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Autism Numbers Skyrocket

Reported autism rates skyrocket – one child in 88 now has an autism diagnosis. One in 54 boys. We’ll take a look behind the sobering numbers.

Christopher Astacio reads with his daughter Cristina, 2, recently diagnosed with a mild form of autism, in her bedroom on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in New York.   Autism cases are on the rise again, largely due to wider screening and better diagnosis, federal health officials said Thursday, March 2012.  (AP)

Christopher Astacio reads with his daughter Cristina, 2, recently diagnosed with a mild form of autism, in her bedroom on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 in New York. Autism cases are on the rise again, largely due to wider screening and better diagnosis, federal health officials said Thursday, March 2012. (AP)

The new numbers from the Centers for Disease Control last week on autism were absolutely arresting.  In their latest survey, 1 in 88 American children were found diagnosed with autism and related disorders.  One in 54 American boys, on the autism spectrum.

The numbers were stunning in themselves, and far higher than prevalence rates found just a handful of years ago.  Maybe it’s all about rates of diagnosis.  Or ways of defining autism.  Maybe it’s not.  But it’s got our full attention.

This hour, On Point: how can so many American children have autism?

-Tom Ashbrook


Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland.

Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks.

Glen Finland, a writer and mother of an autistic child, her new book is Next Stop: A Memoir. You can read an article about her son, David, which she wrote in the Washington Post here.


The new numbers on autism are scary: One in 88 children falls someplace on the autism disorder spectrum, according to the latest from the Centers for Disease Control. “We do have a public health crisis,” said Geraldine Dawson, the chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks. She called for a coordinated national response, more research, earlier screening, and better treatment.

While broader screening and more awareness are sources for the larger number of new autism diagnoses, that isn’t the full story. The source of 50 percent of new autism cases is of unknown origin, Dawson said, pointing to early research indicating that environmental factors including exposure to pesticides, air pollution, and other factors that could impact brain development and autism.

Others cite the preliminary nature of that research and counter that the jump in autism cases can best be explained by broader awareness and better screening. “20 to 30 years ago, no one knew what autism was. Nowadays, everyone knows what it is,” said pediatric neurologist Max Wiznitzler. “Parents are now walking in with children with any type of developmental disorder and wondering: Is it autism?”

Autism like many other development disorders is a neurological condition, which means that it is diagnosed by behavior and not by, for instance, a biopsy or blood test. Different interpretations can lead to different diagnoses.

“I’m not surprised [at the new numbers],” said Wiznitzer. “Our diagnostic criteria are being applied more liberally, which means it’s a much expanded group of individuals, especially when they are looking at individuals with social impairments. But the other thing is that we’re getting better at identifying them.”

The critical point is to identify developmental disorders, regardless of the final classification both doctors agreed. Indeed, each person with autism is unique from their peers. “As we say in the autism community, once you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism,” said author Glen Finland, whose new memoir Next Stop details her family’s experiences raising an autistic son.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “The new report estimates that in 2008 one child in 88 received one of these diagnoses, known as autism spectrum disorders, by age 8, compared with about one in 110 two years earlier. The estimated rate in 2002 was about one in 155.”

NPR “The rapid rise prompted calls to declare the developmental disorder an epidemic. “This is a national emergency in need of a national plan,” Mark Roithmayr, president of the advocacy group Autism Speaks, said at a CDC media briefing Thursday.”

Excerpt: Next Stop

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  • jennifer

    interesting, well written, and makes me hope that David is doing well at this point in life! 

  • Jasonspitalnik


    Autism, cancer and complications with pregnancy and births, obesity, the list goes on.  They are all on the rise.  Why?

    Mono cropping, chemical pesticides and fertilizers. We believe that we can do better than nature?  Artificially? These practices address symptoms not causes.  

    One of the primary causes is soil depletion.  There are now studies to prove, there is more to growing food than just the ‘magic’ NPK. Remineralize the earth is an organization dedicated to studying this.  Nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus will produce a carrot (for example).  But what about all the other micro nutrients?  Calcium, manganese, iron and so on.  These would normally be absorbed and stored in the carrot and then passed on to a human when consumed.  When the fields are used for 100 years how much could possibly be left?  

    When the micro nutrients and soil health is optimal there is less disease in the plants.  Could that translate to humans?  Perhaps less disease in the plants will mean less disease in humans who consume those plants?

    Micro nutrients are the building blocks for cells, cell growth and health, NOT SUGAR.  Sugar is energy only.  Our diet consists of mostly processed foods that are high in instant sugars and corn, as Michael Pollan has stated.  These sugars makes us overweight and undernourished.  And the rest of the conventional vegetables are nutrient deficient which will obviously make us deficient.  

    To say it another way:

    If you have a meal that has 500 calories and you only get 50% of your nutritional value, your body will tell you that you need more nutrients. So you eat more. Not to mention you will end up consuming more chemicals that were used to grow this food. 

    If you have a meal, grown from your backyard victory garden, that has 500 calories and you get 120% of your nutritional value, you will get full and stop eating and ingest no chemicals.  Your body knows this.    

    Dr. Terry Wahls presented for TED.com on the subject of the importance of not just non-processed foods but nutrient-rich foods.


    Dr. Weston Price wrote a book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, please read it, it will also answer many of these questions.

    If we want to control the high cost of medical bills, this is where we need to start!  At the causes, not the symptoms. 

    Don’t get me started with the backwards farm bill…


    • Ellen Dibble

      Thanks for that.  Put another way, we can feather the nests of the military/industrial/pharmacological/insurance complex by having certain people figure out the genetic or epigenetic and subsequent biochemistry of autism and trying to intercept a process once it’s already under way, either bankrupting the country (or at least an exploding 20 percent that is health care) or further favoring “the 1%” who can afford to reconfigure their physiology.
           Or for a lot less money, we can take a broad look at what was different ten years ago, or twenty years ago, or fifty years ago, and consider the elements of the environment that we breathe, consume, and touch, and start to dial back on that.   It would help us in reducing our suffering and our reducing care costs.  
           Just by attending to the food supply, the fields and soil, and reducing deficits in trace minerals and so on, plus reducing the flood of toxins from smoke stacks and various industrial wastes, we can diet away our obesity epidemic — by making food nourishing again, and our air refreshing again.  

           And even without a lot of Nobel-quality research, we can likely make a huge difference, by watching the causes, possible potential exposures and imbalances.  I doubt the corporations are going to help; they’ll say if we want our eggs and bacon we’ll have to put up with the soot and smog and vitiated food values — and with autism and so on and so forth.  They’ll say that someone with a brain can still find lots of profit in this kind of epidemic; isn’t that the American way?  

      • Unsanitorial

        You do plenty of free work, Ellen, that informs us, and accelerates the thought processes of others. This morning I’d like to thank you for being a caring human being. It was also so good to hear from you at Moyers&Company.

        Your common sense reasoning above seems sound to me. We can’t fix every individual instance of a blanket problem and continue to do the other needed work. We must find the most common causes and correct them the best we can. If 1 in 88 babies now have a recognizable disorder on the autism spectrum, up from 1 in a thousand decades ago, then what must the trend line look like? If the acceleration is continuous humanity is doomed within 25 years. We already have too many adults who can’t focus and who are oblivious to their immediate surroundings. Everything points to environmental causation of one sort or another; plenty of suspects.

        • Ellen Dibble

          Gosh, thanks for that comment I found in my inbox that you posted at the Moyers site.   Sometimes I think I’m (a) making a fool of myself, (b) barking up the wrong tree/trees/forest, and (c) absorbing so much cyber-malware in the process that I’m disabling my computer from what my business requires that I do.  So your note hits home today.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody identify “where I’m at” even remotely close to on target before.  But there, you did it.  
               Anyway, I’ve been shifting to less talking back and forth on line, sort of re-evaluating, thinking the cyberworld is making my participation like molasses, and surely I could go faster by slow camel, by “simply” writing a book and leaving it to the next generation to find an agent.  So.   (I think an all-day-yesterday set-back of my computer fixed things.)

    • BEEZ

      That’s my take on it too Jason!

  • Pingback: Autism Numbers Skyrocket

  • Victor Vito

    To any of today’s guests:

    You’d do a great service if you’d define Autism as clearly as possible.  What is it, who gets it, what are symptoms, what is treatment, what is the prognosis?  A lot of definitions and confusion floating around out here.


  • Gina M

    Or maybe not. Jerome Kagan, “one [of] the fathers of developmental psychology”, interviewed last week on WBUR’s Radioboston, called the one-in-88 claim absurd:

    “This morning on WBUR, I heard on the news, Morning Edition, that the Centers for Disease Control said that 1 out of 88 children in America have autism.
    That’s absurd! … It’s only because doctors are prescribing autism for
    children who don’t really have autism.

    This is very serious. The autism that was known to psychiatrists in
    1940 — that’s 1 in 800, 1 in 1000. It’s a very specific and narrow
    disease. When you take every child who has language retardation or
    every child who’s awkward in social interaction and you call that child
    autistic — 1 out of 80?”


    • Victor Vito

      You are gonna get hammered for this comment, if past shows are any indication.

      • JustSayin

         Yes, but reality won’t be on the table for any substantive discussion. That would bee too controversial — especially at pledge time.

        Whenever, a new “spectrum” disorder is marched out with subsidies attached, the spectrum keeps getting wider. I’ve heard the term “mild autism” spoken more often than just the full blown disorder.

        Like being a premature birth, the child is labeled and after that point all behaviors are attached to the “disorder”.

        “Rainbow Babies”! — Its not a Disney movie where everything is plesant and happy and solved in 44 minutes. It a lifetime of misery for the entire family.

        I would like to hear something about the environmental cause of this disorder. It presents, as though there should be one.

        • zoubisoubisou

           I believe that chemicals in plastics and vinyl could be the culprits!

