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Autism and the Amish

January 30th, 2008 · 68 Comments · Housecleaning, Urban legend

In the spring of 2005, UPI reporter Dan Olmsted wrote that autism is rare among the Amish of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. “Where are the autistic Amish?” he asked. “I have come here to find them, but so far my mission has failed, and the very few I have identified raise some very interesting questions about some widely held views on autism.”

Olmsted’s anecdotal evidence is cited ad nauseum as evidence that thimerosal causes autism. The case rests on twin assumptions: that the Amish don’t vaccinate, and that they don’t have autism. But Olmsted never visited the cryptically-named Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, where doctors treat dozens of children who exhibit autistic behavior. It’s not even necessary to visit the clinic. A simple phone call to a staff physician, such as the one I made recently, is enough to debunk “the Amish anomaly”, as Olmsted calls it.

“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.” He says Amish vaccinations rates are lower than the general population’s, but younger Amish are more likely to be vaccinated than older generations.

Strauss also sees plenty of Amish children showing symptoms of autism. “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 Rett Syndrome is also common among the clinic’s patients.

Strauss, along with Dr. D. Holmes Morton, MD, authored a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which described a mysterious seizure disorder that resulted in mental retardation and autistic behavior in nine Amish children. The study was published one year after Olmsted’s mythic voyage, so it would seem a story correction would be in order.

In an email exchange with AutismNewsBeat, Olmsted said he made several attempts to contact Dr. Morton, but Olmsted would not say if those attempts were made before or after his Age of Autism stories ran. Strauss said Olmsted never visited the clinic, and added “I don’t think he spent much time in Lancaster County.”

Strauss said the clinic treats “syndromic autism”, where autism as part of a more complicated clinical spectrum that can include mental retardation, chromosomal abnormalities, unusual facial features, and short stature, as well as Fragile X syndrome. “We see quite a few Amish children with Fragile X,” he said.

Strauss says he doesn’t see “idiopathic autism” at the clinic – children with average or above average IQs who display autistic behavior. “My personal experience is we don’t see a lot of Amish children with idiopathic autism. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist, only that we aren’t seeing them at the clinic.”

Strauss says a child in the general population is more likely to have autism detected early and to receive a diagnosis than an Amish child. “An Amish child may not be referred to an MD or psychologist because the child is managed in the community, where they have special teachers,” he says. “We know autism when we see it, but we don’t go actively into the Amish community and screen for ASD.”

Strauss adds that the Amish have a high prevalence of genetic risk factors and are protected from others. The low rate of idiopathic autism “might have more to do with genetic structure or population than lifestyle, environment or diet.”

So what’s up with Olmsted? Did a UPI reporter fabricate a story, then pass it off as true? Science blogger Prometheus offers three possible explanations:

Mr. Olmsted didn’t look all that carefully for autistic children, having already concluded that there wouldn’t be any.

Mr. Olmsted found autistic children, but didn’t count them – either because he either didn’t feel that they had real autism or because it conflicted with his forgone conclusion.

The Amish families – being somewhat suspicious of “outsiders” (not without good reason) – didn’t confide the details of their family medical issues with Mr. Olmsted.

I’m still waiting for Mr. Olmsted’s side of the story.

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68 responses so far ↓

  • 1 isles // Jan 30, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    I think all three of Prometheus’ hypotheses are sounder than the proposition that there is not autism among the Amish because they are vaccine-free.

    I am kind of thinking that certain people, Olmsted among them, have been so in love with the idea of being the crusading journalist battling the mighty medical establishment that they can’t even recognize when they’re making fools of themselves and making a bad name for journalism. I have never been to j-school, but I’m pretty sure that drinking the koolaid is not part of what they teach as a means of becoming an effective reporter.

  • 2 Orac // Jan 31, 2008 at 8:04 am

    If in fact the Amish have a lower prevalence of idiopathic autism, of course it has to be the vaccines. It’s so obvious. It couldn’t possibly be the genetic inbreeding, the different environment, the lifestyle mostly free of modern technology. Oh, no. It couldn’t possibly be any of those things. It must be The One True Cause of Autism: Vaccines.

  • 3 Michelle Dawson // Jan 31, 2008 at 8:04 am

    I’ve just skimmed through, but idiopathic autism does not require an IQ or developmental level in the normal range (an IQ or developmental level of 70 or more), much less average or above average IQ or developmental level (100 or more). Nor is etiological autism always associated with mental retardation.

  • 4 HCN // Jan 31, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Also, Olmsted’s story falls apart in regard to getting hold of Dr. Morton. An AP journalist, Paul Elias, did get a hold of the clinic and wrote a story just a few months after the first Age of Autism story:
    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/genetics/2005-06-27-amish-genetics_x.htm

  • 5 autblog // Jan 31, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    I wondered about Dr. Strauss’s definition of idiopathic autism. I think he’s trying to say he hasn’t seen an autistic child who didn’t have some other developmental issue.

