Higher autism rates? Awareness can't be the only reason

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  October 6, 2009 09:16 PM

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

A Department of Health and Human Services report released Monday says that the autism rate in the U.S. is higher than previously believed -- about 1 in 100 children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the report says, up from the previous estimate of 1 in 150.

The details are even more troubling: The report, which appeared in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal, Pediatrics, shows that while the 1 in 91 children are on the autism spectrum, the rate for boys is a startling 1 in 58.

Why the sudden uptick, especially given that the rate was just raised to 1 in 150 earlier this year?

"Increased awareness" is the easy answer. A generation ago, a child with autism would simply have been labeled "difficult" or "quirky," but we have a better idea now of what to look for (and how to help). Another possibility: The autism spectrum itself has grown to include things like Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, and the all-encompassing PDD-NOS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Whatever the reason, the results of the study, culled from the responses of more than 78,000 parents, can't be ignored.

(Back in April, I wrote a four-part series on autism as part of Autism Awareness month -- you can read them all here. )

No one really knows what causes autism. A recent article in Science Direct indicates that children living near toxic waste seem more likely to have autism. Though the link between Thimerosal and autism has not been scientifically and definitively proven, many people still support the theory, citing anecdotal evidence that the mercury-laced preservative triggers a toxic tipping point, damaging the immune system. Others believe that a toxic synergy is to blame; many of the studies disproving the Thimerosal/autism issue do not explore the effect of multiple vaccines administered simultaneously, and many of the "harmless" chemicals and additives in everyday food and consumer products become toxic when heated or combined. (Randall Fitzgerald's book, The Hundred-Year Lie: How Food and Medicine are Destroying Your Health, does a great job of explaining the concept.)

Children who were extremely premature are thought to be at higher risk for autism. In 2008, some studies showed a possible link between autism and certain metabolic diseases. And of course, there's the genetic link: “Autism is probably caused by many, many things, most of them genetic, and this is one of them,” mitochondrial expert Salvatore DiMauro of Columbia University and the author of a study of autistic individuals with mitochondrial disease, tells the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative.

In spite of not knowing the cause, and in spite of not having a cure, a device has hit the market that claims to offer parents a way to detect autism in their child early on. The LENA Language and Autism Screen is raising red flags in the medical community. The device analyzes speech patterns in 2- to 4-year-olds, but not all children with speech problems are autistic. And, as Dr. Susan Anderson, director of the Autism Clinic at the University of Virginia Children's Hospital, told ABC, autism "is also a disorder of non-verbal communication, a disorder of social development (including play skills) and interactional skills, and a disorder which includes atypical behaviors. Any means of screening for autism needs to include all of these measures."

Our 11-year-old son is on the spectrum and I'll admit that, after his diagnosis with Asperger's Syndrome more than five years ago, there was a point where I felt like I was seeing signs of autistic behavior in nearly everyone I met. According to the study in Pediatrics, "Nearly 40 percent of those ever diagnosed with ASD did not currently have the condition." Does that mean that Autism Spectrum Disorders fade away with time? Or that maybe more kids are being misdiagnosed with ASD in an attempt to explain their not-quite-perfect behavior?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

28 comments so far...
  1. Nobody knows how much autism (or other epidemic chronic disorders of childhood) are caused by vaccines because the Government refuses to fund a study of the health of unvaccinated children, preferring a policy of "deliberate ignorance" to coverup their inability to identify and remove the environmental triggers (most especially vaccines) in genetically "at risk" children. Recent studies continue to point to the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, a known neurotoxin, as a likely culprit. Despite a 1999 Government recommendation to remove mercury "as aoon as possible," it remains in most flu vaccines. See http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/09/blockbuster-primate-study-shows-significant-harm-from-one-birth-dose-of-a-mercurycontaining-vaccine.html. Autism was first reported in the medical literature by Leo kanner in a report of twelve cases in 1943, so of course we are facing a genuine epidemic. Denial is not an acceptable substitute for the sound science we need to prevent and treat autism.

    Posted by Aslan October 7, 09 02:20 AM
  1. The crazy theory that vaccinations cause autism has been totally DISPROVEN! You are not keeping up with the research, probably because you want to believe that there is a link. The cause of autism is genetic, I believe, and that will be proven soon by research.

    With all due respect, Deb, I don't think you read this post properly. I wrote that the vaccine-autism link has not been scientifically proven, but many people support the theory anyway. I also wrote that some studies show that vaccines can cause autism-like symptoms among people with certain other disorders.I agree that the cause is probably genetic, and hope that will be proven soon, but even so, any number of non-genetic issues could still trigger the genetic problem. If you have Celiac, but have never eaten gluten, you won't have symptoms until gluten enters your system -- and even then, the symptoms could be so mild that you don't really notice them until you've sustained damage from eating gluen for years. It's entirely possible that genes "load the gun" when it comes to autism, but something else -- toxicity, environment, other illnesses -- pulls the trigger. -LMA

    Posted by DLH October 7, 09 08:30 AM
  1. I firmly believe that many children are being misdiagnosed. I agree with the comment that you can see a symptom of autism in lots of people but they don't have it. I also think that people who read an article on autism have tendencies to think they are experts on that matter. they are not qualified to diagnose. Also more and more doctors and specialists are willing to give autism diagnosis to people in order to allow the parents to benefit from services the states offer. I can say for fact that it does happen quite more than anyone will admit to. That is a horrible thing to do to a child.. but it happens...but that is another story.

    Posted by jadee October 7, 09 08:45 AM
  1. I find both above comments to be troubling. The vaccine and autism theory has by no means been dis-proven. They only thing said over and over, is that the theory is not proven, although it is supported by a volumes of independent research, that only those with real incentive, such as research interest, or those who have a child with autism will take the interest to read. Reading a couple of bias articles mustered up through a partnership between CDC and the vaccine manufacturers researchers, with all the conflict of interest inherent in them, shouldn't make anyone feel like an expert, or authority on this subject to make such outlandish comments.