  • Yar

    A different way of thinking. We can spend all of our time looking for a cause of mild autism, something or someone to blame, some cause that clearly shows how we are on the correct side of normal.  Or, we can accept that different people learn in different ways and bring different gifts to society.  
    I share some traits with people who have been labeled as part of the autism spectrum.  I have trouble understanding the ques society uses to develop pecking order.  I also find myself avoiding eye contact, it confuses my understanding.  I have traits that I feel are gifts, I am honest, direct, my emotions are simple and understandable. I treat everyone like I want to be treated.  
    I am for building strong, diverse, accepting communities.  I think this is done by accepting people as they are, not labeling them as ‘not normal’ and realizing everyone has something to offer.
    Next hour is about how segregation continues today.  How race is used to define ‘not normal’, and enforced through our criminal justice system..  This is a flaw in our genetic code, to see some humans as not part of our family.
    We use labels to separate ‘us’ and ‘them’, then we define normal as us.

    Something to consider this holy week.
    The Gospel of Jesus is good news to those who are considered outsiders in normal society.  
    How tolerant and accepting are you of people different than yourself?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    When my 24 year son was diagnosed at 3 the rate was like 1 in 250. When first diagnosed, though, it was labelled PDD NOS (pervasive developmental delay not otherwise specified), because they did not hand out an autism diagnosis easily. But I don’t think more willingness to make the diagnosis fully explains the drastic increase.

    • Anonymous

      But PDD-NOS is an ASD. I’ve always found my diagnosis (which is PDD-NOS) as less of a fixed “this is who/what I am” but as a guide, something that describes much of *how* I am but not*who* I am.

      And as a casual observation I agree with the view of increased diagnosis to more awareness of symptoms. But I don’t think an early diagnosis should be the final view. Re-evaluations over time are important.

  • Brett

    I have been around many people with autism in my life. I have been close to people since their birth who later received the diagnosis. I have often wondered if there are two components to developing autism, a kind of one-two punch, if you will. 

    A person may be born with a pre-disposition/something happening within his/her system, currently unrecognizable to the medical community, that is a potential cause of autism. The person won’t develop symptoms until around a year and a half to two years old, so it is not evident at birth. 

    Perhaps a second piece of the puzzle happens; the child has a devastating virus/pervasive illness early and during that same developmental period. 

    Perhaps if the second component does not happen, the child grows up either without pronounced symptoms of autism or the autism seems mild.

    The potential “environmental” factors need to be more closely studied. Additionally, if someone has a child with autism/has autism themselves, and he/she finds that limiting/avoiding processed foods/chemical additives produces a desired effect, then by all means…it doesn’t matter that those underlying, contibuting causes have not been established. 

  • Brett

    I just read a comment that characterized something they consider as being autistic behavior. The characterization goes like this, “….who are oblivious to their immediate surroundings.” This is a problematic characterization. In fact, one quality a person with autism may very well have is NOT being able to disengage from their immediate surroundings. 

    It seems that one problem is being flooded with external stimuli that can not be sorted out and prioritized in the same way that a “normal” person would prioritize stimuli. A sound from a distance, a fan blowing next to them, a dog playing a hundred feet from them, etc., and they can’t separate the different stimuli and make sense of it as distinct and separate from them; it almost seems as if they can’t discern where they leave off and the external world begins. Another problem may be akin to synesthesia, that a condition where the person’s sensory input gets “crossed.” A person may smell certain sounds or hear colors, etc.   

  • Brett

    Earth, water, air, food…toxins in these seem to be sparking interest in terms of potential underlying factors to the causes of autism. My opinion is that they may exacerbate the condition but are not causes in and of themselves. Autism existed before air, water, soil pollution and food additives. What explained autism in yesteryear where there weren’t factors that could be traced to environmental concerns?

    • Jasonspitalnik


      If you are referring to my post.  I apologize if I made fixing earth, water, air, food…toxins sound like it was a cure-all.  By any means it is NOT.  I was just stating the rising health care issues and their relationship to depleted soils, depleted nutrients and toxins in food, needs to be looked at for prevention. It is hard to argue, the higher the quality of food we ingest the better we will set ourselves and our children up for success.   

      • Brett

        No, it wasn’t referring to your post but to the overall sentiment of environmental toxicity as being a cause of autism….and, don’t get me wrong, these factors MUST be studied extensively in my opinion to get at precisely what impact they do have on health and on certain medical/ developmental conditions.

  • zoubisoubisou

    Are chemicals found in plastic one of the reasons for the explosion autism cases?

    “Often the most toxic toys are given to the youngest children as
    teethers.  Soft plastic toys are softened with chemicals called
    phthalates.  Starting in June 2011, Canada is restricting six of these
    phthalates by banning toys ‘that contain greater than allowable
    concentrations’”. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=link-between-autism-and-vinyl

    • Brett

      With a sobriquet like that we’re liable to start talkin’ Mad Men…Oh, Tom?!?! ;-)

      I think you’ve touched on something…Plastic is more ubiquitous than ever; and, there are more grades of plastic than ever with more ways for the plastic to break down and become toxic as it goes along its way (storage, reuse, microwaving, etc.)

  • Brett

    I guess this will be my last comment…for a couple of minutes, anyway. ;-)

    The photo above is interesting. I wonder about diagnosing “mild” autism at the typical age diagnoses are made (here listed at two years old). The girl in the photo is smiling in a very natural, unforced way. She is also looking very intently and deliberately at the picture in the book, as if seeing the context and image as a representation of something. These qualities are not present in a person with autism at that age, generally speaking. So, I wonder if the Asperger’s diagnosis at that age comes from behaviors like compulsivity and obsession, etc.   

  • Tina

    A lot of people with Asperger’s (on the spectrum) are very appealing for how smart they are, especially given today’s digital expression of intelligence.  So, away at college, instead of at home lusting after the girl/boy-next-door, young people with recessive genes for Asperger’s might be attracted to one another, or the expression of Asperger’s might seem appealing in the college setting.  Next there is a wedding and a baby with… Asperger’s.

    That’s my theory for the increase, besides better detection. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    I think one reason for the increase in the diagnosis is a much larger inclusion of dysfunctional vs. disabled individuals getting the diagnosis. This is not a bad thing – early intervention can make a huge difference, but it won’t happen without diagnosis.

    • Anonymous

      Great point. When I was in HS I was (eventually) in a program for kids with “behavior problems”. I definitely had behavior problems but as I look back at 28 with the understanding of PDD-NOS and ASD/developmental disorders I have accrued over the years I recognize that my behavioral issues were a mix of my anxiety which is connected to my ASD and definitely the environments I was in. The physical environment was a big deal in my youth (I can control my reactions much better now thanks to meds, therapy, self-reflection and all that) and I knew besides all that that I did not have the same behavioral issues the other kids in my program did. Or rather my behavioral issues were largely environmental and not a side effect of socioeconomics.

  • aj

    Is the exponential increase happening in Europe where they have strong consumer friendly EPA vis a vis our strong corporate friendly EPA. If indeed plastics and chemicals are factoring in.

    They are definitely effecting little boys genitals, Ive heard that from numerous sources.  Which should signal alarm bells in my opinion.

    Girls getting pubic hair and breasts as early as 9 years old!!! when it should be more like 12.  Girls begin menstruation as early as 11!! when it should be 13-15 even.  Particularly minorities.

    The Office of the president’s Cancer commission suggesting chemicals being number 1 suspect for the proliferation of cancer diagnosis.

    Fertilizer run off rendering a proliferation of transvestite amphibian frogs in irrigation canals in the central valley California where the bulk of our produce is grown.

  • Tina

    Better detection should mean access to better treatment!  Let’s be at least joyously happy for that!  

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

       Not really – insurance companies are just awful about paying for this stuff.

  • Patrik

    How do we know this isnt some type of evlolutionary transition?  Let’s not see everything that is different from normal as bad or good.

  • Jennifer

    I know this is controversial, but I believe vaccinations are responsible, in part.  I have seen firsthand a child deteriorate into autism directly following a vaccination in infancy.  As well, I believe there is an epidemic now because the vaccination schedule has changed over time.  I am 40 years old, and my understanding is that children nowadays receive a great number more vaccinations than I did as a child.

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

      I may be wrong but I think this has been scientifically disproven and while the mercury in many vaccinations may be problematic, it has not been shown to lead to autism.

  • Julia

    What about the Harvard study linking maternal gestational diabetes at 24 to 27 weeks just as the brain is developing?

  • Bill

    More people smoking stronger weed.  Lawn chemicals.  Household chemicals.  Who knows.

    • aj

      It’s not the cannibus. It’s the chemicals.

  • MA Resident

    I think you need to look at the rise and consider what’s going on on the payer side of the equation – esp in light of new state policies/regs that require insurance coverage for far more services with an autism diagnosis.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    These mental health people have a lot of trust to build, though.  I’ve seen plenty of children who were diagnosed with ADHD when their real condition was NID–not interested disorder.

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

      … and no doubt at least some NID is caused by BTD*

      *bad teaching disorder

  • Dlstoughton

    As we include more of the population, it is very disappointing how little attention is given to life skills for young adults. Many high functioning ADD/ADHD, PDD, Asberger, could be self sufficent if there where more programs to help them and their families understand and assist their loved ones to be productive members of society.

  • JF

    Many of us have tried the gluten-free, lactose-free diet with mixed results.  Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride goes much further with her diet, called GAPS, and she’s written a book by the same name.  All forms of carbohydrates, lactose and casein are removed from the diet while the body heals.  Please consider it.  This diet is incredible and I highly recommend her book, “Gut and Psychology Syndrome”.

  • Anonymous

    Dr. Boyd Haley has testified to the US Food and Drug Administration regarding mercury vapour from dental amalgams and on thimerosal-containing vaccines. Haley was one of the first researchers to propose that Thimerosal in vaccines was the most likely toxic agent involved in Gulf War syndrome and autism spectrum disorders.
    Haley has conducted studies that suggest low levels of mercury are capable of contributing to certain neurological diseases such as autism and Alzheimer’s disease, and he has observed that exposure of lab rats to low level mercury vapor causes a great increase in rat brain mercury levels, along with a marked decrease in brain tubulin photolabeling, as has been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
    Using birth-hair analysis, Haley has produced evidence that individuals diagnosed with autism excrete less mercury. His hypothesis is that they form a distinct subset of the population with reduced excretion of mercury,[1] relating to thiomersal’s controversial and unproven role in the etiology of autism.
    Haley has speculated that gold salts may induce a wide range of improvements in overall health, in a manner similar to that of chelation therapy. Haley has also speculated that gold salts may be useful in the treatment of autism.[7] This was based on the observation that one of the first autistics known lost his autism diagnosis when treated for rheumatoid arthritis by taking gold salts containing a thiol linkage. Gold and thiols are known to have high affinity for mercury. 
    For more information:  http://www.ctiscience.com/founder.php

  • Guest

    I thought that autistic people were geniuses, isn’t that what we value in society?