    I’m waiting for Mr. Olmsted to come back and say “If the Amish vaccinate, then they must have autism.”

  • 6 Erin // Apr 30, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    This information does not seem to prove that Dan Olmstead is wrong. If the Amish ARE getting vaccinated as you say, and they are getting autism anyway, then you can’t say that “Vaccines do not cause autism because they are getting autism without the vaccines,” and you can’t say, “They are getting vaccinated but still are not autistic.”

    And why is the clinic “cryptically named,” by the way? What is so “cryptic” about the words “Clinic for Special Children?”

  • 7 Erin // Apr 30, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Well, maybe he is wrong. But if he said he was relying on “anecdotal evidence,” why are you all getting so mad?

    I’ve heard some more anecdotal evidence that children in India didn’t start getting autism until they were vaccinated.

  • 8 Evonne // May 5, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    “Amish child may not be referred to an MD or psychologist because the child is managed in the community . . .”

    I think that’s key. Perhaps the Amish don’t bring their children “with idiopathic autism” to clinics because they’re not ill? Perhaps they simply raise them and teach them according to their needs. One shouldn’t need clinical intervention to be considered a member of society — especially a society that doesn’t place much value on keeping up artificial appearances.

  • 9 autblog // May 5, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Exactly, and that’s what Mr. Olmsted and others don’t understand.

  • 10 HCN // May 5, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Erin said “I’ve heard some more anecdotal evidence that children in India didn’t start getting autism until they were vaccinated.”

    You really ought to read Roy Grinker’s book “Unstrange Minds”. There is quite a bit on autism in India.

  • 11 Science-Based Medicine » Monkey business in autism research // May 19, 2008 at 6:55 am

    […] credulous reporter who claims that the Amish don’t vaccinate and don’t get autism when they do both and who conveniently couldn’t find a special needs clinic in the heart of Amish country that […]

  • 12 Thimerosal and autism - an overview, Part II « Mainstream Parenting Resources // May 24, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    […] the Amish don’t vaccinate, and they don’t get autism, either. Untrue on both counts. Either way, the Amish are a genetically distinct group of people, and even if they didn’t […]

  • 13 Mary // May 27, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    http://www.medpagetoday.com/Neurology/Seizures/tb/2954

    I can’t believe he wrote all that and couldn’t include whether or not the Amish children had been vaccinated. Wait, maybe I missed it, let me go back — nope, no mention of pesticide use used locally or in the water, no mention of vaccinations at birth or otherwise, no mention of whether the parents had been exposed to either chemicals, vaccinations or both.

    Just another “study” that only gives you the information the author wants you to have to prove “his” theory.

    Just like modern journalism, tell a 1/4 of the story and then just keep on repeating it time and time again.

    And how many Amish kids are there? Thousands I’m assuming and they found nine with autistic like conditions — hardly conclusive evidence of anything.

    And were they born Amish or brought in from another sect? Where they born and raised on the same farm where their seizures started? Where there any new or unusual changes in their surroundings before the onset of seizures? Were they eating anything different? Were their parents trying out herbicides on the crops? Was the water tested for chemicals or pollution?

    So many questions, so little answers.

  • 14 Autism Blog - Is the Prevalence of Low Functioning Autism Among the Amish Actually Lower Than Expected? | Left Brain/Right Brain // Jun 1, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    […] claims were subsequently scrutinized by Prometheus, Autism News Beat and Lisa Jo Rudy. They investigated the matter and found that both claims are most likely mistaken. […]

  • 15 Jeff // Jun 6, 2008 at 12:13 am

    The Amish will be discredited or explained away due to their isolated genetic population. It wouldn’t be that hard to achieve a statisticly significant sample of home schooled children or Chicago’s Homefirst community. I would like to see more studies as to what is causing Autism rather than studies as to what isn’t causing it. As with many things in science, it is probably a function of several variables…

  • 16 Kristin // Jun 8, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Why are there not a ton of adults with autism? If the vaccines don’t have anything to do with autism why are there thousands of adults walking around with autism? You all need to read Robert F. Kennedy Jr. article: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/7395411/deadly_immunity/

    It’s so obvious that the government is covering up everything and has been for years. Read the proceedings in the vaccine court that is currently taking place. The aluminum is having the same effect on the genes that the mercury did – years from now the truth will come out!! Read the RFK article – I dare you!!! Can’t believe that your government would lie to you?? How about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? How about Iran Contra? Or the Gulf of Tonkin attack that never happed to start the Vietnam War? Oh yea, and that smoking is good for you to quote Jenny McCarthy from the rally. I was there; I am recovering my son too! Shame on you for lack of compassion for someone that is trying to get something done in this country. Jenny has been my inspiration because I see growth every day in my son. He is now talking and socializing with kids! Six months ago he was a hand flapping, head banding half crazed child. This is all because I read a book by Jenny McCarthy and another by Dr. Kenneth Bock. My son will be recovered in two years – so take that and put it where the sun doesn’t shine. And guess what guys – she has inspired thousands of moms and dads to do the same. So keep spouting your propaganda – keep the negativism going – it’s not going to help your kids or this country. Keep up with the negativity about other groups and how we must be all crazy. I don’t care, my child will be recovered and I’m spreading the news far and wide to everyone I come in contact with. Oh yea, and I’m going to win in vaccine court too!