    The idea of too frequent diagnosis, is merely an assumption too. Anyone who has taken a child for diagnosis knows that. The process is lengthy and rigorous and a child has to really exhibit a lot developmental abnormality beyond the corky child syndrome to get diagnosed. My son who later was diagnosed with moderate autistic disorder, was screened for several days between the ages 17 and 18 months by a pediatric psychologist, who ruled out autism.

    Another reality is that most parents are often (and rightfully so) are and will be for a while in so much denial that they would never take their corky child for autism screening. No parent in their sane mind would be willing to label their child needlessly and a normal child would not need services to gain normal developments such as talking.

    Finally why so much resistance to acknowledging autism alarming rise and accepting that living in a toxic soup of the current environment, eating chemical loaded food, injecting babies with load of chemicals and viral/bacterial DNA information before their immune system is mature enough to know self from non-self, can contribute to immune and central nervous system disorders. After all autism is only one of the environmental disorders on the rise. Take a look at cancer rate, allergies, asthma, lupus, fibromyaligia, MS, depression, anxiety and bipolar… and they are all on alarming rise. Time to come out of denial and do something. Denial has gotten us to nowhere.

    Posted by Haleh Niazmand October 7, 09 09:48 AM
  1. I did not know that ADD, ADHD, and other diagnoses were included in the "Autism Spectrum". (Why, I ask.)

    And since I believe that a big chunk of ADHD diagnoses are false, (it's not hyperactivity, it's poor parenting skills), I'm relieved to realize that this new 1-in-100 rate is really a bunch of krap.

    I think it does a huge disservice to terrified parents for media outlets to print this kind of headline.

    Posted by just_cos October 7, 09 09:50 AM
  1. normal children are detrimental to a drug companies profit margin.

    Posted by independent thought October 7, 09 10:18 AM
  1. I don't believe the cause for autism is genetic. I'm 57 and knew no one with autism growing up. There is an interesting article in Mother Earth News tying the honey bee colony collapse disorder to new pesticides that are being widely used.

    "The EPA identifies two specific neonicotinoids, imidacloprid and clothianidin, as highly toxic to bees. Both chemicals cause symptoms in bees such as memory loss, navigation disruption, paralysis and death."

    Obviously bees and humans are very different, but I can't imagine a persticide like this not having a detrimental effect on people. I'm trying to buy organic as much as possible.

    Posted by KCY October 7, 09 10:26 AM
  1. I have a child who is 15yrs old who is a nonspeaker and very challenged cognitively. He received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS just prior to his 3rd b-day after fighting to get the diagnosis. My son was later classified w/ classic Autism based on his history prior to 3yrs old in 2007 (age 13yrs old).
    I have worked w/ autism spectrum kiddos (apergers, pdd/nos, autism), adhd/add, fragileX, ODD, OCD, and genetic disorders for over 10yrs. In 1997, there were not kiddos like mine( who were so cognitively challenged) walking around. We were the "rare" then! NOW- today we are the "common". The Early intervention is crucial and I believe this has been key to these kiddos being in a better place. Could you imagine where our kiddos would be w/out EI and better informed educators (I bet you would believe the rate was accurate then)? There is a range in this spectrum but there is a clear cut difference in the ADD and Aspergers/high functioning. Our kiddos often develop side by side but hit the wall in 3rd grade and middle school Experiencing clear cut difficulties &differences. ADD kiddos are often facing more attention/academic related difficulties were our Aspie kiddos are facing more of the social/nonverbal components NOT so much the academic difficulties unless they struggle w/ underlying scanning and OT concerns.
    Yes- some of the high functioning kiddos would have slipped through the cracks in 1997 or 2007 but NOT the number of kiddos now who are fully involved. I do not see these mass people out in the general public "displaying these involved autistic tendencies" (as one person implied) rather only the kiddos who have autism. I only observe staring and sometimes judgements or assumptions that parenting involvement is a compounding factor with my clients. Whether you want to believe in the increase or not- the FACT still lies we have more kiddos today that have developmental issues then we ever did before. OBTW- after reading the CDC report- it was my understanding that the rate was counted on 8year olds not Early Intervention aged. We need to stop focusing on the label,but recognize the fact our kiddos are struggling and impacted more developmentally then ever before. WE must ask the questions WHY???!!!

    Posted by das October 7, 09 11:22 AM
  1. The reason? Junk science.

    More people are being "diagnosed" as having symptoms of autism because the term is being continually redefined to include more people, regardless of whether they are autistic or not.

    If we're not already there, I suspect we will soon be at the point where every MIT and Berklee student can be diagnosed as being autistic simply because they have some unusually strong skill.

    Posted by Mr. Skeptic October 7, 09 12:29 PM
  1. Please follow this hypothesis:
    Plastic is the cause of the rapid rise in autism.
    The human brain works primarily by electrical energy. Plastic is an excellent insulator. Plastics photo-degrade; they get smaller but remain as plastic. During the time of fetal neural development, at the moment that the nerves should make connection, they are blocked from doing so by a piece of plastic. I believe the autistic mind produces the same amount of electrical energy and that energy has fewer areas of diffusion. This is evidenced by the heightening the various senses experienced by the autistic individual. Note the rapid rise in autism in the last twenty years and consider the time it would take for the plastics to infiltrate our ecosystem or the direct ingestion of photo-degraded liquid by pregnant women.
    I am aware of how much is said about the effects of plastic but I have never heard of it in the above context; that the plastic itself is acting as insulating particles in the electrically based environment of a developing fetus’s brain resulting in neural dysfunction…as if there was a small piece of plastic blocking the neurons from connecting.
    The easiest way to see this is to take a plastic bottle of drinking water and freeze it. Let it thaw and sit. Turn it upside down, turn it into the light and see the shiny plastic particles descend in the water that you are about to drink. These larger pieces will be filtered out, but what about the particles from this source and the rest of the environment?
    I believe that this hypothesis bears investigation.

    Posted by Barry Morse October 7, 09 01:36 PM
  1. I think at some point a more specific defination of autism needs to be used. If you keep adding people to the spectrum eventually the spectrum means nothing and kids who are actually suffering are lost. I feel this way about ADD/ADHD. I'm quite certain it is a true disease but you lump everyone in who isn't paying attention and soon no one believes the diagnosis.

