Monday, March 13, 2006


As I have made clear on a number of occasions, I most assuredly am not a scientist. Like most people with a decent and well-rounded education, however, I am capable of understanding how science works.

I have been worried about how long it would be before we can gain a complete understanding of autism spectrum disorders because of the differences in clinical indications among autistic individuals. Finally, it seems that someone in the scientific community gets it. The M.I.N.D. Institute (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) at the University of California, Davis announced a new project last week. The press release read, in part:
Called the Autism Phenome Project, the large-scale, longitudinal study will enroll 1,800 children ⎯ 900 with autism, 450 with developmental delay and 450 who are typically developing ⎯ who will undergo a thorough medical evaluation in addition to systematic analyses of their immune systems, brain structures and functions, genetics, environmental exposures and blood proteins. Children will be 2 to 4 years old when they begin participating in the study, and their development will continue to be evaluated over the course of several years. The first phase of the research is funded by the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and philanthropic donations.

“Children with autism clearly are not all the same,” said David G. Amaral, research director of the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and co-director of the project. “The tremendous variation leads us to believe that autism is a group of disorders rather than a single disorder ⎯ several autisms versus one autism. We are determined to provide the specific biomedical and behavioral criteria that accurately define distinct subtypes.”

I am not as familiar as I would like to be with the Institute. My general impression is, though , that regardless of the leanings of any individual faculty members, the M.I.N.D. Institute as a whole has shown a very balanced approach to the various controversies surrounding what many of us believe to be an epidemic. The divergent viewpoints of cognitive behaviorists and biomedical scientists have all been entertained with an apparent aim to find the truth.

Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to the truth. Findings after several years will, frankly, come too late for many of us to make practical use of them with our children. Even so, this project, in the words of Dr. Amaral, hopes to “shorten by decades the road to discovering the causes and treatments of autism.”

Until the Phenome Project has published its findings, and perhaps afterward, the bitter arguments over causes and treatments will continue. We can only hope that the individual members of the team can lay their egos aside to keep their eyes on the prize, that their eventual findings will actually provide a true insight into ASD, and that those of us who have a stake in the answers can all lay our individual egos aside to accept the truth if the truth is indeed laid before us.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


Mr Rollens thinks it the vaccines, but he's only thinks he owns the joint. Dr. Amaral doesn't think it's vaccines, from what I can tell in talking to him. Dr. Hendren is a ding a ling for playing patty cake with DAN! and I've told him so. We'll see how much longer that association continues (not that he's listening to me).

I don't know where they expect to find all these 2 year olds they need for the Phenome project, do you? There aren't any more in California, remember? Haven't you been following the Geier's and everything? They are showing the six and five year olds as decreasing, that means that they expect that there are fewer 4 year olds, even fewer 3 year olds, even fewer 2 year olds... like the number they had back in the 1970's... right?

Because it'sall about mercury. I hear the ABA therapists are all out of work here. No more little autistic kids to fix. (that's sarcasm) The DAN! docs are moving out of state.

Amaral thinks he'll find hundreds of 2 to 4 year olds, they are preferring 2 year olds, and he expects to find them right near the MIND institute, too.

hmmmm. No decrease in autism in California? No effect from taking out the thimerosal? Shocking, isn't it?

Well, we'll see how it all washes, won't we?

I think should probably be more interested in the CHARGE study anyway, that's the one that's looking at mercury in mom's hair and kid's hair and at environmental toxins.

3/14/06, 11:45 PM  
Blogger kristina said...

To put aside our egos in the face of evidence and the truth----what a huge and hard task! But in the name of our kids, we can do it.

3/16/06, 4:49 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Well, Wade, you might not be a scientist, but us lawyers have methods for getting at the truth. It wouldn't surprise me if brain research reveals that autism is a cluster of interrelated disorders that affect different areas of the brain. From what little reading I've done about brain science, our gray matter is still a mysterious realm in many ways. I'll keep an open mind about all of this.

3/23/06, 8:02 AM  

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