Most people know the that numbers of children being diagnosed with autism are on the rise and schools are developing programs aimed at helping many of these students go forward with their education. But the debate over what causes autism continues to rage. Some parents say their children’s autism was caused by vaccines, or more specifically thimerosal, a mercury-based vaccine preservative now banned from most vaccines. The debate over thimerosal is heated, with many health professionals saying there is no evidence the preservative has been linked to autism and many anguished parents who believe it to be a root cause. On June 11 a legal hearing over a case brought by parents of an autistic child is set to settle the matter (at least in a legal sense). This PointofLaw.com article says the case is to be heard in Washington in U.S. Federal Claims court. Emotions surrounding the case are definitely running high: the witness list is to remain secret so that the witnesses will not be harassed. Regardless of the outcome of the case, the debate is likely to continue.
However, outside the courtroom, real families are dealing with the hardships that autism presents. The Washington Post recently wrote this story about the Gaston family, with three triplet sons all with varying degrees of autism. Schools and states are also struggling to decide how to educate the rising number of autistic children. This debate in Arizona pits parents who want to use voucher money to send their kids to specialized private schools against those who think the public schools are the best place for autistic and special needs students. In Utah, the Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarships program was named after an autistic student there. This Education Week story sums up the debate over school vouchers for special needs students.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Around the Web blog.