Summer camps for high school (girls) interested in STEM. I also recommend looking on the individual institution summer camp websites for more summer camp information for either younger students or high school males interested in STEM.
I have what is today called Asperger's syndrome, but is largely becoming recognized as simply a subset of high-functioning #autism , a subset of symptoms lying on the autism disorder spectrum. As a result, I had quite a bit of difficulty relating to my peers up to and through college, until I set myself to move from instinctual coping methods to conscious behavior and self-reflection.
It has been a long journey, but at this point I can say with confidence that autism is not a condition which inherently needs a "cure" so much as a way to understand and cope with the differences in mental processes. It's highly likely that my significantly above-average intelligence (which pains me to write; I hate tooting my own horn) is a direct result of different cognitive processes, and what we should really focus on is how to harness that potential in children with ASDs, and cope with or eliminate the social interaction, stimulus overload, and other problems that come with ASDs.
(There are people who see ASDs as an intermediate step to an evolutionary improvement in human cognition. I don't necessarily buy into that theory. However, the fact that sensory input stimuli has increased dramatically over the most recent three to six decades is absolutely certain, and increased stimuli are directly associated with near-diagnoses of ASDs.)
The following G+ post by was originally intended as tongue-in-cheek, as was the website to which it linked:
In the discussion, folks who believe that #vaccination is a causal factor in autism showed up (totally expected!). When other commenters stripped away the usual avoidance tactics and fallacies, a couple points and Web links came up to show that these people honestly believe the supposed link.
Since this topic has floated around my own extended family recently, I wanted to do a post about it, and finally let out some of my frustration with the anti-vaccination "movement".
I highly recommend giving this a read, which (while quite snarkily written in parts, as is a common theme of RationalWiki) is founded on hard science:
One web link in particular stands out, a blog post linked by :
This one links to a large number of actual scientific studies, quite a rarity in the so-called "debate" over vaccination. This is a great place to rebut the argument, and show that the scientific consensus (vaccines have nothing to do with autism) continues to be strengthened, not weakened, over time.
Let's start with the post's tone. Right off, it doesn't start with scientific arguments, but with conspiracy theory:
"This may not be too surprising as the corporate media is owned by the major vaccine manufacturers, and the major vaccine manufacturers are owned by corporate media[...]"
That's not a way to put forth scientific data; it's deliberately emotive and intended to provoke reader backlash by talking about information that is not scientifically relevant. The whole introduction in that blog post should be taken with a grain of salt; only actual #science matters here.
So let's skip past all this armchair theory and skip to the 22 published studies that this blog post references, numbered to match those in the post's list. Unfortunately, I don't have PubMed full-text access (too expensive for a mere mortal such as me), so many of these must be based only on the abstract disclosures presented. I have avoided all connection to any third parties, such as bloggers and journalists with their own agendas, instead focusing solely on scientific publications in the normal channels.
This is the due diligence which Allen should have done himself; relying on bloggers and amateur journalists with specific agendas to think for you is a sure-fire recipe for misinformation. The blogger here has carefully cherry-picked research papers which seem to support a foregone conclusion -- rather than actually finding authoritative answers. This is known as the "sharpshooter fallacy."
I don't have forever to work on this post, so I'm going to do this in two parts; this part takes the first half of links, and the next part will take the second half.
The following is very long, but if you want a high-strength dose of reality, keep reading, and fasten your safety harness tightly.
ASD: Autism spectrum disorder; this includes what people traditionally think of as autism, as well as directly related disorders such as Asperger's syndrome and HFA, which are now considered to be closely related (and possibly the same).
Control group: A group of individuals who do not receive a given type of treatment, but are directly tested for the same outcome as those who received the treatment.
Epidemiology: The branch of medicine science dealing directly with disease, specifically their incidence and treatments.
HFA: High-functioning autism. Individuals with HFA tend to be able to cope with their cognitive differences through instinctive or learned behaviors, and almost exclusively are as intelligent (or more) compared to neurotypical individuals.
Neurotypical: Cognitive processes which match the most common models in humans; generally, neurotypical individuals have no problems with seamlessly assimilating into modern society.
