January 7, 2021
Vol. 13 No. 3
Top Federal Autism Panel Votes For Millions in Vaccine Research
New Drug Shows Promise for Treatment of Adults with Fragile X Syndrome
Autistic Boy's Parents: Protect Students Better
Obama Wants Journalist Gupta for Surgeon General
Driver Rescues Students From Burning Bus
Jett Travolta's Cause of Death Leaked To Public
Illinois Woman's Homemade Pins Made Impact On Autism Research
Volunteers Needed To Train Autism Service Dogs
Leave the Travoltas Alone
What is Paul Offit's Problem?
Top Federal Autism Panel Votes For
in Vaccine Research
By David Kirby on The Huffington Post.
The Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating
Committee (IACC) has voted to recommend earmarking millions of dollars
in research funds from the Combating Autism Act of 2006 to study the
possible role of vaccines in the causation of autism.
The panel also proposed spending an
additional $75 million to study a wide variety of other environmental
factors in autism, possibly including parental age, infections, heavy
metals, neurotoxins, occupational exposures and "other biological
The decision, made last month, received
little or no attention in the media. The vaccine research provisions
are now included in the official IACC Draft Strategic Plan for Autism
The IACC has 12 members from various
health-related branches of the Federal Government, plus six "Public
Members," including representatives from Autism Speaks, the Autism
Society of America and the Coalition for Safe Minds, as well as Stephen
Shore, an adult on the autism spectrum.
Section III of the Strategic Plan is
titled, "WHAT CAUSED THIS TO HAPPEN AND CAN THIS BE PREVENTED?" The
section is divided into various parts, including short- and long-term
research objectives. Much of the section is devoted to studying the
interactions of genetic susceptibilities with potential environmental
triggers, including vaccines.
In fact, two vaccine-autism studies have
been approved by the IACC, which has proposed spending $16 million to:
1) "Study the effect of vaccines, vaccine components, and multiple
vaccine administration in autism causation and severity through a
variety of approaches, including cell and animal studies, and
understand whether and how certain subpopulations in humans may be more
susceptible to adverse effects of vaccines by 2011. Proposed costs:
2) Determine the feasibility and design
an epidemiological study to determine if the health outcomes, including
ASD, among various populations with vaccinated, unvaccinated, and
alternatively vaccinated groups by 2011. Proposed costs: $10,000,000
Additionally, under "Research Opportunities," the panel also endorsed
this objective: "Monitor the scientific literature regarding possible
associations of vaccines and other environmental factors (e.g.,
ultrasound, pesticides, pollutants) with ASD to identify emerging
opportunities for research and indicated studies."
For proponents of vaccine-autism
research, this is a resounding victory. It covers much of what these
advocates have been supporting for a number of years. It is also sure
to enrage those who are opposed to such research.
But for now, it has been recommended
that the US Federal Government spend millions of dollars to study not
just thimerosal, (a mercury based vaccine preservative), not just the
triple live virus MMR vaccine, but vaccines in general, all ingredients
that go into vaccines and, most surprisingly, the effect of "multiple
vaccine administration" in the causation of autism.
This document also marks the closest we
have come, perhaps, to conducting a study of health outcomes among
vaccinated vs. unvaccinated children in the United States. With a price
tag of $10 million just to study its feasibility and to design a study,
such a project would indeed be costly and cumbersome. But, as CDC
Director Dr. Julie Gerberding has said, this is a study that "should
and could be done." (There is a bill pending in Congress right now that
would provide funding for a vaccinated-unvaccinated study).
But vaccines, of course, are not the
only candidates for study in the etiology of autism. There is a growing
consensus now that most autism cases arise from an unknown combination
of environmental agents, probably interacting with certain genetic
+ Read more: tiny.pl/6zh6
• • •
New Drug Shows Promise for Treatment
of Adults with Fragile X Syndrome
HealthNewsDigest.com — A study by
researchers at Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, and the UC
Davis M.I.N.D. Institute has found that an oral drug therapy, called
fenobam, shows promising results and could be an effective new
treatment for adults with fragile X syndrome.
