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There's No Denying the Autism Epidemic

Denial_hole_in_groundEditor's Note: AOA contributor Jonathan Rose, a history professor at Drew University, took on epidemic denial in this recent article published on the History News Network. 

By Jonathan Rose

Is autism a condition that has always been with us, or is it an epidemic?  That is a highly controversial question of medical history, and a hugely important one, for the answer will have a tremendous impact on national health policy.

If the autism rate has been more or less steady throughout history, then you could argue (and many have argued) that autism is a genetic constant, part of the human condition, and something we simply must accept.  But if the autism rate has recently risen steeply, then we face a grave health emergency, which could not have been caused by genetics alone – and therefore can be reversed.

Estimates of diagnosed autism have in fact increased dramatically in recent years, from 1 in 2000 US children in the mid-1960s, to 1 in 500 in 1999, 1 in 68 in 2010, and (according to the Centers for Disease Control) 1 in 45 today. But does this represent a real increase?  Some insist that it’s an “optical illusion.” They suggest that in the past doctors either overlooked autism, or diagnosed it as something else, or used a narrower definition of the term.  So whenever a new and higher autism estimate is reported, public health officials reflexively attribute it to “better diagnosis.”  However, skeptical parents and teachers, pointing to the enormous expansion of special education classes, wonder why diagnosis always seems to be getting better and better and better and better and better.

In their recently published history, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker don’t absolutely rule out the possibility that autism is increasing, but they are clearly reluctant to call it an “epidemic,” a word they often frame in scare quotes.  They question the reliability of statistics that show a steep rise, and they look for a “pre-history” of autism – that is, identifiable cases that existed well before Leo Kanner published the first description of the disorder in a 1943 article. 

They (and other researchers) claim to have found some.  But retrospective diagnoses of neurological disorders before the era of modern psychiatry are a highly speculative business.  Those who claim that autism has always been with us commonly stick the label on lists of famous eccentrics (the New Yorker assures us that“the catalogue of famous figures who have been placed on the spectrum now includes Newton, Mozart, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Kant, Jefferson, Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Wittgenstein”) based on extremely flimsy evidence or none at all.  Many of the cases that Donvan and Zucker cite are equally dubious.  They claim that the celebrated Wild Boy of Aveyron – who in 1800 was discovered living in the woods on his own – “had almost certainly been a person with autism.”  Granted, the boy couldn’t speak and had no table manners, but a more likely explanation is that he was a feral child, who had lived on his own with little human contact.  His survival skills were extraordinary, whereas autism commonly impairs the ability to recognize danger: that (tragically) is why autistic children so often wander from home and drown.  With that kind of handicap, how long could this boy have survived in the wild?

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161992#sthash.ojPbZTGh.dpuf

Is autism a condition that has always been with us, or is it an epidemic?  That is a highly controversial question of medical history, and a hugely important one, for the answer will have a tremendous impact on national health policy.

If the autism rate has been more or less steady throughout history, then you could argue (and many have argued) that autism is a genetic constant, part of the human condition, and something we simply must accept.  But if the autism rate has recently risen steeply, then we face a grave health emergency, which could not have been caused by genetics alone – and therefore can be reversed.

Estimates of diagnosed autism have in fact increased dramatically in recent years, from 1 in 2000 US children in the mid-1960s, to 1 in 500 in 1999, 1 in 68 in 2010, and (according to the Centers for Disease Control) 1 in 45 today. But does this represent a real increase?  Some insist that it’s an “optical illusion.” They suggest that in the past doctors either overlooked autism, or diagnosed it as something else, or used a narrower definition of the term.  So whenever a new and higher autism estimate is reported, public health officials reflexively attribute it to “better diagnosis.”  However, skeptical parents and teachers, pointing to the enormous expansion of special education classes, wonder why diagnosis always seems to be getting better and better and better and better and better.

In their recently published history, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker don’t absolutely rule out the possibility that autism is increasing, but they are clearly reluctant to call it an “epidemic,” a word they often frame in scare quotes.  They question the reliability of statistics that show a steep rise, and they look for a “pre-history” of autism – that is, identifiable cases that existed well before Leo Kanner published the first description of the disorder in a 1943 article.