Self-reporting: Data collection which depends on individuals reporting their diagnoses (or self-diagnoses), rather than being tested with uniform criteria and methods as a group. Self-reporting is a common fallacy in discredited studies, especially where behavioral patterns are involved. Proper data collection relies quite heavily on uniform testing for an outcome across all individuals in the study. Self-reporting studies are never grounds for a full conclusion and can, at best, be used as a basis for launching a larger, uniform study.
1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21058170, 2010, Gallagher CM, Goodman MS. "Hepatitis B vaccination of male neonates and autism diagnosis, NHIS 1997-2002"
The study period here is particularly suspect. Why only six years' worth of data; why only childhood diagnosis? In recent years, diagnoses of ASDs have risen dramatically in adults who have been living with social or cognitive problems for life, and were never diagnosed as children. Further, the study specifically notes that the three-year periods 1997-1999 and 2000-2002 are in distinct opposition to each other in their data:
"Findings suggest that U.S. male neonates vaccinated with the hepatitis B vaccine prior to 1999 (from vaccination record) had a threefold higher risk for parental report of autism diagnosis compared to boys not vaccinated as neonates during that same time period. Nonwhite boys bore a greater risk." (my emphasis added)
So over only a six-year, recent time period, we see that more recent vaccination is allegedly safer. But even that conclusion is suspect because the data are not collected by uniform testing, this both lacks a control group and is self-reporting only. This is particularly disturbing on the part of Goodman MS, as that person has published many papers on calculation of risk using socioeconomic and racial factors, so should have known better than to rely on self-reporting.
As this is self-reporting yet comes to a conclusion other than "needs more study," I rate this study Not Scientifically Conducted.
2. http://omsj.org/reports/tomljenovic%202011.pdf, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22099159, 2011, Tomljenovic L, Shaw CA. "Do aluminum vaccine adjuvants contribute to the rising prevalence of autism?"
Text includes the following after showing possible correlation with Pearson coefficient of greater than 0.90 (which does tend to raise eyebrows):
"Because children represent a fraction of the population most at risk for complications following exposure to Al, a more rigorous evaluation of Al adjuvant safety seems warranted."
And such an evaluation was conducted, the very same year: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22001122, 2011, Mitkus RJ, King DB, Hess MA, Forshee RA, Walderhaug MO. "Updated aluminum pharmacokinetics following infant exposures through diet and vaccination."
This is an update to a 2002 study showing aluminum hydroxide (AlOH) exposure in vaccination to be well below MRL (minimum risk levels), with the updated study making use of more current pediatric dosage schedules. The conclusion:
"Keith et al. previously analyzed the pharmacokinetics of aluminum for infant dietary and vaccine exposures and compared the resulting body burdens to those based on the minimal risk levels (MRLs) established by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.[...] Using these updated parameters we found that the body burden of aluminum from vaccines and diet throughout an infant's first year of life is significantly less than the corresponding safe body burden of aluminum modeled using the regulatory MRL."
In fact, AlOH is used for the treatment of peptic ulcers and the heartburn associated with them, in dosages thousands of times of that used in any vaccine. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a699048.html
I rate this study Debunked. (That's not a bad thing. Plenty of preliminary studies are found not to be correct upon deeper investigation. Proper science depends on the ability to search for more data, and at times, show earlier theories to be incorrect.)
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21623535, 2011, Delong G. "A positive association found between autism prevalence and childhood vaccination uptake across the U.S. population."
"Although individuals probably have a genetic predisposition to develop autism, researchers suspect that one or more environmental triggers are also needed. One of those triggers might be the battery of vaccinations that young children receive.[...] The results suggest that although mercury has been removed from many vaccines, other culprits may link vaccines to autism. Further study into the relationship between vaccines and autism is warranted."
This doesn't point to anything but self-reported statistics, and only suggests that more research is needed, so it can at best be described as Inconclusive.
4. http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jt/2013/801517/, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23843785, 2013, Sharpe MA, Gist TL, Baskin DS. "B-lymphocytes from a population of children with autism spectrum disorder and their unaffected siblings exhibit hypersensitivity to thimerosal."
"Eleven families were examined and compared to matched controls.[...] This suggests certain individuals with a mild mitochondrial defect may be highly susceptible to mitochondrial specific toxins like the vaccine preservative thimerosal."
