In 2006 and in 2007, I wrote stories on "The Really Big Lie About Autism." This is of course the insane claim that the autism epidemic is simply the result of an expanded definition and greater awareness.
Back in 2006, the rate was one in every 166 children and in 2007, it became one in every 150 children. Regardless, whatever the rate, it's always because of the same thing: No real increase--greater recognition.
It's just been announced that we now have an autism rate of one in every 50 children, one in every 31 boys. The official disclaimer is unchanged as we can see in these reports:
"Health officials say the new number doesn't mean autism is occurring more often. But it does suggest that doctors are diagnosing autism more frequently, especially in children with milder problems."FOX News said exactly the same thing. Health officials: 1 in 50 school kids have autism
"The main reason for the increase in the prevalence of autism appears to be better diagnoses, especially in older children.
"The higher numbers recorded in the new study suggest that officials are getting better at counting kids with autism - not that more have the condition, several experts said."
Forbes: Autism Prevalence Is Now At 1 In 50 Children
"Together, these findings suggest that the increase in prevalence of parent-reported ASD may have resulted from improved ascertainment of ASD by doctors and other health care professionals in recent years, especially when the symptoms are mild."
Reuters: U.S. autism estimates climb to 1 in 50 school-age children
"As many as one in 50 U.S. school age children have a diagnosis of autism, up 72 percent since 2007, but much of the increase involves milder cases, suggesting the rise is linked to better recognition of autism symptoms and not more cases..."
US News: One in 50 School-Aged Children in U.S. Has Autism: CDC
Yahoo News: Autism Rate Rises to 1 in 50 Kids
"[T]he findings suggest that doctors and other healthcare
professionals are getting better at identifying and diagnosing mild forms of
autism, said study researcher Stephen Blumberg, of the Center for Disease
Control and Prevention's National Center for Health
Statistics, the organization the released the report."
CBS News: Autism: One in 50 children in U.S. have it, study says (21 seconds)
"The new numbers may simply be the result of better reporting."
NBC Today Show: Study: One in 50 schoolchildren in U.S. have autism (Time: 30 seconds)
"The CDC says it's new numbers don't necessarily mean autism is occurring more often, but it may indicate that it is being diagnosed more frequently than before."
NBC Nightly News: Diagnosing Autism (Time: 2:09)
Mother says: "I think it's scary. I think we obviously need to figure out what is going on."
Chief science correspondent, Robert Bazell: "But experts say the new numbers do not necessarily point to a genuine increase...."
Dr. Zachary Warren, Vanderbilt University Medical Center: "Awareness is changing....Clinicians are recognizing it much more frequently."
I was a little surprised to see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announce an update in the autism rate right before April--Autism Awareness Month. Wouldn't this be a major cause for concern? Wouldn't there finally be a demand for answers?
Evidently not. It was actually a very clever way to make the public aware of just how bad things are and at the same time downplay the results. All the news outlets are telling it just the way the CDC wants. Without exception they're saying that it's not really an increase, just better, more accurate diagnostics. The point that's being missed here is that the CDC is referring to the previous estimate of one every 88 children, one in every 54 boys, announced last year. Maybe the one in 88 more correctly should have been one in every 50.
The public isn't getting that message however. They're being told, as always, that regardless of the jaw-dropping rate, there's never a real increase. We're so used to it now, that the numbers simply don't matter. The rate could be announced at one in 25 and people like Dr. Robert Bazell at NBC would be saying that it's merely the addition of milder forms of autism.
Not one of the reporters at these national news outlets could ask the really important questions:
Why is it that we're always talking about children with autism? Why hasn't anyone ever been able to show us a comparable rate among adults?
What's going to happen when a million disabled childeren reach adulthood? How are we ever going to pay for them?
How do you explain the fact that our schools are filled with children who can't speak, can't learn, and can't behave and who come with a myriad of labels for learning disorders? Where were all the children like this 25, 30, and 40 years ago?
Why is such a common disorder so baffling to experts, despite spending millions of research dollars over two decades? When will anyone have an explanation?
Why have officials admitted that there are environmental triggers for autism but no one has ever given us conclusive proof on which ones are behind the epidemic? Why is there nothing a new mother can do to make sure her healthy, normally developing baby doesn't also have autism by age two?
Why do the number continue to dramatically increase when the definition was changed almost 20 years ago? Shouldn't the rate have leveled some time ago?
Should we expect that the numbers will continue to increase until having at least one child with autism will be the norm for a family?
Is the rate ever going to get bad enough that the CDC will actually declare autism to be a health care crisis?
Members of the press never ask the hard questions. They take whatever the CDC says as infallible and they'll continue "The Really Big Lie About Autism" until we simply don't remember a world without chronically ill and disabled children everywhere.
As long as the press and the public swallow the fiction that autism was always here but somehow was under the radar, no one can be held responsible for anything. If the lie is finally exposed, we'd have to take the autism numbers seriously. There would be a demand for answers. We'd all want to know who was asleep at the switch and didn't sound an alarm. Imagine how everything would unravel.At all costs, April will again mean nice stories about blue lights, walks for awareness, and no one being really worried about 2 percent of our children now with autism.