  • 17 HCN // Jun 8, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Oh, it’s the Kennedy article again… Yawn…

    http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/06/robert_f_kenned.html

  • 18 Jennifer // Jun 15, 2008 at 7:12 am

    As a school psychologist who provided behavioral therapy to children with autism during graduate school, I, too, discounted the link between vaccines and autism. To me, it made perfect sense that most parents begin to notice their children’s developmental delays right around the time the highly suspect MMR vaccine is typically first administered– at around 18 months of age. Besides, I wasn’t worried about my kids contracting autism from vaccines– mercury-based perservatives so often accused of causing autism had reportedly been removed from childhood vaccines by the time they received theirs.

    So, when my once perfectly normal second-born son began developing symptoms of autism (which, by the way, IS a diagnosis– look in the DSM-IV), I simply considered it an unfortunate anomoly and began seeking speech and language therapy for him. Besides, he was 15 months old when all his words disappeared, and I was almost positive he didn’t receive the MMR until he was 18 months old. I didn’t even give it a second thought. I wasn’t one of those paranoid fanatics who believed there was a government conspiracy against my son.

    Then, one day, as I was gathering up required documentation for my son’s kindergarten registration a few months ago, I noticed that my son had received the MMR vaccine when he was 15 months old.

    By the way, I’m not as suspicious of the mercury as I am of the live rubella virus injected into my son’s bloodstream. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?? If it is a long known fact that intrauterine exposure to rubella often results in autism in the fetus, why would we inject it diretly into developing infants with varying immune systems?

  • 19 HCN // Jun 15, 2008 at 9:52 am

    Because it is not the full blown virus, and it has been attenuated. The MMR is a vaccine, not the diseases. It has been given in the USA since 1971. Was there a huge upsurge of autism starting in 1978 when the Measles Elimination Program was initiated?

    Anyway, rubella is a problem during the first trimester of pregnancy. From http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/rubella.pdf :
    “As many as 85% of infants infected in the first trimester of pregnancy will be found to be affected if followed after birth. While fetal infection may occur throughout pregnancy, defects are rare when infection occurs after the 20th week of gestation. The overall risk of defects during the third trimester is probably no greater than that associated with uncomplicated pregnancies.”

    When my son was about 15 months old he had a very severe seizure. The grand mal, shaking and finally losing consciousness. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

    Later I noticed that it also happened a mere week after his MMR.

    Was it the vaccine!?

    Umm… no. He was also suffering from a severe gastrointestinal bug. He had been having rivers of diarrhea, and was dehydrated. At the hospital he was given intravenous fluids, and sent home. A follow-up appointment and EEG with the neurologist showed that his seizures were not coming back again (he had had neonatal convulsions and had spent a year on phenobarbital). The neurologist explained that the illness caused the seizures and he was not going to prescribe anticonvulsants.

    Now you are thinking: Did the MMR cause the gastrointestinal problems? (that is what Wakefield was paid to prove).

    Umm… no. I also had it. I was actually borrowing diapers due to how nasty a bug it was. The weird thing is that my symptoms disappeared with his seizures, the arrival of the fire department, the trip in the ambulance and the time spent in the hospitals emergency department.

    We both recovered.

    It was just a coincident that it happened a week after the MMR. Just like many kids are diagnosed shortly after a certain shedule of vaccines.

  • 20 Science-Based Medicine » When “investigative reporting” becomes anti-vaccine propaganda // Jul 14, 2008 at 6:01 am

    […] canard that the Amish in Pennsylvania don’t vaccinate and they don’t get autism. That is false. The Amish do vaccinate, and they do get autism. This myth originated with Dan Olmsted, a former UPI reporter who is no longer with UPI but is now […]

  • 21 jim // Aug 6, 2008 at 3:53 am

    vaccines are killing you and making you stupid ,stupid

  • 22 HCN // Aug 6, 2008 at 10:16 am

    prove it… with a start by comparing the numbers on these charts:
    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/appdx-full-g.pdf

    Most recent data show that at least 69 babies have died from pertussis from 2004 through 2006. If you have real information that the DTaP kills the equivalent number of people in three years, please share.

