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Utter Froth: Autism Epidemic Caused by the Film Rain Man!

FrithBy John Stone

The remarkable claim that the autism epidemic is an artefact of the popularity of the film Rain Man is made by the developmental psychologist and autism expert Prof Uta Frith of University College, London in a recent BBC news item which purports to make fun of scientific myths created by the movies. Frith is known for coining the concept of "theory of mind" in relation to autism in 1985 in collaboration with Simon Baron-Cohen, and also holds a professorship at Aarhus University, home of Poul Thorsen. The film Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman, appeared in 1988. This is the relevant extract from the BBC news item:

Interviewer: “The film Rain Man was actually the turning point in the awareness of autism.”

Frith: “If you look at the kind of curves that you see about the prevalence of autism there was an apparent increase in prevalence but of course it is really an increase in awareness.”

1987-8 was indeed the period in which infants in the first wave of the autism epidemic in Britain and the United States were being born, but of course they would not have been diagnosed in 1988, and it seems preposterous that doctors and scientists (presumably including Prof Frith) would have been so influenced by a popular film (they certainly should not have been). In 1988, for instance, Prof Frith was 47 and had completed a PhD on autism twenty years before - where, then, are all the cases that she missed? The film is about a middle-aged man not about young children. I can find no papers on Pubmed discussing, let alone supporting, a Rain Man hypothesis. 

As it is this after dinner tittle-tattle will now be repeated as solemn gospel by people who “heard it on the BBC”. It looks more as if Prof Frith is trying to create myth here than destroy one.  Why would she do that? Perhaps she ought to consult her conscience about all the families desperately battling to obtain services for their children while professionals engage in whimsical and misleading fantasies about their historical predicament.

John Stone is UK Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.


Shell Tzorfas

We must figure out a way to to have the University College of London stop paying "Delusional professors" who trace Autism merely to movies such as "Rainman" and Children's Hospital of Pa. who believe that babies could get 10,000 vaccines and remain not brain injured,.. No Autism, ADHD, Repeating ear infections, Cancer, Diabetes, deadly food and nut allergies from peanut byproducts and casein in the vaccines even as our Federal Gov't keeps awarding millions to children where vaccines "Resulted" in Autism Shell of "Recovering Autism, ADHD, & Special Needs.".


I watched Prof Frith in this programme. I have a strong gut feeling that she deliberately avoided the issue of the MMR vaccine. She was concentrating on what it 'feels' like to be autistic. And on how to explain the condition to the general public. Other than a genetic predisposition to autism she did not venture into the medically 'controversial' hypothesis that there could be and indeed have been proven to be, other triggers, such as vaccines.
I would advocate that someone more equipped to do so than myself should write directly to her on this issue, via the BBC, I would be interested in hearing her response.


Thanks for the comments all..the truth is I hate doing these shows ..but if the parents don't speak up the kids cant so who will..

Chris great response I'm sure it would have been discussed by Firth with Froth steaming from the mouth.

Mr Blaxell has far better content than me for sure ..thanks

Taximom5 I think the figure 500,000 is probably set to confuse ..they will need to try harder the next time ..thanks

John Stone


"500,000". That sounds like the bogus projections made for the entire UK in 1998 to smother the real rise which was about to occur.


Angus, thanks for posting the link and calling that to our attention.

I listened.

Well-spoken, indeed. And other comments were fascinating, as well. 500,000 Scots diagnosed with autism? Did I hear that correctly? That's...10% of the population?

My eyebrows also raised when I heard what Hunter in Aberdeen had to say, at 1:25:10
about the 2003 Mental Health Act: People with autism can be detained in a psychiatric facility and medicated with anti-psychotic drugs against their will.

Holy $h1T.

Is anyone out there listening? Certainly Robert Levine wasn't listening.


Your link:
"s a jolly, smiling, retired, naturalised UK dwelling, German, Psychologist/Neuroscientist, married to similarly trained Englishman. She forty years ago came over and embarked on a career investigating Dislexia and, later, autism. She thinks both are inbuilt, innate conditions and resolves that, using our modern neuroscientific imaging and other modern skills we can in future identify unfortunate people developing these characteristics and run them through especially devised educational routines and they’ll all be happy ever after. End of story. Amen. Close the book."

