New Autism Numbers: Ho-hum or Scary?
    By Kim Wombles | March 30th 2012 01:35 PM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Instructor of English and psychology and mother to three on the autism spectrum.

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    Yesterday morning, I wrote that the The Canary Party's Ginger Taylor broke the embargo(courtesy LBRB) and revealed the new 1 in 88 rate that the CDC released later that morning. Age of Autism has a piece on the Canary Party revealing the new number. Cue the outrage on one side about the numbers as proof that there's a horrible tsunami coming our way. And we need folks blaming the "bloated vaccine schedule." Oh, the Canary Party already did the second. I'm sure Anne Dachel will do the former. Then we need people writing that this is just improved counting, that the kids were always autistic at that rate and there's nothing to see here. Just wait for the nasty blog posts and the name calling to start. And don't forget the charged rhetoric on all sides designed to push their agendas. Autism organizations will leap on the new numbers about the increased cost of autism and use that to whip its supporters into a frenzy of giving. Some organizations, like Autism Speaks, will actually push the new numbers to get people to give $188. You know, 1 in 88? Exploiting statistics for financial gain is the name of the game, after all, and it's what they do--the more they get the more they give to research. Imagine if that call for money was about helping actual families now. Talking about family devastation and then asking for research money rather than money to help actual families right now misses the mark by a wide margin.

    And I read all these things and I sigh. It's not because I don't care, but I think I grow weary of seeing the same things playing over and over and over again in the online community, with little constructive change occurring.  Occasionally, I growl, but mostly I grow tired of the lack of both constructive exchanges and effective changes to make lives better.

    I don't know if the increase in numbers represents a true surge in autism or reflects more kids being diagnosed. You know, like the surge in ADHD diagnoses. I don't see the same level of fever-pitched histrionic rhetoric about the tsunami of ADHD kids reaching adulthood. Around 1 in 10 kids are diagnosed with ADHD and there's considerable overlap in symptoms in ADHD and autism. Some professionals ignore the DSM and co-diagnose the two conditions, but the symptoms in ADHD are accounted for in autism--the inattention, the impulsivity, and the hyperactivity.

    I'm in the trenches, working my butt off with my three kids, who are working their butts off, to help them be the best thems they can be, to find workarounds for those gaps and challenges that cause them serious roadbumps, or where we can't even do that, to not see those gaps as making them less than those who don't have them.

    We all have issues; some more than others. Neurotypicality is a myth and the denigration of neurotypicals that occurs in some circles online is just as bad as the denigration of those with neurological differences. Don't think that NT is a myth?

    16% of kids in school have a neurological difference causing learning difficulties (add in dyslexia, which as much as 15% or more of the population deals with, and increases in ADHD and autism, and 16% is a conservative estimate). The NIMH has a list of disorders and their prevalence and cost. "Mental disorders are common in the United States, and in a given year approximately one quarter of adults are diagnosable for one or more disorders. While mental disorders are widespread in the population, the main burden of illness is concentrated among a much smaller proportion (about 6 percent, or 1 in 17) who suffer from a seriously debilitating mental illness." And that's just adults. Children: "Mental disorders are common among children in the United States, and can be particularly difficult for the children themselves and their caregivers. While mental disorders are widespread, the main burden of illness is concentrated among those suffering from a seriously debilitating mental illness. Just over 20 percent (or 1 in 5) children, either currently or at some point during their life, have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder." And we're talking seriously impaired, truly disabled by their conditions, not those who are less impaired and manage to function fairly well with some assistance and accommodations.

    So I'm not inclined to freak out about these numbers. I don't dismiss them either, but we've got to (as a society, as professionals in the medical, psychiatric, and psychological fields) get better at naming things, defining them and sticking to that definition. As long as the APA is going to frak around with what autism is and professionals are going to inconsistently apply the criteria, and as long as families have unequal access to health care (including the diagnosing of neurological conditions), we're not going to know what the real picture is.

    I'm not inclined to fall for the assumption that all families dealing with autism are devastated, either, as is being pitched, as it's just not true. Some families are undoubtedly financially devastated because of severe autism (and some are certainly emotionally and spiritually devastated, in part because of the lack of supports), but severe autism is not the lion's share of diagnoses being given.

    I'm not apathetic, either, despite my refusal to respond to this emotionally or to feel impelled to give generously to autism organizations simply because of a change in numbers (there's more than a bit of the "sky is falling" mentality going on in autism-land). I have empathy in abundance for families and individuals struggling, but don't expect me to go to extremes of emotion over the latest round of numbers. That doesn't create change. We need to not freak out--we don't need heights of emotion. We need calm resolve to do the hard work to create real change in the real world. We need better training for parents and caregivers, more effective education (job related, especially) for those with autism and other neurological differences, and we need companies who respect the value and abilities of the disabled to pay them an equal wage for an equal job (see Business Week for a serious fail).


