The Real Story Behind Autism Patient ‘Donald T.’

September 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

John Donvan and Caren Zucker have written a beautiful article for The Atlantic, entitled, “Autism’s First Child”, accompanied by a video packet that ran on Good Morning America and followed by a lengthy interview on NPR, about the first patient ever diagnosed with autism, Donald Triplett.  These reporters share how they searched and found this man who had been lost to history, and share with the world what a successful life he turned out to have.

Donald was raised in a small town, by parents who stuck by him despite the recommendation of professionals to institutionalize him, and alongside neighbors who loved, accepted and supported him.  He went to college, joined a fraternity, worked at a bank, drives a car and plays golf.  It is a story that, as a mother of an eight-year-old boy with autism, gives me hope.

But the problem is that it wasn’t the whole story, or the most newsworthy part of the story.


You see, in 1943, Leo Kanner, a Johns Hopkins child psychologist, wrote a paper in which he described a rare disorder he found in eleven children.  The disorder became known as “autism” and Kanner referred to the first case he found as “Donald T.”, a boy who was indeed lost to history.  And it was a journalist who found that Donald was still alive and living well in Mississippi.  But it wasn’t ABC’s Donvan and Zucker who found him in 2010.  It was a UPI’s Dan Olmsted who found him in 2005.

That year, Olmsted began a series for UPI called, “The Age of Autism,” which investigated the relationship between vaccines and autism.   While reading Kanner’s paper to look for clues to any toxic exposures or physical symptoms the first children with autism may have had, Olmsted discovered that Kanner’s patient zero lived in an area where a water-soluble form of mercury was first used in forestry.  Potentially clinically significant as mercury was the component in vaccines suspected by many of being a causal factor in autism.  So Dan Olmsted decided to try to find Donald T.  And he found him living a full life in Mississippi.

While Kanner’s other cases had poor outcomes, Donald did not.  It turns out Donald received a medical treatment that Kanner never recorded when, as a boy, he fell victim to crippling juvenile arthritis. Donald was treated with gold salts and his brother reported that as a result, Donald not only recovered from the arthritis, but “the proclivity to excitability and extreme nervousness had all but cleared up.”

Donald began to recover from “autism.”

This is highly relevant to the autism debate because gold has an extreme affinity for mercury and pulls it from the body.  It is also significant because arthritis links his “nervous disorder” to his autoimmune disorder.  It is historical evidence that the claims that parents have been making, that their children with autism had regressed after their mercury-containing vaccines, and that treating them for their autoimmune symptoms makes their “autism” better.

In 2005, Dan Olmsted published a series of articles on Donald, the most explosive being, “The Age of Autism: Case 1 Revisited”, which poured gasoline on the fiery debate on whether or not autism is a result of medical poisoning and is treatable.

Everyone in the debate has known about Donald T. for five years, and although Olmsted did not publish his full name, it was known by many.  Googling – “Donald T.” autism – returns more than 8,000 pages.

Olmsted wrote the “Age of Autism” series until 2007, when he left UPI and started a blog called, “Age of Autism,” where thousands a day come to comment and debate.

This past Tuesday, Olmsted published a book, written with autism parent Mark Blaxill, called “The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Manmade Epidemic.”  Chapter 6 is where you will find Donald Triplett, who decided to come out of his self-imposed anonymity to be interviewed in May of 2009 by Olmsted and Blaxill to expand on the public understanding of his story for the book.


As an autism blogger whose commentary on the initial Age of Autism series eventually became an installment in the series itself, I was given an advance copy last May.  I was so floored by the book that I built them the web site for it, gratis.

Galley copies also went to The Atlantic, NPR and ABC, but the outlets didn’t tell Olmsted’s story, instead they carried Donvan and Zucker’s story.  Given that Donvan is a correspondent on Nightline, that Zucker is a producer for ABC in New York as well as an autism parent, and that this team has been reporting on autism for over a decade, it is impossible to fathom that they would not have known about the book (and Olmsted’s reporting) if a little autism blogger, tucked away on the coast of Maine, had one in her hands last spring.

So imagine my shock as I watched the video of Donvan and Zucker entitled, “Finding Donald,” where they describe the process of tracking down who “Donald T.” actually was, pronounce to the world that Kanner’s first autism case was sill alive, write extensively about his life, and fail to mention that he is evidence that blanket government health care mandates and FDA corruption and/or incompetence may be causing widespread neurological and immune system damage to more than one percent of children in this country.

