5/11/2010

Epilepsy, Autism, Woo, Chun Wong and What the Science Really Shows

You gotta give Chun Wong props; he tries hard to rack up business. He posts on forums, he's got a blog on autisable (linked above). He's selling the woo and makes it appealing by appealing to the lowest common denominator. Nothing says offensive like: "If you want your family life back the way it was before Autism stole so many of its precious irreplaceable moments." Well, that's not quite true. This is even more offensive, and such a completely obvious tactic that it really shouldn't work: "Why suffer another day? The answer to your autistic child’s suffering may be here - right in front of you… How would you feel, finding out years from now, that the answer to your child’s pain and suffering was right in front of your face all along…and you let it slip through your fingers?"

Wong characterizes himself as a "doctor" and a "practicing physician." According to Wong, he practices "medicine in Illinois and specialize in chronic pain and pediatric conditions, including autism." Funny, the state of Illinois doesn't have a Chun Wong licensed to practice medicine. Must be a newfangled definition of medicine, not misrepresentation, right? I mean, who would think that when you say you're a doctor and a physician, you really don't mean a medical doctor and practicing medicine is in no way suggestive that you actually practice, you know, medicine.

Wong writes that because he is super busy as a DAN! doc, "my time is limited and I do not provide 24- hour call or emergency services or maintain hospital-admitting privileges." No, he doesn't provide "emergency services or hospital-admitting privileges" because he is NOT a doctor of medicine.

He sells a manual to heal your child, but I guess I'm not a candidate: "However, this manual is NOT for every parent. It is not for those who don’t have an open mind or who are negative people. This manual requires you to have optimism, hope and to have an alternative belief system!  Get my manual NOW to learn more about autism and all of the autism spectrum disorders and to attract more joy and health into your child’s life." Hahaha, yeah, see, if it doesn't work, and it won't, it'll be the parents' fault. So how much will it cost you to recover your child? Well, if you're not negative like me, then for $299 you can get his book, a phone consult with him, and two coupons so you can ask him for help. Let me tell you, I'm finding it really, really hard to feel compassionate for suckers who get roped into woo this obvious.

Wong's just trying to help, though, and Autisable really likes him because, man, the hits keep coming when they put some Wong woo up on their front page. In 45 posts with them, he's had over 26,000 hits. You can't blame Autisable for putting his stuff there, I guess. And sometimes, it's fairly innocuous stuff that doesn't seem designed to sell his woo. Of course, by getting his face out there and the link to his site there, he's getting visibility, and you know the power of networking, right?

So what's his latest post about? Epilepsy and autism, or as he calls it: "Seizures and PDD - The Basics." There's no real meat to it, though, and no sources, just empty promises: "Why Seizures Occur in PDD and Autism Cases." Except Wong isn't going to address that, just reference vague studies and throw numbers out at you: "It has been found that one in four children with a PDD will develop seizures. Most recent studies conclude that 1/3 of Autistic children will also develop epilepsy."

The figure of about 1/3 of individuals with autism also having epilepsy is the generally accepted number, but there is variation in the prevalence of epilepsy in autistic individuals. Citing Rossi et al. (1995), Tuchman and Rapin (2002), and Danielsson et al.(2005), Levisohn (2007) notes that the "prevalence of epilepsy in children with autism is striking—5–38% of children with autism have comorbid epilepsy" (p. 33).

Chun Wong asserts (with no sources, so no way to assess his accuracy): "In a child with Autism, who has normal intelligence and no other apparent mental condition or family history of seizures, the chance of them developing seizures is less than 10%. However, if the Autistic child has mental retardation or severe motor deficit, the risk rises to 50%."

Okay, so not too far off as it relates to the individuals who don't have accompanying ID:  Levisohn writes: "In children with autism without mental retardation or cerebral palsy, the risk of epilepsy is low with a cumulative probability of 2% by 5 years and 8% at 10 years. If there is comorbid severe mental retardation, the probability is 7% at 1 year, 16% at 5 years, and 27% at 10 years. In the presence of both mental retardation and cerebral palsy, the risk rises to 20% at 1 year,35% by 5 years, and 67% at 10 years (Tuchmann & Rapin, 2002). Epilepsy persists in the majority of patients into adult life with remission in only 16% of adults with autism and epilepsy (Danielsson et al., 2005)" (p. 34). Maybe he's just hedging it on the 50% number, deciding a ballpark figure is close enough, you know, like saying you're a doctor, letting folks think you mean MD, when what you mean is a woo-meister.

This doesn't tell you why, though, epilepsy and autism are found at greater rates than epilepsy is in the general population ("0.5-2%"). In fact, the whole post is without much substance. How should you treat epilepsy, Wong's closing paragraph?: "It’s very important that the type of seizure, whether or not its epilepsy, and the underlying cause of the seizures is studied as to provide the appropriate medication." Okay, honestly, this doesn't make a lot of sense, but the one thing you can rest assured of is that Wong can't prescribe the medication. Why? Because he is not a doctor.


References
Levisohn, P. (2007). The autism-epilepsy connection. Epilepsia (Series 4), 4833-35. doi:10.1111/j.1528-1167.2007.01399.x.


*I will note for the record that Wong is licensed as a chiropractic physician in Illinois. Perhaps, Wong might want to amend his pronouncements that he is a practicing physician and doctor to reflect that he is a practicing chiropractic doctor, though? That way the woo is upfront and center and there is no appearance of intent to deceive.

4 comments:

Emily said...

I've seen this guy before. I thought his stuff was so risible that no one could possibly take it seriously. And I wonder if Autism Speaks approves of his co-opting their puzzle piece for use on his Website: http://www.newautismcure.com/

This "Naturopath, Chiropractic Internist and a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine" is someone I've used previously as a fine example of a practitioner of pseudoscience. His "About" page alone hits all the high notes for the criteria, but my fave is this one: "It’s a new and incredibly simple '3-step' autism revelation that is easy to use and is giving autistic kids their lives back with many 'miraculous' results."

In other words, he's the Jesus of autism...and it'll only take ya three steps!

kathleen said...

hahahaha I like "The Jesus of Autism" how about Jesus of Naturopath? This man is a menace..and I find it astounding that anyone would buy into his woo pitch and sheer arrogance..but apparently they do. I will say this-he sure does know how to market himself..

Corina Becker said...

Been wondering; if he or anyone else tries pass themselves as a doctor, calls themselves a doctor and generally tries to act like a doctor, and isn't a doctor, can't they be charged for it?

Sullivan said...

He's a naturopath and chiropractor.


http://www.autismwebsite.com/practitioners/us/Chun_Wong,_ND,_DC.htm


Heck, he's a "chiropractic internist".

That's good enough for me! Why use someone trained in toxicology when you can have a chiropractor diagnose and treat your child with "supplements" like OSR #1?

Sarcasm aside--the sad thing is that this sales pitch works.