  • 23 HCN // Aug 6, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    To help you Jim, I am posting the data from that file for a seven year period for a representative set of diseases…

    This is pertussis data:
    Year____Cases____Deaths
    2000_____7867______ 12
    2001_____7580______ 17
    2002_____9771______ 18
    2003____11647______ 11
    2004____25827______ 27
    2005____25616______ 39
    2006____15632______ 16
    Total___103940_____140

    The last death figures are from this slide set:
    http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/Slides/Pertussis10.ppt#9 … Slide 9. Of the 82 deaths from pertussis during 2004 through 2006, 69 were of infants under the age of three months, while the remaining 13 were older than three months.

    Now for tetanus:
    Year____Cases____Deaths
    2000_______35______ 5
    2001_______37______ 5
    2002_______25______ 5
    2003_______20______ 4
    2004_______34______ NA
    2005_______27______ NA
    2006_______41______ NA
    Total______219______More than 20

    Now for measles:
    Year____Cases____Deaths
    2000_______86______ 1
    2001______116______ 1
    2002_______44______ 0
    2003_______56______ 1
    2004_______37______ NA
    2005_______66______ NA
    2006_______55______ NA
    Total______460______3 or more

    Now for mumps:
    Year____Cases____Deaths
    2000______338______ 2
    2001______266______ 0
    2002______270______ 1
    2003______231______ 0
    2004______258______ NA
    2005______314______ NA
    2006_____6584______ NA
    Total_____8261______3 or more

    Total of cases of those four disease over the seven year period is 112880. This does not include the 16 cases of Congenital Rubella Syndrome listed in the table for the years 2000 through 2006.

    Now if we went your way and eliminated the DTaP and the MMR then we will go back to the numbers that are listed for the 1950s (the return of pertussis is already happening, and measles and mumps have returned to Japan and the UK, the USA is not far behind). I have not calculated the deaths from tetanus, pertussis, measles and mumps for the the years between 1950 and 1956 inclusive, but a quick glance shows it to be multiple thousands.

    So how many deaths are from vaccines, and where is the documentation?

  • 24 Prometheus // Aug 6, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    “vaccines are killing you and making you stupid ,stupid”

    And you have some data to support that, don’t you Jim?

    Funny how the life expectancy keeps going up, even though we’re supposed to be in such poor health, with vaccines, poor nutrition and “artificial chemicals” poisoning us.

    Jim, you just keep on trying.

    Prometheus

  • 25 Information anti-vacciners don’t want you to know « Skepacabra // Aug 14, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    […] http://autism-news-beat.com/?p=29 […]

  • 26 Worst measles epidemic in a decade–Thanks Generation Rescue! « Skepacabra // Aug 21, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    […] http://autism-news-beat.com/?p=29 […]

  • 27 Skepacabra vs. “Dr.” Rashid Buttar Round 2 - response to part 1 « Skepacabra // Sep 4, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    […] http://autism-news-beat.com/?p=29 […]

  • 28 The Amish Anomaly | Autism Myths // Nov 2, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    […] This first appeared at Autism News Beat. […]

  • 29 autism question - Politics Forum and Political Blog discussing and debating political and social issues. // Nov 13, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    […] among there population. They are ethnically not diverse. http://www.whale.to/vaccine/olmsted.html http://autism-news-beat.com/?p=29 oh and the amish do vaccinate […]

  • 30 Age of Autism’s "Reporter of the Year" strikes (out) again [Respectful Insolence] // Jan 5, 2009 at 12:31 am

    […] to David Kirby’s head. Of course, the only real competition was Dan Olmsted, who apparently couldn’t find the Clinic for Special Children in Amish country (or, more likely, didn’t bother to look for it) yet bravely claims there are no autistic […]

  • 31 yank oey // May 26, 2009 at 5:30 am

    i’ve 3 sons.2 of them born in indonesia,where is up to the mom,want to get immunizations or not. developed country has alot of diseases do far, but i didn’t get them immunited. they’re fine until now n bright.but my last son,because of the rule of usa country,he’s got bunch of shoots. he’s mild autism now.i’m so sad.I saw alot of street children in indonesia which is very poor n never got shoot,live in n looking for the garbage!! they’re fine n can smile,n run ,n talk. all of them just little kids , like my autism son/2.5 years.you can check in youtube;street children in jakarta or jabotabek

  • 32 Chris // May 26, 2009 at 6:07 am

    The plural of anecdote is not data.

    Your nice little story does not indicate that vaccines have anything to do with autism.