    As far as not seeing people with Autism when I was a child and seeing it often now, that is definately not my experience. I know 2 children who have autism today. Growing up there were 2 kids in my grade (a very small school) who I'm quite sure would be labeled with Autism but at the time we called them "mentally retarded" for lack of any other description.

    At least in my very limited view (2 kids in public school, full-time employee, aunt, neighbor) I don't see this mass influx of autistic children. I feel for the kids and families who have it and I hope both a cause and "cure" come but I think we do a disservice by constantly adding people to the pool and making the pool meaningless.


    Posted by J October 7, 09 01:49 PM
  1. Check out the google search terms: msg autism. Very interesting reading! (I'm a Qualified Autism "Anecdotal Evidence" Scientist...ie a parent of an autistic 6yro boy whos tried MHBOT @ 1.3ATA/70% O2, gfcf diet (works for us), DMG, B6+Magnesium, antifungal (unfortunately works too too well), horse back riding, ABA (works), insideout backwards one piece zippered pajamas with a life jacket over it (no more poop all over his bedroom! and he likes the deep pressure of the life jacket...wish I knew this one years ago), amino acids that make up glutathione, PCM, respite (most wonderful that respite), and purple people eater swing (OMG its wonderful!).

    Posted by David Officer October 7, 09 04:00 PM
  1. My child was diagnosed with sever autism. she flaps her hands, has a good memory , problems with loud noises and communication.

    I have met a lot of kids that are called autistic and most of them don't seem to be the same as her, although they all had disabilities.

    If nothing else it seems to me it will get in the way of proper treatment. Not that my child has ever gotten anything treatment from anyone other than privately contracted providers.

    Posted by john spooner October 7, 09 04:25 PM
  1. Why people are so blind to this alarming rise.

    Just ask you local school board, ask the teachers. The number is so high not only for aspergers, pdd-nos but so many kids nonverbal autistics. Just go to your local school. This was not the case 20-30 years ago, regardless of autism criteria or that of better diagnosis.

    What is happening. Could this be incompetence of CDC? Why wait so long?

    Posted by raymon October 7, 09 09:40 PM
  1. I think Barry Morse's comment was very interesting. In thinking about what are the biggest changes from when I grew up to today, one of the answers is food. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, there was very little takeout food, and food storage was mostly glass/pyrex or waxed paper. Precooked dinners were sold in foil packages and heated in the oven. Baby bottles were glass.

    When you start thinking about how the above has replaced by various kinds of plastic, combined with microwave heating, it seems that this is a valid place for more investigating.

    Posted by just_cos October 8, 09 09:40 AM
  1. Nutritional deficiencies due to celiac disease can mimic autism. Read this article to learn about a 5 yr old boy, diagnosed with severe autism by an autism specialty clinic who made a full recovery when the true diagnosis of celiac disease was made and his nutritional deficiencies were corrected. He recovered because he never had autism. http://blog.glutenfreeworks.com/2009/08/06/can-celiac-disease-be-mistaken-as-autism-a-boy-whose-%e2%80%9cautism%e2%80%9d-was-cured/
    When the brain does not receive the nutrients it needs, malfunction occurs. I'm not saying all children with autism have celiac disease or that gluten causes autism in all children, but if a child is misdiagnosed, and celiac disease is the true cause, then recovery is possible. The article also includes videos of a boy who recovered from a seizure disorder when he was correctly diagnosed with celiac disease. FYI, doctors do not look for celiac disease in children who do not have gastrointestinal issues, yet 50% of people with celiac disease exhibit some kind of neurological problem at diagnosis.

    Posted by John October 8, 09 10:12 AM
  1. Increased awareness is definitely an easy answer to why these rates have grown so much. These new findings seem to only raise more questions then they do provide answers. http://www.newsy.com/videos/autism_on_the_rise

    Posted by Annie October 8, 09 03:31 PM
  1. "Or that maybe more kids are being misdiagnosed with ASD in an attempt to explain their not-quite-perfect behavior?"

    Ignorance is no excuse, this is extremely hateful and you should apologize. It is this sort of ignorance that is causing the numbers to climb and the kind of hate that bullies our kids on playgrounds. Autism is like diabetes or cancer, you either have it or you don't.

    Thanks for your comment, bensmyson. I think you missed the part just above that sentence, when I wrote that our son has Asperger's, which is an ASD. And people are misdianosed with diabetes and sometimes with cancer as well -- a diagnosis isn't always accurate. The sentence that offended you is questioning a statistic pulled from the study; the link to the study itself, and the stat, is in my post. Please consider taking the time to read it. -- LMA

    Posted by bensmyson October 8, 09 03:54 PM
  1. For a good wrap up of other news media coverage on this very issue you may want to check out this video
    http://www.newsy.com/videos/autism_on_the_rise
    It brings up some of the points you do in your article, and mentioned in the comment section. May help some of you find a new perspective- or maybe solidify the one you already have. Just throwing it out there.

    Posted by AshleyAnne October 9, 09 01:38 PM
  1. The DSM criteria set to diagnose autism is clear as day. I'm not a physician but I easily saw that my daughter had autism by looking at it and she was only 1. She developed even more symptoms after she was diagnosed. I can't imagine any physician misdiagnosing a child.

    In addition, I think when "not-quite-perfect behavior" is used it strikes a nerve. As you should know, it is wayyyyy more complex than not-quite-perfect behavior. I would give anything to hear my daughter greet me at the door when I walk in or let me rock her or kiss her. I also think most of us parents try to help our children live in our world through therapies, etc. but I don't think ASD just "fade away with time". They just adapt better.


    Posted by jmh112070 October 9, 09 02:02 PM
  1. 1 - "mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, a known neurotoxin,"
    Thimerosal is a compound of ethyl mercury, which is NOT a neurotoxin or known to cause damage. It is water soluble and is excreted rapidly. Methyl mercury is fat soluble, remains in the body's fatty tissues and does damage human cells.
    Kanner 'discovered' autism by studying a group of patients. Asperger did the same, but it is naive to think they were the only ones. Just those who were seen by those doctors.

