Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A book with a powerful message

(I hope its ok I post here, though it may be a bit out of format, but was just really impressed by this book and wanted to get word out.)

I recently read a book with a powerful message and one that grabs a person by the heart. Whether you are parent or not, Jenny McCarthy's new book Mother Warriors: A Nation of Parents Healing Autism Against All Odds (Sept. 2008) talks about the serious nature of autism and how people and open-minded doctors are finding ways to treat and in some cases cure this 'incurable' disease that is becoming more and more prevalent in America and across the world. Mother Warriors talks not only about McCarthy's battle with her own son's autism, but her argument on some of the causes behind autism (namely childhood immunizations), independent medical organizations that are working to cure it (such as DAN!, e.g. Defeat Autism Now!), and her fight against the conservative and unresponsive American Association of Pediatrics about the causes of autism. The book also includes the stories of other parents (in their own words) and their ups and downs in dealing with and treating autism. Overall, the book is a easy read, but one that pulls you right along. Its something you can't really put down because its such a captivating issue and battleground topic. Some will consider it controversal, since it doesn't speak highly of the conservative medical community, though it does praise progressive doctors, such as those at DAN!. It is a book that works to challenge the way you view the traditional medical profession and their response to autism. Before allying yourself with any school of thought on the reasons behind some causes of autism, its worth reading the book with an open mind (since this can be a personal and emotional issue). Anyhow, for me this was a great book and I hope you'll read it and pass it along to friends. Thanks, ZJ.


Sarah said...

Zach, wow, thanks for the post! I've heard of this book and after reading your thoughts, I think I'm going to check it out. I know Jenny has been very outspoken when it comes to autism.

And not to be a brat - but the blanket statement that childhood immunizations causes autism isn't totally accurate. I'm not really the expert here, and I would defer to Cory, except for the fact that he never blogs ... I know that lots of research has been done on this topic - and a lot of it goes both ways. Some research says yes, childhood immunizations cause autism, and some say there's no evidence at all. For me, I'm skeptical of the entire medical community - why do you think I'm married to someone in 'alternative' health care? :)

Cory's done lots of reading on the subject of childhood immunizations/autism and he's come to the conclusion that the timing and the number of shots given at one time are the things that lead to increased risk of autism. So this is a very long way of saying that you can't jump on board with the statement "childhood immunizations causes autism" without doing some extra research of your own. If anyone wants to talk more about this, feel free to call Cory :)

Thanks for the tip Zach, on this book. I'm very interesting in knowing what Jenny has to say on the topic.

Zach and Megan Jones said...


Thanks for your response. I hope its ok I posted. I'd love to get more involved with a book blog, but I don't really know how your blog is run, so feel free to email me about it if there is interest in me participating, or let me know if I should stay out. zachhistory at hotmail.com.

And to Jenny, I hope my post has not caused any ill-will, since from what Sarah has said, you seem to have examined this issue yourself.

As for the book and its argument, its duly noted that its controversial and not everyone agrees on the ideas out there (that's normal). But the book does a pretty good job in explaining the various schools of thought and perspectives and why the mainstream medical community hasn't adopted the immunization theory (though hundreds of doctors have, the book includes stories from doctors who didn't believe it, until their child got autism from immunizations). It also talks about a number of rising medical organizations and a united front of doctors that have adopted it, but the mainstream medical community, according to McCarthy, generally choose not to look because of the consequences of what it means or because they choose to look elsewhere (the book discusses McCathy's efforts to meet with people at the AAP (American Assoc. of Pediatrics), but they were terribly unresponsive and did not wish to even look at the research of other doctors or attend conferences on autism). Accourding to McCarthy, AAP and others are looking for genetic reasons and other factors and don't want to look at certain ideas, though they are gaining many converts day by day. The book does discuss the science behind it, and its very understandable for the layman or a doctor. And from the personal stories and evidence in the book, McCarthy makes a pretty strong case.

But in saying this, she isn't say ALL autism is caused by immunizations, and that ALL autistic kids can be treated or healed by the methods these progressive doctors have discovered, but that--practically speaking--all bodies are different and respond differently. What works for one, may not work for another. Topics like this have been the hardest for families with autistic children or family members (many have accepted the fatalist statements of the traditional medical establishment), but that's the point, the book talks about 'mother warriors' who didn't accept that notion and have fought, and are fighting, and have found answers that they want the mainstream medical community to view. They want parents and family members to adopt a new worldview, thought it may be a painful process. Overall, this is a book that an individual needs to read and make their own judgments on.

