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Milestones 2nd ed Cases Autism epidemic
John W. Oller, Jr., Ph.D.
Professor of Communicative Disorders*
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
P. O. Box 43170
Lafayette, LA 70504-3170

John W. Oller, Jr. holds a PhD in General Linguistics from the University of Rochester, New York. He was accelerated to tenure and the Associate Professorship at UCLA within two years of completing his PhD. From 2004 until 2013 he held the Doris B. Hawthorne/Board of Regents Support Fund Professor IV at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Oller designed and founded the PhD in Applied Language and Speech Sciences at UL in 2001 with core requirements in theoretical semiotics; was one of “100 Stars” honored at the Fresno City College Centennial in 2010; received the MLA Mildenberger Medal in 1984; and his former doctoral students occupy positions of distinction at universities in California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas as well as Thailand, Korea, Japan, and Germany.

What Causes Communication Disorders, Diseases, and Mortality?

Here is the key to answering that question: true representations correctly understood are just as necessary to health and well-being as they are to ordinary language acquisition and successful communication. They are absolutely foundational.Theoretical work (see Entropy 2010) backed by sound research in mathematics, physics, biochemistry, immunology, toxicology, the neurosciences, and linguistics (see Biosemiotic Entropy 2012-2013) shows that the success of social interactions as well as the biological communications on which health in general depends all require connecting abstract symbols with their intended meanings. Ultimately those meanings are grounded in material bodily objects.

What is Ordinary Truth?

As explained in the general theory of signs (Discourse Processes 2005, 40.2, 115-144), valid connections between representations and the facts they purport to be about are what is meant by ordinary "true" reports, faithful descriptions, kept promises, and the like. As Donald Davidson (1996, Journal of Philosophy, 93, 263-278) explained in a famous paper about "truth", if Brutus killed Caesar, then saying that Brutus did so, is telling the truth. True connections require pragmatic mapping of referring terms and phrases in the right sequence and in dynamic stereoscopic arrangements that fit the facts in a timely manner. In biological systems, toxins, disease agents, radiant injuries, and their interactions disrupt biological control systems. In biology, as in all ordinary communications, like an upright posture or a plomb wall, true representations work better than ones that are out of kelter. Distorted, imperfect, incomplete representations (errors, lies, and nonsense mistaken for true representations of facts) especially in biology, lead to breakdowns, disorders, diseases, and ultimately to death. On a happier note, sound theory, careful research, and clinical results show that certain toxic exposures and manufactured pathogens need to be avoided. Also, there are natural antioxidants such as astaxanthin and other phytochemicals that can help to cleanse the body of toxins and keep the immune systems tuned up. By avoiding unnecessary injurious exposures, eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sunshine, rest, and regular vigorous exercise, it is possible to maintain or even restore health and prevent many disorders, diseases, and untimely fatalities. By contrast, corrupted representations, from genes upward through the central nervous system and beyond in social relationships, tend toward undesirable results.

Milestones, Cases, and Autism

Oller is the principal author of Milestones: Normal Speech and Language Development Across the Life Span (Plural Publishing, 2014 2nd edition).Cases: Introducing Communication Disorders Across the Life Span (Plural Publishing, 2010), Autism: the Diagnosis, Treatment, & Etiology of the Undeniable Epidemic (Jones & Bartlett parent company to Allied Health, 2010); and Images that Work: Creating Successful Messages in Marketing and High Stakes Communication (Quorum, 1999). One of the predictions and findings of the Milestones project is the fact that child development from conception forward progresses more rapidly, consciously, and with greater intellectual capacity and more intense interest in language than prior theoreticians thought possible. Among the breakthroughs documented in Milestones is the practical clinical demonstration that human infants are already engaged in language learning before they are born and that they can learn to comprehend many words, both spoken (Bergelson & Swingley, 2012, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109.9, 3253-3258) and written (Robert C. Titzer, 2005-2013) before they can say a single word intelligibly. It was argued years earlier by Stephen D. Krashen (1985, Input Hypothesis) that comprehension must precede the production of meaningful words in any language and the Milestones project (2006-2014; and prior works) spelled out the steps of the process of abstraction in greater detail. The theory of abstraction, in particular, showed how and why comprehension is easier and generally precedes production. In the early stages of first language development it must do so for reasons that are plainly spelled out in the theory. Also, as shown in the attached video, compliments of Robert C. Titzer and Chad Murdock (award winning videographer, television producer, and documentary journalist extraordinaire), we now have irrefutable evidence available to all the world showing that babies can learn to read earlier than most of us dared to dream.

