Sunday, March 14, 2010

On the Autism Health and Wellness Expo, Part One

Perhaps it is unsurprising that the quacks came out in force for an event entitled the "Autism Health and Wellness Expo". On the other hand, it says something that Mark and David Geier were not the biggest quacks there.

And yes, they were there. I listened to one of their talks and wound up meeting the father in their father/son castration team. It was an... interesting experience.

The Geiers' talk involved some truly spectacular fearmongering. Among other things, they claimed that they believe that autism's prevalence was at one in 20 to 30 during the "peak years" (whatever that means). They claimed that most autistics have mitochondrial dysfunction of some kind or another. They engaged in some truly insipid anti-vaccine fearmongering.

They also defined aggression as including meltdowns and frustration.

To Dr. Geier's credit, however, he did (in a subsequent discussion) criticize DAN! -- basically for being frauds, although he also called them pawns of Big Pharma. He acknowledged that hyperbaric oxygen "therapy" for autism is bunk (at least how they practice it). He gave me some rather interesting information regarding vitamin manufacturers. He stopped just short of actively calling Bradstreet a quack (and did strongly imply this). He repeatedly emphasized the need for using a reputable lab to conduct legitimate tests (of course, if you don't interpret them correctly...).

The Geiers' science was every bit as bad as I'd been expecting. There are major parts of their presentation that I really wish I could still remember -- such as the details of how they concluded that autism is really mercury poisoning (it was shoddy logic based on urinary porphyrin testing, but I don't remember several key details).

They were also pretty blatantly recruiting for CoMeD, even going so far as to hand out pamphlets. The less said about this, the better.

Until today, I wondered how a parent could ever fall for their quackery. I no longer wonder. The Geiers are a truly polished act, con artists extraordinaire. Some of the tactics they used... the liberal use of the foot-in-the-door phenomenon... the polished presentation of their pseudoscience (it was often extremely difficult to detect this without extensive knowledge of the topics -- and studies -- they were talking about)... the polished use of "reasonable" stances towards various groups (no one was perfect in his eyes, everyone had flaws and strengths)...

It scares me. It really does. I'll have to write more later, but keep in mind that they weren't the quackiest people to speak at that expo. The honor of "biggest quack" goes to Dr. Phil Bate. More on him later.


  1. Just looking at Bate's homepage made alarm bells ring. It's really sad that people so easily fall for this crap.

    Pseudo-schizophrenia and sugar levels? Seriously?

  2. Hi Alex, I knew I would find some good reading here about the Fair...Thank you so much for sharing. I thought about going there for the bounce house and pony rides (HA!), but thought better of it.
    Looking forward to reading more.

  3. Gabi,

    To be fair, there were also legitimate providers, and the talk on financial planning was quite good.

  4. That's true...
    There were good providers presenting, our SLP one of them. I just didn't want to weed out the quacks.


  5. Xine,

    Wait for my blog entry on him. It's... worse than you think.