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Hepatitis B Vaccine
Triples the Risk of Autism in Infant Boys

      NOTE CORRECTION: The study below is from 2009. -editor

      By David Kirby on

      "The science is largely complete. Ten epidemiological studies have shown MMR vaccine doesn't cause autism; six have shown thimerosal doesn't cause autism."-- Dr. Paul Offit, "Autism's False Prophets"

      "16 studies have shown no causal association between vaccines and autism, and these studies carry weight in the scientific industry."-- Dr. Nancy Snyderman, NBC Today Show Medical Editor

      Conventional wisdom holds that the autism-vaccine question has been "asked and answered," and that at least 16 large, well-constructed epidemiological studies have thoroughly addressed and debunked any hypothesis that childhood vaccination is in any way associated with an increased risk for autism spectrum disorders.
      But there are several critical flaws in such an oversimplified generalization, and they are rarely given close examination by public health experts or members of the media.
      To begin with, it is unscientific and perilously misleading for anyone to assert that "vaccines and autism" have been studied and that no link has been found. That's because the 16 or so studies constantly cited by critics of the hypothesis have examined just one vaccine and one vaccine ingredient.
      And, the population studies themselves have had critical design flaws and limitations.
      The current US childhood immunization schedule calls for 28 injections with 11 different vaccines against 15 different diseases by two years of age. Of those 11 vaccines, only the Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) shot has been studied in association with autism, (although a CDC study of an MMR-plus-chickenpox vaccine did show that the risk for febrile seizures in infants was doubled.) Meanwhile, those 11 vaccines contain scores of ingredients, only one of which, thimerosal, has ever been tested in association with autism.
      It is illogical to exonerate all vaccines, all vaccine ingredients, and the total US vaccine program as a whole, based solely on a handful of epidemiological studies of just one vaccine and one vaccine ingredient. It is akin to claiming that every form of animal protein is beneficial to people, when all you have studied is fish.
      Now, a new study has shown that giving Hepatitis B vaccine to newborn baby boys may triple the risk of developing an autism spectrum disorder.
      An abstract of the study was published in the September, 2009 issue of the respected journal Annals of Epidemiology. In it, Carolyn Gallagher and Melody Goodman of the Graduate Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University Medical Center, NY, wrote that, "Boys who received the hepatitis B vaccine during the first month of life had 2.94 greater odds for ASD compared to later- or unvaccinated boys."
      The conclusion states that: "Findings suggest that U.S. male neonates vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine had a 3-fold greater risk of ASD; risk was greatest for non-white boys." The authors used U.S. probability samples obtained from National Health Interview Survey 1997-2002 datasets.
      Critics will point out that this sample was limited to boys born before 1999, so the results are only applicable to that U.S. male birth cohort, and that the study's cross-sectional design limits inferences on causality. Another weakness is that the autism diagnoses were parent reported.
      On the other hand, these results are generalizable to US boys age 3-17 born prior to 1999; vaccination status was confirmed through medical records; and there was controlling for confounders that may be associated with care seeking behaviors. (The P-value equaled 0.032) The full manuscript is currently under review by another journal.
      Assuming that the full manuscript is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it will be among the first university-based population studies to suggest an association between a vaccine and an increased risk for autism. And that would be in direct contradiction to all those MMR and thimerosal studies that purportedly found no such link.
      Does that mean that Hepatitis B vaccine causes autism? Of course not (though any relative risk above 2.0 is generally considered to prove causation in a US court of law).
      But there are other studies, both published and greatly anticipated, which might support a hypothesized causal association between HepB vaccine and ASD, at least in boys.
      Any day now, data culled from CDC's Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring network (ADDM), is expected to be published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, and the numbers are expected to put the rate of autism at around 1 in 100, or higher.
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• • •

