RIP and Thank You Dr. Bernadine Healy
UK Guardian Newspaper Caught Falsifying the Historical Record of Vaccine-Ca​used-Autis​m

Allen Frances, Thomas Insel and the Black & White Rise of Autism (It's Fashionable?)


On Jul 11, 2011, Dr, Thomas Insel testified before the House Health Subcommittee on the importance of refunding the Combating Autism Act and once again turning autism over to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. (See my recent story about Thomas Insel’s testimony Age of Autism HERE )

Recently a story also appeared in the Gulf Times, Qatar’s only English language newspaper, titled, The real reasons for the autism 'epidemic.’ 

It was written by Allen Frances, MD.  Frances was chair of the DSM-IV Task Force and he’s with the department of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC.

DSM stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and while many of us wonder why our children’s neurological problem, namely autism, is in a manual about mental illness, that’s where the criteria for diagnosing autism is found.

Frances was in charge of the DSM 4 that came out in 1994.  This is important because that’s when the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome was officially added as a form of autism.  In his Qatar piece, Frances went into great detail about why he’s not worried about all the children everywhere with autism.  There is no epidemic.  We’ve just expanded the definition of autism so much that many more people now qualify.  He’s convinced that adding Asperger’s in 1994 is the reason the current autism rate is one in 110 and he’s sure that when the DSM 5 comes out in May 2013, the autism rate will soar even higher—because they’re going to drop Asperger’s as a separate category.  If that really doesn’t make sense to you, I’m sure you’re not alone.  All that’s clear to me is that if they keep playing with the definition of autism, the term itself will lose all meaning.  The spectrum will include so many atypical behaviors that on a bad day, anyone could be labeled “autistic.”

Frances wrote, Not long ago, autism was among the rarest of disorders, afflicting only one child in every 2,000-5,000. This changed dramatically with the publication in 1994 of DSM IV (the manual of psychiatric diagnosis widely used around the world). Soon, rates exploded to about 1 per 100.” 

All the autism makes perfect sense to Frances but the epidemic rate has caused parents to be scared. “The natural reaction to any plague is panic. Parents are now fearful that every delay in speech or socialisation presages autism. Childless couples decide to avoid having kids. Parents with autistic children are desolate and desperate to determine its cause.”

And unfortunately, desperate parents have been convinced that vaccinations cause autism.

“The British physician Andrew Wakefield's vaccine theory became wildly popular among parents, many of whom began to withhold vaccination (thus subjecting their own and other children to the risk of entirely preventable, and sometimes serious, illnesses).

“Vaccination seemed a plausible cause because of the fortuitous correlation between getting shots and the onset of symptoms. Wakefield's work has now been thoroughly discredited as incorrect and dishonest science. But fear of autism is so great, and the reactions to it so irrational, that in some circles Wakefield continues to be revered as a false prophet.”

 Only those with severe symptoms used to be called autistic, but that’s all changed.

“Before DSM IV, autism was among the most narrowly and clearly defined of disorders. Symptoms had to begin before age three and comprised a striking and unmistakable combination of severe language deficits, inability to form social relationships, and a preoccupation with a very narrow set of stereotyped behaviors.”

“In preparing DSM IV, we decided to add a new category describing a milder (and therefore much more difficult to define and distinguish) form of autism, called Asperger's Disorder. This seemed necessary because some (still quite rare) children presented with more or less normal language development, but with grave social and behavioral difficulties. We knew that Asperger's would likely triple the rate of autistic disorders to about 1 per 500-1,000, but this doesn't explain the new rate of 1 per 38.”  (The one in 38 is a reference to the rate recently found in S. Korea.)

So how does Frances dismiss so many children having autism?  Easy, it’s getting to be more and more popular to have autism.

The most likely cause of the autism epidemic is that autism has become fashionable - a popular fad diagnosis. Once rare and unmistakable, the term is now used loosely to describe people who do not really satisfy the narrow criteria intended for it by DSM IV.

