Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Oh Jenny!

Jenny, Jenny, Jenny! How appropriate it is that you should be interviewed by TIME Magazine on April fool’s Day?
If ignorance was truly bliss, you’d be in a permanent state of euphoria. But really, how does such an ignorant individual get so many “so called”, smart people in the media to buy into so much crap? How do you sell so many books on a subject of which you have no education or expertise? If it was not such a serious issue, it would be quite funny. Oh Jenny, I wasted 15 years of my son’s life, if I’d have only known. Shazaam, you can cure autism. I am not worthy to be writing this blog about you. Oh well, I’ll write it anyway. Or is it, that deep down that you laugh about this too? Just think. We have all of these brilliant scientists at all these universities doing all this great research on autism, and the vast majority of people don’t know who they are, or even that they exist. But they know about you Jenny. And they know they are not sure if they should vaccinate their child or not. Many of them trust you more than they trust their own doctor, and what is the result? Their children, if not vaccinated will be at risk for diseases that can easily be prevented. No fewer cases of autism will exist either. But you couldn’t achieve this all on your own. Oh no, you have the support of a lazy, ignorant media, and several other ideologues that have practically turned this into a political issue.

Let me explain a little something to you Jenny. Science does not support your theory on vaccines, or autism. It never has, and your theory continues to unravel. I know you think that a thousand parents who tell you they saw symptoms of autism after vaccination counts for something, but anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence. Actually, anecdotal evidence is somewhat of an oxymoron. Do you get that? Have you ever heard a math teacher say that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line? Well Jenny, the shortest distance between the cause of autism and “real treatment, prevention, and a cure” is the scientific method. That means real research conducted by real researchers with carefully designed studies using controls and independent variables.

We are moving further and further away from a time when thimerosal was used in vaccines. The case surrounding Andrew Wakefield is closed. He is disgraced and can no longer practice medicine in the U.K., so he packed his bags and lives in the U.S. But the number of individuals diagnosed with autism continues to rise. And what is your response? Well, it may not be just the thimerosal; it could be the virus, or something in the environment. So, are we supposed to test everything in our environment? No Jenny, let’s allow the scientific method to work. Wow, that’s an idea, how profound!

For anyone who wants to know the real facts about vaccines from a real scientist who conducts real research, do a Google search on Paul Offit. Then read his book.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Spread the word!

Dr. Offit’s Book, AUTISMS FALSE PROPHITS, Bad Science, Risky Medicine, And The Search For A Cure is a great resource for anyone who has questions about whether vaccines are safe, or could cause autism. It is very important, perhaps the most important book you can read about autism, vaccines, or child rearing.

Last week I was visiting with a Vice-President who works at our company. He commented that he was on the board of a local hospital. He’s an administrative type, not trained in science, so I took the opportunity to bring up this subject. Joe is about 65 years old and was unaware that this was such a hot topic. I sent him a link to Dr. Offit's book, a link to Dr. Offit on you tube and a link to the Books and Ideas pod cast on iTunes. Then I suggested that he forward the e-mail to fellow board members and that the book should be given to individuals who take birthing classes at his hospital. As a marketing professional with a science background, I believe this would be the ideal time to begin the educational process. These are individuals who are seeking information from a reliable source. They do not have as many preconceived notions as parents who already have children at home. I am confident that once an individual knows the facts, the pseudoscience is less inclined take root.

If you know someone, or if you have influence at a hospital, my request of you is the same as for the V.P. of our company. The education needs to take place before an individual has children.

If there is one thing I would like to add to Dr. Offit's book, it is this. Write your congressman, write your senator, write your local newspaper. Your children and grandchildren are being put at risk by this ignorance. We live in the richest country in the world. Unlike new parents in many countries, vaccines are available for all of our children. Whether children miss their vaccinations because of fear or lack of availability, the same tragic results are inevitable. We are beginning to see it in some parts of the country already. Don’t believe it’s a problem? Check out the links and spread the word!

USA Today Story

You-tube video about this book:

Link to Paul Offit’s book:

There is also a podcast on itunes by Dr. Ginger Campbell under the Books and Ideas, or you can follow Episode #25 at this link:


It is not overstating the facts to say that this information can save lives.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Will the anti vaccine crowd ever give it up?

I just read the FDA’s opinion on Mercury, Vaccines & Autism. How soothing it is to read so much common sense. For once I feel great about my tax dollars at work. I've spent far too much time reading the rants of J.B. Handley. I seemed to have noticed a recent trend. The anti vaccine crowd is still promoting the dangers of vaccines, while speaking less about thimerosal. That’s convenient, since mercury is no longer an issue.