I, of course, don't have any children, so in a sense, who am I to talk. But my mother also has one of these 'incurable' diseases that the traditional medical community has ignored and seeks to treat only with painkillers, though she and thousands of others have found treatments for. To me this book made de facto sense behind what I already knew. I'm not saying I adopt all ideas discussed by McCarthy, but she makes a strong case that reinforced my already skeptical views based on empirical experience. I think overall, these are individual issues that a person needs to decide for themselves. I know this is a sensitive topic and I hope my post has caused no ill-will. Sorry if I have been an intruder.


Sarah said...

Oh Zach, you're not an intruder! I'm so glad you're posting - I would love for you to be more a part of this little book club. Your insights are valuable. The whole point of the book club was to share opinions and get people thinking. You've done exactly that with your post, so I'm very glad you've jumped in. Your post didn’t cause any ill-will. Please don't stop posting.

I requested the book from my local library and I am looking forward to reading it. I'm sure if I like it, I'll likely end up buying it, since I have a feeling Cory would probably like to read it, also.

For the most part, I think you and I are totally on the same page. Megan (Zach's wife) and I spent an hour on the phone a couple weeks ago, discussing (among other things) autism, childhood vaccinations, fibromyalgia, and our general disgust with the medical community. Now maybe my many thoughts on the general medical community should be another post … but suffice it to say that I believe the whole system needs one BIG overhaul. I fundamentally disagree with the medical community’s way of thinking – a drug or a pill to solve everything (and I’m talking generalizations here – I know that not all doctors prescribe to this manner of thinking). For example: high blood pressure? Here, take this pill. No lifestyle changes, no nutritional counseling, nothing – just pop a pill and you’re cured. It disgusts me. (And again, I’m not saying that high blood pressure medication doesn’t have its place … just that it’s WAY overprescribed.) Anyways, my point is this: the mainstream medical community is loathe to make a change, even if compelling evidence is staring them in the face. Of course, I’m sure this includes evidence concerning links between autism and childhood immunizations. It’s terribly frustrating, the way the mainstream medical community works.

Now Cory and I don’t have kids, though we are planning on starting a family sometime. From the small bits of research Cory has done on childhood immunizations, he’s come to believe that they are done at too early of an age, and they are given too many immunizations at a time. Of course, this is just Cory’s opinion. Our plan (for whenever we get around to having children) will be for them to be immunized, but only one immunization at a time, and far later in life that when the doctors recommend. I think (if I’m remembering right) Cory thinks that kids should be at least 1 year of age before receiving any kind of immunization (I think … I’m going to have to check with him).

Of course, like Zach said, every person needs to decide for themselves. The thing that frustrates me to no end (and that I complain about, every chance I get) is that no one is educating parents. This goes for all areas of health care. Lots of people take multiple prescriptions (called polypharmacy) and they mistakenly assume that their doctors are keeping track of all their medications, plus any side effects and drug interactions that might arise. Ha! In the general case, this is not true. Similarly, parents are told that immunizations are perfectly safe and are given the accepted timetable for when to get the immunizations done. That’s the only information given … and that’s what makes me mad. No one is presenting alternatives to parents – no one is educating them about other options. I applaud people like Jenny McCarthy who are giving general people the information that we should be getting from doctors, but they’re not giving it. Now, more than even before, patient education is soooo important. If you’re not going to get all the information and all your options from your doctor, then you have to take it upon yourself to educate yourself. Kudos to Jenny for making information like this available, so people have all the info and can decide for themselves.

Sorry, this was longer than I intended. Can you tell this is a soap box for me? :)

Zach and Megan Jones said...


Thanks, your thoughts and response are great. I agree. And we didn't even get to discussing cost or insurance...

Feel free to talk with others in the group and decide if you'll all allow me to participate. And please email me with instructions on how it operates, or the introductory link. Is there a reading list assigned? I may be interested in participating further. Anyhow, great hearing from you. We always think about you when we see and hear about a big snow storm hitting NY. Thanks again. ZJ

Sarah said...

Yeah speaking of big snow storms ... I'm afraid we're snowed in. Good times here in New York.

I'm pretty sure no one would have a problem with you joining the book club. It's open to anyone who wants to participate, and you've had really good insight so far. So, consider yourself in.

As for how it works, we normally pick a book per month and read it - then people post their thoughts and we all can comment on what they said. It's pretty laid back - you can look at some past posts for details. We're currently reading "A Year Down Yonder"

Sarah said...

I got the book on Friday afternoon, and I had finished it by Saturday afternoon. Zach is right – it’s a very quick read, and definitely one to pull on the heartstrings. I finished the book while I was at the laundrymat, and I was crying my eyes out. I’m sure I looked great, standing next to the dryers, bawling. People were looking at me strangely, but who cares?