Current Writing & Research:

For some of the findings of recent work in communication disorders, click here. Complex valid pragmatic mappings are found in true narrative reports about ordinary facts of common experience. Similarly valid and complex pragmatic mapping relations are found in genetics and epigenetics upward through all of our biochemistry ranging from cells to tissues, organs, organisms, and extending as well to communications between persons, as well as social, economic, and political entities (nations). The simplest pragmatic mapping relations are seen in conventional names or referring terms correctly applied and understood. Because of what are known as "combinatorial explosions" as the number of signs and the length of strings increases from infancy to maturity, the likelihood of our agreement by chance on any particular fact rapidly diminishes toward a vanishing point. The question then, is how can any unity of understanding ever be achieved? That seems to me to be the central mystery of human intelligence.

Oller, J. W., Jr., & Oller, S. D. (2010). Autism: The diagnosis, treatment, & etiology of the undeniable epidemic. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Anne Dachel at Age of Autism in her review says:

"The Ollers’ book is a complete reference book on autism. It’s about the history of the disorder, the exponential increase, and the actions of all of those who should have been first responders to the epidemic.... AUTISM by John and Stephen Oller is the textbook on autism."

The upsurge in autism spectrum disorders is not uncaused. The current epidemic is no longer plausibly deniable nor is it untreatable. The first step towared successful treatment, however, is an accurate diagnosis followed by discovery of the underlying causes — etiology. This book, with a Foreword written by Dr. Andrew J. Wakefield, addresses these issues with its primary focus on etiology. The research shows “autism spectrum” disorders are being caused mainly by toxins, disease agents, and their interactions. Genetic factors are important but cannot be the sole causal agents. This book addresses causation at an introductory level but without skimping on the research. It presents many new findings from current ongoing research and from the historical study of vaccines. Autism is a compelling subject of study because it is the fastest growing diagnosis on the horizon. The autism epidemic is, for reasons we develop in the book, bringing about a paradigm shift in medicine and the health sciences. Theories of increased public awareness, the broadening of criteria for diagnosis, and various other competitors utterly fail to explain the facts at hand. The “autis m epidemic” is not an illusion (see http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/10/prweb2997944.htm).

Relevant studies of biochemistry, especially in human and animal toxicology studies and in systematic research on medical interventions, show what the main causal factors are and how they can be corrected. In this book, we present and explain the healing cycle that has worked in hundreds of cases and that needs to be applied in one way or another to all of them. Health is not the great mystery that some seem to pretend that it is: we need to avoid toxins, consume a nutritious diet, rest well regularly, and exercise vigorously. Beyond that we may also need to fight off or counter attack disease agents, parasites, and fungi, and possibly even to chemically remove toxins already consumed. All the while we need to monitor progress with reasonable and valid measurement and assessment procedures. Communication is critical from top to bottom. We show why and we describe the basis for the paradigm shift in the health sciences that is already underway. As independent researchers, we aim to contribute to the needed changes that must take place from the grass roots upward.

Oller, J. W., Jr., Oller, S. D., & Badon, L. C. (2010). Cases: Introducing communication disorders across the life span. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc. This book reclassifies communication disorders across the board within the framework of a general theory of signs. It accomplishes at an introductory level what some said was too difficult for Ph.D. level students in communication disorders. Well, it's not too difficult at all and certainly not too hard for undergraduate students to understand and use. We show why the reclassification is necessary and we illustrate it in a narrative way with real life cases that rivet attention and motivate comprehension. The coverage is encyclopedic and yet students want to know more and more. It's the entry point for many professionals who will learn more as they work through this material than any of the practitioners trained at graduate levels in prior years. No brag, just fact. The research here is cutting edge and the theory is consistent, simple, and comprehensive. The real life stories are true and presented in ways that will make you laugh, cry, and want to do something about the disorders that you experience through the cases. Click here to read what users are saying about this book.