  • 33 yank oey // Jun 1, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    I’m not a scientist or a doctor,but I’m just a mother with autism son.my son’s therapist told me,”may be” the cause of autism is environment like water,air,etc. How about New Zealand, Australia, china, Singapore, India. They’re not inside USA country, n has to take plane to go there with many hours. Is it environment too,that the cause of autism? because NZ is very clean country.Their children got immunitations shoot, which IS MADE from USA country ,like Merck, GlaxoSmithKline,etc. China can’t make MMR shoot, or even Australia or NZ. Who made these medicines/shoots?
    Also so far when I saw children from poor family living in the street/garbage in Indonesia whom even for buying food is HARD, they never got immunizations [which is very expensive to pay],. They’re fine n can talk/verbal,n running/playing with their friend in the garbage’s area.

  • 34 Chris // Jun 2, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Suggested reading material on autism in USA, Korea, Africa and India:

    http://www.unstrange.com/

    And again, the plural of anecdote is anecdote, not data.

  • 35 Emily // Jun 4, 2009 at 6:12 am

    I’m not sure the logic here holds.

    On the one hand you say that autism does occur amongst the Amish, and then go on to say that the Amish do vaccinate. How does this disprove a link exactly? It clearly does nothing of the sort.

    If you had however said that Amish don’t vaccinate but still have significant levels of autism, that would be a different matter entirely.

  • 36 Chris // Jun 4, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Emily, I would highly recommend that you read what is written in this blog post more carefully, plus click on the last link on the Prometheus’ photoninthedarkness blog (it is titled “How to Seek and Not Find”).

    Another link you might try is Genetics 101: The Amish Anomaly

  • 37 autblog // Jun 8, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Or, put another way, the Amish of Lancaster County do vaccinate, yet there is no evidence of idiopathic autism. This, oddly enough, is Dan Olmsted’s story, and he’s sticking with it so far.

  • 38 trut // Jul 23, 2009 at 6:46 am

    HCN you really like to advocate for as many vaccinations as possible you can have mine and yours. Mercury is good for the brain isn’t it. You can have my mercury too. What pharmaceutical company do you work for anyway?

  • 39 HCN // Jul 23, 2009 at 8:56 am

    So almost a full year after making a comment this fellow comes back with declaring I said something when I did not, and the equally inane pharma shill gambit.

    And absolutely no attempt to answer my questions.

    Do you mind telling me how much mercury has ever been in the MMR vaccine? What is the relative risk of the MMR vaccine versus measles, mumps and rubella?

    How much thimerosal is in the present pediatric vaccine schedule? What is the relative risk of the DTaP or Tdap vaccines versus diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (especially now that pertussis kills about two dozen American babies per year)? What is the risk of the Hib vaccine versus the meningitis the disease causes (oh, and there have been a few deaths from that in the past year)?

    Come on, show us some real evidence! Something I could find in my local medical school library.

  • 40 Branndogrey // Sep 30, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    This isn’t a polio vaccination we’re talking about. Remember, measles, mumps, and rubella are not life-threatening diseases (except the ultra-rare case involving a pregnant mother)… If the MMR vaccine is shown to spike an increased possibility of autism (1 in 65 British children), ADD, or Crone’s disease – why take it? Why make this vaccination mandatory for school children? I have to go with my gut here.
    I don’t trust big pharma…
    do you?

    And why do schools get federal money for 100% vaccination “participation” in there schools? Look that one up and tell me what you find. I want to be disproven on these points (for the sake of my children!), but I cannot ignore what my research thus far reveals.

  • 41 Chris // Oct 1, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Branndogray:

    Remember, measles, mumps, and rubella are not life-threatening diseases (except the ultra-rare case involving a pregnant mother)

    So you think that a one out of a thousand chance of death from measles is acceptable? That is the low estimate. During the outbreak of measles between 1988 to 1991 in the USA it was one death per five hundred cases.

    Add to that the chances of deafness, mental retardation, blindness and other disabilities that are caused by mumps, measles and rubella.

    Okay, so you don’t trust “Big Pharma”. But if you were told measles was not dangerous, either you are ignorant or you have been lied to. So don’t trust any website that tells you measles and mumps are mild diseases.

  • 42 Autism News Beat // Oct 1, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Rubella is one of the most common causes of birth defects in the world, resulting in spontaneous abortions, stillbirths, and congenital rubella syndrome (CRS). CRS can lead to hearing impairment, blindness, heart defects, and mental retardation. In 1996, two thirds of the world’s population lived in countries where rubella vaccination was not practiced routinely. In 1999, 100,000 infants were born with CRS, according to WHO.

    The last great outbreak in the US, in 1964-65, resulted in 20,000 cases of CRS.

    MMR, which has never been shown to cause autism, actually prevents one form of the disorder – CRS.

  • 43 Response to Comments « The CW Blog // Oct 18, 2009 at 10:04 am

    […] REBUTTAL: The claim that autism is not reported in Amish communities, and that their children are unvaccinated is not true. […]

  • 44 Mark - Worcesteshire, England // Oct 19, 2009 at 2:54 am

    Sorry if this has been previously asked…
    is there a population anywhere that actually hasn’t been vaccinated against anything? On the basis that the Amish actually do get vaccinated, this is ultimately a bit of a distraction and a non-story therefore.
    I’d be wanting to find those populations and checking their autism rates. Before the WHO do.