  • Jason Hoffman

    There was a conjecture explored in “Wired” last year that perhaps the rise in Aspergerian symptoms was due to the fact that higher-educated left-brainers were selecting for eachother and that it was a natural evolutionary measure.  Any feelings on that?

  • Bauhaus

    Since the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) guide lines have come out is Autism the only group that grew? What about the ADD group? 

  • miro

    Some discussion of the neural basis for the disease is in order. You can’t just perseverate about the symptoms and speculate about causes unless you have some minimal notion of what is going on in the brain that causes autism. (So much of medicine embodies this shallow, symptom-based approach, and it can cripple research efforts to get at the root causes.).

    The best theories we have heard about autism is that there is local hyperconnectivity of the neurons in particular areas (and maybe imbalances of excitatory and inhibitory neurons as well). Consequently the brain has a weak global organization that one needs for effective social interactions. It is as if the local circuits have more autonomy and dominate whereas in normal people, relations with the external world tend to drive brain dynamics.

  • Robert Anson Wilson

    There’s a big difference between being completely unable to cope with the humans, and being able to cope with them but finding it extremely unpleasant, and harder to pull-off with increasing age and fatigue.

    Still, in all, I wouldn’t trade it for losing my intensity of focus and  inability to think normally—I just wish that I had made more money at it, that I might withdraw from society much, much more, and be much, much, more comfortable thereby.

  • Julia

    what about the Vitamin D hypothesis?

  • Kathy

    Autism is real. ADHD is real. Dyslexia is real. 

    However, they have all been, in the time they were trendy, massively overdiagnosed. In the 80s and early 90s, every other kid had Dyslexia. Then in the mid 90s through the 00s, the kids who would have had dyslexia, suddenly had ADHD. Now the same kids are being diagnosed as “on the spectrum.”I suggest the more accurate diagnosis of Middle Class Mediocrity Syndrome. The horrible affliction when the children of upper middle class white people are merely average.

    • Anonymous

      Wow. Really? So you’re suggesting that children of “upper middle class” (which means little in this post-ish-recession economy) can’t have an ASD or similar developmental disorder?
      That’s very classist of you.
      The reason they are called *developmental* disorders is in part because they are primarily *developmental/biological* and not *environmental* which seems to be what you are assuming.

    • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

      I like your comment and while it’s a bit harsh there’s truth in it. I did some writing about people spinning “LD” and “dyslexia” a while back you may find interesting. It’s dated at this point but it does support your idea:



    • http://www.ldresources.org/ Sanford

      ‘Autism is real. ADHD is real. Dyslexia is real. ”  Your first point is definitely true.
      The next one however,:  “Now the same kids are being diagnosed as “on the spectrum,”, isn’t.    While there’s can be some overlap with severe ADHD and ASD (Autism Spectrum), the folks who have dyslexia look and act nothing similar to ASD.

  • Claudia

    As the parent of a 16-year-old with severe autism, I am alarmed by what I consider to be the overdiagnosis of autism because the expanded diagnostic criteria really hurt children on the more involved end of the spectrum in a number of ways.  The public face of autism has clearly shifted toward the higher functioning end of the spectrum;  this actually serves to decrease public acceptance of children with significant language and behavioral challenges.  We have also run into problems with school support staff claiming to have experience working with children on the spectrum;  someone who has supported a child with Asperger’s is in no way equipped to handle a child like my son, who needs complex support structures at every level.  It is my sincere wish that there be more differentiated diagnosis, that perhaps Asperger’s/high functioning autism become its own diagnosis altogether.  Otherwise the spectrum becomes too impossibly broad and therapeutic funding and school programming become watered down to the extent that they can no longer serve individuals who need support the most — those with Autism with a capital A.  1 in 88?  I don’t think so.  I think the 1 in 150 numbers come much, much closer to identifying children with true autism.

    • CindyB

       Claudia,  my heart and respect goes out to you as you parent your son.  I agree there should be several differentiated diagnoses, and not all of them lumped under Autism – my son, who was born the year Aspergers entered the DSM (1993), is high-functioning but was dismissed as “just a quirky kid” for years, because he has no speech problems that are present with very Autistic kids. And I have friends with a very Autistic son whom strangers want to know what’s wrong with him; they don’t understand it is “autism” because of how the media publicizes it.

  • aimfish

    I’ve worked with children with ASD for almost 10 years.  My concern is if there is some over diagnosis for ASD, what is going to happen with the schools trying to offer services to these children?  Federal special education money that was promised to school isn’t coming in; therefore what are these numbers going to do?     

  • Markus

    Who’s making money off of this diagnosis? I saw a documentary on a town in massachusetts where an extremely high percentage of inner city kids were diagnosed with problems that allowed their families to get special treatment in school as well as money for their families. Parents shopped for people who would give them this diagnosis.

    Sorry, I don’t remember the details of the problems or what the family money was for, but it was a couple years ago.

  • Mali

    While doing research about digestive issues, I discovered the book “Breaking the Vicious Cycle ~ The Specific Carbohydrate Diet” by Elaine Gottschall.  Apparently, the diet proved to have excellent effects on children w/ autism.  From her website (link below): Soon, several moms began contacting Elaine Gottschall directly. The benefits of the diet became apparent to both parents as well as several health care practitioners who integrated the SCD into their autism practices. As a result, in 2004, they invited Elaine to speak at the Defeat Autism Now conference. The impact of her presentation led to appearances at 3 more large conferences as well as many consultations with doctors and nurses treating autism.Since that time, the SCD has been used by hundreds of people in the autism community with dramatic results.


    • JF

        The GAPS Diet, developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and the author of (“Gut and Psychology Syndrome”) is based on Elaine Gottschall’s SCD Diet but goes further and she used it to heal her autistic son and now runs a clinic in Cambridge, England.
        The Diet initially removes all foods except meat and vegetables in the form of soups and slowly adds many foods back in over time.  All carbohydrates, lactose and casein are completely removed from the diet.
        Her theory is that pathogenic bacteria and yeast have damaged the lining of the digestive tract. These organisms feed on carbs, lactose, etc., producing a number of toxins that travel through the leaky gut, into the body and reach the brain causing a variety of behavioral symptoms.
        I would urge anyone with a child with behavioral and/or gut issues to check it out.-JF

  • Annwolf66

    Tom this is outrageous! Do not let your doctor get away with saying parents want their children diagnosed to get services. Are you kidding me??? I am a pediatrician with a 10 year old daughter with Autism and Mitochondrial Disorder. It is insulting to suggest that we want this diagnosis. There is not enough support for our kids. We love our daughter BUT her medical issues have emotionally and financial crippled our lives.

    • Bill

      my wife is a teacher in a wealthy suburb with successful parents.  If their child is not a genius, they must have a learning disability of some sort according to the parents.  These parents are demanding services for a child that is an average student.  It’s not the norm, but it does happen.

  • Bill

    Does it show up more in wealthy suburbs?  Are the rates the same across the country between city and rural?  Those are some questions I would like to answer so you can narrow down causes.  What about right and left brain integration?  Do people with autism so more right or left brain traits?  Then you would look at hormones and genes involved in development of those areas of the brain.  

  • Babergman

    The one symptom that I think clarifies or differentiates Autism spectrum (high functioning especially) from other conditions is “narrow interest.” In other words, the individual spends a majority of his or her time focused on a limited area of interest. These very often leads them to become experts at the area of their interest. 

  • Jyildiz

    i just tuned in and don’t know if the elephant in the room i.e. vaccines has been mentioned.  what can be expected from injecting mercury, aluminum, etc into little bodies? the number of vaccinations has  grown tremendously and quality control might also be suspect.

    • Longsmith

      Thanks because there is absolutely no link.

    • Asde

      just google and find that it has been totally debunked by hundreds of studies

    • Ellen Dibble

      The way a certain doctor explains it to me, some people are genetically better at detoxifying than others.  It seems to me one might say people detoxify in different way, some tending to detoxify through their skin, some through the kidneys, liver, just as with the brain, using the resources that work best for that particular genetic configuration.   I suppose you could simplify and say that there are variations in detoxification styles and capabilities.  Dr. Dawson on the show was saying that those predisposed to autism might be those “triggered” by something in vaccinations.   It seems to me if someone is genetically predisposed to be triggered into autism (or various other difficulties) by heavy metals, that is a pretty good reason not to expose them.

  • Cara

    I am the mother of a 7th grade girl diagnosed with Asperger’s who is very bright and able to function at a high level academically, but struggles socially.  I read recently that there is a proposal that the diagnosis of Autism be simplified to eliminate the different categories, but it seems to me that it might be more helpful to individuals to retain those different (sub?)categories so that therapies can be better focused on an individual’s needs.

    Also–at what level of prevalence should we shift our thinking about these “disorders” so that we begin to regard them as  reflective of the diversity of human beings? If we recognized that people come in different “flavors”, maybe we would be more successful at helping individuals on the Autism spectrum thrive in our society.

    • John from Woburn

       Yes! The line separating quirky personality from disorder is not clear.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Glen Finland is talking about grown adults living with autism.  Could she address what it means to the children of people with autism?  How do children whose parents have, say, Asperger’s, socialize?  Is it different from those with neuronormal parents (especially, I suppose, mothers)?

  • rachel

    I think that the notion that we can accurately diagnose autism purely on the basis of the behaviors is very problematic. Granted that it is all we have to go on at this point, yet I think we need to be cautious in our confidence here.

     I have a friend whose little boy was having significant difficulties with sleeping and eating and exhibiting temper tantrums. The doctors this little boy went to wanted to diagnose him with autism spectrum disorder. However, his mother sought second, third, fourth opinions. 