Closed in my book too. Idiot she be.

Angus loved your radio interview. Good deep voice just like Mark Blaxill.

Chris Hemmings

And she was on Beeb 2 for an hour earlier in the week, and a year or so ago she provoked this from me. Quietly dangerous she is.......:



I managed to get onto a radio programme in the UK/Scotland frothing Firth if you read this have a listen to the real people living with autism shame on you...

- 02/04/2014

Morning Call, BBC Radio Scotland

7 days left to listen

1 hour, 40 minutes

First broadcast:
Wednesday 02 April 2014

It is World Autism Awareness and, with 58,000 people touched by autism in
Scotland, Louise asks why it is still difficult for people with autism to be

accepted in society? Call 0500 92 95 00. Text 80295.

34 minutes 20 seconds to 41 minutes - Peter Howson

52 minutes in - phone in on autism

1 hour 18 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes 50 seconds - Angus Files

1 hour 25 minutes 15 seconds to 1 hour 26 minutes - Hunter Watson

1 hour 26 minutes 40 seconds to 1 hour 27 minutes 23 seconds Robert McBean's
reponse - ignorant

1 hour 36 minutes to 37 minutes - Fiona Sinclair from Autism Rights


Julie Patrick

Researchers verify link between vitamin D and potential autism cure



People like this woman are medical fraudsters & belong behind bars...

Farmer Geddon

Actually my experience of Autism has been that awful , that I'm wondering whether the film , The Exorcist , has had any influence on the way things turned out for my child .

Msg to all you fraudulent Doctors and Scientists , be careful about chasing all those letters after your names , be careful that it doesnt end up with numbers under your mugshot ........ I hope , I wish


And look at the increase in bunions! That damn Wizard of Oz and those red shoes!! Everyone just had to have them. While we're at it...look at all the cases of IBS. It's all because of those tight corsets from Gone With the Wind!!

Bill DeBurgh

And to think I nearly went to see Uta at one of her talks , or perhaps it was one of her protégés .
Either way , the woman is a fraudster , an imposter , an idiot , a charlatan , a quack .....she has to be , to spout such nonsense .

come to think of it , I now want to see her and confront her face to face , more than ever .
Science is the biggest load of ballcocks if this is the best they can do .

Utter filth is the way I prefer to view opinions from this supposed expert .


And yes Autism is also caused by older parents and toxins from traffic and eating to much fish and everything else except no one is willing to look at the damage that is caused by vaccines


Why of course Prof Firth...the first thing I thought of when my fourth child was born in 1989, was "I would like a child just like Rain Man..."...my other children are neurotypical.


Jim, excellent point with the parallel of the thalidomide situation. As to John's point about the older disabled population and any displacement theory on their part, I can tell you, as someone who visited many institutions (for a PASS week long course) and worked in a large institution in an urban centre in /85 that, the vast majority of people in them had: Down syndrome, cerebral palsey, hydrocephalus and various known or some unknown syndromes- some children were there even as a result of child abuse. There were very few for whom the etiology of their problems was unknown but there were a FEW.

Raymond Gallup



May be you should remind the good lady that "Rain Man" opened in 1988, the year the MMR was licensed and introduced in England and shortly before the monovalent vaccines for measles and rubella were de-licensed to make sure that British children all got the available triple vaccine, that coincidentally had been banned elsewhere.

I wish Dr. Bernard Rimland, who was the scientific advisor to the producer of the movie, was alive today to take her on. He would have had a field day commenting on her claim that today's autism epidemic is nothing but "an apparent increase in prevalence but of course it is really an increase in awareness.”

Ed Yazbak

Dr. Yazbak is so right!!! In April 1986, our son, Eric received the MMR vaccine and almost a decade later we found out that Eric had blood tests that indicated he tested positive for myelin basic protein antibodies and elevated measles titer antibodies (above a normal child's readings). Plus looking back at the video tapes, Eric's speech was improving and went downhill after receiving the MMR vaccine.

Something Prof. Frith is oblivious to and doesn't care about since she has an agenda like all these pro-vaccine types to explain away the autism epidemic with ridiculous, nonsense theories that are dumb and dumber. This theory she proposes is totally laughable asinine.

