How to properly study autism

September 25, 2023- by Steven E. Greer, MD

I wonder if the entire paradigm of “autism” should be blown up. It has been hijacked by special interests and morphed into this “spectrum” nonsense.

There are countless autism societies and advocacy groups. A lot of people are making money from “non-profits”. The more inclusive the definition of autism is, the more attention and money these groups get.

I was bored and scrolling Instagram. Doug Flutie caught my attention. I did not remember how his pro career went, so I looked him up (he did well for 21-years). That is when I recalled that he has a son with what the doctors call “childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), a very rare autism spectrum disorder”.

His son was developing normally until age 3, when something happened. It is not autism in my book, as I will explain.

Flutie’s son is now in his 30s. He has small muscles and clearly has some sort of neurodegenerative issue. If nerve fibers are not working and the muscles atrophy, that is not “autism”. That’s a neurodegenerative disease where somehting attacked the brain and spinal cord. But this man has been labeled as being merely autistic.

Autism is just too broad of a definition now. It is a junk diagnosis. Autism connotes a form of mental retardation and not a neurological disease akin to ALS or Parkinson’s.

What few people realize, even doctors, is how meaningless many neurological diagnoses are. I learned way back in medical school how the “epilepsy” diagnosis can be misused. There are the people with genuine and obvious seizures. But the neurologists will label almost anybody with epilepsy. We had a pediatric patient who was clearly malingering, or faking epilepsy. We caught him doing so. But the attending neurologist refused to remove the label. I had a discussion with the doctor, and he was just irrational.

Back to autism: The people who think the vaccines might be the cause are not crazy. However, we lack the evidence to prove it now, and we will never be able to prove the relationship between vaccines and autism because autism is a junk diagnosis.

I have done clinical trials before. If my goal were to get an NIH grant and try to prove some sort of correlation with a strong p-value, I would focus on a very specific type of so-called autism, whatever it may be, and I would narrow the study down to just that category.

Take Doug Flutie, for example. Whatever it is that his son has, it is rare. That means a researcher could gather up most of the patients, review their charts, and see if they got a vaccine right before the symptoms.

As another example, Asperger’s syndrome is currently part of the autism spectrum, along with Doug Flutie’s son’s condition. However, it is a completely different neurological problem.

Elon Musk and David Byrn (of the Talking Heads music group) think they have a form of Asperger’s and yet are highly successful. Whatever they have, it seems to me that it is unrelated to what Doug Flutie’s son has.

Who thought of this concept of the spectrum? Without doubt, some autism cases are more severe than others, but that does not mean neurodegenerative conditions should be lumped in with mild behavioral changes.

No disease can ever be cured if it is not diagnosed properly. We now know that diseases once lumped into the same baskets as breast or colon cancer are distinct and different cancer types that require different treatments. It seems to me that the “autism spectrum” paradigm makes people working at non-profits wealthy while hindering diagnoses. It should be dropped from the medical vernacular.

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