Awareness Isn’t Enough – We Need Action

Today the Centers for Disease Control issued the long-awaited autism prevalence numbers for children born in 2000 – 1 in 88 children.  VIEW CDC PRESS RELEASE.
These are real kids, not numbers. They deserve better.

I am asking you personally today to commit to taking action – no matter how small.

  1. Please read this document and share it: SAFEMINDS THE AUTISM CRISIS APRIL 2012.
  2. Send it to some friends and ask them to pass it on.
  3. Use it as talking points and call or e-mail any legislator you can think of.
  4. Send it to anyone you know who cares about autism – relatives, teachers, therapists, doctors.
  5. Forward it to anyone you know who works in media – reporters, editors, production, publishing.
  6. Make sure the world knows we are here to fight for our kids.

    This will not be our only action, but it is an important first step. Please make time to help.


    Katie Weisman
    Mom to Don, Nick and Alex
    Director of Communications

FEBRUARY 22, 2012  Scott Laster, a SafeMinds’ Board Member debated vaccine safety on Public Affairs on Peach, a Sunday morning production of CBS Atlanta News.


Multiple studies link autism to mercury, which is still present in most flu vaccines

(NaturalNews) Despite recommendations made by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1999 that Thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, be removed from vaccines, the toxic chemical is still added to the majority of flu vaccines administered to women, children, and the elderly, according to the Coalition for Mercury-Free Drugs (CoMeD), a Maryland-based non-profit organization. And according to three recent studies, the symptoms of mercury poisoning are nearly identical to those of autismsymptoms, which strongly suggests that mercury invaccinesis responsible for causingautism.

Mercury is already a known neurotoxin that causes cancer (carcinogen), damages DNA (mutagen), alters proper embryonic development (teratogen), and disrupts the immune system. It is exactly the type of harmful chemical that you would never want to put in your body, and yet it is still added in the form of Thimerosal to millions offlu vaccinesadministered to the public.

“We have scientificstudiesclearly demonstrating thatmercurycauses neurological damage, and we have a cost-effective alternate that has already been used to replace Thimerosal as the preservative in vaccines,” said Dr. Paul G. King, PhD,scienceadvisor to CoMeD.

One such study published in the December2010issue of the journalFolia Neuropathologicaexplains that the mercury used in vaccines appears to directly cause neurodevelopmental disorders like autism ( Another study published in the journalMiddle East Current Psychiatrystates that “[m]ercurypoisoningand autism have nearly identical symptoms” (…).

And a study recently published in theJournal of Immunotoxicologydirectly states that “[n]ot only is every major symptom of autism documented in cases ofmercury poisoningbut also biological abnormalities in autism are very similar to side effects of mercury poisoning itself” (

It remains unclear why thetoxicpreservative is still used in vaccines — especially when there are safer alternatives available — and why mainstream science continues to deny the obvious and scientifically-verifiable link between mercury and autism. The issue is not even one of opposition to vaccinations as much as it is one of opposition to neurotoxic poisons like Thimerosal that continue to deliberately be added to them.

Sources for this story include:…

Learn more:

Autism rates by state

Nationally about six students in 1,000 are classified as autistic, but the rates vary widely by state. According to data reported by the U.S. Department of Education, the diagnosis is 10 times as prevalent in Minnesota as in Iowa. The map of autism rates for children ages 6-17 shows they are highest in the Northeast and on the West Coast and lowest among the Southern and Plains states.

Series: Discovering autism | Interactive: Diagnosing autism | Timeline: Key moments


Story: Read the series | Discovering autism

Autism is an escalating problem that poses a tremendous burden to an entire generation of families. Conventional medicine has struggled with its diagnosis, not to mention a sound regimen of treatments for affected children. What was once a rare disorder occurring in 1 in 1,000s, is now a 1 in 110 epidemic.

As researchers, doctors and health activists argue over causes of the disorder, parents are fighting for healthier, happier children. Caregivers are learning that certain treatments may aid in the health and repair of those affected by this lifelong illness.