Jim Thompson

This illogical hypothesis by Uta Frith, that autism rates have gone up merely due to increased awareness, raises an important logical question about statistical evidence. Is an association observed merely a coincidence?

Put another way, what are the odds that an observation is only a chance association (such as the association between the increase in autism and an increase in vaccine rates) with nothing to do with the actual cause? Of course statistics is usually supported either by statistical evidence pointing to the underlying mechanisms or an actual understanding of the underlying mechanisms.

But not always.

Look at Thalidomide. In the late 1950's and early 1960’s children were born with malformations, including missing limbs. There was a statistical association observed between the sales of Thalidomide type and malformations of the Thalidomide type. See “Thalidomide and the Power of the Drug Companies by Sjostrom and Nilsson (1972), graph on page 156.

One argument put forward by the thalidomide manufacturers was that since the “detailed mechanism of the action of thalidomide” is unknown then it impossible to prove that thalidomide caused the malformations. But look how Sjostrom and Nilsson explain away this argument as logically false.

“The detailed mechanism of the action of thalidomide is unknown and hence it cannot be proved that thalidomide caused these malformations. This point of view was advanced by Professor Erich Blechschmidt of the University of Gottingen [Wikipedia “The University of Göttingen is one of the highest-ranked universities in Germany. It is associated with 45 Nobel laureates.”] when testifying as one of the expert witnesses called by Chemie Griinenthal [Thalidomide drug company] during the Alsdorf trial [http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1314&dat=19701219&id=x-pWAAAAIBAJ&sjid=k-0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=7307,1222064].

This argument is logically false. To establish the relationship between cause and effect it is not necessary to know the exact pathway by which the cause finally gives the observable effect. None of the pharmaceutical industries selling the drug seem to have doubted that thalidomide was indeed a good sleeping pill although the mechanism of the sleep-inducing action of thalidomide is unknown. With most drugs the detailed mechanism of their action is still unknown, but no physician will doubt their effect in clinical use because of this.” Sjostrom and Nilsson, page 62.

Decades after over thousands of children were born with malformations; the detailed mechanism of the action of thalidomide was understood. But it was banned in the United States in time to prevent malformations in this country http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Oldham_Kelsey without that understanding-- simply because an individual in the FDA, Frances Oldham Kelsey, decided to follow the principle of First Do No Harm.

Unfortunately that is no longer the case with the FDA today. We cannot afford to wait for concrete proof of the detailed mechanism of the action of vaccines and their preservatives in autism. There are apparently no individuals in the FDA or CDC that follow Frances Oldham Kelsey’s role model. The principle followed today is “first protect the vaccine manufacturers.”
While most medical professionals today lack the will to address the risk, the reality, and the consequence of vaccine injury--our elected representatives in Washington, DC bear as much blame here in the United States because they allow the drug companies immunity from liability for vaccine injury. We must demand they change that law.

John Stone

Hi Natasa

While I agree there is a somewhat ivory tower aspect to Frith's work, there is also a great deal of it published over a period of more than 40 years and she has certainly had a part in constructing modern orthodoxy as well as simply re-cycling it. I also think she pobably deserves some credit for helping to overturn the psycho-analytic "refrigerator mother" theory of autism. Nevertheless, her absurd claims about Rain Man and the autism epidemic highlight a gigantic scientific anomaly, as she - and people like her - have built huge international careers obfuscating the issue.



Exactly, Twyla. The problem here is that Prof Uta Frith's own understanding and 'knowledge' of autism is at the level of 'those who have seen the movie Rainman'.

Prof Frith 'knows' autism only from a psychosocial academic viewpoint, which exists in a parallel universe to the real autism here on planet Earth. She doesn't live autism, she reads about it in books and papers written by academics who are completely immersed in the fairy world they created, with autism being a 'different way of thinking' and due to 'miswired brain' caused by whatever 'genetic cause' might be the flavour of the day. There is zero on medical pathology of autism in that world.

She is an equivalent of wild animal 'expert' who has gained her 'expertise' solely through a couple of short visits to the local zoo and through reading lots of books written by other 'experts' who also have only ever read books and visited a couple of zoos here and there.