Donvan/Zucker hit three major outlets with their Donald T. revelation on the exact same day that the book Olmsted has been researching for six years hit the shelves.  Olmsted, his reporting, his book and Donald’s connection to the mercury/autoimmunity aspects of autism, that Donvan and Zucker even touched on in their article, are never mentioned.

It all begs the question, why would these news outlets make an end around “The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Manmade Epidemic,” and try to bury this book?

Big Journalism

Sharon Angle Big Bungle? Disdains Autism Insurance Coverage in 2009

September 25, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In this day and age where political operatives try to find bits of video or writings that conflict with an image an opposing candidate is trying to craft, one politician who has made it easy for the other side is Nevada Republican candidate for Senate Sharon Angle — with her comments against social security, fleeing reporters, and deciding only to allow herself to be interviewed by Republican p.r. official Fox News’ conservative talk show host Sean Hannity. Will a piece of video that has just been uncovered have the kind of legs that were as enduring as the chicken feet that sunk GOPer Sue Lowden via a politically fowl video?

Perhaps. A 2009 video has come out showing her criticize mandated insurance coverage for autism. And it could not come at a worse time for Angle — when polls find her tied in her race for Senate against Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. Here’s the video:
Click here to view the embedded video.

And now a controversy has erupted:

The national Autistic Self Advocacy Network on Friday called for Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle to apologize for a statement she made regarding health care and autism treatment.

Video of Angle speaking at a 2009 Tea Party rally surfaced this week. In it the former state legislator slams Democratic health care policies.

“You’re paying for things that you don’t even need, they just passed the latest one is every, everything they want to throw at us now is covered under autism, so that’s a mandate that you have to pay for,” she said, making air quotes around the word “autism.”

The Nevada Democratic Party posted a video of the speech on YouTube.

“We’re concerned by the Angle campaign’s claim that individuals and families ‘falsely label other symptoms as autism’ in order to take advantage of insurance mandates,” the ASAN said in a statement. “Lack of insurance coverage for habilitative services, such as occupational therapy and speech pathology services, is a barrier to the civil rights of autistic Americans both young and old.”

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent:

Dems are hoping that Angle’s autism moment, which they are portraying as heartless and cruel, will take on the same kind of let-them-eat-cake aura and momentum that “chickens for checkups” ultimately did. Of course, Sue Lowden was the one gave “chickens for checkups” its legs by ham-handedly confirming that poultry barter for health care is a legitimate policy prescription. Angle and her campaign, for all their early missteps, have sharped up a good deal in recent weeks and won’t do anything so inept.

Also: You just never know which incidents and gaffes will take on the kind of defining quality that “chickens for checkups” did. That some take on a life of their own and others sink like a rock is one of the mysteries of politics. This one doesn’t seem quite on that level.

But the autism moment is, however, beginning to gain some traction: The Nevada media is on the story, and autism advocacy groups are now calling on Angle to apologize.

Blue Wave News:

Sharron Angle thinks that she, with no grounding in medicine or any scientific field, understands autism better than the experts who have defined the autism spectrum. She thinks she is qualified to dismiss the spectrum as an attempt by doctors to sweep a variety of unrelated symptoms under the umbrella of autism, thereby allowing people to get mandated coverage for autism when they really don’t “have” autism.

And she is compounding this nasty arrogance by suggesting that mandates for coverage of autism are inherently wrong and unfair. And she can afford to have such an attitude because she has been fortunate enough to not have an autistic child and face the nightmare of trying to nail down a diagnosis and then an effective course of treatment, to locate and access programs to help the child in education and socialization, etc. Angle doesn’t have these problems, so why should she be forced to pay for that mandated coverage?

Like most ideologically rigid self-centered people, Angle views her life as completely under her control. She may credit God as the one doing the driving, but she smugly believes that God likes her better than those people who have been dealt [bad] hands. Why should she share – even fractionally – in the cost of covering an unplanned pregnancy or autism when God has afflicted other people with these punishments and not her? Rather than thinking “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” Sharron Angle goes through life with an attitude that challenges she hasn’t had to face are other people’s problem.