Treatment is still evolving while doctors struggle to comprehend how this disorder has reached such devastating proportions. Clinically, some are finding success through various nutritional treatments while others, in an attempt to analyze why their child wants to stare out a window or stack cars in a straight line versus actually playing them, start with an overnight biochemistry background.

Certain trends have developed in the autism community that should be shared to help caregivers learn what might better help their children.

  • Find a doctor who has experience and training in nutritional therapies. Consult with the doctor and learn of their approach toward autism spectrum disorders. Work with someone that you feel you can speak openly with and who will listen to your concerns. Resources include and
  • Understand that every person on the autism spectrum is different. Some are only slightly affected and may not qualify for the diagnosis with further improvement while others suffer significantly. Not everyone will be helped by the same strategy. What ignites one child’s ability to speak might upset the stomach of another.
  • Once the diagnosis of autism, or even developmental delay is made, be aggressive. The chances of improvement are often higher with younger children. Nutritional, speech and occupational therapies can offer significant help when started earlier in development, prior to grade school. If parents are concerned about a child’s development, and a diagnosis has not been made, share concerns with your doctor or consider a second opinion.

It isn’t likely that one therapy will fully treat an autistic patient. Well-rounded approaches such as targeted nutrients, dietary habits, and speech and occupational therapies can have a synergistic effect on development. Autism requires educatation on the part of the caregiver. For example, if a therapist is recommending magnesium for treatment, consider why it was suggested, and then track how well the child does. Caregivers may also consider keeping a journal to document progress.

Autism therapy will be an ever-changing field. As awareness grows, hopefully, so will available treatments. Use local support networks and learn what resources are available through schools and the community. Coordinate a team of knowledgeable physicians and other therapists to communicate the needs of the family and patient.

1: Address any gastrointestinal issues

Many autistic children have problems with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. These include poor digestion, food intolerances and dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is a term that means a negative shift of bacteria in the bowel. Our GI tract has trillions of bacteria that actually do good things for us, such as make vitamins and keep our bowel walls healthy. However a shift can occur where some of the healthy bacteria are replaced by “bugs,” and our bowel function can be compromised. This can be upsetting to an autistic child, even causing considerable pain.

This problem can become further compounded by the fact that an autistic child may not be able to say, “My tummy hurts right here,” or “When I eat pizza, I really have a lot of pain.” Many parents have reported improvements in the child’s daily function by avoiding gluten-containing foods and pasteurized dairy products. The is due to the processing of these foods. With greater processing, the foods become much harder to digest. Dairy and gluten can irritate the bowels, leading to pain, brain fog or mood swings. Anelimination diet can be done to see if these foods are a problem. This type of trial should be done for at least 3-4 weeks to see if any benefit is noticed.

2: Initiate a lifestyle comprised of real food and sunshine

Autistic children can be very picky eaters and are often sensitive to foods. This can make mealtime difficult. Healthy meals do take planning, but it’s important to get away from those processed alternatives (foods in packages with little-to-no nutrients, artificial sweeteners and preservatives added to replenish the “taste”). Our bodies are made to receive plenty of proteins, fruits and vegetables, and have remarkable healing abilities when given the right nutrients to do so.

Sunshine is an often overlooked therapy needed to provide vitamin D. It only takes 10-15 minutes of sunshine to help the bones, the immune system and aid to the rest of the body.

With any new therapy, it may take several days or weeks to see improvement. It’s important to know that change in the diet or nutritional therapies may cause shifts in the body to promote healing. When a food is finally stopped after 2-3 years of exposure, the body may gain back a significant amount of energy. This energy is put to use in repairing the affected areas, sometimes with a detoxifying effect. Sometimes skin rashes will flare for a few days, or the bowels may move more rapidly. Discuss concerns with a doctor, particularly if the children seems to be in more pain or is lethargic following a new approach.