“Currently there are no therapies on the
market to treat cognitive deficits associated with fragile X syndrome,”
said lead study author Elizabeth Berry-Kravis. “This pilot study has
identified the potential beneficial clinical effects of fenobam, but
further study is needed."
Berry-Kravis, a pediatric neurologist at
Rush, said that some study subjects given fenobam showed calmed
behavior and rapid reduction in hyperactivity and anxiety — effects
that are similar to the drug’s action in earlier studies involving mice.
The findings of the open-label,
single-dose study were published online today in the Journal of Medical
Fragile X syndrome is the most common
inherited cause of intellectual disability, whose effects range from
learning disabilities to more severe intellectual disabilities like
mental retardation. Fragile X syndrome is also the most commonly known
cause of autism or “autistic-like” behaviors. Fragile X syndrome
affects one person in 3,000 worldwide.
“All children with autism or
intellectual disability should be tested for the fragile X mutation,"
said study senior investigator Randi Hagerman, a developmental and
behavioral pediatrician and the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute's medical
director. “This targeted treatment for fragile X syndrome may be
helpful for a subgroup of children with autism, too."
The study is the first to assess the
safety and pharmokintetic metabolism of a type of drug called an mGluR5
antagonist in humans with fragile X syndrome. The mGluR5 receptors
(metabotropic glutamate subtype 5 receptors) perform a variety of
functions in the central and peripheral nervous systems. For example,
they are involved in learning, memory, anxiety and the perception of
Fragile X syndrome and its associated
disorders are the result of a mistake in the number of repeats of three
nucleotides on the FMR1 gene on the X chromosome. A normal X chromosome
generally has between five and 55 repeats of these nucleotides. Repeats
above 200 result in fragile X syndrome. In the absence of the FMR1
gene’s protein product, FMRP, brain development is impaired.
Without FMRP, activation of cell
pathways by mGluR5 goes unchecked. It has been theorized that this
plays an important role in fragile X syndrome. To examine this
hypothesis, earlier studies have used laboratory mice without an active
FMR1 gene, but with a reduced amount of mGluR5 protein. The mice showed
improvement in their brain structure and function, in their brains’
ability to make key proteins, and in memory and body growth. This shows
that the over-activation of mGluR5 is important in fragile X syndrome,
and suggested a path for drug development to treat it.
To test the theory in humans, 12 study
participants recruited by Rush and the M.I.N.D. Institute received a
single oral dose of fenobam. The study found that in six of the study
participants there was a 20 percent improvement in sensory gating,
attention and inhibition, through a protocol developed by David Hessl
of the M.I.N.D. Institute and of the UC Davis Department of Psychiatry
and Behavioral Medicine.
Other study authors include Sarah Coffey
of the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute and the Department of Pediatrics at
UC Davis Medical Center; Crystal Hervey, of the Department of
Pediatrics at Rush Medical Center; Andrea Schneider of the UC Davis
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine and the UC Davis
M.I.N.D. Institute; Jennifer Yuhas, of the Department of Psychiatry and
Behavioral Sciences at UC Davis; Julie Hutchison and Michael Snape of
Neuropharm Ltd.; Michael Tranfaglia of the FRAXA Research Foundation;
Danh V. Nguyen of the Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis.
The study was funded by Neuropharm,
LTD., the FRAXA Research Foundation, the National Institutes of Health
(NIH), an Administration of Developmental Disabilities grant and the
National Center for Research for Medical Research.
• • •
Autistic Boy's Parents: Protect
By KOMO. tiny.pl/6znp
Seattle - A local couple is suing the
Tukwila School District for $1.5 million, claiming the district didn't
protect the couple's disabled son from bullies.
