Testimony of 
Shelley Hendrix Reynolds

 Before the Government Reform Committee

 April 6, 2000

 Autism – Present Challenges, Future Needs – Why the Increased Rates?

Mr. Chairman and members, my name is Shelley Reynolds.  I reside in Baton Rouge, LA with my husband of eight years, Aidan, and my children, Liam, who is 4 and Mairin, who is 2.  I would like to thank you  for both holding this hearing and allowing me to testify before you today.

 I met Aidan in the tenth grade.  We were in love with each other from day one.  We dated all through college and got married as soon as we graduated. 

We had our own house, two cars, two careers.  We were living the American Dream.  Right after we were married, Hurricane Andrew, one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit the United States, slammed through Baton Rouge.  Sustained winds of 100 mph ripped up our roof.  Eight days without electricity left us with very little food and water.  We promised each other we would never again be unprepared for such a disaster.

 But six years, later hurricane force winds blew into our home again, this time the disaster was the diagnosis of autism for our first born son, Liam.  It completely tore our home apart.  The effects have lasted much longer than eight days.  And no amount of  preparedness can ready you for a storm such as this.

 Liam was a normally developing baby until June 27, 1997, when he received his MMR and Hib vaccines.  Developmentally, everything was progressing completely normally.  He cooed, rolled over, crept, crawled, pulled up and walked on time.  He said all the things that parents crave to hear like “Momma”, “Daddy” and “Love you.”  His expressive language increased to around 75 words.  He was very social and had a completely infectious laugh.  He liked music and learned the hand motions to little songs like "Itsy Bitsy Spider."  He loved to interact and show off in front of his grandparents and our friends.

 Well baby check-ups were kept on time. I breast-fed him until he was 8 months old.  I didn't start solid foods until 4 months old.  We did everything completely by the book and more.   

When he was 17 months old, Liam started exhibiting some different behaviors.  He was constantly taking off his shoes and screaming when we dressed and un-dressed him. He wouldn't let us brush his teeth anymore.  He started staring into space when he watched a video on television and wouldn't move if you stood in front of the television.  He couldn't tolerate playing in the sandbox anymore.  He didn't want to sing favorite songs anymore and would just scream "No! No! No!"

 We assumed he was just asserting his independence since he was almost 2.   

Somewhere along the way he developed chronic, non-specific diarrhea ...sometimes 8 to 10 times a day.   

A month before Liam turned two, visited my parents who live in Tennessee who had not seen Liam since the first week of July, 1997.  They were shocked by the changes in him.  My mother was alarmed at his lack of response when we tried to speak to him.  She urged me to have his hearing tested.  I had his hearing tested. It was normal.

 By April of 1998 I realized Liam was no longer saying “Momma” or  “Daddy” so I took him in for a speech and language evaluation.  They told me that my 27 month old child had the language capacity of an 8 month old.  This was a child that only months before would chime in “EIEIO” at the appropriate moment when singing “Old MacDonald.” 

 We saw a pediatric neurologist, because that was on the list of things that you do with a suspected case of autism, and found that he had no seizure activity.  His 12 hour EEG and MRI were normal.  We continued doing blood work, stool and urine samples to determine his body chemistry, which was a complete disaster. His immune system was hardly operating.  He had a host of bacterial, parasitic and fungal infections. The blood work also confirmed that he had suffered heavy metal exposure which had stippled his blood cells.  Generally this type of the change in the blood is only seen when someone has been acutely exposed to a toxic metal.  Liam had amounts of aluminum, mercury, tin, lead, and antimony that were off the charts.  Liam was sick and in pain.  We were scared and distraught.  What had happened to our beautiful baby boy?  How could we help him?

 We decided to become advocates and work for increased funding for autism research and for awareness. The answers may not come in time to help our son, but we are hopeful that we can persuade you to see the need for intensive research regarding this disorder which affects more and more children every year. In California, only one of the 50 states, at least one child is diagnosed with autism every four hours, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  How many children have to slip through your fingers before you take notice that there is a serious problem here and that something other than genetics is causing it?

 There are those who will argue that we are better at diagnosing autism today than in the past and that these children were once considered mentally retarded.  However, according to a recent study, the mentally retarded have followed normal population increases and remained a steady constant while the autistic population has exploded.  Is autism just the diagnosis du jour?  Hardly. I would truly  like to know where the parents of these autistic children were that did not recognize that their children were not talking, were spinning constantly in circles, doing odd things, abusing themselves, not making eye contact, having serious gastrointestinal disturbances, eating and sleeping problems, experiencing a failure to thrive due to malabsorption and suffering from excessive allergies.  You cannot miss these children.

 In Liam's case, we have no doubt that he developed his autism as the direct result of an adverse vaccine reaction.  Personally, if I could strike the belief that my son's autism sprang from a routine childhood vaccination that I held him down on the table for, and had to go back to the Russian roulette of genetics, I would take it in a heartbeat.  Because the pain knowing that I inadvertently caused him harm, due to a blind trust in the medical community or a matter of the inconvenience of yet another office visit is nearly unbearable.

    Many in the medical community continue to dismiss this as a mere happenstance because autism often coincides with the time of vaccination and state that there is no scientific evidence to back this up.  My question to you is, how long does it take for a coincidence to surface time and again, case after case after case before it can become a viable hypothesis, especially, when the solution to solving the problem seems so apparent?  How can pharmaceutical companies concoct substances with mercury, formaldehyde, antifreeze, lead, aluminum and live viruses not expect that as they continue to pour these highly toxic and reactive substances into children, increasing dose after dose, all on the same day even, that it WON'T alter their developing minds and bodies? Why would it be so completely impossible for a child to actually contract a chronic form of the disease rather than have a "proper immunological response," especially when their immune systems may not be up to par?  And where is THEIR scientific evidence to back up the claim that this cannot happen, when it is published in the very package inserts, in their writing, that they have not studied the effects of vaccines for more than a few weeks? Or longer than the incubation period of the disease itself?  Or what happens when you give multiple doses in one day or combine different diseases into one hypodermic needle?   

Could someone please explain to me why it is acceptable to have products on the market that exposed my child to 37.5 micrograms of mercury in one day when at that time he should not have been exposed to more than .59 micrograms of mercury given his body weight? Even a body as big as mine shouldn’t be exposed to more than 5 micrograms of mercury in one day.  That is completely unacceptable.  One size does not fit all when it comes to vaccines.  

Through our organization, Unlocking Autism, we have talked to thousands and thousands of parents from across the country and their story is the same.  Child is normal, child gets a vaccine, child disappears within days or weeks into the abyss of autism.  If you doubt me, I invite you to attend the Hear Their Silence Rally on April 8th on the mall where our Open Your Eyes project will be displayed.  View the thousands of pictures we have collected and realize that 47% of those who participated believe that vaccines contributed to the development of their child's autism.

 Parents like me are relying on you to demand that the pharmaceutical companies retrace their steps once again and that the public health community look at the possibility that these things might indeed not be just a coincidence. They obviously have no incentive to do so themselves.  They are immune from liability and they have a forced market.  They manufacture products that are required for every child in this country.  We fear that it is possible that while seeking greater monetary profits there may be some who have lost sight of the medical community's original goal regarding vaccinations---to protect children from harm.

 I know my children.  I know what happened to my son.  As far as I am concerned, the needle that silently slipped into my baby’s leg that day became the shot heard round the world.

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