3: Detox your environment

An area of big concern with all chronic illness, is the growing toxicity that we face each day. Everyone should take note of their home and work environment and think of how to make it more environmentally and body-friendly. Limit the amount of cleaners and pesticides used in and around the house, and try to keep these chemicals away from areas that could contaminate food or children’s toys. Microwave food in glass, not plastic, containers. Discover foods high in pesticides and look for organic versions

4: Use a water filter

Obtain a good water filter for the house, preferably a reverse osmosis system, and use it frequently. Also, try to limit the electromagnetic pollution in the home. This includes exposure to cell phones and wireless Internet. Though the safety of these frequencies is still being debated, families with autistic children should air on the side of caution until more is known. This means turning off the Internet at bedtime, and not charging cell phones in our near the bedrooms

5: Try chelation therapy

One of the more controversial areas of autism treatment is heavy metal chelation. Chelation is the process of using a medicine, nutrient, herb or other agent to move heavy metals out of the body. This treatment has drawn criticism from conventional medicine, and is attributed to one death from intravenous chelation. But this method is also thought of by many parents to be one of the most helpful treatments for children [Source: ARI]. What has been documented in some autistic children is the inability to move heavy metals, such as mercury, out of the body [Source: Holmes].

Heavy metals and other toxins pose a significant threat to the developing brain, nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. Chelation therapy may assist an otherwise weak detoxification process in the autistic child. This method can be done orally, intravenously, rectally with a suppository or through the skin. Children are usually treated through oral or transdermal (skin) routes. Any chelation treatment should be done under the close guidance of a skilled practitioner with frequent observation of the child’s mineral and electrolyte status. Chelation is not without risk, but is packs an array of potential benefits.



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Can TV viewing cause autism?

An autism diagnosis is something that every parent fears. It can mean a life of self-contained struggle, limited growth and social incapacitation for a child, and there is no cure. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one in 300 children in the United States suffers from autism-spectrum disorders (ASD). According to the Cornell and Purdue University researchers who released a study connecting toddler-age TV viewing with autism occurrence, that number is more like one in 175.

When an infant or toddler exhibits abnormal

social behavior such as refusing eye contact, withdrawing from outside stimulation and obsessively focusing on a single object and shows slow, non-existent or suddenly regressed psychological development in areas like speaking and understanding language, the wide variety of autism-spectrum disorders becomes a possible explanation.

Autism is the most severe form of these disorders, and an autistic child leads a fairly limited life (at least from an outside perspective), unable to effectively communicate, form emotional connections and manage the stresses of daily life. There are other, milder disorders like Asperger syndrome in which the child can live a more normal life while dealing with relatively manageable social problems.

Studies have shown that ASD affects multiple major brain areas, including the cerebellum, cerebral cortex and brain stem. Science has been trying to uncover the cause of autism for decades, focusing on areas like abnormal brain development, a mutated gene called MET that increases the risk of autism (but does not seem to cause autism on its own), childhood-vaccination ingredients (which have been almost entirely ruled out as a potential cause) and every other potential biological trigger under the sun. But a group of researchers out of Cornell and Purdue has focused on a very different possible cause: television. And while headlines are announcing “TV Causes Autism,” that’s not an accurate representation of what the study found.

Here’s what the researchers actually discovered:

  1. Autism-diagnosis rates began to increase dramatically around the same time that cable TV was introduced in the United States, and counties with greater access to cable TV saw greater increases in autism diagnosis.
  2. Autism-diagnosis rates have increased faster in rainier parts of the country.

The researchers related the second finding to television by referring to other studies that suggest that children in rainier climates tend to spend more time indoors than children in less rainy climates; and children who spend more time indoors tend to watch more TV.

What the study did not discover is that TV causes autism. The researchers behind the study believe their findings indicate that watching a lot of television before the age of three can trigger the development of autism in children who are already at risk for the disorder, such as those who carry the supposed “autism threat” mutation on the MET gene. The study did not find that children who are at risk for autism will be saved from the disorder if they’re not allowed to watch television. To read the full findings, see Cornell University: Does Television Cause Autism?.

Despite the dire headlines, probably the strongest finding to come out of the study is that autism researchers might do well to expand their areas of investigation. Until now, research has focused mostly on biology — the brain and DNA structures and how they may be affected by such processes as genetic mutation, abnormal childhood development and the introduction of foreign chemicals into the body. What this new study suggests is that other, non-chemical environmental factors could provide at least partial clues to the autism puzzle that so far have been very well hidden.



What is the Autism Diet?