    What came out after a battery of tests, of trial and error attempts, was that his behaviors were the result of food allergies which had been undiagnosed for all of the three years that he had been eating solids. For 3 years his mother had been taking him to various doctors and he had been subjected to endless tests of all sorts. But it was only when she was able to bring him to Children’s Hospital Boston, a world leading hospital in pediatrics, that they were able to get the right diagnosis. Now, with changes to his diet, they are finally seeing the cessation of the tantrums, and improvements in his sleeping and eating patterns, and a cessation of the qualities that led other providers to speculate an autism spectrum disorder. 
    What this speaks to is how a diagnosis becomes “trendy” and how many people will offer a diagnosis without an appropriately discerning eye or taking the real time it takes to make accurate diagnosis. And without taking into account how a child’s diet can influence their behavior and development. That something as simple as a food allergy can present as autism spectrum disorder is something that we need to be far more sensitive to.

    • Spectrum Father

      The connection between food allergies and many individuals on the Autistic Spectrum Disorders is a very interesting one. And the further connection between food allergies & Zonulin, intestinal permeability, intestinal motility, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, environmental triggers, the original human diet, GMOs and foods invented by humans over a span of 10,000 years gets even more interesting. There is no one who writes and speaks more eloquently and succinctly on most of the above aspects than Dr. Alessio Fasano, M.D. a Professor of Pediatrics and the Director of the Mucosal Biology Research Center at the University of Maryland. Another two people who were one of the first to bring some of these ideas to light were Dr. Sidney V. Haas and Elaine Gottschall — here in New England we are incredibly lucky to have Elaine’s successor Pamela J. Ferro of Hopewell Associates and The Gottschall Autism Center nearby — she has personally been an amazing resource for my young daughter. It’s also worth noting the recent research and its connection to the above done by Dr. Mark Pimentel, MD, FRCPC is Director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Program and Laboratory at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. If you suspect there are GI issues with your impaired child please look into the work of these individuals. In the following paragraph Fasano points to a possible unifying theory to connect the dots of all the factors mentioned above:  “a possible unifying theory to “connect the dots”… would link changes in the gut microorganism ecosystem with leaky gut, passage of digestion products of natural food such as bread and cow’s milk that would activate immune inflammatory cells that cause inflammation both in the intestine (autistic enterocolitis) and the brain (ASD).  Alternative to the inflammatory hypothesis, it has been proposed that the defect in the intestinal barrier in ASD patients allows passage of neuroactive peptides of food origin (gliadorphin and casomorphins) into the blood and then into the cerebrospinal fluid to interfere directly with the function of the CNS.  No matter which theory turns out to be correct, changes in the intestinal microbiome and the consequent leaky gut seem to be common denominators.”….”The discovery of zonulin, a molecule that reversibly modulates the gates’ opening, sheds light on how the intestinal barrier function is regulated in health and disease.  The two major environmental stimuli triggering the production of zonulin in the small intestine are the presence of microorganisms (i.e., proximal bowel contamination) and exposure to gluten.”

  • miro

    There is a continuing wallowing in the rising numbers of autism diagnoses in the discussion. Yes, better diagnoses and therapies are needed, but this is like rescuing drowning swimmers downstream and failing to recognize that upstream there is a weak bridge that is causing them one by one to fall into the river. We need to understand the brain to get at what is producing all these autistic kids.

    They are saying that more research is needed, but aren’t being very specific about the kind of research. We need to find the root causes that lie in brain development. We need a theory of information processing in the brain and how that is affected by different patterns of development of the neural circuits.It is unfortunate, but the NIH is extremely poor at funding theory-based science. We will get plenty of public health and epidemiological studies, plenty of clinical studies on diagnosing autism, plenty of cognitive psychological studies on the specificity of the mental deficits, plenty of molecular neuroscience studies looking at this or that mechanism, but very little in the way of how information processing is different in the autistic individual, and why. The pattern will be like that for Alzheimer’s Disease (and Type II diabetes for that matter)– there will be a funding bandwagon for clinical, social, and molecular studies, but we won’t get to root causes for a long time.If we invested a fraction of the funds that we currently spend on useless overseas wars (or oil and nuclear power subsidies) and spent it properly on a balanced mix of practical and theoretical research, then we could have answers to the root causes in fairly rapid order. But the social institutions that support research change very slowly (the NIH is dominated by clinicians and disease-oriented research). Even more worrisome are the political prospects —  the political winds for all biomedical research will be very chilly indeed if the Republicans regain control of the national government in November and anything resembling the Ryan plan is implemented. If you care at all about these issues, don’t ever vote for Republicans or their enablers (like Scott Brown), because the party has been taken over by extremists who are very hostile to medical research (and even science itself).

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Are there dangers in being diagnosed with any variety of developmental disorders from the perspective of security clearances, bank loans, job applications, etc?  A diagnosis goes in a file, and in this age in which data are available to far too many, that diagnosis will be attached to the person for life.

    • Anonymous

      Greg Camp would you be able to contribute to this topic without being cynical, trollish, and contrarian-for-contrarianisms-sake?

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

         It always fascinates me the way that a troll is someone who disagrees with you.

        • Anonymous

          You’re not just disagreeing. That would be fine. But you’re not even considering that other views that are reasonably stated without hyperbole could have any validity. You’re just discounting them out of hand. And you’re doing it repeatedly with different unrelated commenters.
          In this context that is being a troll.

    • Doubting Thomas


      Nope none whatsoever, at least in my line of work (engineering/sciences). In fact those that don’t have it seem to stand out quite a bit.

      High end financial services also have a disproportionate level of such disorders as well.

  • Jojoburch

    Has there been any research done on the correlation between higher rates of interventions during birth (ie pitocin, epidurals, c-sections) and autism?

  • John from Woburn

    I am the father of a very bright 10-year-old boy with an Asperger’s Syndrome diagnosis.  I am astonished at how closely he resembles me at his age, causing me to realize that I am an Asperger’s adult.  This informs both the discussions of genetics and that of past under-diagnosis.

  • Joe in Philly

    Can anyone comment on autism in children and the age of the parents (mother/father) at conception? Please site study, thanks!

  • Julia

    If this were an infectious disease, this country would shut itself down trying to find the cause and make a cure. 1 in 88.

  • Dodie Flash

    As a mental health practitioner in general practice, I have seen how treatment of many autism spectrum disorders falls between the services provided in educational systems, by departments of Mental Retardation (in Massachusetts), Mental Health and special education.  Contrary to Dr Witznitzer’s statement and the way things should be, the diagnosis label has a great deal to do with what services children, and adults challenged with an ASD can get.

  • Tina

    Our country profligately wastes money and effort on military interventions instead of setting an example for the world as a country that takes care of the Health and Welfare of its Citizens, especially its neediest citizens!

    Why?  the military-industrial complex, plus the prison complex, brings great profit to many lobbyists and those they represent.  

  • Grace

    At 52, because of more information on childhood AD/HD, I went to a psychologist specializing in diagnosing in that area. 
    After years of feeling negative about myself in many areas I was able to get evaluated and was relieved to find that my intelligence level, in many areas, was superior to other people of my age and educational status.  There were deficits for certain but if I had been able to focus on my strengths I could have avoided years of fear and shame.

    Since then I have looked into this and realize that many of my fellow classmates, at the parochial school I attended from 1st to 8th grade, may have had AD/HD.  They were the ‘bad’ kids, or the ‘stupid’ kids and the tracking system that was in place at that time made it clear that those in the 3rd and 4th group were worth less than the others. 

    I am so glad that the school system that my son attended was much more enlighten.

    In the past year I’ve come to realize that my husband is a very high functioning Aspie.  Over the years I could never understand why we had such a hard time communicating and being physically close.  When my parents and a sister were sick and dying he was not able to give me any comfort.  He is totally focused on exercise and keeping in shape through running, yoga,
    disc golf, skiing …

    He mentioned that he thought he might have Aspergers during a conversation we were having about our son.  It struck me like lightening because so many things I was confused about fell into place.

    I’ve been doing reading on Adult Aspergers and have attended support groups, through Aspergers Association of New England and I am understanding so much more.

    I think both AD/HD and Aspergers has been around and undiagnosed for a long time. 

  • Alitza

    Vaccinations is not up at this rate. What we are not aware of, most of us, is the rate of pesticide use in our every day foods… those from GMO crops, specifically. All GMO technology has given us so far is the ability to put more herbicides and pesticides on our staple crops.

    I posit that it is no coincidence that the problems we are seeing with honey bees could well be neurologically based and the increase in autism. The pesticides we use now are neurotoxins. In insects they interfere with communication… bees can’t find their way home and the hive doesn’t function well if they do find their way home… our children are having increasing communication and social issues.

    The safety of these neurotoxins has not been studied and examined in the light of day. That is, studies done that might implicate their use are burried, funding cut by the companies who develop the neurotoxins.

    These neurotoxins are not just sprayed on the plant, they are encapsulated around the seed and designed to be taken up into every aspect of the plant… roots, stems, pollen, nectar, and seed.

    We presume that because we have regulatory agencies to approve the safety of such products, that these agencies do in fact work. The truth is that they have been co-opted by the industries they are supposed to regulate.

    These neurotoxins remain in soil and water for three years or more… implying that they build up in the soil each year they are applied. We, apparently, presume that processing will breakdown these toxins, but for all we know, if they are broken down at all, it could be into more toxic substances. What is known is that we put more of them on our fields each year as they become less effective against the insects and weeds which remain.

  • Dosch

    Talk about parents advocating for their own child’s rights.  If I had not pushed the school, my child would have received very little.  Often schools won’t provide what the law requires if they don’t think the parents know any better.

    • Anonymous

      I’m 28. I was in REACH as a toddler and had therapy and some “guidance counselor” group assistance through elementary and middle school. But because I placed so highly in academics my parents couldn’t get me special ed services (an IEP) until I was in HS. Ironically it was the school that suggested I receive services but then they dragged their feet so long on the implementation that my parents got to the point of threatening to sue.
      That was 14 years ago and it sucks that little has changed. Now I’m in the education hoping to facilitate some changes. If not in the system proper than at least I can do my best to assist individual kids and their families.

