Listen to the parents! That’s what discredited and cult-like autism advocacy groups tell us. What they really mean is “pay no attention to the science – just listen to our unconfirmed anecdotes!”
Groups such as Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) and Jenny McCarthy’s Generation Rescue are notorious for excluding or ejecting skeptics and neutral observers from their events, one part revival meeting, one part trade fair, wrapped in the respectability of science. In their world, a scientific conference is not about challenging speakers with conflicting data, or pointing out biases. It’s about providing a “safe and nurturing atmosphere” where parents feel comfortable to speak their minds. In such a setting, there are no bad ideas, save one: asking important questions.
So it was no surprise when TACA rejected my registration for its upcoming conference in Madison, Wisconsin. I registered online a few weeks ago, and paid my $35 with a credit card. The last time I registered for a TACA conference was February, 2010. My registration was denied then as well.
Here’s the email TACA sent me yesterday:
From: webmaster <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: TACA Order # 9273
Date: September 18, 2013 4:04:50 PM CDT
The purpose of our Wisconsin Real Help Now Conference on Friday and Saturday, September 27th & 28th is to bring together members in the autism community in order to educate and support families and facilitate dialogue on important issues related to autism. As such we want to nurture an environment that is conflict free and allows open communication.
We regret that we will not be able to accept your registration to this event. We are refunding your registration fee today.
Talk About Curing Autism
When TACA barred me in 2010, it followed up the email with an over-night letter that I had to sign for. This is what the email said then:
Dear Mr. Reibel,
The purpose of our Wisconsin Real Help Now Conference on Saturday, February 27, 2010 is to bring together members in the autism community in order to educate and support families and facilitate dialogue on important issues related to autism. As such we want to nurture an environment that is conflict free and allows open communication.
Your attendance at a previous national autism conference was disruptive to the mission and purpose of that conference. We want to ensure the focus of the conference is on education and support and that the environment is safe and supportive for conference attendees.
We have given you a full refund of the purchase price. You will not be admitted to this conference.
The “previous national autism conference” was the AutismOne conference in May, 2008. I had asked for, and received a press pass to that event. My “disruptive” behavior was to stay silent for two days, then ask a question during a Q&A on day three. The organizers’ disruptive behavior included calling hotel security to frog march me to the parking lot.
TACA organizers boast that their conference “brings together highly regarded experts in autism.” On such expert is Bob Sears, MD, FAAP, the pediatrician best known for fabricating and promoting his own untested vaccine schedule. It calls for twice the number of office visits in a child’s first year of life than the schedule that is recommended by real scientists. Pediatricians are not amused.
TACA says parents will leave the conference “with a positive action plan for their child with autism.” Sears advises parents to avoid vaccinating their autistic children until they are “recovered” from the disorder. So presumably TACA’s positive action plan includes positive test results for some nasty viruses.
Another TACA luminary and perennial AutismOne favorite is Anju Usman of Naperville, Illinois. You may know her as the physician who diagnosed aluminum poisoning in a five-year-old autistic boy in 2005, then referred him to another “alternative” practitioner. That doctor, Roy Kerry, killed the boy, in front of the mother. He was trying to chelate lead from the boy’s body, which stopped the child’s heart. A few months later, the Autism Research Institute awarded Kerry with membership into DAN! , which stands for Defeat Autism Now. DAN! practitioners used to earn their cred by completing a grueling eight-hour seminar. Now it takes three days.
There’s something unsettling and cult-like about an organization that treats autistic children like lab rats, then boasts that its conferences are nurturing and safe, where parents are free to speak their minds. But only when everybody is of one mind.