Intellectual Disability Is Frequently Caused by Non-Hereditary Genetic Problems

      ScienceDaily — Mutations in a group of genes associated with brain activity frequently cause intellectual disability, according to a study led by scientists affiliated with the University of Montreal and the research centre at the Centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine.
      Intellectual disability is a severe handicap that affects between one and two percent of children worldwide. It can often be attributed to genetic causes, but the specific genes involved were mostly unknown. "The group of genes we identified all play important roles in nerve synapses, the structures that allow brain cells to rapidly transfer information," explained senior author Dr. Jacques Michaud. "These findings indicate that, in this case, intellectual disability occurs because there is a disruption in nerve cell communication."
      Some intellectual disabilities are associated with physical abnormalities that indicate major genetic abnormalities. However, in other cases disabilities are not associated with obvious physical traits "We targeted non-syndromic patients," Michaud said. Together with his colleagues from the Synapse to Disease Project, Michaud analyzed DNA from the patients to identify mutations that were not inherited but were in fact newly formed. These are called de novo mutations. They studied 197 synaptic genes and identified de novo mutations in 10 of the 95 patients. Further studies indicated that all of these mutations affect nerve cell communication, which lead the team to conclude that at least two-thirds of the mutations are the definitive cause of the disorder.
      "This finding aligns with our previous work that shows that de novo mutations play important roles in disorders such as autism and schizophrenia," said co-author Guy Rouleau. "Our study indicates that a large fraction of cases with intellectual disability have a genetic origin but are not hereditary.
      These findings will lead to improved diagnostics," added co-author Fadi Hamdan.
      The study was published in the American Journal of Human Genetics and received financing from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine (CHUSJ) and Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM) can be translated to Saint-Justine University Hospital Centre and University of Montreal Hospital Centre, respectively. Michaud, Rouleau and Hamdan are affiliated with the University of Montreal's Centre of Excellence in Neuromics and the CHUSJ Research Centre. Rouleau is the Director of the CHUSJ Research Centre and is also affiliated with the University of Montreal's Department of Medicine.

• • •

Animal Rights Group Produces Ad Charging UC With Mistreatment Of Lab Monkeys

      By Peter Hecht, McClatchy Newspapers 

      Sacramento, Calif.—An animal rights group has produced a television commercial charging University of California, Davis and three other University of California campuses of mistreating monkeys during laboratory research.
      The 30-second ad, which Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now says will run in California on CNN, Fox and Animal Planet, depicts photos of harnessed monkeys and claims "torture ... is happening now at the University of California."
      UC Davis spokesman Andy Fell characterized the ad as an attempt to discredit animal research that offers benefits in fighting disease and providing knowledge on conditions including malaria, HIV, allergies, Alzheimer's and autism.
      "It is not intended to be a fair ad," he said. "SAEN is a group whose objective is to shut down all animal research."
      The spot, showing graphic photos of monkeys being restrained, doesn't say where the pictures were taken or how they were obtained. The ad is in line with animal rights activists' assertions that monkeys should be spared pain and suffering in research of questionable value.
      "This is torture," says a voice and written text in the ad as images flash of restrained monkeys. "Strapped into restraint chairs. Bolts in their heads. Deprived of water. Is this a prison camp? It's worse. Your tax dollars pay for this. It's not science. It's animal abuse happening now at the University of California."
      The ad, which goes on to solicit donations for the group, protests primate research at UC Davis, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley. The animal rights group has purchased ad slots between Monday and Sunday in California markets.
      UC Davis has 6,000 monkeys. Fell said the university follows strict federal regulations for humane treatment of research animals.
      "Animal research is very strictly regulated under federal law," Fell said. He said humane treatment of research animals "is a responsibility we take very seriously."
      Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited UC Davis for using a monkey in research studies despite evidence it was in ill health with vomiting, hair loss and behavioral problems. The report said the university failed to adequately document veterinary care for the monkey, which was euthanized in 2008.

• • •


Schafer Autism Report
Now an App on iPhone, iPad

      The Schafer Autism Report is now available as a free App for the iPhone Apple smart phone and iPad.  By selecting the SAR subscription App from the App Store, users can read all the latest autism news digest now in the email version. (Search on "Schafer Autism Report"). This includes the full Autism Calendar of Events which carries hundreds of listings across the US and around the world.
      The SAR App was developed in co-operation with The Autism Research Institute.  
      The Schafer Autism report is non-profit, non-advertising and is in its 15th year of internet publishing. It is made possible by donations of paid subscriptions from readers.