They (and other researchers) claim to have found some.  But retrospective diagnoses of neurological disorders before the era of modern psychiatry are a highly speculative business.  Those who claim that autism has always been with us commonly stick the label on lists of famous eccentrics (the New Yorker assures us that“the catalogue of famous figures who have been placed on the spectrum now includes Newton, Mozart, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Kant, Jefferson, Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Wittgenstein”) based on extremely flimsy evidence or none at all.  Many of the cases that Donvan and Zucker cite are equally dubious.  They claim that the celebrated Wild Boy of Aveyron – who in 1800 was discovered living in the woods on his own – “had almost certainly been a person with autism.”  Granted, the boy couldn’t speak and had no table manners, but a more likely explanation is that he was a feral child, who had lived on his own with little human contact.  His survival skills were extraordinary, whereas autism commonly impairs the ability to recognize danger: that (tragically) is why autistic children so often wander from home and drown.  With that kind of handicap, how long could this boy have survived in the wild?

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161992#sthash.ojPbZTGh.dpuf

Is autism a condition that has always been with us, or is it an epidemic?  That is a highly controversial question of medical history, and a hugely important one, for the answer will have a tremendous impact on national health policy.

If the autism rate has been more or less steady throughout history, then you could argue (and many have argued) that autism is a genetic constant, part of the human condition, and something we simply must accept.  But if the autism rate has recently risen steeply, then we face a grave health emergency, which could not have been caused by genetics alone – and therefore can be reversed.

Estimates of diagnosed autism have in fact increased dramatically in recent years, from 1 in 2000 US children in the mid-1960s, to 1 in 500 in 1999, 1 in 68 in 2010, and (according to the Centers for Disease Control) 1 in 45 today. But does this represent a real increase?  Some insist that it’s an “optical illusion.” They suggest that in the past doctors either overlooked autism, or diagnosed it as something else, or used a narrower definition of the term.  So whenever a new and higher autism estimate is reported, public health officials reflexively attribute it to “better diagnosis.”  However, skeptical parents and teachers, pointing to the enormous expansion of special education classes, wonder why diagnosis always seems to be getting better and better and better and better and better.

In their recently published history, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker don’t absolutely rule out the possibility that autism is increasing, but they are clearly reluctant to call it an “epidemic,” a word they often frame in scare quotes.  They question the reliability of statistics that show a steep rise, and they look for a “pre-history” of autism – that is, identifiable cases that existed well before Leo Kanner published the first description of the disorder in a 1943 article. 

They (and other researchers) claim to have found some.  But retrospective diagnoses of neurological disorders before the era of modern psychiatry are a highly speculative business.  Those who claim that autism has always been with us commonly stick the label on lists of famous eccentrics (the New Yorker assures us that“the catalogue of famous figures who have been placed on the spectrum now includes Newton, Mozart, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Kant, Jefferson, Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Wittgenstein”) based on extremely flimsy evidence or none at all.  Many of the cases that Donvan and Zucker cite are equally dubious.  They claim that the celebrated Wild Boy of Aveyron – who in 1800 was discovered living in the woods on his own – “had almost certainly been a person with autism.”  Granted, the boy couldn’t speak and had no table manners, but a more likely explanation is that he was a feral child, who had lived on his own with little human contact.  His survival skills were extraordinary, whereas autism commonly impairs the ability to recognize danger: that (tragically) is why autistic children so often wander from home and drown.  With that kind of handicap, how long could this boy have survived in the wild?

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161992#sthash.ojPbZTGh.dpuf

Is autism a condition that has always been with us, or is it an epidemic?  That is a highly controversial question of medical history, and a hugely important one, for the answer will have a tremendous impact on national health policy.

If the autism rate has been more or less steady throughout history, then you could argue (and many have argued) that autism is a genetic constant, part of the human condition, and something we simply must accept.  But if the autism rate has recently risen steeply, then we face a grave health emergency, which could not have been caused by genetics alone – and therefore can be reversed.

Estimates of diagnosed autism have in fact increased dramatically in recent years, from 1 in 2000 US children in the mid-1960s, to 1 in 500 in 1999, 1 in 68 in 2010, and (according to the Centers for Disease Control) 1 in 45 today. But does this represent a real increase?  Some insist that it’s an “optical illusion.” They suggest that in the past doctors either overlooked autism, or diagnosed it as something else, or used a narrower definition of the term.  So whenever a new and higher autism estimate is reported, public health officials reflexively attribute it to “better diagnosis.”  However, skeptical parents and teachers, pointing to the enormous expansion of special education classes, wonder why diagnosis always seems to be getting better and better and better and better and better.