    4 - "The vaccine and autism theory has by no means been dis-proven."

    Actually the mercury connection has, but it is possible that the vaccines are triggering immune system responses which attack the brain. There are many who have their own agenda who focused on mercury and ignore the facts.

    "My son who later was diagnosed with moderate autistic disorder, was screened for several days between the ages 17 and 18 months by a pediatric psychologist, who ruled out autism."

    There are many variants on the spectrum and just having a title does not make anyone a diagnostician. If they graduated Med School before 1994, they were not taught about many of the conditions and identifying ASD at 18 mos is not easy.

    "Another reality is that most parents are often (and rightfully so) are and will be for a while in so much denial that they would never take their corky child for autism screening. No parent in their sane mind would be willing to label their child needlessly and a normal child would not need services to gain normal developments such as talking."

    Some may pretend there is nothing wrong, but most parents recognize the difference and seek help. There are others who see the services and don't their child to miss out. Sane or not, they want what's best for their child.

    "Finally why so much resistance to acknowledging autism alarming rise. Take a look at cancer rate, allergies, asthma, lupus, fibromyaligia, MS, depression, anxiety and bipolar… and they are all on alarming rise."

    All of those college grads we're pumping out have to do something. Show them the signs of Autism, they identify autism. Send them into the jungle and they find new species of plants and animals. They can't all be lawyers.

    7 - "I'm 57 and knew no one with autism growing up."

    There was nobody with AUTISM when we were growing up. Asperger and Kanner identified populations with the conditions they defined, but their observations weren't included in the DSM-IV or taught to med students until 1994.

    8 - "I have a child who is 15yrs old who is a nonspeaker and very challenged cognitively. Could you imagine where our kiddos would be w/out EI and better informed educators?"

    In psychiatric hospitals with the DX of Severely Retarded, as they were before the vogue changed to FAPE.

    10 - "Plastic is the cause of the rapid rise in autism."

    Plastics weren't around until after WWII. Einstein, Michelangelo, Newton and many others who lived before the age of plastics have been forensically analyzed to have been on the spectrum.

    19 - "I can't imagine any physician misdiagnosing a child."

    Really? The ones who began practicing before 1994 may have read a few articles and the newer ones may have missed that lecture or were too strung out, so they try to DX so they don't lose business.

    "I don't think ASD just "fade away with time". They just adapt better."

    It's both. Research has found that ASDs have pervasive developmental delays in certain areas of their brains - particularly those parts which control their social, life and executive functioning skills - that mature at 2/3 the rate of their chronological age. With training, they can develop coping mechanisms to hold them over until their brains mature. By 30, their delays allow them the ability to function as a 20 yo, which is close enough to adult that the differences are not as noticeable.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    According to the study in Pediatrics, "Nearly 40 percent of those ever diagnosed with ASD did not currently have the condition."

    It would be interesting to see the data in the study to see how they arrived at that conclusion and to see what the statement really means. Are they suggesting the diagnoses were wrong and the people were never on the spectrum or that they were correctly dxed, but have recovered or learned to overcome and can't qualify for a dx now? The DSM asks if the patient CAN, IS ABLE and other questions in the present tense, not were they, could they, etc., so they could have been properly diagnosed and have progressed to where the dx no longer fits. They will always be autistic, but they have learned to adapt.

    Posted by EduAdvoctor October 9, 09 09:45 PM
  1. Nobody has been talking about the connection between the increased proportions of older fathers (meaning over 40) and the increase of ASD. Sperm that look fine under low magnification can have defects at the DNA level. It's a fact of life, always has been, that DNA defects increase with the age of the animal (this also goes for parrots, elephants, primates...anything that lives more than 40 years). I sure hope that medical people can use common sense in cases where this should be considered.

    And FYI ALL MERCURY COMPOUNDS ARE TOXIC. PERIOD.

    Posted by Irene October 10, 09 12:25 PM
  1. Check out this from the front page of the Atlantic this week:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200910u/autism-diagnoses

    Posted by Erik October 10, 09 04:35 PM
  1. ADD and ADHD are not included in the Autism Spectrum. Criteria for diagnosis of Autism has not changed since 1994. This is just a way to sweep it under the carpet. TannersDad Tim Welsh Autism Advocate

    Posted by Tim Welsh October 11, 09 12:15 PM
  1. I believe that when a parent goes to a doctor to find out if their child has autism, they shouldn't sit there and cry. I have an autistic brother, and when we found out, it wasn't a big scene. I believe that God had a reason to make all people the way they are, so we need not try to fix it -- it is just how it is. I read a lot of the comments and it seems as though everyone is depending on doctors to change the world and let me tell you: "IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN" -- coming from an 18-year-old since 10-07-09 a senior in high school.

    Posted by Shareka Neal October 12, 09 09:17 PM
  1. Thimerosal removed from childhood vaccinations by 2001. No effect on rate of increase in ASD diagnoses.

    Thanks for commenting Sandy. According to the FDA, in 2001 Thimerosal was removed from or reduced to "trace" amounts in all newly manufactured vaccines recommended for children age 6 and younger, except for the inactivated influenza vaccine -- here's the link: http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/vaccines/QuestionsaboutVaccines/ucm070430.htm

    While most children's vaccines manufactured after 2001 have little or no thimerosal, doctors were allowed to use up stores of thimerosal-containing vaccines manufactured prior to that date, so children were still receiving vaccines with Thimerosal even after the ban. The FDA says that those vaccines "reached the end of their shelf life" by January 2003.

    You make a good point that the removal or reduction of Thimerosal hasn't stemmed the increase in the rate of autism diagnoses... -- LMA

    Posted by Sandy Chase October 19, 09 02:02 PM
  1. Hi, I do not believe that it is genetic, otherwise where are the millions of over 40's who have problems in this line??? and yes there has been the very occasional ones, but not in the millions like we have now, my husband was a principal of many schools over the years and came across his first autistic child 30 years ago, (we live in Australia)..
    I do however believe that what is in and on our food, water, air and immunisations are what is causing the destruction of our children.
    I also have read that although the removal of Thimerosal was requested that many have not done so, and there are still some types of vaccinations which still have Thimerosal in them however, there are many other toxins in immunisations which can also cause these problems, especially when they are all mixed together in one great big concoction of non other than chemicals, goodness knows that their effect are all together in some children.
    In regards to allergies of milk etc, my grandchildren are very highly allergic to milk, however they went to stay on a farm for a couple of weeks where they drank cows milk straight from the cow, and because they loved it they drank milk at every meal and inbetween times and strange, but strange, they had no problems at all, nothing..