• • •

"The Bully Project" Documentary
Directed by Lee Hirsch.
90 minutes.

  Photo by Les Hirsch Alex Hopkins, in Sioux City, Iowa (from “The Bully Project”).

      Wed., Apr. 27, 7pm at AMC Loews Village 7 (66 Third Ave. at 11th St.). Sat., Apr. 30, 4pm at Clearview Cinemas Chelsea (260 W. 23rd St., btw. 7th & 8th Aves). (New York City).  For tickets ($16), purchase at the Box Office or call 646-502-5296 or visit

      Review By Trav S.D., The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan

      You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel for the five families who struggle with the effects of schoolyard bullying. But while apparently inarguable and straightforward, Lee Hirsch’s documentary obscures a number of nagging questions.
      To its credit, the film lets its subjects speak for themselves. A broad range of impacts are represented. Two of the families are recovering from the suicides of their sons who preferred to take their own lives rather than face another day of torture at school. One girl is facing 46 felony charges after she confronted her tormentors with her mother’s handgun. Another girl (and honors student and star athlete) has dropped out of school after suffering abuse from both teachers and students when she came out as a lesbian. And the fifth example shows the bullying in progress — a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome who gets picked on practically every moment of his life.
      This last example is the most squirm-inducing, and highly impressive filmmaking. You have to wonder how the filmmakers got this footage of the wanton cruelty of children. Was the camera hidden, or were the kids just blithely, flagrantly monstrous, heedless of the consequences of being observed? Sadly, the latter scenario is all too plausible. It’s the pervasiveness of such cruelty that chills the blood.
      The movie depicts not only the overt brutality of schoolmates, but the subtler meanness of parents, siblings, teachers, bus drivers and principals. If anything, the statistics the filmmakers give must lowball the extent of the problem.
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• • •


Parents Charged After Kids' Teeth Rot

       Bethlehem, Pa. - Police says two parents in Bethlehem, Pa., are facing criminal charges because they allowed their kids' teeth to rot.
      Donna and John Grobelny face two felony counts of endangering the welfare of children, in a disturbing case that suggests both parents were overwhelmed, and at least one child had special needs.
      Fox 29 was greeted by barking dogs when we arrived at Wyandote Street on Tuesday morning, as the parents were in jail, and their kids were protective custody, all over the issue of dental care.
      Bethlehem police came to the trash strewn home on Monday, after a tip from the county Department Of Children And Youth.
      Court documents show when police asked Donna Grobelny about claims that her kids' teeth were rotten, she replied, "I didn't feel that their teeth were that bad."
      Police checked a seven-year-old old boy and his nine-year-old brother: the younger child had several teeth missing and holes in his mouth.
      The older child had a foul smell coming from his mouth and his lower teeth, said police, were black and green.
      According to police, the parents said they had dental insurance through state assistance.
      Court documents show the mom claiming she suffers from depression and bi-polar disorder, and that the nine-year-old is severely autistic.
      The parents say they did not bring their older son for dental care, because he becomes very agitated when he sees a doctor.
      Stunned friends had nothing but praise for the couple and their kids: Fox 29 reached a next-door neighbor by phone, who said the children seemed happy.
      "They loved the kids. I saw them when they took the kids to school and whatever...they [were] good parents."
      To be clear, school and county officials apparently warned the parents that their kids needed dental care.
      The father was also quoted as telling police that he was concerned that if his older son were sedated for treatment, he might die.
• • •