Now they seem to be moving on to environmental toxins. Is that how they explain California’s “explosion” of autism? Given that California has the most restrictive EPA in the union; it seems a bit ironic doesn’t it?

I studied agriculture. I seem to remember all of the loons twenty or thirty years ago saying we used too many chemicals. Then came the seed scientist and they began with their ingenious gene stacking of hybrids. They came up with a miracle where they modified the corn and soybean genes to make them resistant to glyphosate. Just about the time I could appreciate all of the benefits of using Round-Up Ready hybrids, I was hearing the same voices who had previously complained about chemicals. They were now complaining about GMO’s. The common thread seems to be:

Some people have too much time on their hands.
People naturally make associations and conclusions despite the lack of evidence for any association.
Scientists in every industry need to devote more time to educating the masses. Otherwise consumers are behind the technology. In other words, we need to do a better job of customer relations.

The anti vaccine crowd cannot win. The best they can do is to create increasingly more and more serious outbreaks, until the guest on Larry King and Oprah are asking “How could we have allowed such an epidemic to occur in the richest country in the world?” As a matter of fact, I fear one day we will hear Offit saying “I told you so!”

Ignorance is not bliss; it is an expensive commodity that we cannot afford. Whether or not we spend valuable research dollars to investigate vaccines as the cause of autism should not be left up to majority rule. Keep the politics out of this. It should be for scientists only to decide.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What's driving my fear?

It is Sunday morning, December 28th, 2008. My son has just left for the Christmas Conference to be with his friends from Campus Crusade. This is the third time he has attended this annual event. He always comes back happy and energized. This time he drove the car. First he will drive down to campus and pick up some friends. Then he will drive to downtown Indianapolis. Then on New Years day, he will go back to campus and return home. My stomach hurts.

Let me give you a little history about cars and my family. My brother Jerry left home on Christmas night in 1974. He slid off a rural road, hit a bridge abutment, and was not found until the next morning. He died of shock and exposure at age 19. He was a very capable driver. He never returned home.

My sister Lisa was driving to work on February 1986. Her car skidded in front of a snow plow. Her seat belt did not prevent a broken neck. How could it? The truck with the snow plow was loaded with salt, which meant it probably weighed at least 30 tons. It must have been like a hockey stick hitting a puck. She was 26 years old. She too was a capable driver.

Multi tasking is not one of Mark’s skills. I guess this is generally true for people with autism. I don’t mind when he works math problems in front of the television, but driving requires his full attention, and for an extended period of time, or it is dangerous. On December 1, 2004, Mark drove the car to school. He had been driving to school every day that week. He left in plenty of time, and I had been up early listening to the weather forecast, which said that temperatures were above freezing. As so often is the case, the weather man was wrong. There were many accidents that morning in Hamilton County, and Mark drove across a bridge that had a bit of ice. The car spun and he hit the rail. Thank God for good engineering or he’d have fallen to the interstate. We had $12,000 in damage to the 4-Runner, but my boy was unharmed. It was a huge warning for Joe and me. A police officer saw it, and told Mark he was not driving too fast, but just lost control due to the ice. He flagged down a school bus and put Mark inside. Then he had our car towed. Once at school, other officers who knew and understood Mark, talked to him and calmed him down before sending him to the resource room where he was able to speak to a teacher who could give him further comfort. It took four months for Church Brothers to rebuild the car. A new frame had to be shipped from Japan. You can criticize SUV’s all you want; it’s a small price to pay for safety!

In 2006, my sister Kathy was driving with her 27 year old son. Another driver ran a stoplight and T boned her vehicle. Her son Cory had one collapsed lung and the other had been pierced by a broken rib. He was flown to a trauma center in Columbus, Ohio. It was soon discovered that my sister’s neck and pelvis were broken. Her abdomen was filling with blood. She too was flown to the same hospital. Cory improved quickly, and was back to work in a few months. Kathy later became a patient at the very rehab center where she was also employed. She was able to return to work as a part-time employee in a little less than a year. The other driver was inattentive. Kathy is a good driver, and was the victim of someone who was distracted.

