One of the biggest frustrations as a parent of an Autistic child, is all of the crap theories and off-based suggestions that come at you from all directions -- from Jenny McCarthy to a stranger on the street that inquires about your child's strange behavior and from gluten and casein to the now debunked and irresponsible immunization theory. There is a myriad of books, causation theories, and treatments that regularly bombard parents of Autistic kids. It may be helpful for those without Autistic family members to realize that the Autistic spectrum is very broad -- my son who is Nonverbal Autistic is quite a bit different from the kid with Asperger's who rambles incessantly about his obsession with NASA and space travel. As a rule, I thank most people for asking and trying to be helpful but in most cases they have no idea what they are talking about and it is annoying having to deal with the misguided (albeit well-intended) suggestions and comments of family and strangers.
The immunization theory has sparked one of the most common comments from family and strangers, "Did you have him immunized? You know the MMR causes Autism." This comment, although it never felt accurate or made any real sense to me, often caused concern and worry that my wife and I may have caused my child's severe disability -- this despite the fact that my wife and I have the benefit of an additional genetic diagnosis that our doctors have pointed to as a causal link to my son's Autism. I can imagine the guilt and doubt that Dr. Wakefield's irresponsible and erroneous research has caused many other parents who have no known causal link to their child's condition.
In 1998 Dr. Andrew Wakefield of the UK released a study that showed a possible causal link between the MMR shot and Autism in twelve "allegedly" normal children prior to receiving the vaccine.
This link was debunked by a couple of sources (if you get the chance watch the Frontline documentary from a few weeks ago on this subject) the WSJ article linked in the the title mentioned one in particular "a 2004 statistical review of existing epidemiological studies by the Institute of Medicine, a respected nonprofit organization in the U.S., concluded that there was no causal link between the MMR vaccine and autism" as the biggest piece of research that has debunked Wakefield's theory.
Dr. Wakefield's research, it turns out, was funded by a lawyer representing parents who believed the MMR shot had harmed their children. This conflict of interest was one of the biggest reasons for his disbarment from the UK Medical Registry.
Who knows what good could have been done in Autistic research, if the scientific community wouldn't have been forced to look into this charlatan's irresponsibly conducted "research" and his fraudulent conclusions. What's even more frustrating is the number of children (mine and yours) that are needlessly endangered from diseases that were virtually eradicated a few decades ago. This man has caused what may be decades of irreparable damage.
With the misinformation available on the internet, devout crusaders of the vaccination=autism link, and the increasing distrust that many in the public have for the medical field it is highly likely that the myth caused by the former Dr. Wakefield will exist is the public's mind for many years to come. Hopefully state and local governments that instituted optional vaccination policies in public schools because of the mythical vaccination=autism link will soon reverse those policies so that the well-meaning but irresponsible actions of concerned parents won't put children at needless risk from diseases that can and should be prevented.