What Every Behavior Analyst Should Know About the "MMR Causes Autism" Hypothesis

Behav Anal Pract. Spring 2010;3(1):46-50. doi: 10.1007/BF03391757.


In 1998, the English physician Andrew Wakefield suggested that the MMR vaccine insults the guts of children who then regress developmentally and become autistic. Although his research did not provide firm evidence for this hypothesis, many believe that (a) the MMR vaccine can cause autism; (b) children with autism typically have gastrointestinal problems; and, (c) a necessary component of treating autism is "treating the gut" through dietary restrictions. Research has subsequently shown that Wakefield's hypothesis is unquestionably false, children with autism are not more likely to have gastrointestinal problems, and there is no sound evidence that diets are a valid treatment for autism. This paper will critically review these topics.

Keywords: Andrew Wakefield; MMR vaccine; autism; vaccines.