Autism is a medical mystery — and a highly controversial one at that. The debilitating disorder makes headlines in the news on a frequent basis, and not too long ago, it was getting press in the talk-show circuit, courtesy of actress Jenny McCarthy. McCarthy garnered attention for the disorder when she asserted that ingredients in some childhood vaccines may trigger the development of disorders on the autism spectrum (abbreviated as simply “autism” from here on out). Some researchers support this theory, while others are dubious. Regardless of what researchers believe triggers autism, with 1 in 110 children in the United States living with the disorder (and annual increases in diagnosis), it’s no wonder that the race is on to determine the cause or causes


And this isn’t the only issue of the autism debate. Specialists also disagree on how to treat the disorder. Most children with autism receive some type of behavioral therapy, but they might also take medications or receive complementary therapies. But could suppressing the disorder’s symptoms be as simple as re-examining your pantry? McCarthy and other proponents of a special diet for autistic children claim that by changing what a child eats, you can improve his or her behavior, speech or both.

Autism is a neurological disorder, so it might seem strange that it could be affected by what’s going on in the gut. However, more and more researchers are exploring the idea that some physical issues common to children with autism may be related to the symptoms they experience. According to Dr. Martha Herbert, a pediatric neurologist at Harvard, “so many autistic kids have a history of food and airborneallergies […] or eczema, or diarrhea”

. What if treating these physical issues could improve the behavioral symptoms of autism? That’s the basis of the autism diet.

Like many other treatments, the autism diet isn’t scientifically proven to improve symptoms or help children recover from autism. So far, there’s just a lot of anecdotal evidence from parents of autistic children. The diet usually requires excluding gluten (a protein found in wheat) or casein (a protein found in milk). Let’s start with looking at why these substances — found in so many foods and other products — might exacerbate the symptoms of autism

Food Allergies and Leaky Gut Syndrome

There are a couple of different theories as to why children withautism can benefit from a diet free from gluten and casein. One draws a connection between food allergies and behavioral problems. An allergy is essentially an extreme inflammatory response by the immune system to a substance that it sees as an invader. Allergies can manifest in a wide variety of physical symptoms, including diarrhea, vomiting, hives, wheezing and rashes.

Children with autism often have trouble communicating, so they may not be able to tell their parents that they’re experiencing painful symptoms like acid reflux and stomach cramps. Instead, they scream, act aggressively and throw temper tantrums. The discomfort, pain and other physical reactions from the allergic response could trigger autistic behaviors.

Another theory states that many children with autism have a “leaky gut,” also known as increased intestinal permeability. This theory suggests that autistic children have tears and holes in their intestinal walls, possibly due to damage from toxins, antibiotic sensitivity or infections (such as an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans). In addition, these children may lose healthy digestive bacteria and have damage to the cells that produce enzymes needed to absorb certain proteins (such as gluten) properly.

Both leaky gut and problems with absorbing specific proteins, the theory goes, can cause intestinal contents to enter the bloodstream. This not only includes toxins and bad bacteria, but also protein molecules that haven’t been fully digested. The latter may actually lead to food allergies because the immune system treats the molecules as foreign matter. It can also lead to what some autism researchers call the opioid effect.

Proponents of the leaky gut theory believe that the partially digested protein molecules from gluten and casein, also known as peptides, can reach the brain via the bloodstream. Peptides have a molecular structure similar to that of your brain’s natural opioids (endorphins), so they’re drawn to the brain’s opioid receptors. This leads to problems with behavior, speech and social skills. Just as opioid drugs such as heroin are addictive, so are foods high in gluten and casein for children with leaky gut.

Some autism researchers have tested the urine of these children and found high levels of these peptides, which seem to support the leaky gut syndrome theory. Researcher Dr. Paul Shattock has drawn a connection between escalating levels of peptides and the most severely impaired autistic children [aource:McCandless]. However, a March 2008 study published in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood by British researchers found that children with autism didn’t have a higher level of peptides than those who did not have the disorder.

Many doctors don’t believe that leaky gut syndrome exists. Some children with autism do have food allergies when tested, but not all. But for their parents, some don’t mind that there’s not science-based evidence to back up the autism diet. What matters is that it worked for their child. We’ll look at exactly what a gluten-free/casein-free (GFCF) diet entails, as well as avoiding salicylates and other foods, next.

