By Anne Dachel
In March 2014 the autism went from one in every 88 children in the U.S. (released in 2012) to one in every 68. Then in March of 2016 the Centers for Disease Control again estimated the rate at one in 68 children.
In 2014 Coleen Boyle at the CDC was extensively covered in the media testifying to the bewilderment of officials as to the cause of all the autism, yet hinting that the increase was probably due to “increased awareness.” Dr. Max Witznitzer at Rainbow Children’s Hospital in Cleveland agreed and was widely covered saying that the increase was because of the efforts being made to educate the health care community and the general public to recognize developmental problems.
It’s important to note that when the CDC updates the autism numbers, they use statistics from six to fourteen states (depending on the funding).
The CDC looked at eight year old children in 11 states for the 2014 study: Alabama, Wisconsin, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, Arkansas, Arizona, Maryland, North Carolina, Utah and New Jersey. One has to wonder why California wasn’t part of the research since they are often credited with having the most accurate autism numbers.
See: UC-Davis report
Jan 2016 Sac Bee report on autism in California.
July 2016 Sac Bee
In March of 2016 the CDC announced that the rate was still one in 68, and officials were cautiously optimistic that the numbers had stabilized. (Supposedly doctors had finally learned to diagnose the condition according to guidelines established with the DSM-IV back in 1994.
(In 2015 there was the brief coverage of a study finding one in every 45 children with autism according to a parent survey of children under 18. That rather alarming statistic quickly disappeared. The higher rate was attributed to changes in the questionnaire that caused developmentally disabled children to be classified as autistic.)
Clearly it doesn’t matter what the rate is. No one really cares. One in 88/one in 68/one in 45, and any of the other increases we’ve been given over the last two decades have never been seen as a crisis. In addition, we’re always given the one-size-fits-all description of autism as “a lack of communication skills and an inability at social interaction,” which, as one autism dad told me years ago, “sounds like the kid just can’t get a date.”
The point I’m making here is that we’ve been brainwashed to ACCEPT THE AUTISM EPIDEMIC. Officials and doctors alike have relegated autism to the sidelines, happy to leave it as a perpetual mystery.
What is really concerning to me is how often I see the one in 68 rate mentioned in news reports, but never as the subject of the story. Something that should be a cause for real concern, if not outright alarm—the huge numbers of CHILDREN WITH A DISORDER WE CAN’T FIND AT THE SAME RATE IN THE ADULT POPULATION—has been turned into a medical curiosity we have all the time in the world to figure out.
And as we hear “one in 68” tossed about so casually in the press, we’ve come to accept the numbers as just the way things are. It follows that because doctors, health officials, and the media aren’t worried, we can all relax. They’re looking into this. They’re doing their best. Just be patient, and we’ll have answers—someday.
To prove my point, here’s some of what’s been in the news over the month of December. Notice how disabled children are an accepted fact of life in America.
Columbian, Vancouver, WA: More toy options opening up for kids with autism Sellers, specialists trying to provide better choices
About one in 68 children were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2012, up from one in 150 a decade before, according to government figures. Symptoms of autism vary widely, and can range from mild social interaction problems to repetitive behaviors to difficulty speaking or even the inability to speak. This can make choosing toys even harder than it is for unaffected kids.
Voice of America: Toy Sellers, Makers Offer More Options for Autistic Kids
An estimated one in 68 children have autism or a related disorder, according to a government study based on 2012 data. The Jewish Standard: Award-winning business helps families with autism
In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that the number of children identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) remains at 1 in 68 children nationally. This statistic is based on the CDC’s evaluation of health and educational records of 8-year-olds in 11 states, including New Jersey, in 2012. According to the group Autism New Jersey, this state again has the highest rate of those states evaluated, with 1 in 41 children — 2.5 percent — identified as having the disorder. This is higher than the average percentage in all U.S. communities where CDC tracked ASD in 2012. The New Jersey rate marks an increase of 12 percent over the previous 1-in-45 statistic released two years ago. Although theories explaining this statistic have been advanced, none are generally accepted, and the cause of this rise remains a mystery. Fort Wayne (IN) Journal Gazette: Family celebrates small wins over autism Autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, affects 1 in 68, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls.
Prompted by a growing awareness of the disorder, help and resources are expanding, including in Fort Wayne where a local service provider added a third location this month.
Janesville (WI) Gazette: Janesville Eagle Scout creates sensory board for those with autism About 1 percent of U.S. children ages 3 to 17 have an autism spectrum disorder. Prevalence is estimated at one in 68 births.
Science Daily: Mutations in life's 'essential genes' tied to autism Hundreds of mutated genes have been previously implicated as the cause of this highly heritable, complex disease, but their importance, relationship with each other, and function have not been entirely clear. Today, nearly 1 in 68 children between the ages of three and 17, mostly boys, are diagnosed with autism, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is considered one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the U.S CBS Minnesota: How To Make The Holidays Comfortable For Kids With Autism
Holiday staples like parties, presents and decorations can be overwhelming for some children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates one in 68 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
WAMC Albany, NY: Autism Action Plan Signed Into Law New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed into law legislation that would create an Autism Action Plan. The plan intends to identify the most effective ways to support New Yorkers living with the fastest-growing developmental disability in the country…. “One percent of the world is affected by autism at this point. One in 68 in the United States, 1.35 million Americans. And this Autism Action Plan is something that goes from childhood through education into adulthood,” said [Democratic Assemblyman Angelo] Santabarbara.
