The letters were prompted by an April 22 Washington Post story,
"What the Autism Studies Show Isn't Reflected in What the Candidates
Say," by Michael Dobbs. The article attributed comments to both
senators related to the controversy over whether a potential link
exists between autism and a preservative in childhood vaccines and
also reported on a body of evidence indicating that assertions of a
link are unproven so far.
"The incorporation of the principles of
evidence-based practice in clinical decision-making is a vital part
of what speech-language pathologists offer moms, dads and the
children themselves," explained Catherine Gottfred, American
Speech-Language Hearing Association president, in her letters to
McCain and Obama. "This approach integrates high-quality research
evidence with practitioner expertise and client preferences and
The Post article said McCain told a town hall meeting in
February: "It's indisputable that (autism) is on the rise among
children; the question is what's causing it. And we go back and
forth, and there's strong evidence that indicates it's got to do
with a preservative in vaccines."
The same story also reported that Obama told an April campaign
rally: "We've seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are
suspicious that it's connected to the vaccines. This person
included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to
In her letters, Gottfred noted that "a key lesson that has been
learned from the daily work of our member speech-language
pathologists -- namely, the importance of evidence-based practice --
can help guide the autism conversation." She added: "While we very
much applaud your interest in health issues of great concern to
Americans, we also urge you to strongly consider the critical need
for evidence-based practice."
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association principles and
guidelines with regard to autism reflect a long history of relying
on the best available scientific evidence. "When our member
speech-language pathologists see families in desperation, grasping
out for ineffective or unproven treatments, they realize how
critical it is to advocate for care that is based on science,"
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The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has 130,000
members, most of whom are speech-language pathologists who work in
elementary and middle schools. In her letters, Gottfred explained
that speech-language pathologists are often sought out by parents
when autism affects their children's verbal and nonverbal
The Post article that reported McCain and Obama's comments also
reported that the "body of evidence assembled so far suggests no
proven link" between autism and a preservative in vaccines.
According to the Post, that evidence includes five major studies.
It also said that the World Health Organization, the Institute of
Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have
all dismissed claims of a link. Additionally, the paper reported
that a study released by the California Department of Public Health
in January found that the autism rate in children continued to rise
even after vaccine manufacturers stopped using the preservative
thimerosal in childhood vaccines seven years ago.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is the national
professional, scientific and credentialing association for more than
130,000 audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech,
language, and hearing scientists. Audiologists specialize in
preventing and assessing hearing disorders as well as providing
audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language
pathologists identify, assess and treat speech and language
problems, including swallowing disorders. For more information about
noise, hearing loss and noise prevention, call 1-800-638-TALK (8255)
or visit www.asha.org.
[Text from file received from the