  • Fred

    I have tried to keep an open mind about the “explosion” of autism “diagnosis” but I fear this is more about the “industry of autism” than it is about children who are truly autistic.  The spectrum has been allowed to expand beyond what, I believe, reflects reality.  This has become more about money and research grants than about an actual condition.

    • Kim

      I work with children with autism and there is no “industry” there. There are just families struggling everyday to survive. It is real. There is no funding like there should be and there really are no answers.

      • az

         that is a ridiculous notion.  these kids are having trouble on a daily basis interacting – melt downs, behavioral issues – every day is a challenge.  There is no “industry” – this is real.  My daughter has Autism – and the parents and children I know with Autism would argree.

    • Jim Davis

      Your comment feels like a comment made by someone with little to no first hand experience with the situation.

      If you ask me, the reason the “industry of autism” is exploding is
      because incidence is rising fast.  People who say research in it needs
      to be funded, are people who actually do have
      experience with the situation and see the disaster coming.  Someday if
      we get to the point where 20% of kids have an ASD, society will collapse
      under the financial weight and burden.  It’s a disaster to society in
      the making, maybe not as fatal to the human race as global warming, but I
      shudder to think of what options we’ll have if we get to that point.

      If we were all on a giant boat together, and there was a growing
      realization that that boat was sinking, there would for sure be an
      “industry of boat bailing-out” proliferating on that boat.  But, that’s a
      valid proliferation, because, look out, the boat is sinking.

      Not to say there isn’t the occasional charlatan peddling expensive miracle cures.  For sure that exists.  But it’s minor and it’s not the mainstream.

    • Jim Davis

      Do you really believe researchers make up or play up disorders so they can get grant money to study them?  If all they wanted was money and the opportunity to rip off the public, people with the intelligence to do this kind of research could go into the finance industry,  Do you think parents seek out stigmatizing diagnoses for their kids because there’s a huge windfall waiting from the insurance companies?  Or because they’re just so lonely they relish the thought of spending 15 hours a week on the phone fighting denials from Blue Cross?

      Regardless of what the Michael Savages of the world might suggest, researchers and parents of autistic kids aren’t zipping around in Lamborghinis thanking the universe for their luck in winning the jackpot in the child development lottery and its accompanying stash of gold.  Most of us are struggling not to go bankrupt.

  • Bonnyvan

    I have heard about the link between Autism and diet (specifically processed foods and hormones in meat).  Is there anything to that?

    • JF

      Look for posts from Mali and JF below.

    • Doubting Thomas

      I have ADHD, and I can tell you that my symptoms are reduced by eating much less sugar and red meat (switched to fish, with red meat on occasion).

      They’re still there, but are manageable with medication.

  • Alitza

    What’s the rate of autism in families which only eat organic food?

    • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

      Ask all five of them. . .

  • Ssmith

    One problem…schools don’t respond to anything unless a kid has a diagnosis. My daughter was bullied by a teacher it only stopped when she got a diagnosis of anxiety disorder! the whole business was ridiculous. At the same time the psychiatrist bragged how he had forced the school to spend 60K on a number of other students. The school spends about 4K per year on “normal” students. 

    Fortunately I was able to tutor my daughter so that she could get into a good college, most “normal” students get little attention at school these days.

    All kids have challenges, parents need to factor that in when they have the kids.

    The government should not have to pay for all the needs of the population. The parents need to be responsible. I tutored my own daughter, I spent a ton of my time at it. If you don’t want to be responsible do not have a child!!!

    • Asde

      if you think one can tutor their way out of autism you learned nothing

      • Ssmith

        Not tutor out of autism, rather be responsible and do whatever needs to be done for one’s own children, to either help them to be functioning adults, or care for them cradle to grave. We all have challenges and sacrifices and tragedies in our lives. We have to deal with them, not expect the government to pick up the tab.

        The comments about vaccines, healthy eating, soil depletion, plastics and so forth are all likely to be valid in explaining the myriad of disorders and autoimmune diseases that are cropping up. One chooses where to live, what to eat, what implements to use, and whether or not to have children. We are all victimized to some extent about the changes in our food chain, air, and water. Research into root causes, albeit rarely funded,  continually finds more important connections.

        But my point is all children should have the same amount of money spent on them by public institutions.   Otherwise we lose incentives to prevent problems in the first place.

        • jennifer

           you’ve clearly not ever seen a child with special needs in a school setting. For parents who cannot afford to send their special needs child to a private school, they should feel confident having their child go to a public school and receive services that meet their needs. I have worked with children who are on the autistic spectrum for years, and regardless of how much work the parents put in at home to help their child, the child still needs more services/staff at school than a child who functions “normally”. And I have seen how beautifully the child can learn and function if he/she is given the appropriate level of services. HOWEVER, I do understand what you’re saying, and if our country’s public education system was set up differently in the first place and education was actually valued as much as our military is valued, there would be enough money for every child to have their individual needs met (whether higher or lower functioning) in school!

  • Stranger

    I’m offended that your guest chuckles at people’s loss of how to deal with autistic individuals. My roommate is autistic, and I did not know that when he moved in. Now I basically have to take care of him everyday: I have to remind him to clean himself and the apartment, to make sure the stove is off an the door is locked when he leaves, etc. I’m not laughing; I’m not such an awful person that I would kick him out, but I did not sign up to be a caretaker. When is it the responsibility of his actual caretakers to let others know how to deal with his condition?

  • Sad

    since divorce rates for parents of autistic kids are extremely high, it would be nice if the various agencies in MA treated the single dads with some respect and actually help them too.  In our case I never got a minute of respite help when the kids were with me while my exwife was showered with attention and help every single day.

  • Autismreads

    Very disappointed that they didn’t mention the fight for insurance coverage for autism. If you love someone with autism, please check out autismvotes and sign up, currently in Tennessee we’re fighting for coverage. Please. I’ve wasted years of my life fighting for insurance, time that my son will never get back. And yes, he has real challenges. And no, I didn’t want him to get this diagnosis and we have suffered, not benefitted financially from his struggles.

    • Asde

      in our dystopian Republican future there will be no insurance at all so don’t worry about it

  • Alitza

    I forgot to mention how we feed these neurotoxin laden grains and by products to our animals… beef, pork, and milk in particular and then eat the concentrated residues ourselves…

  • Jon

    I wonder if the syndrome has been around longer in
    higher numbers for a long time. Could the “odd” or “difficult” adult
    encountered at work or individuals who have long histories of social
    difficulties be part of the under-reported? Since reporting has become more
    sophisticated it’s possible that the numbers may more mirror increased surveillance
    and not epidemic. More epidemiological data is needed looking at growth over
    time to see if these numbers level off, relate to changes in population or
    continue to grow.  Environmental issues
    need to be investigated using quantifiable and repeatable studies.

  • Crys

    Brett, “mild autism” is often used as a casual reference for PDD-NOS, a high-functioning condition on the autism spectrum. Many young kids (mostly toddlers) with this diagnosis are later diagnosed with Aspergers, since they aren’t fully “social” at such a young age. Anyhow, my son — who is 2 1/2 and has PDD-NOS – LOVES books and can sight-read more than 100 words. He knows his ABCs, can count to 20, his birthday, address, etc. Children like him are often very good with letters, words, numbers — and memory.

    Good show on autism today. The hour went too fast.

    • Brett

      Thanks for your reply, Crys. I wonder if this is really a phenomenon that occurs frequently, as you say, that those diagnosed with PDD-NOS often are diagnosed with Asperger’s as they get older? Do you have any substantiation for that? It makes sense in that many of the characteristics overlap, e.g., has difficulty reading facial expressions and relating to feelings of others (although a person with PDD-NOS will, generally, be very sociable). Being unable to understand ideas presented in a figurative way, or literal thinking, is another characteristic. Another marked characteristic is in hearing the use of pronouns and this causing confusion. Also, In many cases, as you suggest, PDD-NOS is considered milder than autism; but, in many cases, it is NOT and symptoms can be more severe. Also, usually, the PDD-NOS diagnosis is made later than the diagnosis of autism (autism at around two, but PDD-NOS at around four).  

      Sounds as though you are working very closely with your son to improve his basic skills in certain areas….I’ve seen time and time again how this act of parenting makes all the difference in the world to the person’s development.

  • Autism Dad

    There is a chasm between clinical and developmental screening for kids. CDC wants specificity, the schools want to generalize.
    When it comes to kids, we should invest in what will provide for  success and independence for each child, accounting for differences in skills and challenges. Early intervention will require a shift in thinking from the current cure vs. cost avoidance model.
    I don’t particularly care for labels or special treatment. I want developmental appropriateness for all children, whatever you want to call it.

    • Anonymous

      Yes. We are clinging onto the “full schoolhouse/classroom” model that “worked” in the past before we understood development better (from a psychological view) and before there was more than two or three views on learning styles. I think the hard reality is that there are many different ways all people learn from childhood through adulthood. Its nice to imagine people can be put into boxes and that education can perform like a machine, but that factorization and forced homogenization ignores the children and adults being “manufactured”.
      I think society (especially in the US) which loves to liken interpersonal processes to a staid business model exclusively and with no exception has really hampered its collective development and potential for growth by clinging to the “well this used to work for decades so if we force people into these pegs it can still work!” view and dragging our feet or just ignoring other possible methods and alternatives.

  • Heatherose

    I have an autistic child and am very versed in nutrition. We have been organic and gluten free for years.  According to the Center for Integrative Manual Therapy and Dr. Thomas O’Brien the author of “Unveiling the Mystery of Gluten Sensitivity”,  there is a direct correlation between how gluten affects the body and many diseases, including autism and cancer and heart disease.  Because wheat has been altered so much through hybridizing, gluten now acts aggressively to break down the tissues in the body and make way for some serious problems.  You may have heard of leaky gut.  When the gut has minor tears in it, then vaccines such as MMR, DPT and the mercury that is used as a preservative in vaccines can shoot up to the brain reeking havoc there particularly for an infant.  Children are inundated with vaccines between birth and two years, along with a leaky gut and a weakened immune system it can affect them adversely. The past few generations have been exposed to all kinds of chemicals,medical,toxic,preservatives,insecticides that have weakened most of us in some way. Our children inherit our weak genes. I think it is a crime that mercury is used as a preservative in vaccines.  It is known for being toxic and not surprisingly mercury poisoning and autistic behaviors look the same.  My advice, learn about homeopathy and how you can treat your family with remedies that strengthen the immune system rather than weaken it.  Antibiotics typically weaken the immune system, they really blow it out.  Eat gluten free, there are many tasty alternatives.  Really consider not immunizing your children.  The pharmaceutical companies have us really brain washed.  Do the research. Learn. Autism is a very sad disease, but I tell you, I absolutely see that it is not being misdiagnosed., No there are so many developmentally delayed kids out there, and it shouldn’t be that way.  I feel that we are being held hostage by the FDA and the pharmaceutical companies.

