Olmsted on Autism: 1 in 10,000 Amish


Managing Editor's Note: Dr. Max Wiznitzer of University Hospitals in Cleveland is an expert witness for the government against the families who file in the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.

By Dan Olmsted

It is unanimous, apparently -- the rate of autism among the Amish is low. Really, really low. So low that if it were the same in the rest of the population, we wouldn't even be talking about the subject. Shockingly low.

But not so shocking that anyone feels compelled to follow up on the information or its logical implications -- not four years ago when I first pointed it out, not today when the clues it contains are more intriguing than ever -- in fact, never, never, never.

In April 2005 I wrote a UPI column called The Amish Anomaly that began this way: "Where are the autistic Amish? Here in Lancaster County, heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, there should be well over 100 with some form of the disorder. I have come here to find them, but so far my mission has failed ..."

In case anyone had any lingering doubts about the virtual absence of autism among the Amish, they were effectively put to rest on Friday night's Larry King segment when Dr. Max Wiznitzer -- defending the vaccine program, arguing autism has not increased and insisting it is a genetic disorder preset from birth, said the rate of autism in northeastern Ohio, the nation's largest Amish community, was 1 in 10,000. He should know, he said: "I'm their neurologist."

So in a nation with an autism rate of 66 per 10,000 -- cut that in half if you want, to focus just on full-syndrome, classic, Kanner autism -- we're looking at a population with one-sixty-sixth, or one thirty-third, or one-whatever, the going rate. Heck, let's just say the autism rate in the USA were only 10 per 10,000; for some reason, the Amish autism rate would still be an order of magnitude lower. That, as they say in the medical journals, is statistically significantly. Massively so, I would say.

That leaves, it seems to me, two questions: Why is the rate so much lower, and why doesn't anyone in mainstream medicine seem to care, other than to fling it out as a debating point to demonstrate -- what, exactly?

Dr. Wiznitzer said those Amish were vaccinated. Well, OK, interesting. That's half right, according to what I reported about that same area back in June of 2005:

"The autism rate for U.S. children is 1 in 166, according to the federal government. The autism rate for the Amish around Middlefield, Ohio, is 1 in 15,000, according to Dr. Heng Wang.

"He means that literally: Of 15,000 Amish who live near Middlefield, Wang is aware of just one who has autism. If that figure is anywhere near correct, the autism rate in that community is astonishingly low.

"Wang is the medical director, and a physician and researcher, at the DDC Clinic for Special Needs Children, created three years ago to treat the Amish in northeastern Ohio.

"I take care of all the children with special needs," he said, putting him in a unique position to observe autism. "The one case Wang has identified is a 12-year-old boy."

He said half the children in the area were vaccinated, half weren't. That child, he said, was vaccinated, but let's not split hairs here. Either vaccinated or unvaccinated, that's a low rate -- 1 in 5000. The question I didn't think to ask at the time but will soon, is, exactly how were those half vaccinated? Flu shots for pregnant moms? Hep B at birth? Chickenpox and MMR on the same day at one year? Rotavirus, Hep B, Hep A, and on and on? Or did it look more like the less intense, less front-loaded schedule in place in the rest of the country back before the autism epidemic began? The kind Jenny and Jim and J.B. and Jerry (hey, the four J's!) keep harking back to when the autism rate was, like, 1 in 10,000 and we still managed to stave off wholesale plagues.

Let's even stipulate that the vaccine schedule for every single Amish child is now fully loaded and follows the CDC to a T. What is Wiznitzer's point? That the Amish genes protect them? Well, good for them, then, let's find out why. Or, that some kind of other environmental risk is absent? In that case, autism is a genetic vulnerability with an environmental trigger, and something about the Amish world is not triggering it, which puts us back about where I started four years ago. There would have been plenty of time to have the answer right now if Julie Gerberding weren't still filibustering the question by talking about numerators, denominators and getting more research into the pipeline as fast as bureaucratically possible (meaning never, never, never).

Critics of the Amish Anomaly -- like critics of the idea that vaccines might be implicated in autism -- want to have it every which way. First, they want to say I just plain missed all the autism cases -- droning on about the Clinic For Special Children, which refused to speak with me over a period of many months. When one of their doctors did finally talk to a blogger whose stated purpose was to tear my reporting apart (a "fraud," he called me), that doctor said, oh yes, they do see Amish kids with autism -- but then went on to say those were ONLY kids with other identifiable genetic disorders. In other words, risk factors. He specifically said they DO NOT see "idiopathic autism," a basically nonsense phrase that he used to mean autism without any other accompanying disorders. In other words, they don't see the kind of autism now running at a rate of 1 in 100 or so in the rest of the country. The kind no one can figure out. The kind that is destroying a generation and their families and our future along with it. ("You don't have an affected child," people tell me. Yes, but I have an affected world.)