In their recently published history, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker don’t absolutely rule out the possibility that autism is increasing, but they are clearly reluctant to call it an “epidemic,” a word they often frame in scare quotes.  They question the reliability of statistics that show a steep rise, and they look for a “pre-history” of autism – that is, identifiable cases that existed well before Leo Kanner published the first description of the disorder in a 1943 article. 

They (and other researchers) claim to have found some.  But retrospective diagnoses of neurological disorders before the era of modern psychiatry are a highly speculative business.  Those who claim that autism has always been with us commonly stick the label on lists of famous eccentrics (the New Yorker assures us that“the catalogue of famous figures who have been placed on the spectrum now includes Newton, Mozart, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Kant, Jefferson, Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Wittgenstein”) based on extremely flimsy evidence or none at all.  Many of the cases that Donvan and Zucker cite are equally dubious.  They claim that the celebrated Wild Boy of Aveyron – who in 1800 was discovered living in the woods on his own – “had almost certainly been a person with autism.”  Granted, the boy couldn’t speak and had no table manners, but a more likely explanation is that he was a feral child, who had lived on his own with little human contact.  His survival skills were extraordinary, whereas autism commonly impairs the ability to recognize danger: that (tragically) is why autistic children so often wander from home and drown.  With that kind of handicap, how long could this boy have survived in the wild?

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161992#sthash.ojPbZTGh.dpuf

Is autism a condition that has always been with us, or is it an epidemic?  That is a highly controversial question of medical history, and a hugely important one, for the answer will have a tremendous impact on national health policy.

If the autism rate has been more or less steady throughout history, then you could argue (and many have argued) that autism is a genetic constant, part of the human condition, and something we simply must accept.  But if the autism rate has recently risen steeply, then we face a grave health emergency, which could not have been caused by genetics alone – and therefore can be reversed.

Estimates of diagnosed autism have in fact increased dramatically in recent years, from 1 in 2000 US children in the mid-1960s, to 1 in 500 in 1999, 1 in 68 in 2010, and (according to the Centers for Disease Control) 1 in 45 today. But does this represent a real increase?  Some insist that it’s an “optical illusion.” They suggest that in the past doctors either overlooked autism, or diagnosed it as something else, or used a narrower definition of the term.  So whenever a new and higher autism estimate is reported, public health officials reflexively attribute it to “better diagnosis.”  However, skeptical parents and teachers, pointing to the enormous expansion of special education classes, wonder why diagnosis always seems to be getting better and better and better and better and better.

In their recently published history, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker don’t absolutely rule out the possibility that autism is increasing, but they are clearly reluctant to call it an “epidemic,” a word they often frame in scare quotes.  They question the reliability of statistics that show a steep rise, and they look for a “pre-history” of autism – that is, identifiable cases that existed well before Leo Kanner published the first description of the disorder in a 1943 article. 

They (and other researchers) claim to have found some.  But retrospective diagnoses of neurological disorders before the era of modern psychiatry are a highly speculative business.  Those who claim that autism has always been with us commonly stick the label on lists of famous eccentrics (the New Yorker assures us that“the catalogue of famous figures who have been placed on the spectrum now includes Newton, Mozart, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Kant, Jefferson, Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Wittgenstein”) based on extremely flimsy evidence or none at all.  Many of the cases that Donvan and Zucker cite are equally dubious.  They claim that the celebrated Wild Boy of Aveyron – who in 1800 was discovered living in the woods on his own – “had almost certainly been a person with autism.”  Granted, the boy couldn’t speak and had no table manners, but a more likely explanation is that he was a feral child, who had lived on his own with little human contact.  His survival skills were extraordinary, whereas autism commonly impairs the ability to recognize danger: that (tragically) is why autistic children so often wander from home and drown.  With that kind of handicap, how long could this boy have survived in the wild?

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161992#sthash.ojPbZTGh.dpuf

Is autism a condition that has always been with us, or is it an epidemic?  That is a highly controversial question of medical history, and a hugely important one, for the answer will have a tremendous impact on national health policy.