    • Med Student

      I wish this wasn’t the top comment, because none of what you say about the biology of gluten intolerance and vaccination makes any sense. There is no direct link between the organs of the GI tract and the brain, and proteins, vaccines, and preservatives are molecules too big to cross the blood brain barrier (which again, has no direct line to it from ANY of the GI tract). Things you ingest are either absorbed through the capillary beds and enter the hepatic portal, or if there are perforations or “leaky gut” that allowed material to spill out into the abdominal cavity, those things would be absorbed by the lymphatic system. Either way, it’s not going to go into your brain. You say you have studied a lot of nutrition. I recommend you study some anatomy as well. 

      • Cburnham82

        Dear Med Student -
        I hope your bedside manner improves with time.  If you’ve never been in a situation where your own child is suffering from a condition that you have little-to-no ability to correct, then you should be careful about criticizing the extreme lengths to which a parent will go to seek knowledge and options.  Never underestimate a parent’s intuition.  Ex – when one of my sons was 10-years-old, he had non-stop nausea and began to lose weight.  We took him to his pediatrician (M.D.) and was put on acid-reflux meds, told to prop his bed at night, and told to change his diet.  Everything inside of me said, “No, this isn’t acid reflux.”  The medicine didn’t help, nor did the other suggestions.  The pediatrician had no further recommendations, other than further testing.  We took him to a homeopathic doctor (who uses Biomeridian testing) – he had excessive yeast in his gut.  Within 2 weeks he was cured (no need for any meds, restricted diet, etc.).  Point: be gentle in your judgment; you may someday know “everything” about human anatomy, but it will mean little if you’re unapproachable or condescending; remain open to options outside of traditional medicine – they exist; never underestimate the intuition of a patient or his/her guardians; and lastly, work to create a winning “team” of doctor AND parents.  No one ever achieves complete success on their own. 

        • Med Student

          I don’t discount parental intuition and I won’t as a doctor–how could a doctor who spends 15 minutes with a child discount the observation of the parents who spend every minute with them? But there is listening to parents and then there is perpetuating harmful myths about vaccines. And these myths ARE harmful. Any child or adult who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons (or because they are simply too young) is put at risk by unvaccinated persons. They rely on our immunity to keep them safe, and the current rash of vaccine opposition is putting them in danger. It worries me that a lot of my friends aren’t vaccinating their kids, and too be honest I’m starting to lose patience with the often repeated thiomersal/vaccine/gluten stuff. There is very little to no scientific basis behind these claims and in the meantime it’s informing the decisions of (rightly) frightened new parents and putting other members of the community at risk. Should I have toned my response down a little? Yes, and as a doctor I hope I never talk to a patient that way. But right now I’m not a doctor, just a student and a very concerned and frustrated citizen. 

      • Jim Davis

        You might well be right about the biology.  But doctors are not always right when it comes to poorly understood conditions, and sometimes medical history plays out in surprising ways.  A little humility goes a long way towards making a doctor credible to a parent when it comes to autism, because the medical industry as yet really doesn’t have an explanation or a reliable medical treatment to offer.  Finally, I have to side with Cburhnam82 about your attitude.  If you’re planning to go into patient care, you may want to work to catch your knowledge of how human beings and parents work, up to your knowledge of how anatomy works.

    • Salk

      If you’ve seen a family member suffer through polio or whooping cough, then you’d be more responsible than recommend no vaccination. Have you talked with families of kids who got polio before the vaccine was available? I will tell you from my own personal experience that it was scary hell.

      • Jim Davis

        I personally believe in slow and cautious immunization– basically, the Dr. Sears approach.  Like, not doing too many of them at the same time.  It only stands to reason that the immune system wasn’t built to handle building its defenses to 24 horrible diseases simultaneously.  Some doctors apply vaccines like they’re installing patches to Windows XP.

  • http://www.hobblebush.com/ Hobblebush Books

    There is a book called “Creating the Peaceable Classroom: A 21st-Century Wellness Guide for Teachers, Students and Parents” by Sandy Bothmer available for families with autistic children.  Sandy’s work with autistic children and these techniques have proven successful to reach an autistic child.  The best way to contact her is through her website: http://www.peaceablepathways.com.  Perhaps her experience as an educator, the work she does with children, and these techniques in her book would be a valuable interview for your listeners.  You may contact me directly at 603.672.4317, Amy Wood regarding this opportunity, visit our website: http://www.hobblebush.com or email me: amy.hobblebush(at)charter(dot)net

  • guest

    As usual, no one with actual Autism or Aspergers is represented on the panel. They don’t all consider it a horrible disorder. This perspective is never, ever represented in the media. Even those who have it and do feel disabled are never, ever represented. Why not?????

  • guest

    Tom, please, please, please do a show about Aspergers that includes not NT parents “advocating” for their children but actual people with Aspergers. Please talk to them about their challenges and the good! yes good things about having Aspergers. Many people with Aspergers would not change to NT if they could! but you would never ever know that from the way it is portrayed in the media. You would be breaking new ground Tom, please consider it. Many children and teens with AS might like to know that there are successful happy adults with AS who  do not, a priori, consider it a disorder, rather a set of traits with benefits and drawbacks that depend largely on the situation. If the producers ever actually read the comments here please consider doing a show like this.

  • Joanna Halinski

    I had my first son @ 39 years old.  Today, at 45 years old, I have three boys, none of which are diagnosed with autism.  All three children were born at home with the guidance of a highly educated midwife.  My diet was superb and careful.  Everything in my home is all natural – ZERO pesticides.

    • Joanna Halinski

      In addition, after reading many comments below and hearing the mention of MMR;  I held off vaccinating ~ beginning at the boys 5th birthday, which my pediatrician has entirely approved. 

      • Brett

        Your comment is a little confusing because it sounds as though you held off getting the MMR vaccine for your children after reading comments on this forum, AND you started “holding off” vaccinating ‘beginning at the boys’ 5th birthday,’ neither of which make any sense whatsoever…could be just the result of a poorly constructed sentence?!?

        Anyway, there is no link established between the MMR vaccine and autism. By the way, contrary to the propaganda mill concerning the MMR vaccine, it does NOT contain thimerosal. 

        • Langston1

          There is most definitely a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.  This will never be admitted because big pharm own this country.

          • Brett

            Wrong…and you can not site one clinical study that substantiates what you say. Sorry.

          • Brett

            “cite” not “site.”

          • Yankeegirl1

            I think we could be dealing with a sensitive sub-population of children who are not currently being pre-screened for risk of adverse reaction to vaccines. Hannah Poling was found to have a hidden underlying mitochondrial disorder that pre-disposed her to a mitochondrial dysfunction which the VICP ackowledged was aggravated by the multiple shots she received as a baby. Hannah has autism. Since her case was settled, researchers at UC Davis tested a number of kids dxed with ASD and found they too had a mitochondrial dysfunction. All kids should be screened for a family history of auto immune and neuro psychiatric disease that could put them at risk for seriuos adverse reaction especially given the number of shots kids recieve today. The cookie cutter approach to vaccinating does not work. One size does not fit all.

            Some background:

            “Children With Autism Have Mitochondrial Dysfunction, Study Finds”- Science Daily

            Another point is IOM is just getting around to safety testing the CDC childhood immunization schedule which has never before been safety tested. So basically our kids are being vaccinated according to an untested schedule. Meanehile the number of shots on the schedule has tripled since the 1980′s, shots are grouped together and the schedule recommends shots for children at a very young age.  As a parent, I find the fact the schedule has never been safty tested is very troubling.  

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68


    Autism is from the food we eat like sugar.

  • Roy Mac


    As a program with an NPR backing, I had hoped that you would reach beyond commercial influnces.  Autism is the affliction du jour, just as its predecessors:  depression, ADHD, restless leg syndrome, etc.  Momentarily, it will be classified as “epidemic,” then–once Pharma has introduced there miracle drug–its dire influence on society will fade.

    As a service to your listeners, would you probide some background as to Geraldine’s financial backers?  Are they, perchance, drug developers?

  • Guest

    I think this comes from additives in food and freshners and chemicals within the house. My family members are vegans and there is absolutely no diagnosed learning difficulties within the last 4 generations. Folic Acid was taken while pregnant because I was running low.
    Think about how many chemicals the average person is exposed to today. Think about clean water. How many chemicals are in tap water? Things to think about and avoid.

    • Your Daily Panacea

      I love it when people talk about “toxins” and “chemicals.” Do you know what human beings are composed of?  Chemicals, baby.  Amino acids, proteins, the basic building blocks of life.

      Just because something’s “natural” doesn’t mean it isn’t made of chemicals.  It certainly doesn’t mean it’s safer.

      As for your family not having any diagnosed learning disabilities for four generations, how many individuals in the past were getting diagnosed with ANY early childhood psychological disabilities?

      Do a little thinking.

  • Kblanton

    The woman that called about her son with learning disabilities and dyspraxia made me think of my son.  He has 47xxy (also known as Klinefelter’s Syndrome).  One in 500 boys have this syndrome but it is very undiagnosed.  I tell teachers, if they see a kid with speech problems, handwriting problems, “clumsy” and sometimes reading issues, they should recommend the child get genetic testing.  Fortunately I knew because of amniocentesis that my son had the syndrome and received a lot of early intervention.  As the doctor from Rainbow Babies and Children’s stated, there are a lot of developmental issues that need to be explored.  Klinefelter’s is a big example.  The diagnosis is very important, too, because testosterone therapy may need to be started with these boys during adolescence.   Visit http://www.genetic.org for more information.