This study does show a possible toxicological link to thiomersal in only a specific genetic subgroup of people. The sample size is quite small (11 targets, 11 controls, with only 4 families showing this possible genetic difference).
While this shows a possible susceptibility to adverse thiomersal reaction dependent on mitochondrial genetic traits, it does not say anything about that reaction being causal of autism. In fact, the study is researching effects of autism-susceptible individuals, under the assumption that autism is predominantly genetic.
I therefore rate this study Irrelevant. (This is fine too. It's a useful study, but not relevant to the claim that vaccination can cause autism.)
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12145534, 2002, Singh VK, Lin SX, Newell E, Nelson C. "Abnormal measles-mumps-rubella antibodies and CNS autoimmunity in children with autism."
"Immunoblotting analysis revealed the presence of an unusual MMR antibody in 75 of 125 (60%) autistic sera but not in control sera.[...] Stemming from this evidence, we suggest that an inappropriate antibody response to MMR, specifically the measles component thereof, might be related to pathogenesis of autism."
This is part of a family of studies which started in 1998 and claim to have found that, specifically, the measles antibody protein serum levels seem to be higher in some individuals diagnosed with autism. However, any correlation here is considered to be non-causative at least, and may be only a side effect of metabolism of the vaccine proteins. The following analysis cites the study here, as well as quite a few others:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17613715, 2007, Libbey JE, Coon HH, Kirkman NJ, Sweeten TL, Miller JN, Lainhart JE, McMahon WM, Fujinami RS. "Are there altered antibody responses to measles, mumps, or rubella viruses in autism?"
In this analysis's full text, several problems with the data points presented in these studies are discussed (visible in the page at http://link.springer.com/static-content/lookinside/79/art%253A10.1080%252F13550280701278462/001.png ):
"In contrast to the above studies supporting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, numerous other studies, primarily epidemiological in nature, have failed to find a causal association between MMR immunization and autism. Not only is there a lack of a sudden "step-up" in incidence of autism following the introduction of the MMR vaccine, but developmental regression also does not cluster in the months following MMR vaccination. [followed by statistics showing changes in autism diagnosis with no change in vaccination rate]" (my emphasis added)
As there is still quite overwhelming consensus in epidemiology that there is no causal link and, at best, correlation of after-effects of autistic factors, this study is Debunked.
6. There is no link here, so no study can be found. Blog author error?
7. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/80/6/1611.full, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15585776, 2004, James SJ, Cutler P, Melnyk S, Jernigan S, Janak L, Gaylor DW, Neubrander JA. "Metabolic biomarkers of increased oxidative stress and impaired methylation capacity in children with autism."
"An increased vulnerability to oxidative stress and a decreased capacity for methylation may contribute to the development and clinical manifestation of autism."
This study researches the levels of cellular and neural signaling compounds -- those which govern how the body communicates with itself. The conclusion above says that reduced capacity for methylation (primarily the ability to transform simpler molecules into amino acids) could cause pre-existing cognitive impairment (e.g., genetic influences) to become more apparent than it otherwise would be.
The blogger asserts that metals used in vaccine preservatives cause undue oxidative stress, without citing a direct connection to the conclusion of this study, and conveniently fails to note that the concentration of metal ions used as preservative in vaccines is far too low to make a difference in any human body, infants included.
This study is therefore Irrelevant.
8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14745455, 2004, Waly M, Olteanu H, Banerjee R, Choi SW, Mason JB, Parker BS, Sukumar S, Shim S, Sharma A, Benzecry JM, Power-Charnitsky VA, Deth RC. "Activation of methionine synthase by insulin-like growth factor-1 and dopamine: a target for neurodevelopmental toxins and thimerosal."
"Our findings outline a novel growth factor signaling pathway that regulates MS activity and thereby modulates methylation reactions, including DNA methylation. The potent inhibition of this pathway by ethanol, lead, mercury, aluminum and thimerosal suggests that it may be an important target of neurodevelopmental toxins."