By asserting the Amish have an autism rate of 1 in 10,000 Wiznitzer is in fact scoring a point -- they call it an "own goal," an "oops, I didn't mean to tap the other team's shot in." The point he's accidentally but effectively reinforcing is the one made by the unfailingly intelligent Bernadine Healy -- that there are so many, many obvious studies being left undone by those afraid to do them, even as they sneer and snarl at the rest of us. The Amish are just one study left undone among -- well, one among ten thousand or so.

Dan Olmsted in Editor of Age of Autism.


Am I the only one who heard Dr. Wiznitzer say ALL of the Amish vaccinate ALL of their children? (he would know, he's their neurologist, and they don't have autism (and so why would they need a neurologist?) ). We need to be sure to varify the numbers of Amish vaccinated so we are not accused of making up numbers.
Mom of two with asd (probably from eating seafood 4 times a week).
I do not think that Offit will ever grow a set of ovaries that could handle the Awesome mothers in families dealing with Autism. Dr. Healy will deliver where governments and men have failed:)
Thanks for the insights, Dan. Wiznitzer's mention of the Amish was pretty surreal. Clearly he believed that it was strategic to mention the Amish but why he thought it was strategic is baffling. Just to plant in the public's flighty little minds the idea-- no matter how inaccurate or incomplete-- that the Amish vaccinate? Because that's all this is-- just about swaying the masses with momentary sound bites? Do these people even think about what that makes them?

I'd love to see these opponents to the never vaxed/vaxed study suggest that the never vaccinated Homefirst patient population are "genetically different".

We need a study of families where one child was fully vaccinated and autistic and then, the parents stopped vaccinating. So the second and/or third child was not vaccinated and has no autism. There are many of these families out there now. I personally know of three or four. They have their genetic piece and we have the smoking gun!
Thank you Dan! What an excellent piece. Thank you for exposing Wiznitzer for what he is. His purpose is to defend the vaccine program at all costs. He is a PAID expert witness for the government.

His comments on LKL about his "friend" (doing the regressive autism study) not being able to find children who regressed because "once we studied their documentation we found out they really hadn't regressed". Well this is his mantra. This is exactly what he said about Michelle in his testimony against her. He said she was already presenting with autism, so therefore she could not have regressed. Unfortunately, it appears he is taking this idea and applying it to other children as well. They don't want there to be a diagnosis of regressive autism. They don't want there to be an explosive autism epidemic. But, guess what, there is on both counts and we, as a community, have become an organized and intelligent force and we will get the answers and the justice we want for our injured children.

"I don't think the public has been educated enough on how physically damaging autism is."

David A--exactly right.

Nor do mainstream doctors want to see this fact--ever.

Just tonight I had someone tell me that my son's bladder problems (new, over the last couple of weeks) were unlikely to be symptoms of a urinary tract infection because Noah is "so physically healthy."


This kid has had (and overcome) SO MANY physical problems--allergies, chronic sinus inflammation, a very damaged gut. . .

It's very, very hard to educate someone until they're ready to hear it. But I try to plant the seed of an idea when I can.

Dr. Wiznitzer is EXACTLY what Dr. Healy was talking about. Dr.s who are refusing to even consider vaccines as a cause.. WHY?

Dr. Wizinitzer sat on Television last night and lied about the UC Davis findings. He read it sure, but decided to write his own conclusion and omit what was actually said.

My children are unvaccinateded. We do not suffer from asthma, diabetes, ADD, etc.. I will expose them to chicken pox and measles.

The fact that Dr. Witnitzer has patients with Autism makes me ill.. he said so many things last night that made my skin crawl..

If he is a shill.. I wouldn't be suprised.

I am glad JB was there to land a zinger or two..

All we need now if for Dr. Offit to grow a set and answer some tough questions..

Well said, Dan!

I agree, Marni -- Dr. Healy for autism czar!

Wiznitzer is backed snarling into a corner. The more desperate he gets, the more irrational his statements become.

Apparently anecdotal information is acceptable for staunch defenders of the institutional status quo, but not for field witnesses.