“Autism now casts a wide net, catching much milder problems that previously went undiagnosed altogether or were given other labels. Autism is no longer seen as an extremely disabling condition, and many creative and normally eccentric people have discovered their inner autistic self.

“This dramatic swing from under- to overdiagnosis has been fuelled by widespread publicity, Internet support and advocacy groups, and the fact that expensive school services are provided only for those who have received the diagnosis. The Korean study, for example, was financed by an autism advocacy group, which could barely contain its enthusiasm at the high rates that were reported.”

So we’ve gone from under-diagnosing to over-diagnosing? 

Is Frances worried that if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ever gets around to updating the autism numbers the rate may even be higher?  Not really. 

It is entirely plausible that 3% of the population may have some smidgen of autism, but it is entirely implausible that so many would have symptoms severe enough to qualify as an autistic disorder. Reported rates should be regarded as an upper limit, not as a true reflection of the rate of actual mental disorder.”

Despite the fact that the recent NIH funded twin study showed that environmental factors are more important than genetics in determining why a child develops autism, Frances isn’t buying it.

Perhaps, then, an environmental toxin is causing an epidemic outbreak of autism. This has been the most popular theory, but it, too, is a small factor, at best. There has been no sudden environmental change since 1994 to account for an explosion in rates. This doesn't entirely disprove an environmental vector, but it does make the odds quite remote - especially since there is a far more plausible explanation.”

“Human nature, neurological illness, and psychiatric disorder all change very slowly, if at all. Environmental toxins do not usually just pop out of nowhere to make a condition 100 times more common than it was less than 20 years before.”

These outrageous remarks are meant for people he hopes are willing to accept that a well-credentialed expert must know what he’s talking about and that they can trust him to be telling them the truth.  And he’s betting that most people out there don’t’ know that the number of vaccines our children receive more than tripled after 1983.

I have a hard times thinking most Americans still believe the worn-out claim of better diagnosing, expanded spectrum.  What I see at work here is a well-orchestrated effort to make autism go away and with it the controversy over vaccines.  If autism really hasn’t increased, then the ever-expanding vaccines schedule couldn’t be a factor.

That might work, except we’re getting mixed messages from officials.


Insel has steadfastly talked about the ever-increasing autism numbers.  Of course he does this in Congressional subcommittee testimony and in speeches at MIT and at NIH, not at press conferences with a large national audience.  Still, Insel spouts claims totally different from Frances’s.  He’s not happily agreeing that we’re just calling a lot of fringe conditions autism because it’s a “fad diagnosis.” 

Insel has been quoted saying things like this:

"I think that most people that have been in this field, as I have for more than two decades, would say it's not simply changing diagnosis, not simply greater awareness, not simply ascertainment that's better, but that there is a true increase, as there is in asthma, type I diabetes, food allergies."

In 2009, Insel testified before Senate Appropriations Subcommittee chaired by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin.  There he said,

"We have a whole wave of children with autism who'll soon be adults with autism,"

And in 2010, Insel gave a talk at NIH and asked,  “How will we prepare the nation for a million people who may need significant amounts of services?”

He further said, "We need to figure out how this gets paid for and who provides the care,”

Also in 2010, Insel talked about autism at MIT.  He said things like:

"In the 1980s,...I remember having to look far and wide to actually find a child with autism."

"I'd never seen any children with autism through all of my training."

"I didn't actually know anyone that I trained with who'd actually seen a child with autism."

Insel said we don't know what's driving this. We know it's not because of people who were labeled something else. He said it's not diagnostic substitution.

"I said before this isn't just genetics... There have to be environmental factors."

"We have barely been able to scratch the surface."

"There are something like 80,000 potential toxicants."