Parents In Imprisonment Case
Plead Not Guilty

 Photo by Zachary Kaufman, Alayna Higdon, 26

       By Laura McVicker, Columbian

       A Vancouver couple pleaded not guilty this morning to unlawful imprisonment charges for allegedly keeping two young autistic boys behind a cage-like door in a dark, mostly empty room.
      John Eckhart, 30, and Alayna Higdon, 26, who are both free on bail, appeared separately for arraignment on two counts of unlawful imprisonment, a class C felony, relating to the two boys, ages 6 and 7.
      Clark County Superior Court Judge John Wulle set trial for Sept. 26.
      Eckhart and Higdon both exited the courtroom quickly after their two-minute appearances. Their attorneys stayed to give interviews to TV and newspaper reporters in the courthouse lobby.
      Brian Walker, defense attorney retained by Higdon, criticized the way the boys’ living conditions were perceived by law enforcement and reported by the media.
      Describing it as a caged room was an “improper characterization,” Walker said.
      “That is a law enforcement perception,” the attorney said.
      Jonny McMullen, an attorney retained by Eckhart, echoed Walker’s comments, saying the case is really an issue of how overwhelmed parents care for autistic children. He said parents take certain steps to ensure autistic children don’t harm themselves.
      According to police reports, the boys had been living in a bedroom where the door and window had been covered with bars similar to those commonly used in closets. The boys were wearing diapers and the room was bereft of toys and furnishings, except for one juvenile-sized bed frame and mattress, police said. They were not enrolled in school.
      An apartment maintenance worker at the complex on Northeast 66th Avenue, Springfield Meadows, became aware of the situation during a routine premises check and notified authorities.
      The charges carry a standard sentencing range of one to three months in jail. Prosecutors filed aggravating factors that the alleged crimes were committed with deliberate cruelty and against a vulnerable person, which could bring a punishment outside of the sentencing range.
      Eckhart and Higdon have no criminal record.

• • •

Autistic Boy, 5, Found Wandering McKeesport Streets

      McKeesport, Pa. - Police were called after someone spotted a child wandering in McKeesport early Monday morning.
      The autistic 5-year-old wandered from his grandmother’s home and was found by an unknown person a few blocks away, police said.
      "When I found him with the police, they were knocking on doors trying to figure out who he was,” said the grandmother, Yolanda Henderson. “He’s fine, and it all worked out for the best. He doesn't know how to look out for cars, so it could have been a lot worse."
      The 5-year old is back at home safe with his twin sister. There's no word on whether charges will be filed.

• • •


A PBS Series
Injects Doubt Back Into The Autism Issue

In 'Autism Now,' Robert MacNeil allows reintroduction of the never scientifically validated contention that childhood vaccines cause the brain disorder.

      By James Rainey, LA Times.

Robert MacNeil (Lawrence K. Ho /
Los Angeles Times)

       It's been nearly 16 years since Robert MacNeil stepped down as co-anchor of public television's much-celebrated "NewsHour." Who would have thought his return to the show in recent days would bring not just a measure of acclaim but also a charge that the famously evenhanded newsman has been "reckless and irresponsible"?
      That's been the response to MacNeil's six-part "Autism Now" series on PBS, an assignment that brought the retired newsman back into the fold to help him, and others, better understand people like his grandson, Nick, who is autistic.
      The series lights up the empathy meter — making clear in several moving vignettes the struggle families face to find a safe and meaningful place in society for children with autism. But MacNeil distracts from the central power of the series when he allows a reintroduction of the oft-raised, never scientifically validated contention that childhood vaccines cause the daunting brain disorder.
      A basic tenet of journalism holds that all sides deserve their say. But there are those occasional instances when "balance" does not equate to precision or truth. Airing a thoroughly discounted claim, even if it's quickly refuted, lends it a currency that current science simply does not warrant.
      In Part I of MacNeil's series, which aired April 18, MacNeil let his daughter Alison (6-year-old Nick's mother) raise the possibility of a connection between the shots the boy received at 15 months and his subsequent "shutdown." In a later episode, two of four researchers interviewed by MacNeil leave open the possibility that some subset of children could be harmed by vaccines — though they acknowledge there is not yet any proof.
      MacNeil immediately followed his daughter's opening-night statement by telling the audience that "public health authorities say there is no scientifically valid evidence that vaccines cause autism," a position he repeated during a later episode, when he added: "All epidemiological studies have proved negative."
      So one might ask the venerable newsman, now 80: Then why even raise the vaccine issue, especially without any meaningful caution to parents about the downsides of a failure to immunize? Experts say that the reduction in vaccination rates has led to increased incidence of measles, whooping cough and other diseases.
      "We have not done a series about vaccines. We have done a series about autism," MacNeil said when I reached him by phone Tuesday. "I think we put the issue in perspective. But to not even allow it to be mentioned would have been extraordinary. To not even mention it?"
      But author Seth Mnookin, who has just published a book on fears about the vaccine-autism connection ("The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear") protests that the tone of the PBS series suggests a vaccine-autism connection remains an open question, despite the host's disclaimers. It was Mnookin who on his blog called MacNeil "reckless and irresponsible," adding: "Any claim that he's just presenting information and not at least tacitly endorsing his daughter's views is preposterous."
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• • •