Oller, J. W., Jr. & Chen, Liang. (2007). Episodic organization in discourse and valid measurement in the sciences. Journal of Quantitative Linguistics, 14, 127-144. This paper sums up logicomathematical arguments and empirical research showing why piecemeal approaches to language analysis and to any kind of measurement in the sciences, approaches that neglect a dynamic and integrative systems account, are certain to fail. They are doomed to an incompleteness that cannot be remedied without taking abstract discursive phenomena and interactions at a distance into account. This same point applies in biochemistry and genetics as strongly as it does in logic and linguistics. The implications for measurement theory are completely general and the logicomathematical basis, we believe, will stand the closest scrutiny.

Oller, J. W., Jr., Oller, S. D., & Badon, L. C. (2006). Milestones: Normal speech and language development across the life span. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc. (Click here to see what our students are saying about this book. This text contains theoretical and empirical advances that are presented coherently at an introductory level here. It provides a solid, necessary, foundation for understanding communication disorders. It is grounded in empirical research and sustained by a logical and factual presentation of the normal sequence of steps requisite to developing the whole sign hierarchy from sensation, to movement, to language and to all that language makes accessible in human experience, communication, and understanding. It shows how the human language capacity is normally fleshed out and why it is crucial to the full development of so-called "nonverbal" abilities as well as the kinds of intelligence and creative expression that are distinctly social and human.

Logo for Bentham ScienceOller is a reader and/or serves on the editorial board for Pediatrics, The Open Applied Linguistics Journal (a Bentham Science publication), Language Testing, Language Speech and Hearing Services in Schools, Journal of Communication Disorders, Deaf Studies & Hearing Aids, National Asscociation of Bilingual Education (NABE) Journal of Research and Practice, International Journal of Linguistics, International Journal of Language Studies, Entropy, and others.

Autism Research Grants

Oller was the principal organizer of Autism07 held at the UL Lafayette Cajundome Convention Center April 12-14, 2007. Click here to see what participants from all categories had to say about that conference. A grant for this purpose of $30,000 from Sertoma Club of Lafayette was funded in spring 2006 to organize the Sertoma International Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders (Autism07) matched in part by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette ($2,000) and the Tourism Bureau of Lafayette ($1,000) in addition to contributions from numerous other persons (click here to see a complete list of contributors). Clearly, toxicity from pesticides, disease agents, medicines, and dentistry in particular certainly are among the causal factors for the present autism epidemic. The JAMA defense of mercury in dental amalgam for children notwithstanding. If mercury is not safe to hold in your hand, or to include in topical disinfectants, is it safe to wear in your mouth or put in living tissues? The interactions between toxins and disease agents are causal elements in the various epidemics of chronic diseases including autism. (See the book on Autism cited above.)

Matching grant of $17,260 from Sertoma International and the Sertoma Club of Lafayette to conduct research on medical protocols for the treatment of autism spectrum disorders (funded April 2007).


CODI 601 is the foundational course for the ALSS PhD Program as approved by the Board of Regents of the State of Louisiana based on the document presented by Oller and approved in June 2001; can be offered on distinct topics as well.

CODI 612 (formerly CODI 602) is an advanced course on the causation, diagnosis, and treatment of communication disorders.

CODI 118 is an introduction to communication disorders based on Cases: Introducing communication disorders across the life span. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc.

CODI 219 is an introduction to anatomy and physiology with emphasis on current theory and research concerning toxins, disease agents, and other sources of injury leading to known communication disorders and related disease conditions.

CODI 274 is an introduction to normal speech and language development based on Milestones: Normal speech and language development across the life span. San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc.

CODI 497/590 seminar in autism spectrum disorders dealing with diagnosis, treatment, and the etiology of the current epidemic.

UNIV 100 is a how-to course introducing incoming undergraduates to university life, the benefits of higher education and responsible citizenship.

Other Grants

The Departmental Excellence through Faculty Excellence was awarded to Oller and funded in June, 2000 at $75,880 from the State of Louisiana and was supplemented by $4,120 of matching funds from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for a total of $80,000 per year in perpetuity for the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. So far this grant has generated $1.2 million in revenue to the Department of Communicative Disorders at UL Lafayette from the Louisiana Board of Regents and then Governor of Louisiana, Mike Foster.

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Updated May 7, 2014