If the autism rate has been more or less steady throughout history, then you could argue (and many have argued) that autism is a genetic constant, part of the human condition, and something we simply must accept.  But if the autism rate has recently risen steeply, then we face a grave health emergency, which could not have been caused by genetics alone – and therefore can be reversed.

Estimates of diagnosed autism have in fact increased dramatically in recent years, from 1 in 2000 US children in the mid-1960s, to 1 in 500 in 1999, 1 in 68 in 2010, and (according to the Centers for Disease Control) 1 in 45 today. But does this represent a real increase?  Some insist that it’s an “optical illusion.” They suggest that in the past doctors either overlooked autism, or diagnosed it as something else, or used a narrower definition of the term.  So whenever a new and higher autism estimate is reported, public health officials reflexively attribute it to “better diagnosis.”  However, skeptical parents and teachers, pointing to the enormous expansion of special education classes, wonder why diagnosis always seems to be getting better and better and better and better and better.

In their recently published history, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker don’t absolutely rule out the possibility that autism is increasing, but they are clearly reluctant to call it an “epidemic,” a word they often frame in scare quotes.  They question the reliability of statistics that show a steep rise, and they look for a “pre-history” of autism – that is, identifiable cases that existed well before Leo Kanner published the first description of the disorder in a 1943 article. 

They (and other researchers) claim to have found some.  But retrospective diagnoses of neurological disorders before the era of modern psychiatry are a highly speculative business.  Those who claim that autism has always been with us commonly stick the label on lists of famous eccentrics (the New Yorker assures us that“the catalogue of famous figures who have been placed on the spectrum now includes Newton, Mozart, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Kant, Jefferson, Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Wittgenstein”) based on extremely flimsy evidence or none at all.  Many of the cases that Donvan and Zucker cite are equally dubious.  They claim that the celebrated Wild Boy of Aveyron – who in 1800 was discovered living in the woods on his own – “had almost certainly been a person with autism.”  Granted, the boy couldn’t speak and had no table manners, but a more likely explanation is that he was a feral child, who had lived on his own with little human contact.  His survival skills were extraordinary, whereas autism commonly impairs the ability to recognize danger: that (tragically) is why autistic children so often wander from home and drown.  With that kind of handicap, how long could this boy have survived in the wild?

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161992#sthash.ojPbZTGh.dpuf

Is autism a condition that has always been with us, or is it an epidemic?  That is a highly controversial question of medical history, and a hugely important one, for the answer will have a tremendous impact on national health policy.

If the autism rate has been more or less steady throughout history, then you could argue (and many have argued) that autism is a genetic constant, part of the human condition, and something we simply must accept.  But if the autism rate has recently risen steeply, then we face a grave health emergency, which could not have been caused by genetics alone – and therefore can be reversed.

Estimates of diagnosed autism have in fact increased dramatically in recent years, from 1 in 2000 US children in the mid-1960s, to 1 in 500 in 1999, 1 in 68 in 2010, and (according to the Centers for Disease Control) 1 in 45 today. But does this represent a real increase?  Some insist that it’s an “optical illusion.” They suggest that in the past doctors either overlooked autism, or diagnosed it as something else, or used a narrower definition of the term.  So whenever a new and higher autism estimate is reported, public health officials reflexively attribute it to “better diagnosis.”  However, skeptical parents and teachers, pointing to the enormous expansion of special education classes, wonder why diagnosis always seems to be getting better and better and better and better and better.

In their recently published history, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker don’t absolutely rule out the possibility that autism is increasing, but they are clearly reluctant to call it an “epidemic,” a word they often frame in scare quotes.  They question the reliability of statistics that show a steep rise, and they look for a “pre-history” of autism – that is, identifiable cases that existed well before Leo Kanner published the first description of the disorder in a 1943 article. 

They (and other researchers) claim to have found some.  But retrospective diagnoses of neurological disorders before the era of modern psychiatry are a highly speculative business.  Those who claim that autism has always been with us commonly stick the label on lists of famous eccentrics (the New Yorker assures us that“the catalogue of famous figures who have been placed on the spectrum now includes Newton, Mozart, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Kant, Jefferson, Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Wittgenstein”) based on extremely flimsy evidence or none at all.  Many of the cases that Donvan and Zucker cite are equally dubious.  They claim that the celebrated Wild Boy of Aveyron – who in 1800 was discovered living in the woods on his own – “had almost certainly been a person with autism.”  Granted, the boy couldn’t speak and had no table manners, but a more likely explanation is that he was a feral child, who had lived on his own with little human contact.  His survival skills were extraordinary, whereas autism commonly impairs the ability to recognize danger: that (tragically) is why autistic children so often wander from home and drown.  With that kind of handicap, how long could this boy have survived in the wild?