  • 45 Chris // Oct 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Any population you find that is not vaccinated would not be comparable to the vaccinated population in general.

    For instance, in developed countries they are often small sects of people within a community, and would have a genetic makeup that, like the Amish, would be inbred and genetically unlike the general population. They would also be unlikely to seek public services for disabled children (there has been some interesting genetic disorders that have arisen in the fundamentalist polygamist Mormon communities in Arizona and Utah).

    In undeveloped countries, like portions of India (and Uttar Pradish), you would have larger portions of children without vaccines, but also have several other health issues. These would include malnutrition and high levels of disease in general.

    What you have is a Catch-22.

    What you can do is look at the several large epidemiological studies that have been done in Finland, Denmark, Canada, USA, UK, Japan and elsewhere. None of these have shown any real correlation between vaccines and autism (Japan is interesting in that they actually stopped using their form of the MMR, and not only did rates of autism diagnosis still increase, several dozen people died from measles — they have since reintroduced a Measles/Rubella vaccine, and are grappling with a large resurgence of mumps, and there are at least two studies from Japan showing mumps causes deafness at greater rates than previously estimated).

  • 46 Mark - Worcestershire, England // Oct 20, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Chris… for what it’s worth… with my limited understanding…

    Whilst it might – technically – be factual to say that the Amish are ‘inbred’ I have to say that that feels a bit wrong to me. Maybe it’s just the word – not a good vibe, y’know? It kind-of suggests that the Amish aren’t valid in their organic and homegrown discernment and skepticism with respect to Big Pharma’s needle. I’m sure you weren’t saying that, that’s just the thought-bubble that sprang up above me. The Utah birth-defect slant is a whole different packet of broken biscuits, and maybe EVEN autism is the least of their problems.

    I take the point about comparisons. But… aren’t the fundamentals ‘Vaccines and Incidence of Autism’ versus ‘No Vaccines and No Incidence of Autism’? Genetics vary from household to household, never mind population to population. Maybe genetics should be set aside. My guts (not qualified in immunology, I will freely admit) tell me genes ain’t the issue. Environment is. And your internal environment would seriously be altered by eye of newt, ethyl of mercury, toe of frog, aluminium of hydroxide etc, etc.

    We are constantly made to feel that our DNA is faulty, that humans are deficient. “Everything is down to the genes…. we must fix the misfiring human genome!”

    But hey, you should check out my town. As Bill Hicks used to say – ‘the gene pool’s a puddle’.

  • 47 Chris // Oct 20, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Mark:

    Whilst it might – technically – be factual to say that the Amish are ‘inbred’ I have to say that that feels a bit wrong to me…. It kind-of suggests that the Amish aren’t valid in their organic and homegrown discernment and skepticism with respect to Big Pharma’s needle.

    Their cultural bias against marrying someone outside of their religion has nothing to do with any acceptance they have of technology and/or medicine. They actually do accept modern things, but they have to be of a certain value (that includes chemical fertilizers and phones).

    It seems you have limited knowledge of the various autonomous communities in the United States, bordering on stereotyping. I suggest you read a bit more about them, especially the Research Page from the Clinic for Special Children, http://www.clinicforspecialchildren.org/CSC/Home.html (note there are actually different genetic disorders associated with different sects).

    Then go and familiarize yourself with http://www.PubMed.org. Through that you will find lots of articles on the genetics of autism. Though, with your statements that we are made “feel that are DNA is faulty” that perhaps you should start by taking a basic biology course.

    That might also help with your notion that we are modified by minute bits of certain chemicals. Though, aluminium hydroxide is a common food additive and you have more than likely consumed more than in any vaccine just by eating a pickle (it is alum, a common item found in most drug stores… I used it make sure home made play dough did not go bad quickly).

    There is lots of literature around. I would suggest if this is an interest that you educate yourself on child development, genetics, basic anthropology (Roy Grinker’s book Unstrange Minds is very good), some neurology (I love reading Oliver Sacks book), population dynamics (read Jared Diamond’s books starting with Guns, Germs and Steel), read Paul Offit’s Autism’s False Prophets and the very good Ben Goldacre book Bad Science.

  • 48 Mark - Worcestershire, England // Oct 21, 2009 at 7:25 am

    I was stereotyping? Me? OK, if you think so.

    Thanks for the reading list.

  • 49 Joseph // Oct 22, 2009 at 9:34 am

    My guts (not qualified in immunology, I will freely admit) tell me genes ain’t the issue. Environment is.

    @Mark: Your guts say that, but I think a more relevant question is this: What does the data say? And the data is quite clear that autism is one more the most heritable phenotypes known.

