Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another Resignation at Autism Speaks

From Dr. Eric London.

Dr. Eric London has announced his resignation from the Autism Speaks Scientific Affairs Committee. London is the Director of the Autism Treatment Laboratory at the New York State Insitute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities. He is also Director of the New York State Autism Consortium and a member of the Autism Science Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board. He is the co-founder of the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR).

Dr. London's letter of resignation is below:

After three years of great hopes for Autism Speaks being the optimal vehicle to advance autism science and treatment, I regretfully and sadly must announce my dissociation from this organization, including resignation from the Scientific Affairs Committee.

Despite the very excellent work that Autism Speaks has done in the area of awareness and legal advocacy, there are many differences which I have with the organization, mostly concerning the direction and prioritization of the science program. There have been numerous decisions made which I believe have adversely impacted autism research and none of those decisions were made upon the advice of the Scientific Affairs Committee. The processes with which science decisions have been made have been contrary to my hopes and expectations when the NAAR-AS merger was effectuated.

If this were the only issue, I might have continued to try to work from within the organization to influence science policy and direction. However, the pivotal issue compelling my decision is the position which Autism Speaks is taking concerning vaccinations. The arguments which Dr. Dawson and others assert—that the parents need even further assurances and there might be rare cases of "biologically plausible" vaccine involvement—are misleading and disingenuous. Through its website and other communications, Autism Speaks has been influential and contributory in encouraging parents' doubts. By preferentially investing and advocating for the use of limited financial resources on the "biological plausibility" argument, the organization is adversely impacting the advancement of autism research.

Recent reports have documented significant outbreaks of measles and other infectious diseases which could have been controlled and even eradicated. The lowering of the vaccination rate has already led to deaths. If Autism Speaks' misguided stance continues, there will be more deaths and potentially the loss of herd immunity which would result in serious outbreaks of otherwise preventable disease. I further fear that if and when herd immunity is lost, there may be a societal backlash against the autism community.

In my role as an Autism Speaks Scientific Affairs Committee member, I would be lending credibility to an organization whose scientific agenda and positions I can no longer ethically support. Please accept my resignation, effective immediately. If anyone would like to discuss this with me further, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Eric London, MD

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  • *huge explosion at Autism Speaks HQ*

    Cop that, idiots! Guess who's name I'm adding to the candidates for an ASD Award when I next award them in 2010!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:17 PM  

  • Whoa, did a rat just leave the sinking ship? *blink*

    So who is the next vermin that is gonna jump ship?

    By Blogger Bard, at 10:27 PM  

  • Cant wait to see who else leaves :)

    By Blogger Lisa, at 12:09 AM  

  • Just because he is opposing vaccine alarmism and laving Autism Speaks, doesn't mean that he supports neurodiversity. Notice how he talked about the "excellent work" done by AutSp "in the area of awareness and legal advocacy"? That would suggest to me that he still is very much on the side of pity, and not neurodiversity. The enemy of neurodiversity is not specifically vaccine alarmism, or AutSp, but pity in any form. All too often, it seems that many advocates of neurodiversity consider anyone who speaks out against vaccine alarmism to be on their side, but that isn't always the case. Many people who accept the genetic theory of autism and oppose the vaccine hypotheses still believe that it is separable from the individual and comprised primarily of deficits. This is especially true of some autism researchers, who seem to dogmatically and unscientifically assume that beneficial autistic traits indicated by their research aren't actually real, but just a sign of some kind of underlying deficit.

    By Anonymous andrew_w, at 2:43 AM  

  • Andrew, whilst you make a good point let's face it. Without Autism Speaks we wouldn't have Autism Awareness Day in early April. And personally if I had to choose between pity and contempt I think I would choose the former. After all, our "lowly" position in society has been brought on by decades of contempt. Pity is at least an improvement.

    It isn't ideal of course. I find people with pity easier to deal with than those with contempt. The end product that we want is respect as equals - and those with pity would be more maleable to that concept.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:03 AM  

  • Actually, I think historically pity has been far more difficult to escape from.

