Monday, January 14, 2008

ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE YOUR OWN EYES OR ONLY WHAT YOU’RE TOLD?

The other day, I came across a story from The Shreveport Times, discussing the biomedical interventions of one parent making progress utilizing biomedical interventions with her autistic daughter. Although supplements and chelation therapy were mentioned, the focus was on the gluten-free/casein-free (GFCF) diet. It was a relatively balanced report, which noted that even GFCF would necessarily help every child.

What interested me were quotes from experts outside of the DAN! world.

One occupational therapist, Suzanne McMillan, had this observation about kids on the GFCF diet:
McMillian has noticed marked changes in some children on the diet and others not so dramatic.

“But one thing that is noticeable is if they’ve been on the diet for a consistent amount time and then eat something off the diet, you can tell,” she said. “I do recommend they talk to their (regular pediatrician); that’s the responsible thing to do.”
Those comments, no doubt, struck a familiar chord with every parent who has noticed positive results from the diet. Gluten infractions can ruin a day.

Although Ms. McMillan is correct that any part of an overall biomedical plan, including implementing a GFCF diet, should be subject to medical guidance, I have to question whether most pediatricians are really going to consider doing anything but roll their eyes and sigh. Still, the Shreveport reporter managed to find one, Dr. Margaret Crittell, who seems to have an open mind:
But when Kelly’s then 2-year-old daughter came in for a visit after about a week on the diet, Crittell wasn't expecting what she saw.

“I called her name and she looked at me and started interacting with me,” Crittell said. “Before she’d always looked past me and there was no interaction. It was interesting to me and hopefully more research will be done.”
While anecdotes are not definitive, overnight improvement is observed often enough that serious attention must be paid. Unfortunately, not every physician is as willing as Dr. Crittell to challenge the conventional thinking that pervades “mainstream” medicine. The article quotes an academic gastroenterologist as saying he “believes any positive changes that parents are seeing may be answered by the placebo effect.”

Huh?!? Does he really think a child between the ages of two and four has enough understanding of the reason Mommy and Daddy are feeding him/her different foods that the child will think he/she should be feeling an easing of autistic symptoms? Can the sudden onset of speech and social engagement ⎯ which has been noticed at various ages upon starting the diet ⎯ be just a trick of the mind?

I grew up in an academic family. I’ve known enough people with advanced degrees to know that the educational process is not necessarily a vaccination against ignorance. Still, I shudder when I see such ignorance and closed-mindedness running rampant.

A little skepticism is not a bad thing when determining a scientific question. But to assume something is not genuine because properly designed controlled studies have not yet been performed is the height of ignorance. The self-proclaimed skeptics love to say that some of our minds are so open that our brains must be falling out. It’s a cute little joke. Still, one has to wonder how anyone can see when they are keeping their eyes shut because there haven’t been five replicated studies to prove that a little light helps a person see.

As I often say, there are none so double-blind than those who will not see.

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