Epidemic: The outbreak of a disease, that spreads quickly and affects many individuals at the same time.
I recently came across an episode of Backstory, a TV show, in which John Underwood was interviewing Dr. Michael Goldberg, a Tarzana-based Pediatrician who specializes in treating children with “neuro-immune” issues mistakenly diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dr. Goldberg emphasized that the rapid rise in autism rates among children is nothing short of a medical pandemic, and it is being misdiagnosed as a purely psychiatric issue. He touched on the neuro-immune issues that he believes are causing the symptoms presenting themselves as autism. This insight was so unique, and so contrary to everything I have ever heard about autism, that, in the spirit of Autism Awareness Month, I tracked him down for an interview.
Here it is.
Stephen: Prior to this interview you mentioned a medical pandemic being mistaken under psychiatric “labels.” What do you mean by that?
Dr. Goldberg: Currently, tens of thousands of families now have children psychiatrically “labeled” as Autistic / Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Attention-deficit Disorder, Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and now even CDD, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.
Psychiatric and Developmental disorders like this have reached epidemic levels in children: autism alone is now 1:48 (2.1%) and rising. Polio at its worse was 1:1500 (.07%) children.
Basic medical science teaches that there cannot be an epidemic of a developmental or genetic disorder. It has become obvious that the assumption that ASD (autism spectrum disorder) behaviors and mannerisms in 2.1% of our children - and climbing - as the result of a mental condition is scientifically untenable. When analyzed from a medical perspective, the presenting dysfunctions and symptoms of most of these children can be explained far more appropriately by the concept of a ‘Phenotype’ that is part of a complex immune and viral disease presenting with secondary autistic, ADHD, OCD, Anxiety or ODD symptoms.
After speaking with many other physicians and colleagues, it has become obvious, and increasingly logical that this is not really something called “autism” as defined by psychiatry - but rather a group of symptoms with some overlap to “autism” but not really fitting true past definitions. I discussed this at length in a recent video, and this insight changes the entire way the medical community should be viewing children with symptoms of ASD.
Stephen: How so? Please explain what you mean by that.
Dr. Goldberg: As a practicing pediatrician I have devoted the last 22+ years to working with ASD labeled children, and I have come to the conclusion that ASD (autism) must be thought of as a neuro-immune disorder rather than a purely psychiatric one.
With a background and past medical training in autoimmune diseases, I have identified through the years blood tests and brain scans that support and define the vast majority of these children as an understandable phenotype of a medical disease process - complex immune, complex viral - that logically and scientifically explains the mixed collection of symptoms manifesting as ASD in children. Beneath the mistaken label, these children medically are usually chronically “ill” in appearance, have abnormal sleep patterns, chronic allergies, fine motor issues, coordination issues, hypo/hyper profusion in the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain, and abnormally elevated viral titers including HHV6, Epstein Barr, and CMV. These and other markers, in my professional opinion, are indicative of a medically treatable disease process and not a psychological and/or developmental dysfunction.
Stephen: If this is really a medical disease, is it potentially treatable?
Dr. Goldberg: It has been a satisfying but frustrating experience over many years now. Looking at this as a disease, when treated medically with FDA approved meds and diet modifications, approximately 75% of my parents report significant clinical and medical improvement in their children, with some becoming honor students, and many progressing to junior college or regular college as real students. The parents and therapists report “it is as though a fog has lifted” or “this is not the same child.” Treated medically, literally focusing on physical health and mental function, these children are placed in a position to be taught, not trained. They can and do learn; they progress, complete their education, as noted some all the way through regular college, and most importantly, they can and do become truly productive members of society. .
As noted, if two different retrospective reviews have confirmed an over 75% clinical success rate with medical treatment and the usage of my protocol, why is this not being investigated and looked at with the true urgency these children and their families deserve?
This success rate is possible and expected because these children suffer from an underlying medical disease and not a mental or developmental disorder. A developmental disorder would not and could not respond to antiviral and other medical therapies I have used.
Stephen: You have frequently said this is a medical pandemic, what do you mean by that?
Dr. Goldberg: Let me try to explain that. I was speaking recently with an ex L.A. County public health official, and he was completely baffled - floored actually - when I asked if had he ever studied anything that was 1:50 - not 1:1000 or 1:5000 - but 1:50, 2% of the population. He had nothing to say. The silence was deafening. Nothing of this magnitude had ever been looked at in any past training, and he admitted to me that it was beyond comprehension. We have 2% of children being affected, and it is not considered a public health crisis? Impossible!
Basically, in that discussion is the crux of this whole problem: we may very well have the largest medical pandemic in medical history, and it is presently buried under the mistaken idea of being developmental and or genetic.
Stephen: The implications seem staggering.
Dr. Goldberg: I have watched for decades now the rate rise from a previously long time 1-2/10,000, then started climbing to 1:1000, 1:500, 1:250, 1:125, to 1:68 today and climbing, with a reported 1:48 coming soon. It should be obvious those who say we are just counting differently are wrong. The counting methods haven’t changed. Unless they couldn’t count right 20, 15, 10 years ago, it is time to admit this is a real medical pandemic, and we must focus and address resources as such.
To deny that we are in the midst of a true worldwide medical pandemic is unconscionable. Science does not change. It can be ignored, or twisted to fit a popular mindset, but science does not change…You cannot have an epidemic without an underlying disease process.
Stephen: And how has this mistake happened?
The current diagnostic mistakes being made have become obvious and go against basic medical and psychiatric principals. In fact, as explained in the recent interview, we are here today because those in charge have chosen to ignore the principles and definitions of the experts of the 40, 50s, 60s, and early 70s.
I try to emphasize that historically “autism” was a diagnosis of exclusion: if there was no medical or organic explanation for the child’s problem, then a psychiatric referral was appropriate.
Children today are labeled “autistic” or “GDD” (Global Developmental Delay) without an appropriate full medical work up to discover any underlying etiologies/medical causation related to the symptoms presenting as ASD. In the past - say 40 to 70 years ago - this would have been impossible and scientifically incompatible. GDD used to imply an organic underlying medical issue with a child. If a child had fine motor issues, GDD, or any other organic medical issue, they could not be given as DSM, psychiatric label. If we just went back to that today, many - most - of these children would be medical: not DSM psychological. As noted, this medical mistake actually began with the “system” classifying as psychological or functional the adults presenting in the early 1980s with the mistaken idea of CFS/CFIDS - Chronic Fatigue. That our present system fails to medically investigate the reasons for that suffering in adults, and now has chosen to ignore this real medical pandemic in children (i.e. complex immune-complex viral) does not give them the right to abandon these children and their families, condemning them to a life of no hope with a psychiatric label of autism.
Stephen: Well If this is medical, that means we should have hope for a cure, right?
Without a doubt. In my professional and clinically observed opinion, the ideas of "autism" as a permanent, unfixable mental condition/disorder is a major mistake. If we start to approach ASD as the epidemic/pandemic that it is, much like Polio 1:1500 (.07%) of the 1950s, then medical pediatricians and specialists can and would begin to treat this disease. Medical treatment would help mitigate or even eliminate ASD symptoms/behaviors, and provide real relief for children and their families. We would begin talking about treatment and potential recovery - not long term care: an impossible burden for families, the medical system and our society.
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