Gluten-free, Casein-free Diet

A 2008 survey conducted by the Autism Research Institute showed that out of the 2,500 cases in which a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet was used in the treatment of autism, 66 percent of children showed improvement. Fifty-two percent of the more than 6,300 cases in which parents just eliminated casein also got better. However, not all children with autism experience benefits from special diets.

It’s pretty challenging to avoid all gluten and casein, and it’s important to discuss any dietary changes with a doctor. Most parents begin with removing casein, which is easier to do. Going on the full GFCF diet is generally a slow process that involves eliminating one food at a time, and most believe that the child should be casein-free for about a month to see if there are improvements. Once gluten is removed, the trial period should last at least four months.

Removing all casein and gluten from a child’s diet means paying a lot of attention to ingredient lists. The obvious foods containing casein include milk, all forms of cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter. However, it can also be found in cookies, hot dogs, vitamins, cream soups and salad dressing. If the ingredient list includes casein, caseinate, sodium caseinate, lactose or whey, then it’s not allowed on a casein-free diet.

Gluten is even more prevalent. In addition to being in anything made with wheat (bread, crackers, baked goods, pasta), it can also be found in other grains, such as rye, barley and oats. Soy sauce contains gluten, and so do hot dogs, lunch meats, seasonings and spices, licorice, tea (if the tea bags are sealed with wheat paste) and a host of other prepackaged foods. Gluten is even used in nonfood items like toothpaste, lip balm and lotion, so parents must read those labels, too. Those who have gotten positive results from the diet stress the importance of eliminating all casein and gluten and claim that accidental slip-ups have resulted in a return of autism behaviors.

So what do children on GFCF diets eat? There are lots of gluten-free foods available in grocery stores and health-food stores due to the numbers of people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the small intestine that results from a reaction to a specific type of gluten. Most children on these diets eat a lot of lean protein, fruits and vegetables.

Although the GFCF diet is the most common autism diet, some parents take it a step further and remove other foods as well. Those who believe that yeast overgrowth can cause autistic behavior restrict sugar intake because sugar is food for yeast and encourages its growth. The yeast-free diet prohibits any fermented foods (such as vinegar) as well as any foods that may contain molds, like mushrooms.

Other diets may remove artificial colorings, flavorings and preservatives because they can containsalicylates, a plant compound also found in some fruits. The connection between artificial colorings, flavorings and preservatives and behavior disorders isn’t new; a similar diet has been used to treat children with ­ADHD since 1979 (and has also been controversial).



The GFCF (Gluten-Free, Casein-Free) Diet for Autism Spectrum Disorders

What on earth are gluten and casein? Can removing them from my child’s diet really improve the symptoms of autism, Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Asperger’s Syndrome?

Gluten and casein get a lot of attention in the autism community and from doctors in the Autism Research Institute’s biomedical movement. Some parents, doctors and researchers say that children have shown mild to dramatic improvements in speech and/or behavior after these substances were removed from their diet. Some also report that their children have experienced fewer bouts of constipation and diarrhea since starting a gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet.

Author Karyn Seroussigfcf says her son has no traces of autism, due in large part to a strict GFCF diet. Autism advocate Donna Williams, who has autism, says she has been helped by “nutritional supplements together with a dairy/gluten-free and low Salicylate diet.” (Salicylates are found in some fruits likes apples and other foods). Some people report no benefits from the GFCF diet.

Gluten and gluten-like proteins are found in wheat and other grains, including oats, rye, barley, bulgar, durum, kamut and spelt, and foods made from those grains. They are also found in food starches, semolina, couscous, malt, some vinegars, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, flavorings, artificial colors and hydrolyzed vegetable proteins.

Casein is a protein found in milk and foods containing milk, such as cheese, cream, butter, yogurt, ice cream, whey and even some brands of margarine. It also may be added to non-milk products such as soy cheese and hot dogs in the form of caseinate.