Aspergers and the School to Prison Pipeline

      By Mary "Libby" McCullough, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

      It began with “he doesn’t need Special Ed."
      After that, it included numerous suspensions, hours in locked rooms, delayed meals, restraint and, later, handcuffs. It included endless meetings for his Individualized Education Plan (IEP), numerous phone calls at work, tears, family medical leave, medications that did not work and the loss of TWO jobs in only three years. It included endless research, assumptions about my parenting skills, retaliation, and ignored requests. It also required labels such as EBD, SEBD, and others. But it never included P.E., art or music, field trips, making friends with kids at school or learning challenging materials.
      It meant thousands of dollars for private school, an independent evaluation paid for by a different county system, more phone calls and emails to the Georgia State Department of Education. It took eight years for my local school system to believe what I knew was true about my child all along: That he is bright, hard working, and could handle being in class with typical kids.
      Finally, in the 7th grade, my son is happy and healing. He is now in a gifted math class which is co-taught, and in other classes with typical children. This is the same child who was handcuffed the year before for disruption of class in a setting which was not appropriate for him.
      My son has Aspergers syndrome, a form of autism. A person with Aspergers is usually extremely sensitivity to light, sound, touch and is very aware of personal space. They usually have difficulty with social skills and show intense interests.
      Because people with Aspergers have fairly advanced verbal skills, it is more difficult to notice their disability. In my son’s case, the school system had incorrectly evaluated him, so he was forced into a class for Emotional Behavior Disordered (EBD) children.
      People with Aspergers or “Aspies”, as their culture calls it, are logical, practical and intelligent but can experience sensory overload in certain classroom situations. This neurological difference is not a mental illness, yet school officials placed him with children who have mental illnesses and behavior problems. Because of this decision, he was bored, frustrated and had become increasingly depressed.
      On this downward spiral, he was soon labeled Seriously Emotional Behavior Disordered (SEBD). Once forced into this category, he was made to attend the Georgia Network for Education and Therapeutic Services, or (GNETS). At one point, he was restrained and locked in a room. Although officials now regulate this kind of restrain and seclusion, the curriculum is still below standards. They had no accountability then, and they have none now. My child had learning differences and felt like he did not fit in anywhere.
      If it were not for my education, my Lord, my family and a great middle school principal, my son would have been in court or in an institution by now. I learned how to advocate, and how to speak up for the rights of my child, and now I help others.
      If you know a child with an IEP, go read more about it. Help them and their families advocate. They might not have an IEP, but they might have a 504 Plan allowing preferential seating, extra time on tests, etc.  If so, they have a disability. Find out if they are experiencing discrimination or bullying. Ask them if they need an advocate. They may need a meeting, a Behavior Intervention Plan, better curriculum, or smarter goals. They may need to file a complaint. Their parents may be undereducated and may have trouble understanding their rights.
      Often parents are handed a four-page flyer to inform them of their rights, typed in a tiny font, filled with legal jargon. Most parents do not have the resources they need to keep kids out of the School to Prison Pipeline. The more you know, the more you can help them avoid the Pipeline.

      Note: The opinions expressed in COMMENTARY are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Schafer Autism Report.

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  In This Issue:

Hepatitis B Vaccine Triples the Risk of Autism in Infant Boys

Intellectual Disability Is Frequently Caused by Non-Hereditary Genetic Problems, Study Finds

Animal Rights Group Produces Ad Charging UC With Mistreatment Of Lab Monkeys

Schafer Autism Report Now an App on iPhone, iPad

The Bully Project Documentary

Parents Charged After Kids' Teeth Rot

Parents In Imprisonment Case Plead Not Guilty

Autistic Boy, 5, Found Wandering McKeesport Streets

A PBS Series Injects Doubt Back Into The Autism Issue

Aspergers and the School to Prison Pipeline



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