    • guest

      I too have a son with a rare genetic disorder, Friedreich’s Ataxia, that was mis-diagnosed for years as learning disabilities by his schools.  I would never expect our schools to be able to pick-up on a rare disorder – but they are much too quick to make diagnoses without full and proper testing.

    • worried mom

      thank you for your comment – because of it we looked up some more information on Klinefelters and will have our son tested.  He has fallen through all of the diagnostic cracks – not to mention the school system.  Thank you.

  • Spectrum Father

    The connection between food allergies and many individuals on the Autistic Spectrum Disorders is a very interesting one. And the further connection between food allergies & Zonulin, intestinal permeability, intestinal motility, bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, environmental triggers, the original human diet, GMOs and foods invented by humans over a span of 10,000 years gets even more interesting. There is no one who writes and speaks more eloquently and succinctly on most of the above aspects than Dr. Alessio Fasano, M.D. a Professor of Pediatrics and the Director of the Mucosal Biology Research Center at the University of Maryland. Another two people who were one of the first to bring some of these ideas to light were Dr. Sidney V. Haas and Elaine Gottschall — here in New England we are incredibly lucky to have Elaine’s successor Pamela J. Ferro of Hopewell Associates and The Gottschall Autism Center nearby — she has personally been an amazing resource for my young daughter. It’s also worth noting the recent research and its connection to the above done by Dr. Mark Pimentel, MD, FRCPC is Director of the Gastrointestinal Motility Program and Laboratory at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. If you suspect there are GI issues with your impaired child please look into the work of these individuals. In the following paragraph Fasano points to a possible unifying theory to connect the dots of all the factors mentioned above:  “a possible unifying theory to “connect the dots”… would link changes in the gut microorganism ecosystem with leaky gut, passage of digestion products of natural food such as bread and cow’s milk that would activate immune inflammatory cells that cause inflammation both in the intestine (autistic enterocolitis) and the brain (ASD).  Alternative to the inflammatory hypothesis, it has been proposed that the defect in the intestinal barrier in ASD patients allows passage of neuroactive peptides of food origin (gliadorphin and casomorphins) into the blood and then into the cerebrospinal fluid to interfere directly with the function of the CNS.  No matter which theory turns out to be correct, changes in the intestinal microbiome and the consequent leaky gut seem to be common denominators.”….”The discovery of zonulin, a molecule that reversibly modulates the gates’ opening, sheds light on how the intestinal barrier function is regulated in health and disease.  The two major environmental stimuli triggering the production of zonulin in the small intestine are the presence of microorganisms (i.e., proximal bowel contamination) and exposure to gluten.”

  • RW

    Can the program guests address the hypothesis that the presence of Lyme disease in the mother during pregnancy influences Autism occurring in the child?

  • Rn Elizabeth

    I work in a district that requires the box be checked for intervention and support.  Your guest mentioned that the box doesn’t need to be checked, how can I get the services I need without that box checked.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MFT7UZYYS2GGV7MKJKBLLNJYJY John M

    The dramatic increase in autism has been news for quite some time. The increase is a combination of early detection and diagnosis as well as a genuine increase in the rate. There needs to be a consistent standard for diagnosis and pediatricians who are trained to administer such. 

  • Lee Scaggs

    I feel for the struggles of the parents that are dealing
    with Autism.  My one concern is that in
    these stories school districts always plays the role of the bad guy that does not want to help children.  In the
    districts that I have worked in that is rarely the case.  However, cost is a serious concern.  A severely disabled can easily cost a school over a 100K to educate for a year.  Educators who are by law not supposed to think about service cost are between a rock and hard place. Parents often argue that we get reimbursements from the state. This
    is true but there is often a year or more gap between paying for the services and receiving the reimbursement.

    Additionally, my state recently passed a 2% property tax cap
    and my local district is letting 18 teachers go at the end of the school year because of a 2 million dollar budget deficit. 
    While doctor’s demand expensive treatments they do not have to pay for and parents threaten to sue, educators have to figure out where the money comes from. We want to give every student every service there is available but
    sometimes hard decisions have to be made. Everyone wants the best; no one wants to pay for it.

  • erica

    What do your guests think about studies that connect autism to vaccines that contain Mercury (in the thimerasol preservative) and dental fillings that contain mercury, known to cross the blood brain barrier, and the fact that mercury fillings have been banned in over 10 countries?

    • Your Daily Panacea

      Andrew Wakefield, is that you?

      Those “studies” (anecdotal, poorly controlled, etc.) have been thoroughly debunked.

  • WildBoer

    Anyone who dismissed the idea of overdiagnosis needs to read the NY Times article, “I had Aspergers. Briefly.”It was written by a man who was diagnosed with Aspergers in his teens only to discover years later that he did not, in fact, have a pervasive developmental disorder. The idea that this spike in diagnoses has nothing to do with incorrect diagnosis of awkward kids and kids with atypical ADHD is nothing if not ignorant.

    I fear for children who are just like I was in elementary school getting incorrectly diagnosed, because these lifelong diagnoses have a serious potential to be self fulfilling.

  • me again…

    The great thimerosal cover-up: Mercury, vaccines, autism and your child’s
    health Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/011764.html#ixzz1qw03pMYu


    • Brett

      Sorry, You, but you are spreading false information. First, the study that linked increases in autism with the MMR vaccine (and thimerosal), the one that started the whole concern, was completed in England. It was debunked last year, and the doctor who performed the study admitted that he was working for a team of lawyers representing parents of children with autism. Additionally, he admitted that he falsified data. No causal (even correlative) link between autism and an adverse reaction to the MMR vaccine has been established at all. Also, thimerosal is not even used in the MMR vaccine (in the US, and, especially in England, Thimerosal is not used in ANY vaccines available in that country). What you are spreading is irresponsible. Thimerosal is used in some vaccines in the US (the kind given to older children, long after the MMR vaccine is usually administered). These vaccines would be administered after a child with autism would show symptoms of autism…so, once again, not so much as a correlation. The dangers of not getting your child vaccinated far outweigh any risks associated with receiving the vaccine.

      The article from the link you’ve provided is just chock full of misinformation; shame on them!  

  • E. Windsong

    The payoff for parents is when they get a doctor to ‘diagnose’ their child(ren) with anything – including autism – the child qualifies for SSI, medicaide and food stamps. Free money! Far too often overstressed parents search for some way to get “help” for themselves as well as the children – mostly for themselves.

    • Joni

      Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but this is a VERY ignorant view on this topic. You are certainly entitled to such a sad view of this illness, but then again, I can tell that YOUR child is definitely NOT Autistic. My daughter was diagnosed at 2 years old and I haven’t, nor ever will put her on medicine or apply for SSI. I work with her everyday and read about how to improve HER quality of life. Shame on your for your callous comment and perception of this disorder. This is NOT a condition that a parent can make up and a MD would just agree to. It takes an extensive evaluation to even get this diagnosis. I feel you should look into this issue more before adding such a clueless comment. Shame on you.

    • Jim Davis

      As a parent of a child with autism, I can tell you that that so called “free money!!!” as you call it, isn’t nearly enough.  My child requires 24/7 supervision because she is a constant danger to herself and those around her.  If your Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck listenings have taught you that parents like me get 24/7 help from anywhere, you are grossly mistaken.  We hardly get any help at all.  If I were to recount to you what we deal with on a daily and nightly basis you would understand that there is simply no comparison to garden variety “overstressed parents”.  My wife can’t work much, I can’t make enough money to support all the caregivers we need to pay while we do, not to mention all the insane medical bills (and that on good insurance), and we are on our way to going broke.  I hope for your sake, someday you don’t have to find out the hard way.  But frankly, I kind of hope you do.

      • Jim Davis

        PS, I should add, by “I kind of hope you do”, I’m meaning I hope someday you end up having to attempt to get help from the so-called “social safety net”.  Those of us who have found ourselves hurtling through the air after slipping off the trapeze, have found out that there isn’t one.  And I wish everyone knew that.  I wanted to clarify that I do *not* hope you ever have a child with autism.  That I wouldn’t wish on any child or parent, not even a Rush Limbaugh listener.

  • Jim_egged

    I think my 82 year old father is Autistic. I am a special education teacher and work at a school for Autistic children. He displays all the signs of a high functioning Asperger’s. He was able to function as an adult and was lucky enougj to marry my mother. She happened ro be AD with EI. . She needed him as much as he needed her. Now back in the ’30s and 40s they didn’t have a place for.special education. As a consequence my parents muddled through adulthood and raised five boys in the processes. My point is that there is not more Autism but just more recognition. Those who could not function became the villiage idot and those whoould get bu did but where referred to as not the sharpest tool in the shed but managed to get by

  • Renee Landry

    I think that an evolutionary biologist would be better adapted to study Autism than a medical M.D. I think that humans are witnessing genetic drift, or evolution in action. The human gene pool is so vast and successful that all sorts of variables are arising and surviving. I like to make a comparison with bats. Bats are the only flying mammal, yet there are more species of bat than any other mammal. At one time they all must have had a common ancestor, yet the genetic diversity hidden within their DNA emerged and manifested itself in different behavior and different diets, and of course differing phenotype or physical appearances. We are even witnessing a variation in the human diet occurring in the form of food allergies on the rise, which may be a response to environmental stress on resources such as food. In comparison, some bats famously drink blood, while others eat only fruit. Some kids, autistic or not, eat peanuts, while other children can die from ingesting nuts. If the bat had enough genetic variability to dominate the realm of the night skies, surely Man has the potential to split off into several different variations of genus homo to balance out the stress of such a successful species on the face of the earth. ( I would like to point out that this can occur independent of our perceptions of race.) 
    Just for fun, try to imagine if the nerdy archetypes of silicon valley were isolated for ten thousand years. They would appear, and behave so vastly different from their cousins; the the ten-thousand year descendants of the Jersey Shore. Neither group would think of mating with the other any more than a horse would naturally want to mate with a donkey. And quite possibly/ the west coast species might have a very prolonged childhood and may not be ready to produce offspring until age forty, while the east coast species is primed to reproduce after fifteen years. 
    Ever wonder how a school of fish or a flock of birds know how to follow each other in their large schools or flocks? Now you know how someone on the spectrum feels when they enter a large social setting such as a school cafeteria on lunch break. The communication is entirely non verbal.
    I am not diagnosed and I am unaccredited, but sometimes a break thorough in understanding comes from the outside. I hope that those who have influence in this ream of study might seriously entertain the possibility that Autism is not a disease to be cured, but rather a very exciting and wonderful witness to evolution in action.