Notice how the two supposed experts contradict each other.  I guess when it comes to autism, official sounding statements don’t have to make sense.  No one is demanding that the medical community tell us anything for sure or that there should be some sort of consensus of belief.  The only thing mainstream medicine and health officials know for sure about autism is that vaccines don’t cause it. Beyond that, as Allen Frances showed us, no one agrees on anything. 

The scariest thing about Frances’s story is that he’s got a prominent position when it comes to autism.  As the chairman of the group that worked on the last definition of autism, he has a lot of credibility.  He must know what he’s talking about. 

His claims fly in the face of reason and he’s muddying the water.  He’s continuing the idea that autism is just a mysterious disorder--we don’t know anything for sure.  

So why are so many parents worried about what will happen to their autistic children.  If Frances is right and autism has always been around, then adults with autism will go where adults with autism have always gone.  There is no crisis.  The IACC can just disband.  There’s no need for a special committee.

There seems to be a well-orchestrated effort to make autism go away. What Frances is skillfully doing here is distracting us.  He’s redefining autism as something mild and acceptable.  The only way his argument flies is if we forget about the kids with severe autism.  We have to ignore the ones who are in need of constant care. They’re in diapers as teenagers. They don’t talk. They scream and bang their heads. They get away from parents and are found dead in a river or lake.  They’ve got severe health problems like bowel disease and seizure disorders. They’re the ones we never see in TV news coverage about autism awareness. 

Frances has absolutely no concern about where all these disabled kids will end up.  Most noticeably, he can’t show us adults with the symptoms of classic autism that we see in so many of our children.  I can go to local special ed rooms in area schools and find the hand-flapping, spinning, nonverbal kids.  I can’t go to area nursing homes and see 70 and 80 year olds like this.  And no one holds Allen Frances accountable for his ridiculous claims. 

Furthermore, Frances totally ignores the thousands of children everywhere who were born healthy and were developing normally until they received routine vaccinations.  How does he explain regressive autism?  Simple, he doesn’t.  

The clock is ticking on Allen Frances and his idiocy.  He can pretend that the autism epidemic isn’t real, but he can’t make these children go away.  They’re getting older and they’re going to bankrupt social services.  When autism begins to cost us more and more money and when there is simply no place for all these young adults to go, we’ll be desperate for answers.  We’ll understand that there have never been disabled adults on any scale like the autism epidemic has produced.  We’ll have to stop the pretense that somehow we can explain away a generation of disabled children who’ve never been here before.   

Frances tried hard to downplay autism.  Insel talked a lot about the impact autism will have on us but he’s cautious about being too alarming.  Meanwhile, the media says little of importance about autism.  They dutifully talk about it during April Awareness Month.  They occasionally mention a new study about the genetics of autism.  They regularly remind us that studies show no link between vaccines and autism.  Mostly they don’t sound worried about autism. 

If the new updated rate goes from one in 110 to one in 70 or one in 60, we’ll still get the caveat that this doesn’t really mean more kids have autism.  I’m sure we’ll have more lots of people like Frances downplaying the numbers.

We’ll finally stop listening to that mantra when we start to feel the cost of caring for the generation of autistic adults who will be aging out of school.  I can imagine editorials demanding to know why no one warned us this disaster was coming.  How come doctors like Allen Frances told us it wasn’t really happening?  How come the CDC never called autism a crisis, let alone an epidemic?   Why didn’t anyone in authority care about the suffering of hundreds of thousands of disabled children?

I can’t wait for the answers. 

I really like what an autism dad I know wants to put on a bumper sticker….

"I pay a fortune for my child with autism. You will pay a fortune when he is an adult. Still think autism is someone else's problem?"

Update:  See: Fueling the Fire: Autism as a "Fashionable" Disorder (HERE)  by Lisa Jo Rudy.  She also focused on Frances’s claim that an autism diagnosis is just in vogue right now. 


Anne Dachel is Media Editor of Age of Autism.




I think Allen Frances is one of the authors of the "Georgia Guidestones."


