The latest post about a hypothetical vaccine-autism link by journalist David Kirby argues that the CDC has “lost control of the autism argument.” Kirby suggests that the CDC—a government agency—is “out of touch” with the real concerns of “anxious and alarmed” Americans who are worrying about their children receiving “5 or more vaccines in one sitting.” (Note that Kirby, who has written plenty about the dangers of thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative that used to be in vaccines, has now shifted his concern to how many vaccines children receive at one time.) Kirby describes some “nasty emails” that some few pediatricians have sent him; these doctors are (says Kirby) up in arms as, thanks to the repeated reports in the media about an alleged vaccine-autism link, they must spend more and more time explaining “vaccine science” to “layperson parents.”
Kirby goes on to find fault with some of the major scientific studies (a study by Dr. Thomas Verstraeten in Pediatrics; a study from Denmark; reports from the Institute of Medicine) that have disputed a link between autism and vaccines and something in vaccines. Kirby suggests that anyone who believes these studies and what medical professionals say is not only wrong, but engaged in some kind of monumental cover-up—–a cover-up that Kirby offers to “explain” for those yet unitniiated in the (as Kirby sees it) wily ways of the CDC, pediatricians and the medical profession, vaccine manufacturers, and anyone who criticizes the claims of those who believe in a vaccine-autism link (and who gets subpoenaed for her efforts).
But Kirby’s post only offers up a new rehashing of his same old points. In Kirby’s writings, the word “autism” has become a synonym for a “child who is not normal and has certain health problems, preferably of a gastrointestinal and/or neurological nature and that are [says Kirby] NOT genetic.” I don’t see any argument about autism, as in actual autistic persons, in Kirby’s post—-it’s a position about vaccines and their “safety.” It is not about autism, or only about one small slice of the many things that need to get talked about regarding autism: Paying for things (therapy, services, utility bills). How to help your kid learn to stop at the sidewalk. How to teach your child to say his name and ask for a drink of water. How to teach your child to tell you he has to use the bathroom (preferably a bit before he actually has to). How to teach your child to stop pinching or biting (we’ve been able to). How to explain to your child to ride a bike.
During Autism Awareness Month, Kirby’s posts seem to be more and more about vaccine awareness, and to be anti-autism awareness and understanding what autism is. If we’re going to be “aware” of autism, it’s not vaccines that should be focused on, but on autistic children and autistic adults themselves and their needs, and how we can best teach, help, and understand them.