The GFCF diet has not gained widespread acceptance in the medical community yet. Studies of the diet have had mixed results. Some studies have found behavioral improvements in children on a GFCF diet, while others have found no significant effects from the diet.

There is growing interest in the link between autism and gastrointestinal (GI) ailments. A study by the University of California Davis Health System found that children with autism born in the 1990s were more likely to have gastrointestinal problems, including constipation, diarrhea and vomiting, than autistic children who were born in the early 1980s.

Another study published in 2012 said children with autism were seven times more likely to have diarrhea or colitis than kids with no disability.

In a different study, researchers at Penn State used survey information from parents to conclude that the GFCF diet may improve behavior and GI symptoms in autism.

Some people use the GFCF diet mainly to address gastrointestinal problems and food allergies or sensitivities.

According to one theory, some people with autism cannot properly digest gluten and casein, which form peptides, or substances that act like opiates in their bodies. The peptides then alter the person’s behavior, perceptions, and responses to his environment. Some scientists now believe that peptides trigger an unusual immune system response in certain people. Research in the U.S. and Europe has found peptides in the urine of a significant number of children with autism. A doctor can order a urinary peptide test to see if proteins are being digested properly.

A researcher at the New Jersey Medical School’s Autism Center found that autistic children were more likely to have abnormal immune responses to milk, soy and wheat than typically-developing children, according to Cutting-Edge Therapies for Autism 2011-2012biomedical.

Medical tests can determine if your child has a sensitivity or allergy to gluten, casein, soy and other foods. Any physician can order these tests, as can doctors who have attended Autism Research Institute conferences.

Before you change your child’s diet, consult with a physician and nutritionist to make sure you are providing a healthy diet and, if necessary, nutritional supplements. Also, read any of the books and web sites about the diet listed below.

Some advocates of dietary intervention suggest removing one food from the diet at a time, so you will know which food was causing a problem. It also is helpful to ask people who do not know about the dietary change if they see improvements after a few weeks.

It’s often suggested to remove milk first because the body will clear itself of milk/casein the quickest. Gluten may be removed a month after the elimination of milk. It may take up to six months on a gluten-free diet for the body to rid itself of all gluten. That is why most advocates suggest giving the diet a trial of six months.

The diet can seem like a lot of work, at first. You must carefully read the ingredients on food packages. Beware of hidden casein and gluten in ingredient lists, such as curds, caseinate, lactose, bran, spices or certain types of vinegar.

You may need to experiment to find a substitute for the milk your child loves. Many kids adapt to the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) almond, potato, coconut or rice milk substitutes available. Look for varieties that are enriched with calcium and Vitamin D. Many parents provide vitamin and calcium supplements to their children on the diet.

You can find bread, crackers, cookies, pretzels, waffles, cereal, and pasta made of rice, potato or other gluten-free flours in many grocery, speciality and health food stores. Several online retailers sell GFCF foods and vitamins, including Amazon.

Many “regular” products are already gluten-free and casein-free, such as Heinz ketchup, Rice Chex, Bush’s Baked Beans and Ore-Ida Golden Fries. Some prepared foods originally developed for people with Celiac Disease, a form of gluten intolerance, now come in casein-free varieties, too. To save money, you can make your own GFCF foods using some of the cookbooks below.

Foods that CAN be eaten on a gluten-free, casein-free diet include rice, quinoa, amaranth, potato, buckwheat flour, corn, fruits, oil, vegetables, beans, tapioca, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, teff, nuts, eggs, and sorghum, among others.

Besides gluten and casein, some parents report that removing corn or soy led to equal or greater improvements in their children. Because soy protein is similar to gluten and casein, some diet proponents recommend removing it if the child seems very sensitive or does not improve on the GFCF diet.

Research into the GFCF diet continues. A study released in 2010 shows benefits for some kids with autism. “Our results suggest that dietary intervention may positively affect developmental outcome for some children diagnosed with ASD,” according to the study. It was published in Nutritional Neuroscience by a group that included Paul Shattock and Dr. Paul Whiteley of ESPA Research. “Further studies are required to ascertain potential best- and non-responders to intervention.” A new article by the same authors explores the ways a GFCF diet could reduce autism symptoms.


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