Tanners Dad summed up the autism denial crowd well. Their calculated distancing from the human suffering they cause is chilling.

Hi Dan,

Where have you seen the 1 in 100 with autism numbers?

How about Dr. Healy for the new Autism Czar position? President Obama is a true "uniter" as well, so should see the value in her harmonizing yet progressive position. Everyone loves her except the truly polarized, and we need the middle.

Dr. Healy was the voice of unity and progress last night, and in general. How can we get all the range of opinions on the non-mainstream side behind her 150% - that's your path to real change. She can go toe to toe with them in their own game, and get the real pure science done. She is in the best position to create change, IMO.

I would love it if Jenny, Jim, JB, Stan, Dr. Kartzinel, Kim, David, Holly Robinson Peete, Imus', ARI, TACA, Thoughtful House, Generation Rescue - all the non-mainstream people who want the proper research to get done, could come together to rally for her to be the Autism Czar.

Uniting behind her with an outsretched hand of cooperation, progressive cooperation, towards the AAP, CDC etc. That would be a huge step in momentum shift/paradigm shift.

Anyone agree with me?

(Apologies to whoever I may not have listed up there as a significant voice)

Max Wiznitzer is a hired gun witness if ever there was one. If he went in front of an intellectually honest federal district judge most of his opinions would be in admissible. He is litigation-tested and has carried more water for the Department of Justice than Gunga Din.
I agree Tanners Dad. That was a pivotal piece of airtime in the debate. This was a fair and balanced presentation of the facts and the autism kids came out on top for once.

The autism deniers(I like this term!) looked ignorant and out of touch. Trying to deny the very fact that autism has increased exponentially underscores how one sided and fringe many in the medical community actually are. A person would only deny such a thing if they were blinded or trying to cover something up.

I think our movement needs to continue on with the following message which does not come off as so "out there" : 1) We are not anti-vaccine 2) Autism barely existed before and it exists in great numbers today....Genetics can not explain it...it is environmental 3) There are thousands of kids suffering out there and something needs to be done...root cause studies that include vaccination safety, medical treatments, aid to families, etc.

The sad thing about this whole issue is the fact that if this was childhood Leukemia or something else like that....there would be huge public outrage and things would be getting done. I dont think the public has been educated enough on how physically damaging autism is. The public still views it as a mysterious mental condition and not as a treatable biomedical condition that has been caused by something. By winning the public over, things will eventually change.

I believe our day is coming and this LKL episode was a pivotal opinion shifter.

Well done to all involved. Dan...your writing is excellent and continues to impress me. Someday it will be shown to be responsible for saving thousands of kids. Thank You!

I thought that perhaps Wiznitzer was trying to lay the groundwork for disqualifying a study of vaccinated vs unvaccinated kids on the grounds that the Amish are genetically different. When that study is finally done, mainstream medicine will be desperately trying to come up with disqualifiers. So, maybe the researchers who do the study should be careful about using the Amish.
Look, casually asking an Ohio nurse about vaccine uptake is NOT the basis of drawing a scientific conclusion. Of course, she is going to tell the vaccine zealot what his itching ears want to hear.

Why on earth would this guy go on Larry King and splather about the Amish in Ohio. The guy obviously opened a can of worms.

Now she has to allow Dan Olmstead to look at the vaccination rates among the Middlefield Amish population or Mad Max has to eat his words like a plate of crow.

Sorry, but that's the way it works.

Footnote: In Ohio Chicken Pox rose from 2021 reported cases in the year 2005 to a whopping 8859 cases reported in the year 2006 yet the Offit's Disease founding father wouldn't touch it with a twenty-five foot pole.

How will Dan approach this free coupon for a solid look at Amish vaccination rate in Middlefield, Ohio.

Beautifully stated, Dan. What the "other side" failed to do, once again, is attack our side for the recovery stories. I want just once for one of them to challenge the recovery of any one of our kids, in any form. But, of course, we would have Max Wiznitzer standing there, trying to put forth that "autistic symptoms improve with age." Excuse me? Where would that be in the literature. Our "specialist" basically told us our son was in for a lifetime of spinning, flapping, toe-walking, silent, (or maybe echolalic at best) running-into-traffic autism. At no point were we told to expect him to "gradually improve with age."
I think this show will be held up as watershed moment in our debate. It is sad to see in living color how unprepared, unmotivated, uncaring, out of step, in denial (of coming years adult cases), out of touch ( vaccine programs worldwide), and just plain stupid the mainstream medical community sounded.