- See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/161992#sthash.ojPbZTGh.dpuf

Comments

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Cynthia Cournoyer

After I learned about the present-day desperate need to find an autism epidemic in the past, I thought about the expansion of the West in the mid 19th century. I thought about the iconic Gold Rush, the Oregon Trail and the trials and tribulations of a rugged people. And then I thought about how these journeys were forever burned into our American identity through the massive documentation of this era through printed newspapers, letters, journals and records of homesteading. If it was "usual and normal" for children to have autism in the past, we would have heard stories about how children regularly walked away from the circled wagon-train at night, never to return. We would have heard about how three of the nine children in a family were not able to help with taming the wild, building a house or plowing a field. Those families in the past would have been just as wrought with pain and loss as those who suffer it today. And the truth is, THEY WOULD HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT IT!

Jeannette Bishop

John Stone,

"One thing to say about Donvan, Zucker and Silberman phenomenon is that if everything was just normal and dandy we not would need them to tell us about it."

Thank you (so very much) for spelling out (and shutting down) the nagging something-is-just-not-adding-up-here-and-would-probably-be-annoyingly-obvious-if-only-I-could-get-my-finger-on-it feeling I've had over much of this!

Citizen Scientist

The wild boy of Averyron could not talk because he never heard language and also had a scar across his neck/throat area. In the 18th century, unwanted babies or children were sometimes left in the woods, at the mercy of wild animals, with their throats cut so nobody would hear them cry. A most evil and barbaric practice.

http://www.amazon.com/Wild-Boy-Real-Savage-Aveyron/dp/0763656690/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1457615552&sr=8-2&keywords=Wild+Boy+of+Aveyron


Also, I never knew that Newton, Mozart, Beethoven, Jane Austen, Kant, Jefferson, Darwin, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, and Wittgenstein used to bang their heads, flap their hands and bite their fingers. You would think that such highly celebrated people with that sort of behavior, would have had someone who noticed and recorded it!

John Stone

Grace

It plainly is part of the agenda 2009 but also note that they stopped collecting official data for children in the UK when it got to 1 in 100 in 2004 (before it went up again).

http://www.ageofautism.com/2016/02/the-true-data-revealed-adult-autism-data-fabrication-in-the-united-kingdom-part-3.html

On the other hand we have the schools data for Scotland which had hit 1 in 68 in 2013, and is probably higher now - and certainly much higher for those at the younger end of a ~15 year cohort.

http://www.ageofautism.com/2015/07/best-of-aofa-scottish-autism-increase.html

This is the result of institutional cover-up and political negligence. As the Braun paper that Ed Yazbak reviewed a few days ago showed by 2010 the rate 8 year-olds in Atlanta (under the nose of the CDC) had risen to 1 in 65. And yet all th flannel of Donvan, Zucker and Silberman is what gets the public airing. Braun et al state:

"...the consistent application of methods and case definitions across all surveillance years provides strong internal validity to evaluate trends"

It is probably the very best we can do for the time being.

One thing to say about Donvan, Zucker and Silberman phenomenon is that if everything was just normal and dandy we not would need them to tell us about it.

Grace Green

John Stone, your comment about the coincidence of the 1% pediatric figure in America, and the adult one in UK is totally right. I also think they believe it will be more supportive of their argument if the statistics come from different countries so as to disprove any suggestion of conspiracy. (We know better!)

Benedetta

John Stone;
Both are excellent places for your post.
It looks to me, John; that we did not count many years ago, and we still don't count and we recall and tell the bunch of liars.

Go Trump!

Ed Yazbak

Thank you Professor Rose

What a wonderful gem you have given us!

Eric

I recall the previous rate of autism being 1 in 10,000 instead of 1 in 2,000 that this article cites. Can you research this? It seems like revising the baseline up could be a tactic in creating the narrative that autism is not increasing.

Twyla

Wonderful to see this article on a mainstream site. Kudos to Jonathan Rose.