The most interesting thing about this is the fact that this yoyo's article was appearing in a Qatar newspaper. Middle Eastern countries like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, etc. have undertaken government-led vaccine campaigns and are now reaping the autism results; there have been many articles extolling their new autism centers.

Kym Grosso

These statements from Dr. Frances make me SICK!!! Yeah, every mother and father are just vying to get the diagnosis of autism...Oh and doctors just can't wait to devastate parents and see the look on their faces when they tell them their child has autism and that no one can say for sure if their child will ever be independent...because it is such FASHIONABLE diagnosis to give!?!

You have to wonder what would possess this man to say something so idiotic and hurtful...seriously. People who don't have a child with autism of their own will never know what it is like to raise a child with autism...period. What is even more disturbing is that people will actually listen to his statement and believe it. Right, autism is fashionable. :-( :-(

Vicki Hill

"I pay a fortune for my child with autism. You will pay a fortune when he is an adult. Still think autism is someone else's problem?"

I only wish this approach would work. As the parent of an adult with ASD, I can tell you that our kids will also fail to be covered by many government programs designed for those with intellectual and developmental disorders. Why? Because the criteria are based on IQ scores. IQ below 70 = services. IQ of 71 or above = no services. Many kids with ASD are capable of scoring above 70 on an IQ test, but still have no possibility to live independently, support themselves financially, etc. And in these days of budget constraints, families of those who do have IQ below 70 are not interested in dividing their meager 'piece of the pie' into ever-smaller segments to include those with ASD with an IQ in the 70's or 80's.


Where I live the autistic kids are all heading to middle schools or high school. The 1990's were great years to be born with lots of brain damaging thimerosal in those vaccines. The elementary schools have a handful of asperger kids in the autism classes to "pretend" that autism is still around in the elementary schools. The asperger kids will become the new autism per the new DSM. The kids with the old real autism will slowly fade from view.


And here is the solution to the problem. I don't know why I am the only person raging this as often as possible. Sue any doctor that gives your child a dx of Autism without properly assessing and diagnosing their medical issues! Autism, as described in the DSM is an incurable neurological disorder. It, as defined in the DSM, has nothing to do with immune issues, heavy metals, allergies/intollerances, metabolic issues, or GI disfunction. If your child has bodily issues and your doctor is treating them for autism rather than your medical issues, then it is your responsibility to get a few tests done and take your doctor to task for negligence. The use of the DSM is a tool for insurance companies not to cover medical issues. Stand strong for your child and demand medical treatment and coverage. It works. The A word,,, in every form of the spectrum, has to go. It is hurting children.

Katie Wright

This woman is such an idiot. And psychiatrists wonder why the DSM V lacks all credibility w/ our families?


Allen Frances - Frances Allen. Sorry about the name confusion in my preceeding comment. Is there a dyslexia fad too?


In an Aug. 1 blog in Psychology Today by Frances Allen, he uses the same tack with ADD and bipolar - calling their increase "false epidemics" along with autism, and he even warns of another "diagnostic fad ... Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder." He goes on at length about the "blossoming ADD fad," and the "ADD bubble," claiming that the changes in the DSM IV caused ADD rates to jump from 3-5% to 10%.

Interestingly, he claims a pharma "marketing blitz for ADD drugs" falsely inflated those numbers, and warns about the "scandalous overprescription of dangerous antipsychotic medication to children," calling the DSM 5 "far too pharma friendly."

But as Anne pointed out, Allen puts vaccines on a pedestal, vilifies Dr. Wakefield and is much less concerned about the effect on the brain of the neurotoxin mercury that's still in the flu shot than he is about stimulant meds.

Allen comes across to the average reader as a pharma watchdog - crusading for children. But that act may be be part of a larger strategy to protect vaccines - the golden egg - at all costs. With so many drugs going off patent in coming years, pharma's major focus will be vaccines and the far greater market each new vaccine represents.

