By Anne Dachel
Read Anne's commentary and view the links after the jump. The Dachel Media Update is sponsored by Lee Silsby Compounding Pharmacy and OurKidsASD, an online supplement retailer for patients with special needs
Forbes is a determined voice defending industry and denying that vaccines harm kids. They're the biggest promoters of the idea that autism is a genetic disorder that's always been around, we just called it something else. (They're a big part of my book.)
Emily Willingham and Steven Salzburg have done the most reporting on this subject at Forbes.
Here are some AoA stories on Forbes.
Let me cut to the chase here. In her July 7 story, Willingham promotes the book, Neurotribes, the Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, by Steve Silberman, which is due out next month. Silberman asserts that Leo Kanner was wrong when he said autism was rare back in the 1940s. What?
It seems even the father of the autism diagnosis was rather incompetent and didn't recognize just how much autism was really out there.
Neatly tied into this piece was a mention of Dr. Andrew Wakefield.
SO THE MESSAGE IS CLEAR. Autism was nothing new when Kanner first wrote about it. It also wasn't rare. We've finally figured that out. And p.s., Andrew Wakefield was also wrong. Forbes often makes claims like this. See this story from Jan, 2015.
I would always respond: THEN SHOW US THE ADULTS WITH CLASSIC AUTISM...the very same signs of the disorder we see in so many of our children.
The current autism rate is one in every 68 children, one in every 42 boys. That's a lot of children. The rate is never based on studies of adults, despite all the better diagnosing that's supposedly going on.
Experts tell us that 25 percent of children with autism are non-verbal. Furthermore, 30 percent of them experienced a loss of learned skills and regression into autism. And 50 percent of children with autism are prone to wandering. It's hard to believe that it's like this in the adult population as well. I can go to any local school and find kids like this. No one has to tell me this is autism. There are autism classrooms in schools today and even whole schools for affected children. I can't go to nursing homes and find a similar autistic population. Perhaps Ms Willingham will do a future story and tell us why that is.
That's the question Steve Silberman asks in his March 2015 TED talk about "the forgotten history of autism."
In his talk, Silberman notes that the trajectory of understanding autism as a condition and a diagnosis has not followed what science or experience might predict (disclosure: I am personally acquainted with Silberman and consider him a friend). Instead, he says, in researching his upcoming book Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity:
I learned that what happened has less to do with the slow and cautious progress of science than it does with the seductive power of storytelling.
But as Silberman notes, Kanner himself contributed considerably to that perception of rarity. The Hopkins psychiatrist bragged at one point that he'd turned away 9 out of 10 children from his practice who'd arrived as autistic based on the judgment of other clinicians but had departed without an autism diagnosis. He wasn't the last clinician to express pride in undiagnosing people at almost exactly that rate.
How much of a role did this grasping ownership of the diagnosis of autism play in the public perception of the condition and its prevalence in the decades that followed? How much was it involved in the misunderstanding of autistic people who walked the world-or were institutionalized away from it-with other diagnoses or worse? . . .
In observing the current rates of autism based on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, now at 1 in 68 children, Silberman points out that if these numbers are accurate, then autistics are one of the largest minority groups in the world..
The Dachel Media Update is sponsored by Lee Silsby Compounding Pharmacy and OurKidsASD. Lee Silsby is one of the most respected compounding pharmacies in the country and is committed to serving the needs of the Autism community. OurkidsASD is an online retailer for nutritional supplements for patients with special needs. OurkidsASD carries thousands of products from more than 60 brands and offers free ground shipping on all orders.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism and author of The Big Autism Cover-Up: How and Why the Media Is Lying to the American Public, which is on sale now from Skyhorse Publishing.