    Posted by Gaye November 5, 09 04:10 PM
  1. GAYE -

    First there are several different types of milk. Different cows give milk with different allergy properties. It could partially be a difference in the cows. What sort of dairy cattle were they running?

    Here is Australia most of the dairy farmers use cows that live easily in the harsh Aussie climate, BUT at least to me and to my wife,k the milk tastes quite different, especially season to season as they forage in the bush. As a person who grew up in Washington state I never had any milk issues. A year after moving here I had to stop drinking the milk. Never have problems with US milk - just here. In the last few years new strains of dairy cattle have been introduced, as there is awareness of problems with the traditional strains.

    Posted by barleysinger July 2, 12 06:51 PM
 
28 comments so far...
  1. Nobody knows how much autism (or other epidemic chronic disorders of childhood) are caused by vaccines because the Government refuses to fund a study of the health of unvaccinated children, preferring a policy of "deliberate ignorance" to coverup their inability to identify and remove the environmental triggers (most especially vaccines) in genetically "at risk" children. Recent studies continue to point to the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, a known neurotoxin, as a likely culprit. Despite a 1999 Government recommendation to remove mercury "as aoon as possible," it remains in most flu vaccines. See http://www.ageofautism.com/2009/09/blockbuster-primate-study-shows-significant-harm-from-one-birth-dose-of-a-mercurycontaining-vaccine.html. Autism was first reported in the medical literature by Leo kanner in a report of twelve cases in 1943, so of course we are facing a genuine epidemic. Denial is not an acceptable substitute for the sound science we need to prevent and treat autism.

    Posted by Aslan October 7, 09 02:20 AM
  1. The crazy theory that vaccinations cause autism has been totally DISPROVEN! You are not keeping up with the research, probably because you want to believe that there is a link. The cause of autism is genetic, I believe, and that will be proven soon by research.

    With all due respect, Deb, I don't think you read this post properly. I wrote that the vaccine-autism link has not been scientifically proven, but many people support the theory anyway. I also wrote that some studies show that vaccines can cause autism-like symptoms among people with certain other disorders.I agree that the cause is probably genetic, and hope that will be proven soon, but even so, any number of non-genetic issues could still trigger the genetic problem. If you have Celiac, but have never eaten gluten, you won't have symptoms until gluten enters your system -- and even then, the symptoms could be so mild that you don't really notice them until you've sustained damage from eating gluen for years. It's entirely possible that genes "load the gun" when it comes to autism, but something else -- toxicity, environment, other illnesses -- pulls the trigger. -LMA

    Posted by DLH October 7, 09 08:30 AM
  1. I firmly believe that many children are being misdiagnosed. I agree with the comment that you can see a symptom of autism in lots of people but they don't have it. I also think that people who read an article on autism have tendencies to think they are experts on that matter. they are not qualified to diagnose. Also more and more doctors and specialists are willing to give autism diagnosis to people in order to allow the parents to benefit from services the states offer. I can say for fact that it does happen quite more than anyone will admit to. That is a horrible thing to do to a child.. but it happens...but that is another story.

    Posted by jadee October 7, 09 08:45 AM
  1. I find both above comments to be troubling. The vaccine and autism theory has by no means been dis-proven. They only thing said over and over, is that the theory is not proven, although it is supported by a volumes of independent research, that only those with real incentive, such as research interest, or those who have a child with autism will take the interest to read. Reading a couple of bias articles mustered up through a partnership between CDC and the vaccine manufacturers researchers, with all the conflict of interest inherent in them, shouldn't make anyone feel like an expert, or authority on this subject to make such outlandish comments.

    The idea of too frequent diagnosis, is merely an assumption too. Anyone who has taken a child for diagnosis knows that. The process is lengthy and rigorous and a child has to really exhibit a lot developmental abnormality beyond the corky child syndrome to get diagnosed. My son who later was diagnosed with moderate autistic disorder, was screened for several days between the ages 17 and 18 months by a pediatric psychologist, who ruled out autism.

    Another reality is that most parents are often (and rightfully so) are and will be for a while in so much denial that they would never take their corky child for autism screening. No parent in their sane mind would be willing to label their child needlessly and a normal child would not need services to gain normal developments such as talking.

    Finally why so much resistance to acknowledging autism alarming rise and accepting that living in a toxic soup of the current environment, eating chemical loaded food, injecting babies with load of chemicals and viral/bacterial DNA information before their immune system is mature enough to know self from non-self, can contribute to immune and central nervous system disorders. After all autism is only one of the environmental disorders on the rise. Take a look at cancer rate, allergies, asthma, lupus, fibromyaligia, MS, depression, anxiety and bipolar… and they are all on alarming rise. Time to come out of denial and do something. Denial has gotten us to nowhere.

    Posted by Haleh Niazmand October 7, 09 09:48 AM
  1. I did not know that ADD, ADHD, and other diagnoses were included in the "Autism Spectrum". (Why, I ask.)

    And since I believe that a big chunk of ADHD diagnoses are false, (it's not hyperactivity, it's poor parenting skills), I'm relieved to realize that this new 1-in-100 rate is really a bunch of krap.

    I think it does a huge disservice to terrified parents for media outlets to print this kind of headline.

    Posted by just_cos October 7, 09 09:50 AM
  1. normal children are detrimental to a drug companies profit margin.

    Posted by independent thought October 7, 09 10:18 AM
  1. I don't believe the cause for autism is genetic. I'm 57 and knew no one with autism growing up. There is an interesting article in Mother Earth News tying the honey bee colony collapse disorder to new pesticides that are being widely used.

    "The EPA identifies two specific neonicotinoids, imidacloprid and clothianidin, as highly toxic to bees. Both chemicals cause symptoms in bees such as memory loss, navigation disruption, paralysis and death."