The Las Vegas Sun’s John Ralston notes that Reid has had a truly lousy week, puts his foot in his own mouth and has his share of flaws — but that Angle has become the gift that keeps on giving:

Unlike Reid’s, Angle’s lips are not loose. They are instead locked into positions that no amount of massaging and spinning can obscure, positions that she seems to recite by rote with no real comprehension of the real-world implications. She can stay on script, all right. But many Republicans think they can see the end of this movie and it’s a train wreck climax.

I sometimes think the Reid folks have a vault labeled “Sharron Angle and the Extremes Greatest Hits,” which they disseminate whenever the time is right. Phase out Medicare and Social Security. Privatize the VA. Not my job to create jobs. The hits just keep on coming.

The Reid folks believe they unearthed another instant classic this week: Angle at a 2009 Tea Party in Winnemucca ridiculing a legislative mandate to cover autism. Team Reid played it as Angle mocking those with the condition, but that was — how shall I say this? — an extreme interpretation. Angle was deriding government’s expansive approval of mandates for illnesses and using autism as an example.

But the real issue with what Angle was saying is that she often mouths conservative shibboleths — mandates bad, privatization good — without any apparent sense of the consequences. There is a superficiality to her philosophy, with an undercurrent of religion always over reason, that indicates she is plagued by a different kind of carelessness than is Reid, but one that is perhaps more dangerous.

Call it, as the progressive blogger Desert Beacon did, “compassionless conservatism.” Or just call it a one-philosophy-fits-all approach to a complex world.

So is it better to re-elect the careless four-termer with juice who drives the Democrats’ agenda and is likely to say more intemperate things in the next six years? Or is it better to elect the careless woman who will likely be marginalized in the Club of 100 because of her strange statements but will reliably vote no unless God tells her otherwise?

That, alas, is what the Nevada Senate race has come down to.

The Moderate Voice

Aging With Autism

September 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In order to illustrate a larger point, John Donvan and Caren Zucker tell the story of the first man ever diagnosed with autism, and how he lives today as a 77 year old:

The truth is that we often deny to adults with autism the kind of empathy and support we make readily available to children with the condition—or, for that matter, to people with white canes at crosswalks. We underestimate their capabilities, reveal our discomfort in their company, and display impatience when they inconvenience us. The people standing in the back of a long supermarket checkout line aren’t always going to say or do the nice thing when some odd-looking man in front is holding the whole place up because he can’t figure out the credit-card swipe. It’s in that moment, [Dr. Peter] Gerhardt says, that the thumb-on-the-logo trick is a matter of “social survival.” If the man with autism can navigate this situation successfully—and, just as important, be seen doing so—Gerhardt argues that our collective acceptance of people with autism in “our” spaces will tick up a notch. If the man fails, it will go the other way….

Adults present greater challenges: they are big enough to do real violence in the event of a tantrum; they are fully capable of sexual desires, and all that those imply; and they’re bored by many of the activities that can distract and entertain children with autism. “People want to treat these adults like little kids in big bodies,” Gerhardt says. “They can’t. They’re adults.” As such, he argues, they’re equipped, as much as any of us, with the recognizable adult aspiration of wanting to “experience life.”

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Autism - Autism spectrum - John Donvan - Child - Mental Health

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Court: No Link Between Autism and Vaccines

August 28, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A federal appeals court has ruled that there’s no link between autism and childhood vaccines.   Or, something like that:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has just upheld lower court findings that reject a causal connection between childhood vaccines and the onset of autism.

The ruling came in Cedillo v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, which was the first of a series of test cases heard by special masters for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in 2007. The claims court picked several such cases to test different theories of causation advanced in the roughly 5,000 cases alleging a link to autism filed under the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986.

“We see no legal error in the standards applied by the special master” in determining there was no causal connection between the mercury-based preservative in the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine administered to Michelle Cedillo in 1995 and the autism and retardation symptoms she began to show afterward.The claims court upheld the special master’s findings last year, and the federal circuit decision today affirmed that ruling.

The pseudo-scientific belief that vaccines were tied to autism and other health problems has been around for a long time, causing untold parents to forgo immunizing their children.  This, in turn, has led to the return of diseases that had been relegated to developing world status decades ago.

It’s bizarre to see a medical question resolved in court rather than by a group of medical experts.  But this is America.

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