John Stone

Hi Carolyn

The substitution theory is often deployed but if it was correct you would expect a huge amount of re-allocation of diagnosis amongst the older disabled population (indeed many more mentally disabled people than there apparently are), and while occasional cases come to light this never seems to have happened. I recall the situation c. 1999 when less than 10 cases of ASD had been identified in the older school population of Haringey N. London where I live (12-18 year-olds) as opposed to over a hundred in the up to 11 category, and it is important to stress that both groups were being monitored by the same services and any ASD cases that had not already been identified in the older group would by adolescence have been in loads of trouble, massively disruptive etc., so this isn't very plausible that such cases existed. There is highly comparable published data for Scotland for a slightly later period: the number of cases in schools rose from 820 in 1998 to 2,204 in 2002


I believe the official figure for Scottish schools (published Scottish Sunday Mail December 23, 2012) today stands at 8650. Projecting backwards that is likely to be an increase in the order of x100 since the early 90s (which would be well after Rain Man year). That's a lot of accounting for Prof Frith to do. How could they have let so many people down without a diagnosis in the earlier epoch, and if they are there, why are the "hidden hoard" still without a diagnosis decades later?

You may also find it fascinating that the immediate sources for this info are two not-on-line Scottish newspapers, and there are no government websites where it may be obtained, let alone data for the entire UK.

Meanwhile, a news release in the US (but not the UK) last year revealed the annual projected cost of autism to the UK economy as £34b ($54b),


but this little matter isn't even worth reporting at home - not a public issue at all.

I think Prof Frith, Prof Rutter, Prof Baron-Cohen have a lot of explaining to do.



Thanks Twyla,great comment.I do not understand that parents can think so clearly and why is Dr. Frith froth with all her education is so confused.Maybe that is the game they are playing, just keep the lies going and keep the population confused with all their different ideas.


Jeannette Bishop
What a clever twist!
The other day on the news they had a big bar graph telling were all the money the government was spending went.

Way above all the other bar graphs even dwarfing the military was the National Instiute of Health.

That is right- that agency gets the largest amount.

So as to your question - are we just noticing it more because of waht happened to us or is corruption rampant???

Well if power and money corrupts all - I guess it is an epidemic.

Twyla; I think yours should be sent to her and let her see what she can do with that.

Sarah; After 30 years of this is sure seems to be soemthing more than just greed, and getting caught -- but then I have seen people in trouble and they will lie right to the bitter end.


Thank you John for writing this.

I only wish that when such "experts" make these flippant comments they would realize the damage this does for us trying to ensure our children are provided the services and supports they need daily.

As a parent of a now twenty-one year old son living with autism, I say one thing to those that discuss such comments. Show me where there was a decline in other catagories of disability where autism is now picking that up. There would have to be, we couldn't have individuals not diagnosed and getting services in another catagory now could we? There has been no decline. There have been increases too in other catagories however.

I'm tired of all of this really. Move on from trying to disprove what is the 800 lb elephant in the room and work toward meeting the needs of individuals with autism....please.

Thank you again.


It shall rain cats, dogs and autism....Not necessarily in that order ..

Glax Britannicus

It is surely not credible that Frith's near half century of autism research has had a secret eugenicist agenda - there really is no hint of that - but it does not mean that present fairy story isn't based on a simple failure to account for what happened, or what she and so many others did while it was happening. It often happens when people can't tell the truth that they talk pure nonsense, and sometimes they tell themselves this nonsense because the truth would be too intolerable.

Jeannette Bishop

I think I've said something like this before, but I'm wondering whether we've always had this level of corruption in our over-funded, over-centralized health agencies, and are now just becoming more aware, or is there actually an epidemic increase?


People like Frith are not dumb but they assume we are. They expect us to buy into whatever red herring explanation they put put out for the autism increase. That way they can cover up the truth that the autism epidemic is really driven by population control and eugenics. People like Frith are master deceivers. This deception is on a global scale. They need the world to buy into their lies so they can carry out their work.


What an ill-advised, careless, irresponsible thing to have done! But then I see the company she keeps! She is surely showing signs of dementia?

First do no harm

This Frith froth doesn't surprise me in the least. Every other inane explanation has been attempted. Why not the Rain Man effect? How perfect that the film came out in 1988 - the first year of the autism epidemic.