Yes, there is a link between all of these compounds and problems with neural development. Who hasn't heard an anecdotal story about children having cognitive problems after eating lead-containing paint? The problem in citing this study is that potent inhibition of methylation only happens with extraordinarily strong exposure to oxidative ions, just as with study #4 above.
In the context of vaccines, which contain extremely small amounts of ionic metals per kg of body mass, this study is also Irrelevant.
9. http://jcn.sagepub.com/content/22/11/1308.abstract, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18006963, 2007, Desoto MC, Hitlan RT. "Blood levels of mercury are related to diagnosis of autism: a reanalysis of an important data set."
"If there is any link between autism and mercury, it is absolutely crucial that the first reports of the question are not falsely stating that no link occurs. We have reanalyzed the data set originally reported by Ip et al. in 2004 and have found that the original _p value was in error and that a significant relation does exist between the blood levels of mercury and diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. Moreover, the hair sample analysis results offer some support for the idea that persons with autism may be less efficient and more variable at eliminating mercury from the blood."_
This paper is actually cited elsewhere as a shining example of the "publish-or-perish dilemma:" the problem that scientists need to publish frequently in order to build up personal credentials. This is a paper that (1) presents an argument that is scientifically obvious (impartiality until significant data exists), and (2) doesn't provide any new research except for detecting an error in precisely one other study.
This paper is best characterized as Near-Zero Information.
10. http://jcn.sagepub.com/content/21/2/170.abstract, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16566887, 2006, Poling JS, Frye RE, Shoffner J, Zimmerman AW. "Developmental regression and mitochondrial dysfunction in a child with autism."
"We present a singleton case of developmental regression and oxidative phosphorylation disorder in a 19-month-old girl. Subtle abnormalities in the serum creatine kinase level, aspartate aminotransferase, and serum bicarbonate led us to perform a muscle biopsy, which showed type I myofiber atrophy, increased lipid content, and reduced cytochrome c oxidase activity.[...] These data suggest that further metabolic evaluation is indicated in autistic patients and that defects of oxidative phosphorylation might be prevalent."
The blog author claims: "Researchers determined that children who have mitochondrial-related dysfunctional cellular energy metabolism might be more prone to undergo autistic regression between 18 and 30 months of age if they also have infections or immunizations at the same time."
Which is not what the paper shows. Rather, it explores metabolic cycles in one particular person who experienced rare side effects that are attributable to the vaccination, later including ASD-typical behavior symptoms.
The paper actually comes up with an important discovery about successful supplemental treatment for these side effects, with a very rapid merging back to neurotypical behavior with that treatment. Further, it shows a statistical correlation that may be useful in screening individuals who may be susceptible to side effects of some current vaccines:
"Although patterns of regression can be genetically and prenatally determined, it is possible that underlying mitochondrial dysfunction can either exacerbate or affect the severity of regression. Abnormalities of oxidative phosphorylation can be developmental and age related and can normalize with time."
I rate this paper Useful, but does not support the blogger's hypothesis.
11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16151044, 2005, Herbert MR. "Large brains in autism: the challenge of pervasive abnormality."
The blog author days that this study "illustrates how autistic brains have a growth spurt shortly after birth and then slow in growth a few short years later. Researchers have determined that neuroinflammation appears to be present in autistic brain tissue from childhood through adulthood."
In this case, the blogger is correct. However, there's no connection whatsoever in this study with vaccination; rather, it has to do with differences in brain growth patterns which are not related to vaccination or lack thereof.
This study is therefore Irrelevant.
That's it for this post. I'll write up a post addressing the other 11 links later. Maybe next time, before letting others draw conclusions for you, you'll take the time to read and understand what data is actually being presented?
I'm also pretty good at finding crazy hats to wear.
Wild, weird, wonderful stories about the elements that make up our unive...
I'm blogging about the periodic table this month in conjunction with my new book, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, L
Free calls home from Gmail for all U.S. service members - Official Gmail...
Free calls home from Gmail for all US service members. Tuesday, August 30, 2011 | 11:45 AM. Posted by Ilya Frank, Senior Software Engineer W
Digitize graphs and plots - GetData Graph Digitizer - graph digitizing s...
Digitize graphs and plots on your PC with GetData Graph Digitizer - a program for digitizing graphs. Digitize scanned graphs and g