A couple of quick replies:
1) I agree we need a good prevalence study of ADULTS with autism spectrum conditions, and I haven't seen a study like this!
2) Kids who show regression are also a very important subgroup to understand.
3) I have no vested interest in denying a role for vaccines and remain open-minded about causes of autism. but the evidence for a link between autism and vaccines is not very consistent.
4) I do certainly believe autism spectrum conditions have increased. hugely. It is the reasons behind this increase that are a matter of debate.
For years, I have asked members of the press and health officials to SHOW US THE ADULTS WITH AUTISM. Surely the agency that can run down every single case of swine flu in the U.S. can find them. The CDC has lamely made excuses for not doing so.
Simon Baron-Cohen agrees that we need such a study. Personally, I believe that U.S. health officials and recognized autism experts who make the claim that there's been no real increase are on very shaky ground without one.
On June 4, Kristina Chew put out the piece, "Epidemic," Bettelheim, Science: Simon Baron-Cohen on Autism (HERE) She wrote, Baron-Cohen states that "'A good part' of the rise........can be explained by better diagnosis and an expanded definition of autism."
On June 4, the BBC in Britain (HERE) reported on the lack of adult services. They cited Baron-Cohen calling for more help for 'this invisible group in our society.'
The real proof of that claim would be to show us the 30, 50, and 70 year olds with autism. I don't mean Asperger's. I mean adults who are like the children of countless friends of mine across the U.S. Adults who don't talk. Adults who bang holes in walls and who wear diapers. Ones who flap their hands all day and spin in circles for hours. Ones who scream and have terrible diarrhea and constipation. And I want to see adults whose families remember them as normally developing children but who changed around age 2, lost learned skills and became dependent for life.
The truth is, if these people really existed, the officials at the CDC and experts like Baron-Cohen would be all over them. THEY WOULD PROVE THEIR CASE. Pretending they're out there somewhere is not science.
In the next few years we'll have the proof. We will have the first generation of young autistic adults flooding social services and bankrupting Social Security. They will be a new phenomenon and they will be everywhere. When my 22 year old son was 18 and we applied for SS Disability, the lady working there made the comment, "Where are all these young people with autism coming from? I've never seen kids like this." My husband looked at her and said, "Get used it. John is the tip of a huge iceberg. There are a lot more coming."
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.