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