The school district admits 12-year-old
John was bullied by his classmates at Showalter Middle School. His
parents say the same boys continued tormenting him for a year until
their son became suicidal.
"He was hit with books, he was spit on,
and he was punched," said the boy's mother, Peggy. KOMO News has chosen
not to use the full names of couple in order to respect their privacy.
The district says it reprimanded the
bullies, but John's parents insist the abuse of the child didn't let up.
"Physical, emotional name-calling,
degrading..."retard" would be the nicest thing that was said," said the
boy's father, John.
The parents pulled their autistic son
out of school and the district paid for him to attend a private school.
When John reached the tenth grade, the
district wanted him to attend Foster High School, but he was afraid to
go back to school with the students who had bullied him. The parents
refused to send him there and the district took them to court for
Legal documents show psychological
experts for the parents and the district both agreed that John wouldn't
feel safe or thrive at Foster High.
As a result, his parents kept him at
home for two years while battling the case in court. The district was
ordered to pay for his education at another private school. John
graduated, but his parents say he's not the same.
John suffers from post-traumatic stress
disorder and his parents say he lives in fear. They're now suing the
"I don't think they could have harmed
this child more had they done it intentionally," said Yvonne Ward, the
attorney for John's parents. "This is reckless indifference."
Jan Lande with the school district could
not comment on the issue.
"This is a legal matter in the middle of
litigation and something we can't discuss at this time," she said.
John's parents want damages to pay for
counseling and vocational education. They also want to sent the
district a clear message: protect the children better.
John's mother works as an instructional
assistant for special needs children in the school district she is now
• • •
Obama Wants Journalist Gupta
for Surgeon General
By Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, tiny.pl/6znn
President-elect Barack Obama has offered
the job of surgeon general to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the neurosurgeon and
correspondent for CNN and CBS, according to two sources with knowledge
of the situation.
Gupta has told administration officials
that he wants the job, and the final vetting process is under way. He
has asked for a few days to figure out the financial and logistical
details of moving his family from Atlanta to Washington but is expected
to accept the offer.
When reached for comment today, Gupta
did not deny the account but declined to comment.
The offer followed a two-hour Chicago
meeting in November with Obama, who said that Gupta could be the
highest-profile surgeon general in history and would have an expanded
role in providing health policy advice, the sources said. Gupta later
spoke with Tom Daschle, Obama's White House health czar and nominee for
Health and Human Services secretary, and other advisers to the
The Michigan-born son of Indian and
Pakistani parents, Gupta has always been drawn to health policy. He was
a White House fellow in the late 1990s, writing speeches and crafting
policy for Hillary Clinton. His appointment would give the
administration a prominent official of Southwest Asian descent and a
skilled television spokesman.
Gupta, who hosts "House Call" on CNN,
has discussed the job offer with his bosses at CBS and CNN to make sure
he could be released from his contractual obligations, the sources said.
His role as journalist and physician
have sometimes overlapped. During the 2003 Iraq invasion, Gupta was
embedded with a Navy unit called Devil Docs and, while covering its
mission, performed brain surgery five times, the first of which was on
a 2-year-old Iraqi boy.
Gupta's only hesitation in taking the
post is said to involve the financial impact on his pregnant wife and
two children if he gives up his lucrative medical and journalistic
careers. But he is expected to accept the position within days.
• • •
Driver Rescues Students From Burning
No Injuries Reported
A bus driver in Macomb County, Mich.,
rescued five children and three staff members from a flaming bus
Tuesday afternoon, Detroit television station WDIV reported.
The bus driver told police she was
driving on 24 Mile and Schoenherr roads when she noticed sparks and
smoke coming out from under the dash.
The driver safely evacuated the children
and staff members before the yellow bus burst into flames.
Fire investigators said an electrical
fire started the blaze.
"Other than that I don't see anything
suspicious," Shelby Township Firefighter Joe Selakowski said.
Nobody was injured.
