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University of Toronto Scarborough
Health Studies

NEUROLOGICAL DISORDERS; THE CURRENT CONTROVERSYOF AUTISM MERCURY VACCINES AND AUTISM; ONE CONTROVERSY, THREE HISTORIES Baker 2008 1. Trace the history of how mercury came to be used in vaccines.  Mercury came to be used as childhood vaccines dates back to the preantibiotic era, a time when physicians employed a variety of compounds known as germicles to combat bacteria. 2. What are the various historical perspectives regarding autism, i.e., its causes and “remedies”? Historical perspectives  Parents and clinicians who have framed autism in biomedical terms have been critical agents in promoting both the concept of the autism epidemic and primary of its vaccines as a cause.  The passion behind their arguments stems from a long history of advocacy on behalf of their children.  Often in the face of psychiatric theories perceived as parent blaming and in adequately funded developmental and educational resources in many communities  After the death of psychoanalytical theories , optimism was conceptualised to have been rooted from a biological model  Researchers have also re- conceptualised autism as a neurodevelopment condition Four tenets have characterised most approaches by this researchers  The cause of autism is fundamentally biological, not due to parental behavior. Nature of the cause remains unknown, but varieties of studies have highlighted the importance of genetics.  Autism is conceptualized as a spectrum of disorders. In the 1970s, investigators modified Kenner‟s original (1948) diagnosis to encompass children with greater intellectual and language impairment and also expanded it to encompass higher-functioning kids with labels such as "pervasive developmental disorder" and "autistic spectrum disorders“  If autism represents a spectrum disorder rooted in biology, its treatment must be largely rehabilitative, rather than curative  As with other developmental disorders, early referral and intervention offer the greatest hope for a positive outcome (screening, educational programs, support, etc.) “Alternative” biological perspective  Viewed autism in biomedical terms. Rather than viewing autism as a continuum of disability, it characterized the condition as a heterogeneous collection of discrete entities with different etiologies sharing a common presentation. Most importantly, this viewpoint offered hope that at least some forms of autism are not simply treatable, but curable  Most popular: those focusing on special diets, based on studies suggesting that an abnormality in intestinal permeability may admit intestinal toxins or opioids affecting the nervous system at an early age.  These theories recast autism as biomedical in origin and potentially curable in ways that reflect late 20th century hopes in the power of medical technology  The most notable organization promoting this frame work is the Autism Research institute in San Diego. Possible causes  Diet ,Digestive tract changes , Mercury poisoning ,Body's inability to properly use vitamins and minerals ,Vaccine sensitivity 3. Detail the various factors, events and “players” that “came together” to create the current controversy surrounding autism.  Group of actors, including members of Congress, professional groups, antivaccine organizations, and personal injury lawyers, assumed central relevance  However important personal injury lawyers, vaccine skeptics, and their allies in Congress may have been in shaping the thimerosal controversy since 1999, they did not create it. Parents within the “alternative” wing of the autism community were the primary agents in popularizing the concepts that autism had become epidemic and that vaccines were its cause THE RHETORIC OF SCIENCE AND STATISTICS IN CLAIMS OF AN AUTISM EPIDEMIC Perez 2010 1. How have scientific and experiential evidence been used to link vaccines, environmental toxins and autism?  Changes in definition, measurement, and identification of ASD have had important implications for measuring incidence of new diagnoses and the change in overall prevalence in recent decades.  Its expanded diagnostic continuum in widely used clinical manuals such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV and IV-TR (APA 1994, 2000) may be a source of increase in prevalence of childhood ASD - as diagnoses include a broader range of conditions than they did in the past  increasing cultural preoccupation with medicalizing childhood learning and developmental disabilities 2. How does the autism-vaccine controversy reflect society’s general attitude toward childhood learning and developmental disabilities?  3. Review Perez’ claim of the “rhetoric of statistics” with regards to autism rates.  A key claim that autism is a serious problem that has reached epidemic levels and deserves widespread public attention and resources involves promoting statistics that reveal the rapid increase of those affected and the extent of the condition and its costs to families, schools, and broader society  Prevalence of ASD diagnosis began to rise in the 1980s, with a more accelerated increase beginning in the early 1990s  Autism statistics, esp. those closer to the 1 in 150 childhood ASD rate, are prominent across advocacy websites and autism-related literature (CDC: 2-6 /1000 or 1/500 - 1/150) – rates that are b/w 3-4 times higher than 3 decades ago (Fombonne 2003)  •„„1 in 150’’ expands the domain of those possibly affected, construing the diagnosis as frequent and appeals to all that any child is a potential child with autism…democratizing the risk  Common techniques i
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