    By Blogger Ari Ne'eman, at 9:36 AM  

  • It takes a *LOT* for a scientist to buck the major organization controlling a large portion of funds going into his/her particular area of research.

    No matter what London's views on Neurodiversity, I have to take my hat off to someone who has the guts to stand up for what is right from a public health standpoint.


    By Blogger Club 166, at 9:57 AM  

  • I have to take my hat off to someone who has the guts to stand up for what is right from a public health standpoint.

    That is true, and I agree. Having a man of logic leaving a high status organization probably means that is isn't being lisented or taken seriously. He doesn't believe in the vaccine hooplah so he is leaving the crazy boat. He is jumping a sinking ship. Nobody intelligent or impartial is going to believe in the vaccine shit, eventually AutSp will be unravled by poor campaigne choices.

    Death by arrogance how fitting =D

    The enemy of neurodiversity is not specifically vaccine alarmism, or AutSp, but pity in any form.

    I am going to have to say our enemy isn't pity but stigma. Pity can be rerouted into sympathy and eventually be beficial. Stigma has no befit and cannot be rerouted.

    Also Pity for the autist isn't as bad as pity for the parents. People pity not us, but parents who are often judge and scrituize by their peers. I have learned not to pity parents but not degrade them either.

    During Comfest in Columbus I was in my druid grove's tent when a woman and her son came up to us. She happen also to be friends of the grove and mentioned about a gluten free diet, I asked "Oh does he have a gluten allergy?" her response
    "oh no he is autistic" she explained why he was on a gluten free diet, so he would be more verbal, she went on how he had one more year before he was in the autistic room in kindergarden. I smiled and nodden, I mentioned that I was an autist and I gave some insight on sensory overload. But I didn't chide or belittle her.

    Non-austic parents are used to being judged and yelled at. Telling them that "Gluten free diets don't work" and "why are you cutting him off from normative peers." Doesn't do anything but make them defensive. Giving them information that they can apply to their child and pointing them to resources is a lot more effective.

    I pity the parents that don't want help and are too closedmined to ask.

    By Blogger Bard, at 10:30 AM  

  • Ari, if we're talking historically, the old asylums represented the contempt I was talking about. Could you escape from them then? Nope. That was jail in effect.

    I'd rather be pitied than be treated like that.

    Of course we'd all prefer neither, but I'm just making the point.

    Well said, Joe.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:54 PM  

  • Timelord,
    If there was no escape from the nuthouse, how did you get out?

    By Blogger John Best, at 8:55 PM  

  • The last "nuthouse" closed here before I was born, Best. So stick that up your clacker and push it...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:02 AM  

  • "I pity the parents that don't want help and are too closedmined to ask"

    Nightstorm, I'm totally with you. Let the world not pity us, but those who refuse to take in information which could change their minds and actually be beneficial, not just to us but to the world.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:33 PM  

  • "it seems that many advocates of neurodiversity consider anyone who speaks out against vaccine alarmism to be on their side"
    I agree with this. There are three camps concerning autism: the anti-vax camp (who believe that autism is caused by mercury poisoning and that if we stopped vaccining our children, autism would end completely), the prenatal test nuts (who believe that autism is caused by genes and that we must find the autism gene and *German accent*exshterminate ze autishm and zose afflicted!*end German accent*), and the neurodiversity camp (who believe that autistic people deserve rights equal to those of their brothers and sisters in the neuromajority). The anti-vax peeps and prenatal test nuts both believe that autism should be eliminated completely and don't give a damn about respecting the rights of autistic people to respect regardless of neurotype. Therefore, that whole "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" policy will not work here. We cannot give a gracious welcome to Eric London simply because he has denounced the anti-vax camp and supports the prenatal test nuts. He still supports the elimination of autism through genetics.

    By Anonymous Sadderbutwisergirl, at 10:53 AM  

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