I know I’ve already made some comments, but now that I have actually read the book, I wanted to make a few more, so please bear with me. Most of you know that Cory is pursuing a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. What some of you might not know is that, concurrent with the chiropractic degree, he’s pursuing a Master’s of Applied Clinical Nutrition. To say that it’s been a lot of work is an understatement. The classes are one weekend a month – one class all day Saturday and one class all day Sunday – and there have been some very loooooong nights and weekends. I say this because, in spite of all the work, the tears, and the time wondering what the *%#^ we were thinking, it’s been one huge blessing. The more that Cory learns (and the more I learn through him), the more we realize how little we know. Some of the things that we have been doing our entire lives are actually harmful. Many things that are “accepted” by the general medical community are harmful. The whole nutrition program has been eye-opening, to say the least. Many of the things we’ve learned through the program were mentioned in this book, and I found it all very interesting.

One of the warrior moms in the book sums up my feelings pretty well: “I am not anti-vaccine but I do believe we need a safer schedule.” Amen, sister. She also talks about making the vaccines “green” and I am all for that, too. Take out the mercury, take out the aluminum – these metals have no place in our vaccines. They need to go – end of discussion.

There are 3 main points of contention between parents of kids with autism and the doctors they see. 1) many of these parents believe that the vaccines triggered autism in their child. 2) doctors tell parents there’s nothing they can do to help their kids who have been diagnosed with autism – and basically, to get ready for a life of hell. 3) these parents buck the belief that nothing can be done – and believe that autism can be managed through things like diet, chelation, etc – to the point that many of the kids previously diagnosed with autism are “undiagnosed”. The doctors attribute this to spontaneous recovery, and not to the lifestyle changes the parents have made. Parents, of course, cry foul and try to point out all the things they’ve done that has helped their child, and their doctor turns a blind ear.

Like I said before, I’m not ant-vaccine. And for the majority of children, no real harm comes from being vaccinated. I was vaccinated as a kid, as were my 3 siblings, and we’re all fine. The medical community, acting on what’s best for the general population, vaccinates all kids (certainly, it’s good that we don’t have diseases like measles, etc running rampant). But I do believe that some kids come into the doctor with compromised immune systems, or food sensitivities, and when they receive their vaccinations, their bodies freak out (to put it in medical terms). If their bodies are already busy fighting an infection, or something else, injecting them with a live virus is just plain dumb. I had no idea that children are vaccinated the day they are born, until I read this book. That’s something that I would be against. Some of the vaccinations took part when a kid was sick – this is asking for trouble. NEVER gets your kid vaccinated if he/she’s not healthy.

So do vaccinations cause autism? I would say in some cases, yes, it’s possible. For some of the kids in the book, the link of when vaccines were given and the health decline is too much to ignore. In some cases, I believe that vaccinations can trigger autism – and for that matter, vaccinations can trigger ADHD, food allergies, and a host of other problems. To say that vaccines cause all autism is too broad a statement. But I do believe they are linked in some cases. There are some very compelling stories in this book. And it’s all the more sad because people trust their doctor to do the right thing, to see the link between autism and vaccinations, or to help them if their child is diagnosed with autism. Neither of these things happen. How many parents knew it’s even an option to not have your kid vaccinated? It’s up to parents to self-educate themselves. I encourage everyone to read all they can – and then make your own decision. Be a skeptic. Don’t believe everything the doctor tells you. I think too many people have this doctor-worship thing going on. “Oh, he’s a doctor, he’s way smarter than me, I know nothing next to him…” etc etc. Doctors don’t know everything, and it’s high time people took their own health into their own hands.

So where does the blame lie? Doctors? I say yes … to a point. On one hand, doctors can’t be blamed because they don’t learn about ANY of this in med school. Med schools teach ZERO nutrition and basically nothing about making lifestyle changes. A doctor is taught to diagnose a symptom, then fix the symptom – usually with a drug, or maybe some therapy. They are NOT taught how to heal someone. So in the case of autism, they really don’t know how to help, since they weren’t taught anything in school. I see this as not really being their fault. How can you blame someone for something they never learned? On the other hand, I feel they should be held responsible, since parents are saying “look! I’ve healed my child using these methods” and the doctors aren’t even willing to listen. They ridicule the parents, and refuse to be open to new learning. In this, I feel the doctors are VERY wrong.

For those interested in reading more on this topic, Cory said the following 2 books come highly recommended:
(both links are to the books on amazon)

Interesting – just as I was about to post this comment, I came across this story on CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/12/23/autism.911/index.html
Notice how they don’t mention anything about changing diets or really anything else? It’s sad, just sad! So many things out there can treat the symptoms of autism, but the information isn’t readily available. Kudos to Jenny McCarthy for writing this book, and for bringing these issues front and center!!

Now that I’ve talked your ear off – I’m interested to know what the rest of you think. Most of you have children, and I’m sure you’ve had them vaccinated (otherwise, they wouldn’t be allowed into public education). Anyone else have any thoughts on this subject? Please share, even if you haven't read the book. I'd love to know what everyone else is thinking...