  • Kayle

    1 in 54 is too much; approaching too normal to be a disorder, so I’m going to assume the diagnoses are wrong and leave you with this:



    • Kayle

      They also incidentally explain the ridiculously high disparity between the US and other reporting countries.

      • Kayle

        Partially explain, anyway.

        • Jim Davis

          I assume by “the ridiculously high disparity” you’re saying the US over-diagnoses relative to other countries.  They said right in the show that there are other countries where it’s diagnosed even *more* than here though.

          My personal belief is that autism is more than one disorder– instead, it’s a large collection of disorders– all of which cause somewhat related symptoms but which may be due to a number of different biological underpinnings.  I’m not personally convinced that Asperger’s and severe Autism are the same disorder at all or belong on a continuum.

          Still, that said, the thought that “1 in 54 approaches too normal to be a disorder” doesn’t make sense to me.  Pandemics kinda do that sort of thing.  I see where you’re coming from if your analogy is, say, the statistic that was floating around for a while that said “90% of families are dysfunctional families”.  But if you try to analogize to, say, the 1918 influenza epidemic, saying something like “3% of the public dying is too many to be a disorder, these dying people must just be on a different life expectancy continuum”, it’s obviously just plain silly.  But I don’t see that you’ve proven the family dysfunction analogy is more appropriate than the 1918 influenza epidemic.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1335150115 Ben Boer

            You can’t trace Autism back to a virus, mental disorders and illnesses are defined and measured through a comparison to what is “normal.”

            For instance, people on the autism spectrum have difficulty making/maintaining eye contact. That symptom will be expressed and perceived differently depending on cultural norms related to eye contact. If it was culturally unacceptable to make eye contact with someone it wouldn’t even be considered a symptom of the disorder. Another, less pertinent, example would be elderly people who start saying things that aren’t quite appropriate. Grandma commenting on how attractive her granddaughters boyfriend is, grandpa talking trash about someone who is within earshot, etc. If grandpa starts acting that way you accept it as part of aging, if someone started doing those things at 30 you’d question it though. As far as I know there aren’t any places where a large portion of the population spends their whole life displaying flulike symptoms, even if there was such a place you could still test for the virus to determine who does or does not have it.

            As far as the influenza epidemic of 1918, we can know 3% of the population is contracting the virus and then dying. It’s not analogous because you can definitively link the influenza to the die off. What’s being proposed here is a version of 1918 where they can’t accurately diagnose the flu, the actual death rate is still 3%, but reports are coming out saying it’s 4-5% because they’re assuming everyone who had flu like symptoms when they died had the flu. Even that is a flawed example because there is still a major difference between mental and physical health.

            On a final note, Autism and Aspergers have a complex relation. Imagine the autism spectrum like a line graph that goes from -10(severe autism) to 10(severe aspergers). 0 would be PDD-NOS, a diagnosis for kids who don’t fit into either but show similar social and cognitive impairments. My theory is that a large part of this rise can be attributed to over-diagnosis of PDD-NOS and high functioning Aspergers.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1335150115 Ben Boer

      I agree that 1 in 54 approaches too normal to be a disorder, but I would emphasize that many of the children wrongly placed on the autism spectrum are not simply awkward/shy kids but ones with Nonverbal learning disorder or ADHD that have been given the wrong diagnosis.

  • Mary

    There was a crucial point that was not emphasized enough. It really isn’t about the diagnoses because the medical community does not know enough to clearly diagnose the issues. Right now everyone is treating symptoms and the treatments are all across the board (sensory, OT, brain training, nutrients, allergies, behavioral training, motion training, listening therapy, light therapy, etc., etc.). The list goes on and on. It is very difficult for the average parent to weed through all the options. Everyone speaks to their data which really isn’t good. There needs to be a national organization that will track ALL the diagnoses, symptoms, treatments, results, etc. so we can really start mapping patterns and making since of it all. The medical community has suggested the following possibilities for my child ADHD, ODD, Aspergers, BiPolar, Sensory Intergration, Anxiety, etc. If you put these various diagnoses up on a board and write the symptoms under each the crossover is unbelievable. They simply do not know enough about a child’s brain to have some real answers and each organization is competing for attention, funds and recognition for their own interest, some good and some bad. Is there an organization that is tracking ALL these data points? 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1335150115 Ben Boer

      Your comment brings back memories of going to “social skills” when I was in elementary school, putting a funny looking rubber grip on my pencil’s in attempt to make my handwriting legible, and going to the nurse at lunchtime to take my afternoon dose of Ritalin. In retrospect it is obvious that there was more to it than the ADHD, and I’m sure it was diagnosed, but as a kid I didn’t think of my bad handwriting as a lack of fine motor skills or being bad at math as a lack of numerical awareness… I just had bad handwriting, so I went to OT and I got extra help with math because I wasn’t good at it. I assume my parents didn’t tell me those issues were part of a larger disorder because there really wasn’t a point in saying, “Ben, you know all those things you’re bad at? If you clump them all together it’s called…” When it comes down to it the symptoms are what you can see and treat and the diagnosis is just a practical formality.

      Also, the same things that make it so hard to come to a diagnosis on an individual level would also make it nearly impossible to draw sound conclusions from such a wide array of data points.

  • Bin

    The corporate drug industry for sure would love every kid to be diagnosed with something so that something can be prescribed to them… 

  • Jenni Plym

    people with autism have extra tissue atop the center of their sphenoid (cranial) bone that binds cranial bones too tightly together.  Regular CranioSacral treatment brings elasticity back to that area and results in improvement in pro-social behavior and learning.  go to http://www.upledger.com to find a practitioner near you

  • Yankeegirl1

    Autism Speaks says:

    “Based on the abovementioned research, approximately 53% percent of the increase in autism prevalence over time may be explained by changes in diagnosis (26%), greater awareness (16%), and an increase in parental age (11%).  While this research is beginning to help us understand the increase in autism prevalence, half of the increase is still unexplained and not due to better diagnosis, greater awareness, and social factors alone. Environmental factors, and their interactions with genetic susceptibilities, are likely contributors to increase in prevalence and are the subject of numerous research projects currently supported by Autism Speaks.”

    To view a graph of autism increase from 1975-2009 click below:


    Unfortately WBUR didn’t invite a parent on the show or an expert like Dr. Martha Herbert (Harvard), Dr. Carlos Pardo (Johns Hopkins) or Isaac Pessah (UC Davis) who are involved in research on autism.

    At some point doctors have to quit denying the increase is real which it is. The fact is more kids than ever are struggling with neurological and immune issues like autism, ADHD, chronic seizures, bipolar disorder, severe allergies etc… the “better diagnosing” card has been overplayed and autism experts are acknowledging more and more the increase is genuine and environmental factors are playing an important role.

  • Yankeegirl1

    UC Davis researchers have actually studied autism prevalence and clusters. They would be a good group for WBUR to talk to about the autism increase.

    UC Davis Researchers find California Autism Clusters- LA Times

  • Mcdonald

    If there has not been any real increase in autism, where are all the autistic adults? It’s not like a non-verbal person suffering from a cluster of health issues can easily escape notice – no matter what their age. The conversation you had was the equivalent of a dog chasing its tail. I am disappointed.
    If NPR is serious about getting real insights about Autism, I suggest NPR have an interview with one of the contributors at Age of Autism. How about Julie Matthews and the A-Team? How about Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride? How about Dr. Wakefield? Fer crying out loud, choose someone who knows enough about Autism to actually HELP these children.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mcdonald.design Tara McDonald

    If there has not been any real increase in autism, where are all the autistic adults? It’s not like a non-verbal person suffering from a cluster of health issues can easily escape notice – no matter what their age. The conversation you had was the equivalent of a dog chasing its tail. I am disappointed.

    If NPR is serious about getting real insights about Autism, I suggest NPR have an interview with one of the contributors at Age of Autism. How about Julie Matthews and the A-Team? How about Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride? How about Dr. Wakefield? Please, talk to someone who knows enough about Autism to actually HELP these children.

  • http://twitter.com/masterambrose Master Ambrose

    People seem to avoid some of the most obvious sources of brain-developmental problems: our technological way of life. Our brains are not adapted to be suddenly deprived of all or most of the stimuli that they usually receive from the environment. How does it impact the brain that it spends most of its life at computer and television screens and is rarely if ever exposed to the sounds and sights of nature? What about the deprivation of social interaction that is rampant in modern life? Social media is not the same thing as interacting with tangible human beings, not by a long shot. I am convinced that very much of what is now labeled Asperger Syndrome is actually just plain old social alienation.

  • Wilso24

    I belive if we all turn back to God he will heal are children. My son has been improving everyday since I’ve turned my heart to God.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YVP6TE5KBUD7DGA362BTEBEU5Y Fred Shakelton

    more than thirty years ago enough was known about autism to to have “Quincy” make a tv show about it.  It was easier to institutionalize! America was more concerned with dumping billions in to aids research hoping to find a way to keep humping whatever they felt like.  Nice work america, 35 years of waste!

Sep 18, 2014
Flickr/Steve Rhodes

After a summer of deadly clashes between Gaza and Israel, we talk to Jews on the left and right about the future of liberal Zionism. Some say it’s over.

Sep 18, 2014

Billionaires. We’ll look at the super super rich, and their global shaping of our world.

Sep 17, 2014
Bob Dylan and Victor Maymudes at "The Castle" in LA before the 1965 world tour. Lisa Law/The Archive Agency)

A new take on the life and music of Bob Dylan, from way inside the Dylan story. “Another Side of Bob Dylan.”

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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson watches from the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders during the second half of a preseason NFL football game at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. (AP/Ann Heisenfelt)

The NFL’s Adrian Peterson and the emotional debate underway about how far is too far to go when it comes to disciplining children.

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