up a Touch, then downloaded the "app" from iTunes.

Total cost: about $500.

A month later, JW goes everywhere with the slick touch-screen mp3 player strapped to his arm. It lets him touch icons that voice basic comments or questions, such as, "I want Grandma's cookies" or "I'm angry — here's why." He uses his "talker" to communicate with everyone — including his service dog, Roscoe, who listens to voice commands through the tiny speakers.

It's a largely untold story of Apple's popular audio devices.

It is not known how many specialized apps are out there, but Apple touts a handful on iTunes, among them ones that help users do American Sign Language and others like Proloquo2Go, which helps JW speak.

The app also aids children and adults with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and Lou Gehrig's Disease, or ALS — even stroke patients who have lost the ability to speak, says its co-developer, Penn State doctoral student Samuel Sennott.

Using the iPhone and Touch allows developers to democratize a system that has relied on devices that were too expensive or difficult to customize, Sennott says. "I love people being able to get it at Best Buy," he says. "That's just a dream."

He also says that for an autistic child, the ability to whip out an iPhone and talk to friends brings "this very hard-to-quantify cool factor."

Sennott won't give out sales figures for the $149.99 app but says they're "extremely brisk."

Ronald Leaf, director of Autism Partnership, a private California-based agency, says he prefers to help autistic children such as JW learn how to navigate their world without gadgets. "If we could get children to talk without using technology, that would be our preference," he says.

Clark says the app has changed her son's life.

"He's actually communicating," she says. "It's nice to see what's going on in his head."

Among the revelations of the past month: She now knows JW's favorite restaurant. "I get to spend at least every other day at the Chinese buffet."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Officials will dismantle isolation room at Lincoln Elementary School

From The Daily Courier; Prescott, AZ

Friday, May 29, 2009

Prescott Unified School District officials plan to dismantle a padded room at Lincoln Elementary School that has been a part of the "self-contained emotionally disturbed student program" for more than 12 years.

PUSD Superintendent Kevin told The Daily Courier this week that the district had never received a "parent complaint about using the room when their child becomes violent."

That does not seem to be the case anymore.

Parent/special needs student advocate Ray Parenteau said he got his first look at the room more than a week ago when a parent of a special needs student tipped him off about it.

Parenteau said the six-foot by six-foot room is "horrific."

Kapp said Friday evening that officials from the Department of Education's Flagstaff office inspected the isolation room May 22. He said the DofE would issue two reports - one about the collection of data and the other a letter of recommendations.

However, even before receiving those reports, Kapp said district officials "decided to shut down the isolation room. We decided two things, one not to use the safety room (anymore) and to dismantle the room."

Kapp said crews would probably dismantle the room next week.

In addition to dismantling the room, the superintendent said district officials contacted the Department of Education for help in developing procedures to deal with violent/emotionally disturbed children.

Kapp said, "We haven't received any complaints from parents, but on the other hand, the use of seclusion rooms is very much in the public spotlight. The feeling is that they are not needed."

The isolation room at Lincoln Elementary is the only one in the district, he said.

Kapp said both special education teachers at Lincoln "are trained and certified in non-violent crisis intervention."

Non-violent crisis intervention includes talking students down and non-violent restraint methods.

Kapp said after dismantling the room, the school would have to develop other ways to handle violent special needs students. This could include calling the Prescott Police Department, which is the procedure at the middle schools.

On Friday evening, Parenteau said, "I think it is reprehensible that Kapp would say the district has to find another way to deal with the student's violent behavior. These students are not violent. They are 6 to 11 years old."

Parenteau said the district has two board-certified behavior analysts on contract. He said district officials might need to call them in to provide teachers with better ways to handle children's unacceptable behavior.

He added that different ways exist to handle special education students and the district should turn to the experts and provide support to the teachers and staff who are working with the students.

The superintendent said the Department of Education became involved in the situation for two reasons: A district request that officials inspect the room and interview teachers, and a call from a parent that visited the room.

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