I was far more influenced by Dustin Hoffman's performance in "Lenny" and "Marathon Man." So why isn't my son a junky stand-up comedian or a dental-phobic jogger? Is it because I saw both films in rerun?


This is brilliant. A stock reply to "better diagnosing" should be "how many cases did you miss?".


Ah, yes, I remembered it well - babysitting for that family in 1988 where one of the children was nonverbal, had chronic diarrhea, huge meltdowns, insomnia, and fascination with spinning objects - and I said to the parents, "Gosh, this child seems different!" And they said, "Really, how so?" And I said, "Well, for one thing he can't talk, right?" And they said, "Really? Hadn't noticed that." And I asked, "Does he go to school? Have his teachers said anything about him? Can he do his schoolwork?" And they replied, "Oh, yes, he goes to a regular classroom and his teachers haven't said anything and we haven't noticed him not doing his schoolwork."

But then they went to see the movie Rainman about the guy with the incredible memory who travels around with his brother winning at casinos, and they came home and said, "OMG now we realize that our little son is autistic!" And they got their school's teachers and psychologist to see the movie, and all of a sudden they realized that this child had some issues! Who knew?

Is that what this psychologist expects us to believe?

Cynthia Cournoyer

This was probably waiting in the wings to be pulled out if they were desperate to get the vaccine argument to go away. This would not have been possible if Dr. Rimland were still alive. The only way to further the argument that autism is a normal part of childhood would be to try to figure out why we missed it before.

Donna L.

Not to mention the fact that regressive autism -- the bulk of the epidemic-- has about as much to do with the autism presented in Rain Man as Simon Baron-Cohen has to do with science. In fact, I have yet to meet a parent of a child with vaccine-induced autism who wouldn't say "This ain't Raymond Babbitt's autism."


Frith either incredibly dumb or thinks the public is. I tend to believe the latter. I think people like Frith are eugenicists. They'll throw any absurd arguments just to keep the spotlight off their work. More and more research is revealing an autoimmune connection to autism -that our kids have hidden genetic variants that are linked to auto immune diseases.

Massive genetics study reveals autism-linked variants


Can psychs do joined up thinking?..


Jack Klugman died a little before Christmas.

Jack Klugman did a show called "Quincy"
And three of the episodes I still remember.

A little boy was smart enough to escape out of a locked door, but could not speak- -He called it artistic? Oh no autistic - but I had years to figure out there was an U not an R in it. As I slowly made the connection--all on my own that the label the schools gave him PDD-NOS was autism.
THen of course there was Jack Klugman the Quincy on the Orphan Drugs about tourettes. The kid kept yelling out curse words in a theater and they killed him. When a team of psychs and doctors under a developmental group dignosied my son with tourettes -- I said no way-- he does not yell out curse words -- he has allergies that is why he snuffs-- and you didn't find any epilepsy? I am sure there is seizures? No? What is this PDD-NOS the schools are talking about? Just what it says? Well what does that mean?

Did you know the psychs can talk for 30 minutes and never really say anything?

Well of course not they were more psychs (Oh, silly me).

The school had long since found out he had autism, but no one was putting the words autism and PDD-NOS together in 1990 or 1996.

That would come later with the internet and free information flow.

It is the internet!

Jack Klugman also did a episode were little kids on an island was dying from a vaccine that America had given and Quincy had to find out what was causing all the little kids to die. I don't remember what was the cause -- only it was not the vaccine. And of course this is all in the late 70s and early 80s so I believed them. Just one more evidence there was not harm when it came to vaccines.

Israeli guy

Funny that in Israel, as a part of the global trend in "increased awareness", they could also identify autism among kids born in Israel to ethipian immigrants, but for some reason the "increased awareness" wasn't enough to diagnose ethiopian born immigrant Kids in Israel who were born in the same time period:


victor pavlovic

Prof Frith shows what a fool she is, she should be embarrassed by her ignorance, yet she dares to open her mouth and sputter such nonsense that only a so called autism expert with absolutely no clue to what is happening with the autism epidemic.She needs to be removed from her position since she is not benefiting the autism community with her ignorance, she makes me sick.