    We are constantly made to feel that our DNA is faulty, that humans are deficient.

    Feelings, politics and fads are irrelevant to the nature of reality. If reality makes you feel bad, so be it. It’s still reality.

  • 50 Joseph Mercola Is A Threat To Public Health, Spreading False Information - Better Health // Oct 23, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    […] As far as the Amish are concerned, they do vaccinate, and they do have children with autism. […]

  • 51 Should Homoeopaths really be allowed to use the title | zhen // May 10, 2010 at 12:56 am

    […] Do you remember the mercury causing autism furore? Since 2002, the vast majority of childhood vaccines (if not all) do not contain mercury, so you'd expect the rates of autism to drop considerably wouldn't you? Yet despite the decrease in mercury-based vaccines, the rates of autism have continued to increase! Which you correctly point out Onlymatch4u. You also claim that there is no autism amongst the Amish population. Really?? There are well documented cases of AMISH children with Autism http://autism-news-beat.com/archives/29 […]

  • 52 Toni // May 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    To the person who also had gastroenteritis a week after the child’s vaccination… Did it ever occur to you that you were no longer immune to MMR since you have not been getting your boosters (what adult does?) and that you in fact ALSO had a form of one of the diseases? You were changing numerous sh!tty diapers and could have easily contracted it.

    I have received MMR vaccine at least 5 times in my life. The rubella immunity never sticks and I was “forced” to be re-vax’d when I changed schools and worked in a hospital.

    I am the mom of at least one ASD child (second one un-dx’d but displaying ASD behaviors) and we have not had a case of regression here. I believe my oldest was born the way she is, however I have 8 amalgams and received flu shots while pregnant and b/f her. I haven’t had her tested for heavy metal toxicity, but I would not be surprised. My son had a seizure 10 days after his last DT shot at 32 months old… we skipped a lot of vax and spaced them out. I hadn’t connected the vax and his seizure until recently. He didn’t regress but it seems his development slowed down.

    The person who said “Autism is not a diagnosis, it is a set of behaviors” simply meant that the DSM diagnosis *IS* a list of behaviors. It is not a “disease” the way that man people want to believe. And since it is just a list of behaviors,autism can have many causes.

    To the Jenny McCarthy haters… god,don’t you have something better to do with your time?

    To the man who was mainstream until he/she realized his child regressed after being vaccinated… I have been there. I was very pro-vax as a young adult, and after I had a child, I became more careful, but my carefulness did not extend to ME. I was trying to protect my child(ren) by vaxing myself during pregnancy and the following two years during b/f, not realizing the amount of mercury in flu shots still, and that it crossed the BBB. :( So they received a lot of mercury but not a lot of toxins via vaccines.

    I have to wonder how severe their behaviors would have been had they been fully vaccinated with all that MSG and aluminum. :(

  • 53 Chris // May 29, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Don’t you have anything better to do than to post your indignation on an over two year old article?

    Especially one that did not mention McCarthy? The one other comment about McCarthy was from someone who was praising her.

  • 54 CJ // Feb 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Why are there not a ton of adults with autism? Uh, duh, there are! No one is looking for us or asking us questions. We are ignored or ridiculed. We are all around, many of us were misdiagnosed as something else first, like OCD, ODD, Social Anxiety, and more. There are thousands of us. Look on facebook, we’re all there talking telling our stories, our experiences, our lives. Seek us out and you will find your answers. The question is would you see Austism if you came across it? Many of us have learned to control our gestures or behaviors in public and only display them under durress or at home, while the ones that do display them are thought to be on drugs, mentally retarded, or strange.
    We in the autism community are convinced it is genetic. Many of our family members displayed signs but were thought eccentric or strange, and we are out there getting married, having children of our own, a possible reason that the rates have gone up. I have seven children, many of my autistic friends have five or more children. If you have an autistic child, look in your own family and you will find someone with traits of autism too. Stop blaming and start looking with your eyes open. Autism is not a curse or disease, it is what makes us who we are. We don’t mind being autistic, why do you all mind so much? So we need some extra help here and there and we don’t get the whole social scene, but we regognize one another and understand one another. Maybe it’s a good thing. Perhaps this is the worlds way of becoming more honest. Just a thought, but perhaps.

  • 55 CJ // Feb 9, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    And there are areas of unvaccinated people with autism in Africa. I watched a documentary one time (can’t remember the name of it right now) that showed how parents with autistic kids there are outcast if they do not KILL THEIR CHILDREN as their children with disabilities is considered an insult to the family. The documentary showed all over the world in rural areas about women who were outcast for not killing their children or leaving them to die somewhere when the families noticed the children were different. That is a good reason why you cannot find it in unvaccinated populations because they kill their children that show signs as they think that those children are possessed by demons or evil forces or bad luck and so forth.