    Great post, Kim. Autism Speaks has been acting shamelessly, and deserve to be called out.

    Thanks, Ken.
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    The CDC just published their latest autism prevelance rates in the US now 1 in 88. That was predicted by Allen Francis, the editor of DSM-IV (1994) who has stated that the field trials of DSM-IV failed to predict the false epidemics of autism, attentional disorders and bi-polar disorder.

    Plomins group in the UK has tested thousands of twin pairs recruited from the Twins Early Development Study (TEDS)registry and found that 10% of all general population children have what they called severe autistic traits. Milder autistic-like traits would penetrate even deeper in to the general population.

    Cox et al (2005)reported that that 26% of women and 19% of men described themselves as 'very shy' when they were growing up. That result is even higher than the Plomin groups finding that 10% of general population children possess severe autistic traits.

    The rubber band keeps stretching until it will break. That's what DSM5 is designed to do, make an autism diagnosis much more restrictive,what Volkmar, who opposes the DSM5 proposal, has called 'stopping the epidemic in its tracks'. Under current concepts of autism as being dimensional it is not unreasonable to suggest that the eventual autism prevelance rates may fall as low as 1/5.

    In DSM-IV the diagnostic criteria for the severest sub-category, Autistic Disorder, consists of sixteen isolated symptoms none of which is specific to autism suggesting that even in severe cases diagnostic criteria is ambigous and subjective at best.

    With the CDC recognizing that Autism rates have gone up by 23% in just two years (1 in 54 boys being diagnosed)and saying that Autism is reaching epidemic proportions...

    What is the CDC's remedy? How do they plan to LOWER the numbers of those diagnosed?

    As a CBS News article noted: They're going to change the definition. Instead of finding the cause, and treating it...they're simply covering up the real numbers by removing a significant portion of those diagnosed NOW under current criteria in order to FALSELY lower the numbers based on a NEW definition of Autism.

    That should be a criminal offense. Shame on those who think otherwise.

    Seriously, what is the cause for this "sudden" jump in Autism? If the autism rate has doubled in six years and is becoming an epidemic...what's causing it? Environmental factors? Viruses? Bacteria?

    What happened starting around 6 years ago that would cause a sudden spike in the ensuing years?

    Wasn't there a change in vaccines given to babies around that time?

    Kathy Wakefield, immunisation lead at NHS Rotherham, said “Some years ago, there were many stories in the media linking MMR with autism. These caused some parents to delay their child’s MMR immunisation or not to have it at all resulting in outbreaks of measles. However, independent experts from around the world have found no credible scientific evidence for such a link and in fact now have a large amount of evidence showing that there is no link.”

    In contrast to Ms. Wakefield’s statement, the Center for the Biology of Chronic Disease (CBCD) would like to show how Microcompetition could be the missing link.In other words, Microcompetition could be the biological mechanism linking the MMR II vaccine to Autism.

    The vaccine package insert for the MMR II vaccine written by Merck & Co., Inc. and that can be downloaded from the FDA website, shows that Fetal cell line Wistar RA 27/3, Fetal cell line WI-38, and genetically engineered human albumin are all used in the vaccine.( )

    The CBCD believes that the current purification processes cannot completely filter all foreign DNA plasmids used in the process of manufacturing the MMR II vaccine. Therefore, some foreign DNA fragments end up being injected into infants.

    In support of this belief, Dr. Helen Ratajczak, Ph.D. who published two papers on the subject in the Journal of Immunotoxicology, says “The MMR II vaccine is contaminated with human DNA from the cell line in which the rubella virus is grown. This human DNA could be the cause of the spikes in incidence. An additional increased spike in incidence of autism occurred in 1995 when the chicken pox vaccine was grown in human fetal tissue.” (Merck and Co., Inc., 2001; Breuer, 2003).

    The contamination of MMR II with foreign DNA fragments, discussed by Dr. Ratajczak, combined with Microcompetition, discovered by Dr. Polansky is the missing link between MMR II and Autism.

    If the MMR 2 is causing microcompetition, which in turn "could" cause Autism, one needs to ask what the CDC's motivation in ignoring such evidence could be.


    For more information on the Center for the Biology of Chronic Disease, or to learn more about microcompetition, biologists, virologists, geneticists and doctors should definitely read "Microcompetition with Foreign DNA and the Origin of Chronic Disease". People can check it out for free at: