Autism, vaccines, and social diagnosis

Autism is a condition that I don’t really understand.  It’s probably a condition that most people don’t understand, which is why so much is still in question about it.   Ok, we do know a few things.  We know it starts before the age of 3 and is usually hereditary.  We know it affects all areas of brain development, if we don’t know how.

Despite the fact that autism and related disorders (such as Asperger’s) are not completely understood, the federal government seems to be confident that childhood vaccines do not cause autism.  With this landmark case, however, there may be some evidence that vaccines can aggravate related conditions that could eventually cause ‘autism-like symptoms’.

While I understand the need to distinguish between different related conditions, and the problems that can arise from a lack of understanding of what a condition might entail, it is indeterminate classifications such as ASD (autism spectrum disorders) that riles me about the DSM IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition).  When these classifications are used to determine the fate of children with mental impairments, when they determine the funding, support, and government assistance that children receive, it makes me wonder what decisions are being made and why.  Are we diagnosing to try and help more people in need?  Are we diagnosing to fit the known familial and financial circumstances of the child?  Are we diagnosing to the best of our ability within classifications that are at times vague and overlapping?  And if we are picking and choosing diagnoses, is this right?

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Political convention what?

I was talking to my sister Shannon on the phone yesterday about politics and her life, and I realized I am a bum.  She mentioned how she didn’t get that involved in her school’s mock political convention, as she preferred to let other people kinda talk and just gain the experience.  She was an Indiana delegate.

When I was in college, my school hosted a debate.  I think.  I didn’t really pay much attention.  I knew there was something going on on campus since things were even more crowded than usual.  One of my then-or-former roommates, Michele, was helping out with it.  But that’s pretty much her nature – very perky, and helping with stuff.  I’m pretty sure it was a presidential debate, because I do remember being pissed off at not being able to vote in the Gore/Bush/Nader election.  Due to some rather unfortunate party politics back home, I didn’t get my absentee ballot in time.

Even with all my raw political power and skills, I was forced to ask, “what do they actually DO at the convention?”  So she explained a little bit about the party deciding on its stance and platforms, and of course, nominating the candidate.  Evidently OWU’s been doing this since the 20s.  Wow.  I’m in awe.  Actually educating students about politics through doing!  I love it!  We should do this with state governments!  We’ll call it “student’s state”!

Truth be told, I didn’t even realize parties had platforms.  I thought that nonsense was just for candidates.  Whoops!  Do I pay attention, or what?

Nutrition Information

So I did a little more checking about those nutrition information labels on products and what they actually mean. So, the FDA is the one that monitors and tracks them. The producing company or group of companies first submits a database to the FDA every year with nutrient information. This basically means the manufacturer is responsible for taking a number of sample packaged products and analyzing them in a lab to make these databases, and from that data, an average is taken for the labeling. As noted here, “the FDA’s continuing policy since the 1970s assigns the manufacturer the responsibility for assuring the validity of a product label’s stated nutrient values. Accordingly, the source of the data used to calculate nutrition label values is the prerogative of the manufacturer, but FDA’s policy recommends that the nutrient values for labeling be based on product composition, as determined by laboratory analysis of each nutrient.” So the actual carrying out of the sampling is left to the discretion of the
producer, though the FDA requires yearly review of the data base itself and those specific results that make up the label’s average.

And when I say ‘average’, I mean that only in the most broad sense. As you can see from this document, there are specific label requirements for each piece of nutrition info. For example, for calories, any number below 50 should be rounded to the nearest 5 and any number above 50 should be rounded tot he nearest 10 (ie, 47 calories should read ’45 calories’ on a label, but 56 calories should read ’60 calories’. I have no idea what 55 calories should read.) So that means even the average is not so specific.

Makes me feel a little better about my gyminee bummage.

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