Except for about 9 years when I worked with my husband in a lab that we both own, I have worked in sales. This means that I have traveled as much as half the country at one time: driving as many as 60,000 miles per year. I can drive safely in the worst of conditions, but with age, comes the good sense not to do that. I hope that one day I will be relaxed and confident about Mark’s driving. We’re not there yet. He took driver’s training in high school, but I hope that he can take another driving course this summer with trainers who work have worked with stroke victims. I’ve looked into how I can improve his safety on the road. He can be tested to reveal any weak areas of his driving skills, and work on those areas to improve his safety. Mark has done a great deal of bike riding, and that has improved his driving too, but accidents happen in my family, and bad things happen when they occur. My hope is that when he graduates from college and finally gets a job, that he’ll be living very near to where he works. His driving has improved immensely, but I cannot imagine that I could not fall asleep while he is behind the wheel. I don’t think it’s just because I’m his mother. I make him drive as often as I can when he is with me. Sometimes he tells me he’s just not up to it. I try to be quiet when he drives, but it’s gotten to the point that he doesn’t like driving in front of me any more. This is a big area of concern for me. The worst pain I’ve ever known was the loss of my siblings. I don’t want to have spent my life helping him to overcome obstacles only to let him be killed on the highway. I seek to help him gain independence, but I know better than anyone else, the consequences of small mistakes on the road.

I have seen this kid overcome obstacles that I would never have believed he would overcome. Sometimes I think God has allowed me to watch as a miracle has unraveled before my eyes. Or is it a miracle of the brain’s neuro plasticity? Even so, it is no less a miracle to me. Nevertheless, I long for the day, when I no longer worry about Mark each time he gets into the car.

Friday, December 26, 2008

An open letter to Congressman Dan Burton

December 17, 2008

The Honorable Dan Burton
Member of Congress
Indiana, 5th District
2185 Rayburn Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Burton:

I am writing to you because I am concerned about how research funds are being spent for autism.

My son Mark received his diagnosis soon after he began kindergarten in 1992 in Fishers. As you know, parents of children with autism suffer a great deal of heartache. I, like many of the other parents, have researched a number of treatments, remedies, and diets in an effort to help my son. I have learned that many of these treatments do not really help. My son made progress, but I believe it was largely the result of intensive speech therapy and the high level of attention paid to him at school and at home. It is impossible for an individual who is watching their child develop to discern whether or not a particular treatment is working. It is also impossible for an individual to determine that vaccines have caused autism in their child, though many parents are convinced this is true. We must trust the best scientists who are doing the research, and we must fund them. Right now, I am afraid that we are wasting valuable money and time seeking solutions in the area of vaccines.

I believe you are sensitive to this issue, and that you are very suspicious that vaccines cause autism. I recently read Autism’s False Profits, by Paul Offit. Dr. Offit is a virologist from Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia. He gives a pretty complete history of vaccines, and outlines the circumstances that led to the research that has persuaded some of us to believe that vaccines cause autism. He also explains the flaws in the study and why it should not be believed.

After reading this book, I began to read about neuroscience. I noticed that none of the neuroscientists whose books and articles I’ve read seem to believe that autism is caused by vaccines. I was amazed to discover what these scientists have already discovered concerning the causes of autism, and the understanding that they can apply to methods of teaching children to help them overcome their impairment. This is such a rich area for research. There is so much opportunity to advance knowledge about causes and treatments that can improve the life of my son, and your grandson. Yet we continue to waste limited resources searching for the cause of autism inside a vaccine bottle. And as we do, we place doubt in the very discovery that has protected a generation of children from deadly diseases that pose a threat to every child.

I wonder if you would consider reading Paul Offit’s book. If so, I would like to know what your opinion is about the evidence that he provides.


Debbie Fornefeld

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why am I doing this?

My son was born on a cool October day a little more than 22 years ago. He was finally diagnosed with autism in the fall of 1992 when he entered kindergarten. I say finally, because from the first time he nursed, I suspected something was different about him. He had a noticeably large head, and was content only when sleeping. When he nursed, he would suddenly go from drawing very close to me to arching his back and crying. Every developmental milestone was delayed, from sitting up to walking to speech, especially speech. I am not a highly emotional individual, but sometime after he was two, he was finally able to convey to me in the middle of the night that he was crying because he wanted a bottle. I will never forget the joy I felt in that moment. I nearly cried.
The answer to the question, "Why am I doing this?" is simple. Back in the day, when all I could do was get up early, go to work, come home, feed the husband and child, bathe the baby, deal with meltdowns, read books to my baby and point to pictures in books, try to get him to say a word or two, collapse in bed from exhaustion, pray that morning wouldn't come so soon, and finally get up and repeat the entire routine; yes back in that day, there were no other parents around to consult with about autism. It was lonely, we didn't have much in common with other parents with normal children. But one thing was very good. There was also very little misinformation. There was no good advice, but there was no bad advice either. No one was telling us not to vaccinate our child, and there were no charlatans making promises if we'd only try their remedy. Yes, for the parents of an autistic child, those were the good old days.