We’re still reeling from the news. One in every 88 children born in 2000 has autism. Among boys alone, it’s one in 54. That’s supposed to be an average, but the rates in individual states are truly horrific. In New Jersey, it’s one in every 49 children, one in every 28 boys. In Utah, one in 47 kids has autism. These numbers are for today’s twelve year olds. We don’t even know what the rate is for younger children. Still, doctors and health officials attribute it to better diagnosing and no real increase. Members of the media have conveniently repeated this claim with each and every increase over the last decade. No one bothers to ask why doctors are still learning to recognize autism when the changes in the definition of the disorder were made in 1994. One would think that the rate would have stabilized years ago. Instead, like a conquering army, autism is relentlessly consuming more and more children.
Something has to be done. We desperately need answers. Parents are frightened. There’s nothing a mainstream doctor can tell new parents to do to prevent their healthy baby from also ending up on the autism spectrum. On April 4, 2012, Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, had a story about the new numbers on Huffington Post.
“We are dealing with a national emergency that is in need of a national plan. At 1 in 88, we now have more than 1 million children directly affected by autism. According to a newly released study, the annual cost of autism in the United States is a staggering $126 billion annually, more than tripling the cost analysis from six years ago.”
Roithmayr called for a national plan to address the autism crisis. He wants“a call to action” that, among other things,
“Funds more environmental research detecting the causes of autism.”
“Addresses the growing issue of adults with autism, specifically around continuing education, employment, housing/residential living and community integration; here, too, we need a focus on a National Training Corps to recruit and train professionals to work with our adults.”
He called on the President and the Republican Presidential candidates along with the members of Congress to “commit to this National Plan.”
It was all pretty impressive and at first glance, it seemed like maybe things would be changing, after all, Autism Speaks is the country’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. They’ve given millions for research and they’re constantly cited in news stories on autism. If anything could wake this country up to the autism epidemic, it would be Roihmayr’s rallying cry.
Incredibly, no one seems to be listening to Autism Speaks. In fact, in the last couple of days there has been a massive effort to MAKE THE AUTISM CRISIS GO AWAY. Major news sources are out to convince the American people that autism is a genetic condition and that there’s been no real increase at all, despite the new numbers.
First of all, The New York Times among others just announced yet another autism gene study, this time involving “spontaneous genetic mutations” that happen “near or during conception.” (So much for all you parents who blame your child’s regression on the massive load of vaccinations they received prior to losing learned skills.)
The New York Post had this short piece that said it all: Autism linked to genetics, still not to vaccines.
The culprit in this is the older dad because “older male sperm is more subject to small, perhaps random glitches that in rare cases affect brain development.” (Previous studies implicated older moms.) What are we to do? It seems the wrong people are reproducing.
A story from TIME Magazine, What to Make of the New Autism Numbers, cited Dr. Thomas Insel who brought up the uncomfortable question: “What hasn’t yet been identified are the factors that actually trigger the genetic mutations in the first place or that provide the later conditions in which the glitches express themselves through the development of autism spectrum disorders.”
TIME reporter, Judith Warner blamed the parents who link vaccines to autism for the lack of research on the environment. “Researchers are, not surprisingly, reluctant to rush to judgment about environmental causes of disease. They have good reason to be reticent, as outbreaks in the U.S. and the U.K. of measles, mumps and, most recently, whooping cough, in the wake of public panic over vaccines have made strikingly clear.”
In all of this coverage, autism is never talked about as an emergency. It’s not a national crisis that requires immediate action. It’s more like a curiosity that will need many more years of research. Most of all, no one is really worried..
And if people needed any further convincing that things are happening in the world of autism, a story just out by AP medical reporter Lindsey Tanner is meant to do just that. News sites from coast to coast have published this piece; it’s everywhere on the Internet news. The headline reads, “Doctors want to redefine autism; parents worried.”
It’s all about the upcoming changes to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Tanner pointed out that DSM changes will make the autism epidemic go away. “With new government data last week suggesting more kids than ever in the U.S. — 1 in 88 — have autism, the new definition may help clarify whether the rising numbers reflect a true increase in autism or over-diagnosis by doctors.”
Over-diagnosing? Seriously? For twenty years, all the jaw-dropping increases in the autism rate have been attributed to BETTER DIAGNOSING. We were told that the DSM IV, published in 1994, had broadened the definition of autism so much that lots more kids qualified. For eighteen years, doctors have just gotten better and better at recognizing autism.
Now the better diagnosing is being called misdiagnosing and doctors are prepared to un-diagnose a generation of sick kids. We’re to believe that tightening the definition will improve things for those with autism. It’s acknowledged that a huge percentage of kids will lose their diagnosis—maybe half of the current autism population—but it’s all for the good.
I can’t imagine how experts could just write off hundreds of thousands of children. The real beneficiaries will be those who currently have to provide services for children with autism. It’ll be welcome news for insurance companies now required in more and more states to cover autism therapy and school districts strapped for money. It also makes organizations like Autism Speaks irrelevant. If there’s no real increase, what’s the emergency that Roithmayr is talking about? Why do we have to do anything?
In truth, Roithmayr’s point about adults is about to bury us. He called for action that “addresses the growing issue of adults with autism, specifically around continuing education, employment, housing/residential living and community integration; here, too, we need a focus on a National Training Corps to recruit and train professionals to work with our adults.”
All of the stories telling us that autism really isn’t a problem are about CHILDREN WITH AUTISM. That simple fact is completely ignored in all of this. No one has ever shown us
a group of adults with autism like we see in children, especially severe autism whose symptoms can’t be denied. We’re to believe they’re out there somewhere, labeled as something else. (If that were really truth, health officials and news sources like CNN and ABC would be falling over themselves to find the 40, 50, and 60 year olds with autism.)
They can’t do that. They don’t even try.)
They may disguise children with autism with this latest ploy with the DSM but they can’t make them go away. Year after year thousands and thousands more of them will be aging out of the school system. They’ll be dependent on the government for their support and care for the rest of their lives. As parents age, social services will have to provide everything for them. This is the disaster that’s can’t be covered up.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism. Subscribe to her newsfeed at www.annedachel.com.