    Obviously bees and humans are very different, but I can't imagine a persticide like this not having a detrimental effect on people. I'm trying to buy organic as much as possible.

    Posted by KCY October 7, 09 10:26 AM
  1. I have a child who is 15yrs old who is a nonspeaker and very challenged cognitively. He received a diagnosis of PDD-NOS just prior to his 3rd b-day after fighting to get the diagnosis. My son was later classified w/ classic Autism based on his history prior to 3yrs old in 2007 (age 13yrs old).
    I have worked w/ autism spectrum kiddos (apergers, pdd/nos, autism), adhd/add, fragileX, ODD, OCD, and genetic disorders for over 10yrs. In 1997, there were not kiddos like mine( who were so cognitively challenged) walking around. We were the "rare" then! NOW- today we are the "common". The Early intervention is crucial and I believe this has been key to these kiddos being in a better place. Could you imagine where our kiddos would be w/out EI and better informed educators (I bet you would believe the rate was accurate then)? There is a range in this spectrum but there is a clear cut difference in the ADD and Aspergers/high functioning. Our kiddos often develop side by side but hit the wall in 3rd grade and middle school Experiencing clear cut difficulties &differences. ADD kiddos are often facing more attention/academic related difficulties were our Aspie kiddos are facing more of the social/nonverbal components NOT so much the academic difficulties unless they struggle w/ underlying scanning and OT concerns.
    Yes- some of the high functioning kiddos would have slipped through the cracks in 1997 or 2007 but NOT the number of kiddos now who are fully involved. I do not see these mass people out in the general public "displaying these involved autistic tendencies" (as one person implied) rather only the kiddos who have autism. I only observe staring and sometimes judgements or assumptions that parenting involvement is a compounding factor with my clients. Whether you want to believe in the increase or not- the FACT still lies we have more kiddos today that have developmental issues then we ever did before. OBTW- after reading the CDC report- it was my understanding that the rate was counted on 8year olds not Early Intervention aged. We need to stop focusing on the label,but recognize the fact our kiddos are struggling and impacted more developmentally then ever before. WE must ask the questions WHY???!!!

    Posted by das October 7, 09 11:22 AM
  1. The reason? Junk science.

    More people are being "diagnosed" as having symptoms of autism because the term is being continually redefined to include more people, regardless of whether they are autistic or not.

    If we're not already there, I suspect we will soon be at the point where every MIT and Berklee student can be diagnosed as being autistic simply because they have some unusually strong skill.

    Posted by Mr. Skeptic October 7, 09 12:29 PM
  1. Please follow this hypothesis:
    Plastic is the cause of the rapid rise in autism.
    The human brain works primarily by electrical energy. Plastic is an excellent insulator. Plastics photo-degrade; they get smaller but remain as plastic. During the time of fetal neural development, at the moment that the nerves should make connection, they are blocked from doing so by a piece of plastic. I believe the autistic mind produces the same amount of electrical energy and that energy has fewer areas of diffusion. This is evidenced by the heightening the various senses experienced by the autistic individual. Note the rapid rise in autism in the last twenty years and consider the time it would take for the plastics to infiltrate our ecosystem or the direct ingestion of photo-degraded liquid by pregnant women.
    I am aware of how much is said about the effects of plastic but I have never heard of it in the above context; that the plastic itself is acting as insulating particles in the electrically based environment of a developing fetus’s brain resulting in neural dysfunction…as if there was a small piece of plastic blocking the neurons from connecting.
    The easiest way to see this is to take a plastic bottle of drinking water and freeze it. Let it thaw and sit. Turn it upside down, turn it into the light and see the shiny plastic particles descend in the water that you are about to drink. These larger pieces will be filtered out, but what about the particles from this source and the rest of the environment?
    I believe that this hypothesis bears investigation.

    Posted by Barry Morse October 7, 09 01:36 PM
  1. I think at some point a more specific defination of autism needs to be used. If you keep adding people to the spectrum eventually the spectrum means nothing and kids who are actually suffering are lost. I feel this way about ADD/ADHD. I'm quite certain it is a true disease but you lump everyone in who isn't paying attention and soon no one believes the diagnosis.

    As far as not seeing people with Autism when I was a child and seeing it often now, that is definately not my experience. I know 2 children who have autism today. Growing up there were 2 kids in my grade (a very small school) who I'm quite sure would be labeled with Autism but at the time we called them "mentally retarded" for lack of any other description.

    At least in my very limited view (2 kids in public school, full-time employee, aunt, neighbor) I don't see this mass influx of autistic children. I feel for the kids and families who have it and I hope both a cause and "cure" come but I think we do a disservice by constantly adding people to the pool and making the pool meaningless.


    Posted by J October 7, 09 01:49 PM
  1. Check out the google search terms: msg autism. Very interesting reading! (I'm a Qualified Autism "Anecdotal Evidence" Scientist...ie a parent of an autistic 6yro boy whos tried MHBOT @ 1.3ATA/70% O2, gfcf diet (works for us), DMG, B6+Magnesium, antifungal (unfortunately works too too well), horse back riding, ABA (works), insideout backwards one piece zippered pajamas with a life jacket over it (no more poop all over his bedroom! and he likes the deep pressure of the life jacket...wish I knew this one years ago), amino acids that make up glutathione, PCM, respite (most wonderful that respite), and purple people eater swing (OMG its wonderful!).

    Posted by David Officer October 7, 09 04:00 PM
  1. My child was diagnosed with sever autism. she flaps her hands, has a good memory , problems with loud noises and communication.

    I have met a lot of kids that are called autistic and most of them don't seem to be the same as her, although they all had disabilities.

    If nothing else it seems to me it will get in the way of proper treatment. Not that my child has ever gotten anything treatment from anyone other than privately contracted providers.

    Posted by john spooner October 7, 09 04:25 PM
  1. Why people are so blind to this alarming rise.

    Just ask you local school board, ask the teachers. The number is so high not only for aspergers, pdd-nos but so many kids nonverbal autistics. Just go to your local school. This was not the case 20-30 years ago, regardless of autism criteria or that of better diagnosis.