  • 56 Jonathan // Apr 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

    The issue of neurotoxicity from methyl mercury preservatives has another side. Our FDA began to remove or disallow thimerosol(methyl mercury) from OTC and pharmaceutical products decades ago and the USA has many sources of mercury now. Let us not eliminate vaccination and immunization but instead try to use the safest, and most effective methods to reduce disease burden. We have eliminated the majority of live pertussis in vax, as living microbes do mutate, even heat weakened viruses. We are looking to use nosodes to replace MMR as a potentially improved method of immunization. Mercury amalgam dental fillings when exposed to ‘chewing’ and heat will release mercury though the mercury becomes much more absorbable if pathogenic microbes in the gut make it organic mercury, thus probiotics in foods and supplements is somewhat protective from this ethyl mercury/methyl mercury neurotoxicity. Scrubbing the exhaust from coal fired power plants is another improvement. I am aware of the strong association between mercury amalgam fillings and another neurotoxicity ill, Alzheimers dementia. Let’s get away from such critcisms and do the best thing which is to bagin to more rapidly clean up the earths environment. That is to say as long as we care about what happens on earth for the generations that follow.

  • 57 Jonathan // Apr 29, 2011 at 10:25 am

    The genetics of ASD and ADHD is real and it is related to the genetic ability to eliminate toxins from our body before they can get to the brain. these conditions have several factors contributing to them and preservatives in vaccines is only one. We should improve the quality of vaccines and work on better forms of immunization as even pertussis vaccines are beginning to show increased failure rates.

  • 58 Chris // Apr 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Our FDA began to remove or disallow thimerosol(methyl mercury)

    There is one letter in this statement that is a very big error. Can you spot it? Because it is a very basic error and shows that you know very little about the subject.

  • 59 Autism Blog - Underimmunization in Ohio’s Amish: Parental Fears Are a Greater Obstacle Than Access to Care « Left Brain/Right Brain // Jun 28, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    […] a cursory effort to contact people at the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The Clinic, aside from serving special needs children (including autistics) runs vaccine clinics and…. In a piece explaining Mr. Olmsted’s failures, Mark Blaxill (also of the Age of Autism) […]

  • 60 Julie // Nov 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    I agree with CJ – there is Autism in our older family members. We just thought they were ‘annoying’ or ‘weird’ but then our kids were having problems and were diagnosed with Aspergers. When we got more info we started to see it on both sides of the family. And we see it in other families too. I am sad that those other countries kill their ‘non-perfect babies’ I saw that documentary too. But that is how they deal with it. So glad I didn’t have to do that – I love my kids even though they are stressful for me at times. Looking back I can now see that they were different right from birth… how they looked around and moved…

  • 61 Latter Day Old Fritz // Mar 15, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Some of the younger Amish are more involved with the “Sex, Drugs & Rock’n Roll” White Trash and for that reason the older generation of Amish is healthier!

  • 62 Når fagfolk blir overmannet av konspirasjonsteorier « 4brooker // Nov 10, 2012 at 6:44 am

    […] Denne myten er heldigvis avslørt som rent oppspinn, all den tid de fleste Amish-foreldre faktisk vaksinerer sine barn.[3] Det stemmer heller ikke at autisme er mindre utbredt hos Amish-folket enn i befolkningen ellers.[4] […]

  • 63 autblog // Nov 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Takke deg for din gjennomtenkt kommentar. Du er riktige.

  • 64 9 Reasons to Completely Ignore Joseph Mercola My Response // Jan 17, 2013 at 9:46 am

    […] far as the Amish are concerned, they do vaccinate, and they do have children with autism. I really love this and I’ll thank you in advance for making my point. Your argument is that the […]

  • 65 The Amish Don't get Autism? // Jun 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    […] […]

  • 66 Penn and Teller on vaccination - Page 3 - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum // Aug 19, 2013 at 9:18 am

    […] It's seriously debunked here. Basically, Olmstead didn't look very hard for autistic Amish. Autism and the Amish Disease Control estimates the rate of ASD is 1 in 91 children (Kogan, 2009 presence of ASD in the […]

  • 67 A favorite tactic of the antivaccine movement: When science doesn’t support you, use the law « Science-Based Medicine // Mar 25, 2014 at 3:33 am

    […] get autism from back when he was actually a reporter (they do, and they do; it’s a myth that they don’t). She has also been known to grill CDC officials about vaccines, as shown in this YouTube […]

  • 68 Preventing autism? Not so fast, Dr. Mumper… « Science-Based Medicine // Mar 25, 2014 at 3:46 am

    […] Then, over the weekend, I saw a post on the antivaccine crank blog Age of Autism by Dan “Where are the Autistic Amish” Olmsted entitled Weekly Wrap: Another Medical Practice with a Sane Vaccine Schedule – and […]

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