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Rebuttles to Articles Crying ‘Epidemic!’

http://www.pediatricservices.com/parents/pc-15.htm- California cries 273% increas in autism and we don’t know why! _April 1999 (Los Angeles Times)

While this is an earlier article during the ‘flare-up’ of the ‘discovery of an epidemic’ it is full of talk of action and investigation. As Dr. Gernsbacher wrote in her paper, Three Reasons Not to Believe in an Autism Epidemic, talk of epidemics lead to investigation into causes, which are more often than not incorrect causes. Each of the senators, Burton and Chesbro, quoted in this article refer to ‘getting to the bottom of this’ and ‘we need to find out what the causes are’. The most feared part of this so called epidemic was an inability to prevent or stop the rise in prevalence, hence the language of, “we need to take action now, to find out where this increase is coming from, what the causes of autism are and what we as a state can do” (Chesbro). Interestingly, the article also refers to the rising prevalence quoted from the California data’s 273% jump as an ‘unexpected increase’. While we know that the misinterpreted California data is the cause of panic for many people, referencing the ‘rise’ in autism as ‘unexpected’ is downright silly.

Armed with data recorded in the actual MIND and IDEA reports, as well as articles explaining them, it is blatantly obvious how misinterpreted the data had been. Simply knowing that the criterion for autism had become more broad and knowing that autism hadn’t been a required reported value until 1993 (after being optional in 1991-2), it is easy to dismiss such rash claims. Even though the media may be helpful in informing the public, people must be their own advocates to arm themselves with the facts and background information that allow you to predict the ‘unexpected’.

http://www.americanchiropractic.net/autism/Autism%20Epidemic%20Soars%20in%20America.pdf- Autism Epidemic Soars in America (Sunday Herald, January 2002)

In maintaining an open, but still critical viewpoint, this article came across as rather humorous. It wasn’t necessarily funny because of its claim of an epidemic, but moreso it’s explanation as to the ‘cause’ of such an epidemic. The article refers to the 20% increase in the rate of autism diagnosis per year as well as the increase between 1999 and 2000 from 53,576 to 65,396 children reported by the US Department of Health. As has been stated in MIND and IDEA reports, a 20% increase per year is to be expected when adjusting to new diagnostic criterion as well as an ever increasing awareness.  However,  ‘experts’ (the article does not refer to anyone specifically) claim, because the new criterion have been used for 9 years at the time of the article, that the continued increase is a direct result of an actual increase in prevalence. While this may be true, that increases due to new criterion have leveled off some, but the ability to distinguish and recognize the entire spectrum is still developing. In addition, since the new criterion, there are children born every second that may be adding to the numbers as children are able to be diagnosed at younger and younger ages, while those who are in the elder part of the age pool with more ‘mild’ forms of autism, still had not received diagnoses. As these diagnoses weave their way through the entire population, the numbers will continue to increase. Even newer diagnostic criterion in the soon-to-come DSM may cause further ripples in prevalence rates, which will remain to be seen.

Commenting on the more ‘entertaining’ aspects of this article, Dr, Ed Yazbak, a retired pediatrician, refers to the causes of autism by saying, “We may find that this is being caused by something other than vaccination but it is certainly not genetic because this happens in the second year of life.” I’m not sure where this doctor studied or what he had done his research in, but this statement seems so preposterous to me, that someone who appears to know so little about autism would be the ‘professional’ or ‘expert’ for an article with its focus in autism. The abundance of present research seeking to identify infant characteristics that has led us to be able to diagnose children as early as 18 months (and perhaps sooner in the future!) is a direct contradiction to Dr. Yazbak’s statement. Parental testimonies coincide directly with their child’s autism being an intrinsic part of them from the moment of their birth. While this does not claim that genetics are the only cause of autism, it does attest to their drastic influence, in robust opposition to the claims of this article.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-barrie-nd/child-autism-epidemic-fir_b_696179.html- Child Autism Epidemic Firmly Linked to Environment (August 2010)

As in the other two previous articles, this one too sought to determine the cause of autism in order to determine a way to combat the epidemic we are faced with.  Using the CDC prevalence rates of 1/100 children (1/58 boys) and the National Survey of Children’s rate of 1/63 (1/38 boys), author Stephen Barrie, claims that, “Research supported by NIEH has clearly shown that it is not just genetics that causes neuro-developmental disorders such as autism but rather the interplay of both genes and the environment”.  This claim is rather bland and obvious due to the multidimensionality of any disorder of syndrome. Barrie’s use of the CDC are not necessarily unexpected (1%), though, in comparison of the Journal of American Medical Association’s (in 2001) given rates of the autism spectrum being 62.6/10,000 (~.63%). Over the past 10 years (since the Journal’s publication), we expected the rates to increase by 20-23% each year with increased comfort with diagnostic criteria, as well as the astounding impact of the increased awareness of the general public to the signs of autism. Even the idea of an autism epidemic would result in an increased public awareness, which would work to increase prevalence rates. Each of these things also makes the National Survey of Children’s data (1/63 children) not substantially deviated from normal expectations (1.5%).

Commenting on the majority of the article’s explanation of the link between environmental toxins and autism, it is known that children are more vulnerable to pollutants in the environment due to their smaller size as well as their hand/mouth behaviors and other various interactions with their environments. It is extremely interesting that the article noted an Indian study that found a significant correlation between the severity of autistic symptoms with the concentration of heavy metals (lead and mercury) in the body. These findings were supplemented by others dealing with certain gene families (CYP and GST) that were found to have defects reducing the ability to remove toxins from the body. While these results are extremely interesting to ponder (the genetic and environmental roles on autism), finding a cause does not necessarily mean finding a ‘cure’ or ‘prevention’, which should be dually noted when thought of in reference to an ‘epidemic’.

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