    What is happening. Could this be incompetence of CDC? Why wait so long?

    Posted by raymon October 7, 09 09:40 PM
  1. I think Barry Morse's comment was very interesting. In thinking about what are the biggest changes from when I grew up to today, one of the answers is food. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, there was very little takeout food, and food storage was mostly glass/pyrex or waxed paper. Precooked dinners were sold in foil packages and heated in the oven. Baby bottles were glass.

    When you start thinking about how the above has replaced by various kinds of plastic, combined with microwave heating, it seems that this is a valid place for more investigating.

    Posted by just_cos October 8, 09 09:40 AM
  1. Nutritional deficiencies due to celiac disease can mimic autism. Read this article to learn about a 5 yr old boy, diagnosed with severe autism by an autism specialty clinic who made a full recovery when the true diagnosis of celiac disease was made and his nutritional deficiencies were corrected. He recovered because he never had autism. http://blog.glutenfreeworks.com/2009/08/06/can-celiac-disease-be-mistaken-as-autism-a-boy-whose-%e2%80%9cautism%e2%80%9d-was-cured/
    When the brain does not receive the nutrients it needs, malfunction occurs. I'm not saying all children with autism have celiac disease or that gluten causes autism in all children, but if a child is misdiagnosed, and celiac disease is the true cause, then recovery is possible. The article also includes videos of a boy who recovered from a seizure disorder when he was correctly diagnosed with celiac disease. FYI, doctors do not look for celiac disease in children who do not have gastrointestinal issues, yet 50% of people with celiac disease exhibit some kind of neurological problem at diagnosis.

    Posted by John October 8, 09 10:12 AM
  1. Increased awareness is definitely an easy answer to why these rates have grown so much. These new findings seem to only raise more questions then they do provide answers. http://www.newsy.com/videos/autism_on_the_rise

    Posted by Annie October 8, 09 03:31 PM
  1. "Or that maybe more kids are being misdiagnosed with ASD in an attempt to explain their not-quite-perfect behavior?"

    Ignorance is no excuse, this is extremely hateful and you should apologize. It is this sort of ignorance that is causing the numbers to climb and the kind of hate that bullies our kids on playgrounds. Autism is like diabetes or cancer, you either have it or you don't.

    Thanks for your comment, bensmyson. I think you missed the part just above that sentence, when I wrote that our son has Asperger's, which is an ASD. And people are misdianosed with diabetes and sometimes with cancer as well -- a diagnosis isn't always accurate. The sentence that offended you is questioning a statistic pulled from the study; the link to the study itself, and the stat, is in my post. Please consider taking the time to read it. -- LMA

    Posted by bensmyson October 8, 09 03:54 PM
  1. For a good wrap up of other news media coverage on this very issue you may want to check out this video
    http://www.newsy.com/videos/autism_on_the_rise
    It brings up some of the points you do in your article, and mentioned in the comment section. May help some of you find a new perspective- or maybe solidify the one you already have. Just throwing it out there.

    Posted by AshleyAnne October 9, 09 01:38 PM
  1. The DSM criteria set to diagnose autism is clear as day. I'm not a physician but I easily saw that my daughter had autism by looking at it and she was only 1. She developed even more symptoms after she was diagnosed. I can't imagine any physician misdiagnosing a child.

    In addition, I think when "not-quite-perfect behavior" is used it strikes a nerve. As you should know, it is wayyyyy more complex than not-quite-perfect behavior. I would give anything to hear my daughter greet me at the door when I walk in or let me rock her or kiss her. I also think most of us parents try to help our children live in our world through therapies, etc. but I don't think ASD just "fade away with time". They just adapt better.


    Posted by jmh112070 October 9, 09 02:02 PM
  1. 1 - "mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, a known neurotoxin,"
    Thimerosal is a compound of ethyl mercury, which is NOT a neurotoxin or known to cause damage. It is water soluble and is excreted rapidly. Methyl mercury is fat soluble, remains in the body's fatty tissues and does damage human cells.
    Kanner 'discovered' autism by studying a group of patients. Asperger did the same, but it is naive to think they were the only ones. Just those who were seen by those doctors.

    4 - "The vaccine and autism theory has by no means been dis-proven."

    Actually the mercury connection has, but it is possible that the vaccines are triggering immune system responses which attack the brain. There are many who have their own agenda who focused on mercury and ignore the facts.

    "My son who later was diagnosed with moderate autistic disorder, was screened for several days between the ages 17 and 18 months by a pediatric psychologist, who ruled out autism."

    There are many variants on the spectrum and just having a title does not make anyone a diagnostician. If they graduated Med School before 1994, they were not taught about many of the conditions and identifying ASD at 18 mos is not easy.

    "Another reality is that most parents are often (and rightfully so) are and will be for a while in so much denial that they would never take their corky child for autism screening. No parent in their sane mind would be willing to label their child needlessly and a normal child would not need services to gain normal developments such as talking."

    Some may pretend there is nothing wrong, but most parents recognize the difference and seek help. There are others who see the services and don't their child to miss out. Sane or not, they want what's best for their child.

    "Finally why so much resistance to acknowledging autism alarming rise. Take a look at cancer rate, allergies, asthma, lupus, fibromyaligia, MS, depression, anxiety and bipolar… and they are all on alarming rise."

    All of those college grads we're pumping out have to do something. Show them the signs of Autism, they identify autism. Send them into the jungle and they find new species of plants and animals. They can't all be lawyers.

    7 - "I'm 57 and knew no one with autism growing up."

    There was nobody with AUTISM when we were growing up. Asperger and Kanner identified populations with the conditions they defined, but their observations weren't included in the DSM-IV or taught to med students until 1994.

    8 - "I have a child who is 15yrs old who is a nonspeaker and very challenged cognitively. Could you imagine where our kiddos would be w/out EI and better informed educators?"

    In psychiatric hospitals with the DX of Severely Retarded, as they were before the vogue changed to FAPE.

    10 - "Plastic is the cause of the rapid rise in autism."

