“The whole thing really erupted three years ago during the polar vortex, when she would sit in the car and insist that she tap her car-seat straps together three times,” says Halladay Ross. “If that didn’t happen, all hell would break loose—which would have been OK during the summer, but my other daughter was freezing and so was I.”
In January 2005, Wakefield sued Channel 4, 20/20 Productions, and the investigative reporter Brian Deer, who presented the Dispatches programme. However, after two years of litigation, and the revelation of more than £400,000 in undisclosed payments by lawyers to Wakefield, he discontinued his action and paid all the defendants' costs.
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They and many others say that these sorts of definitional and measurement problems may mask regression’s true prevalence. Regression may be the norm in children with autism, says Campbell, professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky. “I think you have operational definitional problems. You have measurement problems. And the phenomenon itself is difficult,” he says. “[Regression] might be part of a larger, normal development process. Maybe it’s not specific to autism; maybe there are more kids that go through losses and delays and spurts.”