What does autism look like?

If you asked me what a child with Down syndrome looks like, I would probably tell you that the child has slanted eyes, a small chin, flat and wide face, a short neck, and extra space between the first and second toe. (I got this from Wikipedia, by the way.) These physical characteristics come from the extra chromosome found in people with Down syndrome. The same can be said for people with other disorders and conditions that affect both body and mind. But what does autism look like?

Well, if you ask Lyn Redwood, vice-president of SafeMinds (and anti-vaccine group that pushes the thimerosal-autism pseudoconnection), a child with autism looks like a child with mercury poisoning. Why? Because her child looked just like a child with mercury poisoning, and her child (according to her) is autistic because of vaccines:

“When he was born, my son weighed close to 9 lbs. He was a happy baby who ate and slept well, smiled, cooed, walked, and talked all by one year. But shortly after his first birthday, my son began to regress physically and developmentally, losing speech, eye contact, and social interactions. He no longer slept through the night and suddenly refused to eat foods that he had previously enjoyed, gagging and spitting them out… I am a nurse. My husband is a doctor. We would have never made a correlation between our son’s illnesses and vaccines. But in July 1999 I read that a preservative, thimerosal, utilized in some infant vaccines actually contained 49.6% ethylmercury… I quickly pulled out the thick file containing my son’s medical records. My worst fears were confirmed. All of my son’s early vaccines had contained thimerosal.”

She follows up with a picture of her child and a picture of a child with mercury poisoning. Go look at the post (or the picture) yourself if you want to see it. It’s not for scientific or educational purposes, so I refuse to violate the child’s privacy by posting his pictures openly online. She continues the post with a gross misunderstanding of pharmacokinetics, immunology, and toxicology. Frankly, if I were part of the graduating class that put forth this nurse, I’d be embarrassed.

All of her son’s vaccines had thimerosal? MMR and other live-virus vaccines don’t have thimerosal. Did the child not receive those? But I digress…

What really grinds my gears is that she is trying to convince her readers that her child has mercury poisoning because he looks like a mercury-poisoned child. To me, her child looks sleepy (and annoyed) more than suffering from mercury poisoning. Go and Google “sleepy face” and tell me if those are all mercury poisoned people. Is that what autism looks like? Not at all. Autistic children look all sorts of ways, and you’d be hard-pressed to identify an autistic child out of a line-up on physical traits alone.

Lyn finishes with this bit:

“When you talk with your representatives, please encourage them to pass legislation mandating the removal of mercury from all medical products and to put an end to this madness once and for all. And, finally, we need you to be savvy consumers and to just say no to any medical products, including vaccines, which contain mercury. I’ll be writing more about what you need to know about mercury in prescription drugs in the coming weeks, so check back soon. The pharmaceutical industry must heed our call. The government must start paying attention and start protecting our children. This should be a no-brainer. How could anyone possibly justify injecting mercury into a pregnant woman or small children? It’s time for the government to do its job. We need to stop putting poison in our children.”

Oh, good, I’ll have more to blog about.