John Stone

I probably ought to have put my comment here rather than Anne's column (provoked by Steve Silberman):

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

I recollect that when my son was first diagnosed (1995-6) one of the conversations that we had with the one of the diagnosticians was whether there had been any previous developmental quirks in the family - not at the level of extreme need mind you. In those days they were a bit more open about the fact that they were getting lots of cases not known a few years before. What they were telling me was that they thought there might be a genetic disposition but we were not talking about actual disablement (and patently we are not talking about disablement when it comes to someone like John Elder Robison). Of course, what they were not saying is what was different so that quirkiness was becoming in the new generation serious disablement requiring special facilities, new education units (for a disability which could not just be catered for in the old MLD/SLD schools), specialised officers etc. In 1996 Haringey had its first autism education officer for the borough, but the workload soon became too big: new units were having to be developed all over the place, I sat on committees....I think we have to look very carefully at the history of the 1990s.

In 2000 I tried to write an article for a national newspaper talking about local conditions. At first the health editor listened to me sympathetically: then someone at the National Autistic Society briefed against me and I was accused of lying.

I have written quite a lot about the UK Adult Autism Survey - the frankly bizarre methodology speaks for itself, and indeed it was not only the methodolgy: every one of the 19 "cases" from which they somehow projected a national figure of 1% was capable of conducting a conversation and answering a questionnaire on the telephone. It is also important to point out how central this imposture became to US perceptions. It was published simultaneously with the US announcement that the rate of autism had risen to the 1 % figure in children, and was subsequently repeatedly cited by Tom Insel as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

If we were talking about people like John Elder Robison - a successful small businessman if I understand aright - we would not be talking about the costs of autism rising to hundreds of billions of dollars a year in the US.

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Linda1, I also went over to the History Network and read what John Elder Robison wrote. His understanding of autism is so different from that of those of us who have had the sad task of helping our children we know were injured.

At the IACC meeting in November he was apparently appointed to discuss public comments that were submitted. In January another Public Member presented brief summaries of the topics of public comments. I have submitted a few comments for the meeting in April, and have asked that my ideas be discussed by members of the committee whose education was in medicine.

Birgit, the brain impairments must be found that result from all of the many known causes of autism. Some very good clues sit in the medical literature in broad daylight, but I have been attacked for pointing out the 1881 paper by Wernicke, and much research from the early 20th century on Wernicke's encephalopathy. This apparently does not qualify as "history" in the sense of recent clinical accounts of autism in the past.

Then SS Kety (1962) and L Sokoloff (1981) described measures of blood flow and metabolic activity in the brain. The auditory system is most active, and most vulnerable to interference with aerobic metabolism. Many papers based on the method used by Sokoloff bear that out. I have spent decades looking into the history of understanding brain metabolism. I will continue to try to focus attention on the brain.

go Trump

genetics

It is somewhat impossible that a new "Autism gene" showed up in 50 states at the same time in 1990 and started the Autism epidemic that hit the school systems in 1995-96.

The search for the "Autism gene" is like searching for the "Polio gene" to try to find out why one person gets polio and a sibling does not...

...of course big medicine likes to search for things they cannot find as long as the money rolls in from the CDC and Autism Speaks.

Birgit Calhoun

Great to read such a sensible article. Here is my view on genetics:

There are a number of syndromes that are clearly genetic, e.g. fragile X, Rett's syndrome and others. There is undoubtedly a genetic reason for why some people are healthier than others. And certainly there is a genetic reason for why some people are much better able to tolerate alcohol and other toxins. The reason why certain people get lung, liver and breast cancer has probably something to do with genetics.

Leaving out all those genetic possibilities for autism, the one that might have always existed is the APOE4 gene that predisposes for autism as well as Alzheimer's. It's been around for a long time and it should not be neglected. But that gene clearly cannot account for an increase that started occurring relatively recently, and that is the indiscriminate use of injecting mercury and still filling teeth with amalgam.

The reason why certain toxins have not had the necessary scrutiny among pharmaceuticals is the grandfathering in of a huge number of chemicals that were not thought to be toxic because they had been used for so long and had been thought to be "harmless". Mercury is only one of those many elements. The APOE gene is connected to how toxic mercury is to various individuals.

There is a really well-known connection regarding Alzheimer's and APOE4. Boyd Haley explains that very well in many of his writings.