The bus driver was transporting five
5-year-old autistic children back to school from a field trip when it
caught fire, school officials said.
Another bus was called to take the
students back to the school.
"I am not sure they (the children)
understood the significance of everything that happened," said Macomb
Intermediate School District spokeswoman Beth Alberti.
• • •
Jett Travolta's Cause of Death
Leaked To Public
By Trina Hoaks, Atheism Examiner. tiny.pl/6zkm
In an interview on MSNBC today, the
Bahamian Health Minister says he is “amazed and appalled” that the
cause of Jett’s death was leaked to the public. Autopsy results have
not been officially released and it isn’t clear if they will be, but a
funeral director in the Bahamas, Keith McSweeney, revealed that the
death certificate states cause of death as Seizure Disorder.
According to Radar, in an exclusive
interview, family friend and lawyer, Michael McDermott said that Jett
was on Depakote for a year but was taken off because its effectiveness
was decreasing and it was starting to cause organ damage. The report
did not say how long ago he was on the medication. He also said that to
his knowledge, Jett was not on any medication prior to his death.
• • •
Illinois Woman's Homemade Pins Made
Impact On Autism Research
By Eileen O. Daday, Daily Herald. tiny.pl/6zkg
Julia Smith of Elk Grove Village has
something in common with former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie: both made
contributions in 2008 to the National Autism Association's Burbacher
Granted, Flutie's gift was a bit larger.
He gave $10,000, by way of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation, named in
honor of his son who has autism.
Smith, meanwhile, donated nearly $1,300
from proceeds raised from selling pins she made, fashioned out of what
has become the national symbol in the fight to cure the disorder,
The Burbacher study is named for its
lead researcher, University of Washington investigator Thomas
Burbacher. It seeks to examine the effects of mercury exposure on the
Last month, Smith sent a note to many of
her supporters, updating them on her sales totals for the year.
For the last two years, she's sold the
puzzle pins to raise money to fight autism. After raising $900 her
first year, she raised more than $1,500 in 2007, with the bulk of it
going to the Burbacher Study, while $216.20 was given to the Autism
Society of Illinois.
"Thank you for buying my pins to support
autism," she wrote to her customers. "I have learned a ton this year."
Autism is a complex developmental
disability that affects a person's ability to communicate and interact
Smith is a fifth-grader at Quest Academy
in Palatine. This year, she raised her proceeds from craft fairs at
Rolling Meadows and Elk Grove high schools, and from the
Christkindlmarkt in Arlington Heights.
Her pins remain on sale at the Elk Grove
Village Senior Center and Imagine on Main, in Oswego.
She also continues to offer her pins
through members of the Pay It Forward For Autism, a nonprofit that
provides networking and support for children with autism and their
Interestingly, unlike Flutie, Smith does
not have a relative with autism. But during the last two years of
selling the pins, she says she's met countless families touched by the
"I just see so many parents who work so
hard," she said, "and the kids with autism, I see how hard they work
just to keep up. I just really wanted to help them."
The jagged-edged jigsaw pieces represent
all the disorders on the autism spectrum and also the puzzle they
present that researchers are trying to solve.
Smith spends much of her summer creating
the pins. In 2007, she created 600 to sell, and it was quite an effort.
Working in a home studio alongside her
mother, who also designs jewelry, Smith says there are several steps in
making the pins, from priming, painting and glazing them to
embellishing them with glitter and gluing them to the actual pin device.
Her first year, she designed them in the
shape of Christmas trees, before this past year shaping them in candy
canes. She already has a design for 2009 but declined to divulge that
secret just yet.
But this much she knows: Her family has
lots of donated puzzles to fuel her pins for next year and,
consequently, her plans to raise money for autism, remain as ambitious
Flutie, too, continues to hold
fundraisers to find a cure for autism. On Jan. 12, his foundation will
sponsor the sixth annual Flutie Bowl, where supporters can join with
the New England Patriots at a bowling themed event in Boston.