John Stone


Frith also has a DBE (a Dame) but presumably hasn't used the title (retaining her German citizenship?). Wiki states:

"Professor Frith is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Fellow of the British Academy, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge and an Honorary Dame Commander of the British Empire."



Lisa Blakemore-Brown

Ah yes John. Others associated with the biggest medical scandal in our history who gained Professorships and Knighthoods come readily to mind - Professor Sir Roy Meadow bagging both!!! Still I suppose that fits - he now only sat in meetings discussing how to spin out adverse reactions to vaccinations but jumped in with both feet to create myths in which innocent parents were accusing of causing the adverse reactions - some now in their graves thanks to the shocking collusion of these people and the State.

John Stone


Yes, you were the one that stood up while all the others twiddled their thumbs (and you paid a heavy professional price). Even in 2005 Sir Michael Rutter was humming and hah-ing though he didn't come up with an explanation as ridiculous as Frith's (as reported in Private Eye):

"Prof Rutter said that one good thing that had come out of Dr Wakefield's controversial 1998 paper that raised the MMR alarm, which he believed should not have been published in that form in the Lancet, was that it triggered much useful autism research.

"Some experts convinced of a real rise in autism across the developed world - rather than as many still maintain, better diagnosis and detection - were now looking for an unknown environmental trigger that might interact with an unknown genetic risk. He said that while the MMR could fit that environmental profile, he claimed his and other researchers work showed it did not fit the pattern."


But why did not the UK's leading child psychiatrist and autism expert know whether he was seeing more cases or not - how could he really be that vague? These people should be in the dock if only for their incompetence (though it seems to me much worse).


Lisa Blakemore-Brown

It is impossible for a Psychologist specialising in Autism during the eighties and nineties to not realise we had an increasing incidence of autism amongst the very young, particularly regressive autism suddenly emerging after a period of normal development, the likes of which we had never seen before. As you say John, the myth here is one being created by Uta Frith assisted by the BBC.

When I developed an interest in autism in the seventies it was a very rare condition and fascinating to me partly because it was so rare. When I mentioned my interest to others they thought I was saying "artistic" not "autistic" so unusual was the condition that most people had not heard of it. Now everyone knows someone who has it and our society is increasingly burdened with paying huge sums of money to help children and adults with autism which they never had to do before because they didn't exist.

John Stone


Thanks, I have now added Bernard Rimland's graph. I think you have to also add in to the equation the accelerated DPT schedule of 1990 (including 75 micrograms of mercury) and HiB in 1992.


Bill Welsh

As a child I was taken to see the film "The piano delivery" starring Laurel and Hardy. I have never learned to play the piano.
Thanks to Uta Frith I now know why!
Perhaps if, when I attended university, I had written a dissertation on the connection between Laurel and Hardy movies and limited childhood development I would now be a Professor collecting fancy sums of money for talking baloney!
Importantly I too (like Uta Frith) could have taught Simon Baron Cohen how to maximise and expand on the 'talking baloney' principle.
Seriously, is it any wonder that our children are being failed when you come across these incompetents who have inhabited the pseudo intellectual world of autism for far too long.
Time for a clear out.

Ed Yazbak


May be you should remind the good lady that "Rain Man" opened in 1988, the year the MMR was licensed and introduced in England and shortly before the monovalent vaccines for measles and rubella were de-licensed to make sure that British children all got the available triple vaccine, that coincidentally had been banned elsewhere.

I wish Dr. Bernard Rimland, who was the scientific advisor to the producer of the movie, was alive today to take her on. He would have had a field day commenting on her claim that today's autism epidemic is nothing but "an apparent increase in prevalence but of course it is really an increase in awareness.”

Ed Yazbak


Silly season started early I thought it was March when the hares started..eh! should the film not be banned then ?and have a government health warning.


Of course,of course..zilch to do with vaccines

Bob Moffitt

Curious to know if Prof Firth .. a developmental psychologist .. would agree the film "One Flew Over The Coo-coo's Nest" .. starring Jack Nicholson playing the role of a patient feigning mental illness to avoid going to jail .. who is ultimately destroyed by the physical and mental abuse he received under the "care" of Nurse Rachett .. created much needed public "awareness" of the daily cruelty that mental health providers subjected their patients to in those years?

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