Norristown (PA) Times Herald: Plymouth mom campaigns for ‘sensory-friendly’ shopping for daughter with autism
A new government survey of parents suggests that one in 45 children, ages 3 through 17, has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This is notably higher than the official government estimate of one in 68 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Northwest Duchess Daily Voice: Gala Honors Longtime Director At Dutchess County Autism Facility
Autism also seems to have become more prevalent among children in the past 16 years. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 150 children were identified on the Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2000. In 2012, 1 in 68 children were on the autism spectrum.
Charlotte (NC) Observer: Your kid can’t tolerate a play? Children’s Theatre wants you!
The latest statistic is 1 in 68, so there’s a definite need. KRQE Albuquerque, NM: New study changes approach to treating ASD
One in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but there’s a new approach to treating it.
Fox7 Fair Banks: Autism Society Of Alaska Loses Central Funding, Faces Closure One out of every 68 children is born with some form of Autism . It is a mental condition characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships.
ABC7 Chicago: Researchers at Rush Medical Center Creating National Database to Study Autism
Autism is one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the United States. It now affects one in every 68 children and one in every 42 boys.
You get the picture. In endless stories (far too many to list here) about “autism-friendly shopping hours” and “Sensitive Santas,” the public is told that almost two percent of children have this disorder. The coverage shows cute, typical looking kids who seem aware and happy. The public is also told that it’s the fastest growing developmental disorder—something that should leave everyone’s month open and a look of bewilderment on every face.
The real mystery about autism is the incompetent way the press reports on it.
How can this be an acceptable situation to those who cover it? How many more decades will reporters repeat the absurd claims of health officials who continue to ignore such a prevalent condition that simply doesn’t affect adults at the same horrific rate it strikes children?
What the media is doing, of course, is convincing us with endless stories that it’s all right to have an autistic child. Autism happens, we don’t know why, but it happens. We have to learn to live with it. (And you’ll notice that stories are almost never about regressive autism.)
I saved the best for last.
Dr. Allen Frances, chair of Duke University’s department of psychiatry and the chair of the DSM-IV Task Force, was covered in the Bennington Banner recently apologizing for the false idea that there is AN AUTISM EPIDEMIC.
More than anything else, the people who want to cover up the link between vaccines and autism have to make the autism epidemic go away. The biggest lie about autism has always been that there has been no real increase. Autism has always been here like this, we just called it something else. (And actually Frances has been saying this same thing about autism for years in all kinds of publications. He’s the poster boy for “expanded definition” as the reason so many of us have a disabled child. He also charges here that there’s a lot of over-diagnosing going on.)
December 22, 2016, Bennington (VT) Banner: Record Straight: Inventing the autism epidemic
"As Chair of the DSM-IV Task Force [that prepared the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1994], I bear partial responsibility for the false epidemic of autistic disorders," Dr. Allen Frances confessed to the Psychiatric Times. Autism, a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by severe speech and socio-emotional impairment, had a prevalence of 2-4 per 10,000 children for nearly five decades after it was first described in 1943.
Since 1994, however, when the American Psychiatric Association (APA) expanded the diagnostic criteria for autism in its official manual, the prevalence of autism has increased by twenty-fold (Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: Frances and Batstra, 2013). Dr. Frances is right to question the veracity of the autism epidemic, as the dramatic surge of diagnoses over recent decades does not coincide with an increased incidence of autism in the population.
A 2005 UK study, which tracked the frequency of autism diagnoses in a sample of 10,000 children, found that the rate was higher than that reported in 1990 (Scientific American: "Is There Really an Autism Epidemic?;" Aug. 2012). Another conclusive study, examining the prevalence of autism in 677,915 Danish children born between 1980 and 1991, proved that 60 percent of the increase could be attributed to the broadening of clinical criteria for autism after 1994 (JAMA Pediatrics; Jan. 2015). Therefore, these revised diagnostic markers have contributed to the present epidemic of over-diagnosing autism….
As anxious parents scramble to find causes for what they believe is a looming public health crisis, many have been swayed by junk science peddlers - la the dangerous anti-vaccine movement. Moreover, mental health professionals that substitute context-providing psychotherapy with the flawed practice of checklist diagnosing, as well as untrained teachers inundated with media hype, have been identifying ASD symptoms where none exist….
Ultimately, the children who have been wrongly classified as autistic will pay the price for the over-diagnosis epidemic. They will have to undergo inappropriate treatments, and unnecessarily face a whole host of negative consequences that accompany the label of a lifelong mental impairment …
This is more confusion for everyone to muse over. Maybe all the autism isn’t “better diagnosing,” maybe it’s really “over-diagnosing.” Maybe too much awareness has inflated the autism rate to the deceptive and false figure of one in 68. If we’re calling kids autistic who have some other problem or no problem at all, officials, doctors, and activists should be highly embarrassed. I mean consider that every April the U.N. observes an International Awareness Day and famous sites around the world are lighted up in blue in recognition of autism. We’ve been oversold on autism. All those walks that raise money for Autism Speaks have led to the “media hype” that Dr. Frances lamented about.
According to Frances, we have to conclude that yes, autism has always been here. It was first recognized in 1943, and it’s always been a rare condition, nothing like the astonishing numbers we hear about today. So we can stop counting the kids because THERE IS NO AUTISM EPIDEMIC
Of course this makes no sense when anyone considers what our schools are like today with so many children who can’t speak, can’t learn, and can’t behave, and all the training required so teachers can educate them, but I’m guessing that this might turn into a powerful red herring that could capture everyone’s attention and be the subject of years of debate.
I’d love to know what Autism Speaks has to say about this.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.