• • •
Volunteers Needed To Train
Autism Service Dogs
By The Oregonian . tiny.pl/6zhz
Autism Service Dogs of America, a Lake
Oswego nonprofit that trains dogs to help children with autism, is
seeking volunteers to help raise its next batch of dogs.
The nonprofit has a litter of golden
retriever puppies ready for training.The dogs help children move about
safely in public and enhance their social, emotional and linguistic
Volunteers will be expected to take the
dogs to a variety of settings, including restaurants, movie theaters
and school classrooms and on board airplanes. Training and socializing
events are held in the Lake Oswego area.
• • •
Leave the Travoltas Alone
Uninformed take leap to outrage
By Margery Eagan, Boston Herald. tiny.pl/6zhv
With so many innuendos woven throughout
coverage of John Travolta’s son’s death, you might think John Travolta
killed the teen himself.
He and his wife neglected the teenage
That’s one clear underlying theme here,
which is why Travolta’s attorneys have combated suggestions by Bahamian
police that 16-year-old Jett’s body lay dying and undiscovered for
hours in their vacation home.
The couple refused to treat Jett
properly because Scientologists don’t acknowledge mental illness.
That’s the second big theme.
Some advocates for autistic children
have claimed that the Travoltas knowingly denied their son’s supposed
autism because admitting it would mean psychiatrists and psychiatric
drugs, something Scientology forbids.
It’s incredible, really, how many who
know so little are nonetheless diagnosing Jett Travolta’s supposed
illness, prescribing the correct treatment for that illness, and
judging his devastated parents’ alleged failings.
This sort of thing is not particularly
new. We judge victims of horror and disaster all the time. We do it,
the theory goes, to separate ourselves from such horror, to reassure
ourselves that as long as we’re more careful than those victims, we’re
safe. It won’t happen to us. You know: If she weren’t walking at night,
the car wouldn’t have mowed her down.
But judging celebrity victims adds a
whole new layer of entitlement. The Travoltas become like cardboard
pinatas, held up to bash.
Add to that the Internet factor - that
is, the anonymous and often vicious comments posted on news stories and
blogs covering the case - and what you have is a nauseating, venomous
‘I’m sure the (autopsy) results will be
whatever the Travoltas say they want them to be. Just like their
self-diagnosis of what his illness was.’
‘I am a nurse . . . My theory is that he
had a seizure disorder that was never treated due to their religious
beliefs, and over time caused brain damage . . . It is very difficult
to believe that people would not seek proven medical treatment based on
their religious beliefs, especially for children, but it happens all
These were among the milder postings I
saw yesterday. True, the first accused the Travoltas of cheating on the
autopsy; the second, again, blamed the parents for Jett’s death. But at
least these weren’t dripping with rage.
The theory on all this? That commenters
are just venting, saying anonymously what they’d not dare in polite
company. But to me, it’s just creepy, and vile.
Read also: For Kelly Preston by Barbara
Fischkin on SpectrumPublications.com tiny.pl/6zhb
• • •
What is Paul Offit's Problem?
By Anne Dachel on AgeOfAutism. tiny.pl/6znk
I had to ask myself why Dr. Paul Offit,
nationally-known vaccine expert, would consider The Vaccine Book, by
Dr. Robert Sears to be so dangerous that he'd put out a whole piece
about it in the January 2009 issue of Pediatrics. It's especially
curious, since Sears' book came out well over a year
Offit's article, The Problem With Dr
Bob's Alternative Vaccine Schedule, tiny.pl/6zns
led to a response from Dr. Sears tiny.pl/6zn6
that is running on his website. I hope readers will take the time
to read both pieces to understand first-hand what was said by each of
Offit's overall message is that Sears is
fueling fears over vaccine safety by allowing parents to choose
alternative vaccine schedules for their children. Offit wrote,
"Sears' book is unique. Unlike typical antivaccine books, he
offers a middle ground, allowing parents to act on their fears without
completely abandoning vaccines. Unfortunately, Sears sounds many
anti-vaccine messages." Offit devoted the Pediatrics article to
describing the ways in which Sears' book is undermining the vaccine
program and endangering children's health.