It is a great failure of the CDC to allow the continued grandfathering in of toxic substances like mercury and probably other chemicals. For some reason lead has gotten all the attention in Flint, Michigan, but not mercury which is much more toxic and has a synergistic effect with lead and other substances. People need to get interested in questioning not how but why there is an autism epidemic.

Benedetta

I do appreciate that every time some one makes some statement that many in our community runs to studies and reads them and finds the flaws, and lies.

Nov 2012 at the last minute before Congress dismissed the autism hearings was a fine moment; when we had all been lied to again, and some one had time to look it up and hand it to a Congressmen and he gets to tell the creeps from the CDC that had just lied -- they lied, and they were caught.

Benedetta

Good one Lisa!

Grace Green

Linda 1, I think you've put your finger on the problem in your comment. It's in the very nature of "autism" that sufferers are not capable of describing their own symptoms, let alone explaining what caused them. On the other hand, those who don't have the condition don't know what the sufferer is experiencing. I found Frith's and Cohen's books helpful in describing the psychological symptoms so that I could at last recognize my condition. But of course they don't attempt to find the cause. For that, the testimony of "autism Mums and Dads" is invaluable. We must try to persuade the scientists to join up the dots between the objective, the subjective and the environmental to get the full picture.

Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Bob, thank you as aways for your insightful comment. Yes, the failure of US public health agencies is deliberate, to put any reasonable effort into investigating the prevalence of autism.

Autism is a neurological disorder of language development, motor control, and general awareness. Language and motor problems in adult neurological disorders (aphasia, Parkinson's etc.) are associated with specific lesions in the brain (Broca's or Wernicke's areas, brainstem dopamine deficiency, etc.)

Real scientists (not journalists and historians) should take charge of autism research. I had to become an autism researcher to fill the void for my own sake. A bonus for me is discovery of how interesting signal processing and brain maturation are.

Maybe there are few real scientists out there anymore. Matching gene loci for autism traits is simply silly, as are floundering efforts to analyze echolalic speech and pronoun reversal as some sort of "deictic shifting?" etc... Status quo autism researchers deserve to be ridiculed.

Lisa

This author says, "But then Donvan and Zucker play their strongest card ... In 1846 Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, a pioneering advocate for the disabled, conducted a meticulous census of the mentally handicapped in Massachusetts..."

I clicked on the report and took a good look at it. It appears that this "pioneering advocate for the disabled" attributed nearly all mental disorders to masturbation. I'm not sure why Donvan and Zucker are asking us to consider his work at all, unless they think that autism is the result of masturbation.

Grace Green

I think that epidemic is the wrong description for what is happening because it implies a natural cause, as in a disease. The situation is in fact a man-made environmental disaster, which could well be called a world wide chemical holocaust. It is also not psychiatric, but biological (even Simon Baron Cohen has admitted that!)

Linda1

It really annoys me to read John Elder Robison's comments on this article at History News Network. He bases his opinion that there is no autism epidemic on memories of his own abusive childhood in rural Georgia, and his memory that in the 1950's and 60's, he knew of children in that part of the country who were not in school. That, to him, is evidence that there is no epidemic. Facts do not enter into his analysis. He makes assumptions based upon his own present and past perception and cannot differentiate between fact and opinion. He demonstrates verbal competence unaccompanied by insight and judgment and a complete unwillingness or inability to see the big picture. This is the man who has been assigned by the United States Government to represent the entire autism community in matters of public policy and research. His recommendations as a member of IACC affect everyone as this epidemic spreads. Disgusting.

Bob Moffit

"No doubt some individuals have a genetic predisposition to autism, but only environmental factors could have triggered such a sharp increase. Therefore, a prime goal of national health policy must be to identify those factors, eliminate them as far as possible, and roll back the epidemic. The well-being of future generations depends on that."

Unfortunately .. the deliberate failure of US public health agencies to prioritize a "national health policy .. to identify those environmental factors, eliminate them a far as possible .. to roll back the epidemic" .. is now well-established routine policy .. for US regulatory bureaucracies.

Autism is only one such policy failure among many others .. for example .. GMO's.

Consider .. the European Union generally takes a "precautionary approach to environmental risks" .. the EU "chooses restraint in the face of uncertainty".

A "precautionary principle" that once represented all that was good about US public health .. but .. unfortunately no longer applies because of MONEY.

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