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is there an autism/PDD epidemic?

Feb 01, 2008 - 9 comments







Time magazine




Asperger Syndrome

I just read Time magazine Jan 12 issue "Is the Autism Epidemic a Myth?"

The word "Epidemic" conjures up fear.  The word sparks funding and research and action, no doubt.  Just remember the polio epidemic in the USA.  Perhaps when termed as an epidemic, maybe a single cause may be found and a vaccine can be developed such as the case with Polio, Measles, Chicken pox and a host of other epidemics  in the world.  Yes, maybe modern science can work to eradicate autism.  As we eradicate autism, we can eradicate people with new perspectives, picturesque speech, accurate communication modalities (persons with autism tend to say what they mean and not rely on awkward non-verbal "addendums").

Okay, let's look at the numbers:  before 1990 the incidence of autism was reported to be 4.7 out of every 10,000 American children and now we have about 60 per 10,000. So, the INCIDENCE of autism diagnoses has increased in the last ten years.  I will concede that fact.

Let us also consider how the definition of autism has changed in the past ten years.  Also what was considered a medical definition has also become a definition in the educational system nomenclature which didn't exist prior to 1990.

Quoting Time:
BROADER DEFINITIONS Each successive edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--the bible of mental health--has revised the criteria for identifying autism in ways that tend to include more people. Two conditions on the milder end of the autistic spectrum--Asperger's syndrome and the awkwardly named PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified)--were added to the DSM in 1994 and 1987, respectively.
CLAUDIA WALLIS  Is the Autism Epidemic a Myth? Time Friday, Jan. 12, 2007

U.S. schools are required to report data on kids who receive special-education services, but autism wasn't added as a category until the 1991-92 school year. No wonder the numbers exploded--from 22,445 receiving services for autism in 1995 to 140,254 in 2004.
CLAUDIA WALLIS  Is the Autism Epidemic a Myth? Time Friday, Jan. 12, 2007

Here we not only have a moving target, but an expanding target.  When I aim at my deer, he expands to the size of a moose.

I also believe autism is being identified for what it realy is and professionals are more aware of autism.  Decades ago, "autism" was used synonomous with "childhood schitzophrenia."  Let us remember that both autism and Aspergers syndrome was first identified in 1943. Prior to that, centuries ago, the Irish culture believed that fairies stole their "normal' child and replaced them with "fairy children".  Prior to that, the diagnosis of demon posession or witchcraft was prevelant.

I am not yet convinced that "it's in the water" or "in the vaccines" or whatever.  

The article also makes a valid analogy:
"Where are all the adults with fetal alcohol syndrome?"... No one over 40 has the condition, thought to affect up to 1 in 500 kids today, because it was not recognized until the mid-'70s. But no one would say alcoholism among pregnant women just started,"
  CLAUDIA WALLIS  Is the Autism Epidemic a Myth? Time Friday, Jan. 12, 2007

So the points raised in the article are well-taken:  It may be easier for some to refer to the increase in the INCIDENCE of autism as an  epidemic (especially for political funding purposes) than to think in terms of  expanding  definitions and an increased scientific awareness.

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by italianmom, Mar 19, 2008
all i have to say is look around you. Look at any school..look at all the support groups..the special services...look in any childrens museum..the zoos...parks...i guarantee there will be autistic children there. Was it like this when i was a kid..or my parents were kids.. NO. It is not better diagnosis. It IS an epidemic Autism is caused by a genetic predisposition and an environmental TRIGGER. (whether it be by vaccines, or whatever). 1 in 150 have autism..and that isnt just the spectrum. lke add ...that is actual autism.
BTW, the flu vaccine still contains of the most toxic substances on the planet that has been proven to cause neurological defects....and the flu vaccine is RECOMMENDED for infants and pregnant women...because apparently it is so much better to be protected from the flu and make the pharm comp billions of dollars..than it is to protect a developing brain from neurological damage.
and we wonder why the numbers are rising.

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by jennyr, Mar 27, 2008
Childhood autism and vitamin D deficieny

This topic really has my atttention as I have a small child and am pregnant. In our small circle of friends, 3 children in separate families have been diagnosed. What is causing a reported tenfold increase in childhood autism in the last 20 years? Is it related to new immunization schedules, new artificial sweeteners, or what? I couldn't find any convincing reports. Then I googled 'vitamin D deficiency birth defects'. Harvard and preeminent neurological journals. Definately worth a read.
If maternal vitamin D deficiency causes fetal brain damage, more brain-damaged children will be born in the summer.  Brains of summer-born children are making neuronal connections at the fastest rate during the winter and early spring when their mother's vitamin D levels are lowest.  If vitamin D deficiency damaged human brains, then summer-born children should be retained more often, do worse in school, and display more learning disabilities.

At latitude 42 degrees, Boston, Massachusetts has a marked seasonal variation in vitamin D levels.  Dr. Nathlie Badian of Harvard found that boys born in July and August were seven times more likely to have learning disabilities than those born in the cooler months.
Research has shown that low maternal vitamin D3 has important ramifications for the developing brain. Vitamin D is a steroid hormone with many important functions in the brain, mediated through the nuclear vitamin D receptor (VDR). Disfunctional VDR demonstrate altered emotional behavior and specific motor deficits.
for an extensive look at the relationship between maternal vit D deficiency and autism
The Vitamin D Council states that Vitamin D deficiency can also cause stroke, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, muscle wasting and birth defects.