In his response, Sears stated, "I
believe that Dr. Offit has misconstrued the book's overall message by
selectively extracting various phrases and sentences that discuss
anti-vaccine ideas and worries parents have and portraying those ideas
as my own." In another place he said, "I believe that Dr. Offit
has greatly misrepresented the overall message of the book as being
I read through many of the things Sears
has written and looked hard for his "anti-vaccine messages." I
have to agree with him when he says he's clearly not attacking the
vaccine program. Sears stated, "It is my belief that many
families go unvaccinated simply because they aren't offered a more
gradual option." Sears doesn't enter the controversy siding with
parents. For example, he cited the studies that debunk a link
between the MMR and autism, and added that "My initial worries about
the MMR and intestinal inflammation are probably unfounded."
Sears has called for studies on the
effects of aluminum, noting, "I've been searching and searching for
human infant studies that determine what a safe level of injected
aluminum is, including looking at all the studies used in the article
quoted by Dr. Offit, and I can't find a single one."
Sears avoids the argument over mercury
in vaccines and autism by saying, "It has been removed from virtually
all vaccines, so you really don't have to spend hours researching
whether or not it is harmful."
I couldn't find big issues of
controversy in what Dr. Sears has written about vaccines. He said
in his response, "If my book had been portrayed correctly , we would
find very little to debate about." Sears is not criticizing the
CDC or vaccines in general. He's simply asking for flexibility in
dealing with parents who are worried about vaccine side effects.
He's definitely pro vaccine.
According to Offit, even a little break
from rigid adherence to the mandated schedule is dangerous. It
gives parents the idea that there might be serious side effects that
could be avoided by changing the schedule. And, judging by the
tens of thousands of copies of Sears' book that have been sold, lots of
parents are having second thoughts about blindly accepting the
one-size-fits-all-kids vaccine schedule.
Two things in Sears' response to Offit
Pediatrics article got my immediate attention. Sears noted that
lots of parents worry about the cozy relationship between the vaccine
makers and the medical community, especially those in charge of
safety. Sears wrote, "In medical school we are taught to at least
briefly raise an eyebrow at research funded by a pharmaceutical
company, instead of simply taking it for granted."
A bit later, Sears said, "As for the
issue regarding parents' trust in the vaccine manufacturers, that trust
was severely shaken when it was revealed in the Los Angeles Times on
February 8, 2005, that way back in 1991 a researcher at Merck sent a
memo to the president of Merck's vaccine division stating that they had
just realized that the cumulative amount of mercury in vaccines given
to infants by six months of age was about 87 times the safety limits
set by the FDA. And that information was not revealed to the public
until 8 years later." Sears said he continues to put his faith in
the vaccine makers but he added that "I find it surprising that any
doctors can fault a parent for not completely trusting Merck after
that, or the FDA and CDC departments that were supposed to be
overseeing this type of issue."
+ Read more: tiny.pl/6znk
Note: The opinions expressed in
COMMENTARY are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the
views of the Schafer Autism Report.
I can not believe you posted this story;
since when does the SAR
appeal to the mass entertainment media? Leave those poor people
They lost their son. When I lose my son someday will you be
the story on your page? I think not.
Shameful. . .
RESPONSE: This item has been heavily
reported in the establishment media, for better or for worse.
Try this google news search: tiny.pl/6bwp
You will find hundreds of reports on this. The SAR is a news
That is, we digest into a daily report whatever is being published that
day in the mainstream media regarding the many issues surrounding
This does include some mix of tabloid
like material. We try not to overdo it, however. - LS
SAR is provided through the support
of paid subscription readers.
THANK YOU -