Allen is truly a wolf in sheep's clothing. Either that or he's just exceedingly stupid.

Maurine Meleck

Oh Anne, you do this so well. And there are so many who believe A F's BS. You know that his statements are repeated
over and over in the commenter sections to all the media stories. No doubt when so many reach adulthood Francis will say that all those collecting SSI just want a free ride at the country's expense. Maurine

John Gilmore

While I think Frances is completely wrong about the rise in the incidence of autism, I doubt very much at this point that he is in cahoots with pharma (which is almost impossible to be a psychiatrist and not be in cahoots with pharma. I say this because Allen has emerged as the most visible critic of the pending DSM V. The DSM is the manual psychiatrist use to define psychiatric disorders, it is where they create new psychiatric disorders, redefine existing disorders and one of the the stated goals of the DSM is to tailor disorders to match the properties of psychotropic drugs to ease the use of these drugs and increase consumption and purchases.

FRances has emerged as a highly vocal and credible critic of the new DSM V which he claims is being used to fabricate completely new disorders, broaden the range of disorder definitions to the point here just about everybody can be diagnosed as having a psychiatric disorder in need of psychiatric care and expensive patented molecule (drug) treatment.

The DSM V promises to be a disaster for families dealing with autism. It doesn't recognize the difference between non-regressive and regressive autism. It eliminates Asperger's as a distinct category, it eliminates cognitive delay as a symptom of autism, and it greatly widens the definition of autism. My guess is this is planned for two purposes, first to broaden the potential market for Risperdal and the other patented molecules being pushed as an autism treatment, and more importantly to gut the epidemiology that has been done to this point which does indeed show a real rise in the incidence of autism. Many prominent practitioners in the autism industry (such as Frances) are still claiming that the redefinition in the DSM IV back in 1994 is the sufficient justification to dismiss any evidence that their was a real rise in autism incidence. Another redefinition will serve as a perfectly acceptable reason to the medical establishment to continue ignoring autism prevalence changes. The DSM V will be a disaster for our community. It will set us back decades and the new definition could potentially be used to deny treatment and services to our kids. I could also see school districts and insurance companies using it to deny that a person currently diagnosed with autism has the disorder. I am sure it is also intended to strengthen the hand of the very high functioning people who claim to have autism, such as Ari Neeman, who want no research at all into the causes and treatment of autism.

But back to Frances. HIs prominence is a very important tool in stopping the new "autism" designed for the DSM V.


Last week I spoke to a childhood friend after not seeing each other for a few years who now does research in immunology for GSK; we talked for a while about chronic illness, until I said the word 'vaccine' at which point the conversation abruptly stopped. Completely stopped. I had a similar experience a few months ago with one of the most senior scientists at the MRC who I have known since I was a small boy. Both are decent folk, conscientious and dedicated, both tried to make an answer to suggest they thought the vaccine connection unlikely, but when I started talking about science they were unaware of they didn't want to hear any more, it was just a subject they could not touch. I don't know for certain what was going through their minds, but part of it was no doubt being unable to face the prospect of having played a role in doing so much harm to so many children.

That, at least as much as top level corruption, is an obstacle to be overcome before truth can be spoken out loud.


Who would have thought that medicine/our own doctors would bring down our entire country were so many other enemies have failed.

And who would have thought that the American people would just stand around and let them being too blind to see it, so much faith in it!

We are not just talking autism but also the rise of the other health problems. Slowly poisoned and we don't know it. As expensive as health care is ????

Bob Moffitt

Scientific American: The Neuroscience of the Gut

Jeepers .. this prestigious magazine comments on recent studies that show the "gut" affects "behavior" .. and
.. they managed to do so without once mentioning Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

Sure hope Insel and Frances subscribe to this magazine.


I'd like to know how much Dr Frances has received in speaker fees from pharma.
Psychiatrists are the most dishonest and corrupted within the medical profession!
And the most troubled individuals too.

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