According to the Vitamin D Council, you will need approximately 4,000 units of Vitamin D per day. You would have to drink 40 glasses of milk a day or take 10 multivitamins a day to get the required amount of Vitamin D. Naturally neither one of these methods is recommended so what are we to do? People typically make about 20,000 units of Vitamin D after 20 minutes of sun exposure, which is about 100 times more than the daily amount of Vitamin D the FDA says we need.

The marked increase in autism rates correlates with a marked cultural decrease in sun exposure.(national recommendations to get your SPF 40 and keep your little kids out of the sun altogether.) Maybe a few minutes of sun a day is good idea.

I assure you that to the parents who are struggling with this every day, it's not some political method to research money. The children I know have serious physical, mental and emotional disabilities. Trouble walking, speaking and learning the alphabet by age 6, good days, bad days, and periods of being unreachable ... this is not 'new perspectives and picturesque speech'. This is a disability that may never allow them to be independent. This means parents that have been going to specialists and undergoing years of genetic and metabolic testing searching for a cause, searching for a way to help their kids have more good days. Special 'schools' and daily physical and speach therapy. Trying special diets because maybe the milk/wheat/eggs are making it worse. My prayers, hopes and best wishes are with the parents, the kiddos, the doctors and the scientists.

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by mjthewriterdad, Mar 27, 2008
I know some of those parents, too. I also struggled daily.  It's just that the Polio epiodemic and various other epedemics were easier to quantify. The symnptoms were fixed and identifyable.  With autism, the criteria changed over the years.  An increase in the incidence does not an epidemic make.  

Persons with autism have a special "language" all their own.  They interact with what is around them, not only person to person. Maybe we don't know this language.  Haven't learned it yet.  Amanda Baggs has autism and can only use a keyboard to "speak" our languge.  She only  She mentions that "failure to learn your language is seen as a deficit, yet failure to learn my language is considered normal”   I admit, the first thing I saw was just her humming and fiddling with a book and rubbing items against her face and flapping her hands, rocking back and forth. But she uses her voice software and video to communicate.

Your points on Vitamin D are well taken.  There is also some genetic evidence, some envronmental correlations.  Currently, I'm reading stuff about testoserone levels.  IMO, we will probably not find oner single cause for autism, any more than there is one single cause for blindness.

Correlation is not necessarily causation.   In the middle ages was the bubonic plague caused by the rats?  There was a high correlation, but the answer is no.  Was it caused by the fleas on the rats who sucked blood out of  the humans?  Again, close but no cigar.  I think the conclusion was made that a bacillus reproduced inside the fleas that were on the rats that sucked blood out of the humans which were transmitted into the human bloodstream.  

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by mjthewriterdad, Mar 27, 2008
   "BTW, the flu vaccine still contains of the most toxic substances on the planet that has been proven to cause neurological defects...."

I think only in the USA.  Canada, England and Denmark took out the mercury (ca. 1990) from their vaccines. and the incidence of autism still increased.  Mercury is still a neurotoxin, however.  

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by mum2beagain, Apr 08, 2008
The number of children being diagnoses had increased, I don't believe we have an epidemic, I believe we have better diagnostic techniques. I can recall several individuals that I went to school with who were labeled disruptive", "slow", "stupid", "weird" and so on. Today, if those kids were in school in the district I live in without a shadow of a doubt they would have some type of PDD diagnosis of that I am certain. I also believe that 20 years ago my son would not have had a diagnosis, he too would have been one of the "stupid, disruptive" ones. Thank god modern diagnostic techniques are helping those who need it. Statistics, labels, none of it matters a jot to me, if my son being diagnosed adds to the ever increasing statistics and the label of "Autism" gets my son the help he clearly needs then I'm okay with that.

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by mjthewriterdad, Apr 08, 2008
to mum2:
That was my original point!

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by mum2beagain, Apr 08, 2008
Oh I know, I am agreeing with you. I've been on the site for a couple of years now but only recently found my way over to the autism forum following my son's diagnosis. It has been very helpful to me to read the replies both you and your daughter give to the many questions asked.

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by Sally44, Apr 10, 2008
Did I know anything about, or anyone with, autism before my son was diagnosed?  No.  But post diagnosis I am aware of other children at the same school, friends etc.  There seems to be children everywhere, but now I am noticing it.  And I am now 'coming out', (so to speak) with the diagnosis more and more to people around me, which causes them to tell me about their children.  I think it is also easy to do a bit of 'autie spotting', you parents know what I mean.  You get the diagnosis for your child and suddenly there are at least 2 or 3 other children you know that you suspect of also being on the spectrum, but you would't say anything to their parents unless specifically asked.  Also once you get a diagnosis you tend to join a support group or childrens club etc and therefore tend to circulate in autistic circles.  I just wish/hope that all these diagnosises of children would help them get the support they need both at school/college/adult life.

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by maggiebum, Feb 14, 2010
Google autism epidemic of misdiagnosis. Also: go to You Tube and search under "autism spectrum seems out of control" for hard evidence on just how far from autism the spectrum has spun. The mum who posts videos of her autistic son under kgaccount on you tube, shows a REAL side of autism (it's severe) There are other videos that show real high functioning autistic too on you tube, but it's important people understand the difference between autism and other conditions that are increasingly being called autism.

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