By Anne Dachel
April 7, 2012, The New York Times, published the story, The Autism Wars by Amy Harmon. The title was intriguing. Just what would The Times consider an autism war? After reading it, I gathered that the fight is over the definition: Are the current criteria too board? Are we still missing kids? Is it over-diagnosing or under-diagnosing?
Amy Harmon is described here as “a national correspondent for The New York Times who has written extensively on autism.” Extensively on autism? I’m curious why someone who supposedly has a lot of background on autism is content to open her article with this paragraph:
“THE report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that one in 88 American children have an autism spectrum disorder has stoked a debate about why the condition’s prevalence continues to rise. The C.D.C. said it was possible that the increase could be entirely attributed to better detection by teachers and doctors, while holding out the possibility of unknown environmental factors. “
Over the last twenty years, as the autism rate exploded, the CDC has had no answers. The definition of autism was broadened in 1994, but with every stunning increase, it was explained away as “better diagnosing.”. In 2002, the rate was one in every 250 kids. In 2004 it was one in 166. In 2007, it became one in 150. In 2009, it soared to one in 110, and now it's one in every 88 children, one in every 58 boys. Why, after 18 years, are doctors finding still more children with autism? Shouldn’t the rate have stabilized years ago if, as many claim, there’s been no real increase? This doesn’t bother Harmon. She’s not asking why officials still can’t tell us a thing about a disorder that is now so common that everyone knows someone with an affected child. She seems satisfied to tell the public that there’s may be “the possibility of unknown environmental factors.”
This is it parents. If a top autism reporter at The New York Times can’t give us anything definite about autism, who can? There isn’t even a projection of when someone at the agency that gets billions to run health care might actually know something for sure. A new mother with a healthy, normally developing baby needs to be aware there’s nothing she can do to prevent her child from ending up on the autism spectrum. If, at eighteen or twenty-four months, her baby suddenly stops talking and making eye contact, and at the same time starts rocking and lining up toys, doctors are helpless. Whenever they finally agree on a definition of autism there still won’t be any real answers. (And this is what Autism Awareness Month should really be about.)
It seems no one at The Times or anywhere else is worried. “The Autism Wars” is really about playing with the diagnosis and making the epidemic go away. I would have posted a comment explaining my viewpoint, but comments ‘weren’t allowed on this story.
I do like the idea of an autism war, or more correctly, A WAR ON AUTISM. We’re had lots of national efforts on very critical things labeled like this. We’re familiar with the phrases, “War on Poverty,” “War on Crime,” “War on Terror,” and “War on Drugs.” Why not an official War on Autism? Surely something affecting an overwhelming number of our children deserves some national recognition. Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, the foremost autism advocacy organization in the country, recently called autism “a national emergency.” That would put autism on a par with terror, drugs, and crime. I can see the President of the United States holding a press conference and declaring that we must make a national effort to find the cause of autism. We have to prepare for all the autistic adults who are coming. We have to provide for the children. It would rival President Lyndon Johnson’s State of the Union Address in 1964 when he declared a War on Poverty,” or George W. Bush’s speech to Congress in 2001 calling for a War on Terror.
Still, no one seems that interested in doing anything about autism. Health officials, mainstream medicine, and the media are all happy leaving autism merely a mystery or a puzzle.
In truth, autism is the enemy. It’s the enemy that’s going to conquer us if we don’t do something to stop it. Autism has invaded this country and openly attacked citizens in full view of everyone. This adversary is most diabolical because it selectively strikes our most vulnerable population, our children. The first line of defense--the medical establishment and the CDC--has tried to make friends with the enemy. They claim there’s been no invasion. They say that the enemy has always been here, we just didn’t notice. The casualties may be mounting, but no one is declaring war. It seems that officials and doctors are actually in league with the invader. They’ve taken credit for the casualty count, calling it “better diagnosing.” There is no front in this fight. Sporadic attacks can come at anytime, anywhere, striking any child at will. There is no defense against the enemy. We’ve been given nothing with which to arm ourselves against autism.
The invasion has been ongoing for more than twenty years, but recently the enemy has stepped up the action. We’re seeing more wounded, but still the medical front is unable to advance and the injured are left lying in the field. The invaders look like they’re going to defeat us. We seem quite willing to surrender without putting up a fight. I can’t see an end to the bombardment as the enemy is well-armed and shows no sign of retreating. They’re just going to keep on the offensive until none are left standing.
In the end, maybe someone will ask why our side never waged a War on Autism.
Amne Dachel is media editor for Age of Autism. You can subscribe to her newsfeed at AnneDachel.com