    Plastics weren't around until after WWII. Einstein, Michelangelo, Newton and many others who lived before the age of plastics have been forensically analyzed to have been on the spectrum.

    19 - "I can't imagine any physician misdiagnosing a child."

    Really? The ones who began practicing before 1994 may have read a few articles and the newer ones may have missed that lecture or were too strung out, so they try to DX so they don't lose business.

    "I don't think ASD just "fade away with time". They just adapt better."

    It's both. Research has found that ASDs have pervasive developmental delays in certain areas of their brains - particularly those parts which control their social, life and executive functioning skills - that mature at 2/3 the rate of their chronological age. With training, they can develop coping mechanisms to hold them over until their brains mature. By 30, their delays allow them the ability to function as a 20 yo, which is close enough to adult that the differences are not as noticeable.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    According to the study in Pediatrics, "Nearly 40 percent of those ever diagnosed with ASD did not currently have the condition."

    It would be interesting to see the data in the study to see how they arrived at that conclusion and to see what the statement really means. Are they suggesting the diagnoses were wrong and the people were never on the spectrum or that they were correctly dxed, but have recovered or learned to overcome and can't qualify for a dx now? The DSM asks if the patient CAN, IS ABLE and other questions in the present tense, not were they, could they, etc., so they could have been properly diagnosed and have progressed to where the dx no longer fits. They will always be autistic, but they have learned to adapt.

    Posted by EduAdvoctor October 9, 09 09:45 PM
  1. Nobody has been talking about the connection between the increased proportions of older fathers (meaning over 40) and the increase of ASD. Sperm that look fine under low magnification can have defects at the DNA level. It's a fact of life, always has been, that DNA defects increase with the age of the animal (this also goes for parrots, elephants, primates...anything that lives more than 40 years). I sure hope that medical people can use common sense in cases where this should be considered.

    And FYI ALL MERCURY COMPOUNDS ARE TOXIC. PERIOD.

    Posted by Irene October 10, 09 12:25 PM
  1. Check out this from the front page of the Atlantic this week:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200910u/autism-diagnoses

    Posted by Erik October 10, 09 04:35 PM
  1. ADD and ADHD are not included in the Autism Spectrum. Criteria for diagnosis of Autism has not changed since 1994. This is just a way to sweep it under the carpet. TannersDad Tim Welsh Autism Advocate

    Posted by Tim Welsh October 11, 09 12:15 PM
  1. I believe that when a parent goes to a doctor to find out if their child has autism, they shouldn't sit there and cry. I have an autistic brother, and when we found out, it wasn't a big scene. I believe that God had a reason to make all people the way they are, so we need not try to fix it -- it is just how it is. I read a lot of the comments and it seems as though everyone is depending on doctors to change the world and let me tell you: "IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN" -- coming from an 18-year-old since 10-07-09 a senior in high school.

    Posted by Shareka Neal October 12, 09 09:17 PM
  1. Thimerosal removed from childhood vaccinations by 2001. No effect on rate of increase in ASD diagnoses.

    Thanks for commenting Sandy. According to the FDA, in 2001 Thimerosal was removed from or reduced to "trace" amounts in all newly manufactured vaccines recommended for children age 6 and younger, except for the inactivated influenza vaccine -- here's the link: http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/vaccines/QuestionsaboutVaccines/ucm070430.htm

    While most children's vaccines manufactured after 2001 have little or no thimerosal, doctors were allowed to use up stores of thimerosal-containing vaccines manufactured prior to that date, so children were still receiving vaccines with Thimerosal even after the ban. The FDA says that those vaccines "reached the end of their shelf life" by January 2003.

    You make a good point that the removal or reduction of Thimerosal hasn't stemmed the increase in the rate of autism diagnoses... -- LMA

    Posted by Sandy Chase October 19, 09 02:02 PM
  1. Hi, I do not believe that it is genetic, otherwise where are the millions of over 40's who have problems in this line??? and yes there has been the very occasional ones, but not in the millions like we have now, my husband was a principal of many schools over the years and came across his first autistic child 30 years ago, (we live in Australia)..
    I do however believe that what is in and on our food, water, air and immunisations are what is causing the destruction of our children.
    I also have read that although the removal of Thimerosal was requested that many have not done so, and there are still some types of vaccinations which still have Thimerosal in them however, there are many other toxins in immunisations which can also cause these problems, especially when they are all mixed together in one great big concoction of non other than chemicals, goodness knows that their effect are all together in some children.
    In regards to allergies of milk etc, my grandchildren are very highly allergic to milk, however they went to stay on a farm for a couple of weeks where they drank cows milk straight from the cow, and because they loved it they drank milk at every meal and inbetween times and strange, but strange, they had no problems at all, nothing..

    Posted by Gaye November 5, 09 04:10 PM
  1. GAYE -

    First there are several different types of milk. Different cows give milk with different allergy properties. It could partially be a difference in the cows. What sort of dairy cattle were they running?

    Here is Australia most of the dairy farmers use cows that live easily in the harsh Aussie climate, BUT at least to me and to my wife,k the milk tastes quite different, especially season to season as they forage in the bush. As a person who grew up in Washington state I never had any milk issues. A year after moving here I had to stop drinking the milk. Never have problems with US milk - just here. In the last few years new strains of dairy cattle have been introduced, as there is awareness of problems with the traditional strains.

    Posted by barleysinger July 2, 12 06:51 PM
add your comment
Required
Required (will not be published)

This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.

About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

Submit a question for Barbara's Mailbag


Ask Barbara a question

Barbara answers questions on a wide range of topics, including autism, breastfeeding, bullying, discipline, divorce, kindergarten, potty training, sleep, tantrums, and much, much more.

Send your questions to her at:
meltzbarbara (at) gmail.com.
Please include your name and hometown.
Moms
All parenting discussions
Discussions

High needs/fussy baby

memes98 writes "My 10.5 month old DS has been fussy ever since he was born, but I am getting very frustrated because I thought he would be much better by now...has anyone else been through this?"

More community voices

Corner Kicks

Dirty Old Boston

Mortal Matters

On Deck

TEDx Beacon Street

RSS feed


click here to subscribe to
Child Caring

archives