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1 in 91 Kids Has Autism -- Why?

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A pediatrician weighs in.

illustration of childs brain

One in 91 American children has an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a disturbing new study has found. In 2007, that number was 1 in 150 kids. Why is this number increasing?

Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson, author of the upcoming book Dangerous or Safe (which hits bookstores Thursday), says: "This study, though tragic in its results, continues to support the theory that vaccine preservative did not cause the spike in autism seen in the last two decades. There has been no thimerosal in vaccines (except flu vaccines) for more than eight years, and the incidence of autism seems to be steadily climbing. Now it is also possible that the definition of autism is changing, and the number of kids who actually have autism isn't really going up, but it's clearly not going down either. If mercury preservative were to blame, then the cohort of kids born since 2001 should have significantly lower rates of autism, and they don't appear to."

Why do you think cases of autism are increasing? Do you think environmental influences are to blame? Comment below.

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49 comments so far | Post a comment now
Amber October 6, 2009, 11:48 AM

Please do not over look the fact that a teacher is not qualified to diagnosis a child. A teacher cannot confirm that a child is, or is not, on the spectrum. Period. A teacher may have an opinion, but an opinion cannot “confirm” anything! There is not a difinitive test for Autism Spectrum Disorder, which in turn, brings us back to the main point of this article. Why are the numbers increasing. Genetics? Environment? Mis-diagnosis? There are a number of possibilities. I can tell you one thing that is fact, an arguement between teachers and parents isn’t going to help anyone. Especially our precious children.

Kristen October 6, 2009, 12:09 PM

As a mother who has a child on the autism spectrum I have to say I LOVE THE LABEL……’s why, it has opened doors that would have otherwise been closed to us. I spent years with a child who would not talk and would scream for hours over the smallest thing and I could never understand why, I truly felt that I was a horrible mother. I tried the tough love approach, I tried the “just spank her” approach, I tried being patient but nothing worked so I sought out help for MYSELF, the therapist told me I should consult with a child psychologist, in the end we did and after talking with that person about our concerns she did testing, the testing came back that she has aspergers. WOW has our life changed for the better!!!! We recieve ABA therapy 3x a week and speech therapy 2x a week and our life is becoming WONDERFUL!!! Most people have no clue that our daughter is on the spectrum, that would not have been possible without the help, we would not have recieved the help if not for the label. If a label is what gets people help then who cares. Insurance companies are NOT going to pay for therapies just because, they need proof from licensed professionals in order to pay for this stuff and that means a label. Do I want my daughter to have something wrong, NO, but what I do want is for her to function in society!!

John October 6, 2009, 4:32 PM

As the number of kids with an autism diagnosis continues to increase, it’s difficult to identify a causal factor that would also be increasing it’s presence in the environment. Vaccines ceased using mercury before most of the 3-17 year old kids were born. The medical profession has had a ‘heightened awareness’ about autism for at least as long as the vaccine formula was changed so it’s not too likely that all of a sudden more doctors are making that diagnosis in a vaccum. One area of our society that has seen a comparable growth rate to autism over the past 20-30 years is our expanded use of electronic devices and the corresponding electromagnetic activity used in communicating with cellphones and dish tv and On-Star and pcs and WiFi networks and various devices and communications in our homes and offices,, etc. etc.. What if some portion of the population has a genetic disposition to this increased electromagnetic activity and as a result experiences some sort of neurotransmission disorder? As a result, as these devices and signals become more ubiquitous, more people display some portion of the array of symptoms included in the autisn spectrum disorder.

Dad of autistic young adult

Dr Mom October 6, 2009, 5:23 PM

“#1” teacher and anonymous: I never meant to imply I thought you were referring to me (and I stand by my comments in light of my own “judgement litmus test”.) Ignorance should simply not have a voice in this “controversy”.

I don’t have an autistic child, or any children with any of the labels that have been referred to here. I am just sick and tired of people who have no business speaking with authority on this matter hurting parents who do have children on the spectrum.

It’s appalling and needs to stop in order for the real and complex causes of autism to be uncovered. I understand IEP’s and special needs children are difficult for teachers to handle, but that doesn’t mean they are qualified to assess who is or isn’t on the spectrum. Wishing never makes it so.

If it was your child you would speak very differently on the subject. That’s the perspective everyone needs to have when coming to this conversation, whether in person or online.

Jenny October 6, 2009, 6:50 PM

#1 Teacher…as many people say “when you know one autistic child you know ONE autistic child” it is a SPECTRUM disorder, there are very degrees from super low IQ to savant, there are kids on the spectrum that don’t speak at all to children who speak in terms that many adults don’t understand. There are children who spin for hours and other who just seem to fidget, kids who lows themselves into things because they crave that sensory input and other kids who can’t sense themselves in space so they bump into things and are very cautious. I really think that you may need to take a class or educate yourself because you are doing the children and their parents a disservice.

Anonymous October 6, 2009, 10:18 PM

Why are people turning out such messed up kids?

Sad Mom October 7, 2009, 5:33 AM

As a mother of 3 children, one with “classic” Autism (as doctors are now beginning to refer to her) I am 100% agreement with #1 Teacher. She/he is absolutely right - a lot of parents love to label their children AND I think many children on the spectrum are just “different” and don’t necessarily have a disorder. All this spectrum addition has done has taken much needed money and resources from researchers and doctors who are trying to figure out a true Autism.

I tried to join a Parents of Autistic Children group. Much to my amazement I was the only parent there with a child who was what most would define as truly Autistic. All of these other children attended regular public schools, were able to communicate with their families and participate normally in society. That is not the case for my daughter or other Autistic children in her school. I’m sorry I just think adding Aspergers, PDD, etc. have taken away from the research for Autism.

Amber October 7, 2009, 6:11 AM

@Sad Mom Are you serious? You think Asperger kids don’t deserve the same care and research as “classic Autism”. Wow. That’s like saying only a certain type of cancer deserves research. How about don’t bother with “breast” cancer…let’s focus on lung cancer instead.
Well, your “classic Autism” is obviously so much more important than anyone else’s.
That’s right…doesn’t make much sense to say one is more deserving of research, does it?
By the way, YES, my son does attend a public school and participates in society…because I push him to. If it were up to him he would not. He wants to stay by himself and induldge in his own sensory safe world but I won’t give up on therapy and hope. My child is just as deserving of the research as yours. How dare you?

Jenny October 7, 2009, 7:00 AM

Amber, again, I am with you. Sad mom I just think that is a skewed point of view. Yes classic autism is very difficult and devastating but so are Child Disintegrative Disorder and Rhetts. Aspergers and PDD isn’t as severe but they are not without their challenges and problems. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting your child to become a full participant in life and society and without services those kids that you think are just different would not have all of the chances they do to participate in regular schools or society. I’m sorry that your child ended up with classic autism, I can’t imagine it but don’t invalidate what another parent is going through just because it is of a lesser degree than your childs.

Amber October 7, 2009, 7:03 AM

Thank you so much, Jenny! It is so nice to have someone validate my feelings! And on that note, I will not read any further comments. My blood pressure is off the charts…silly, I know.
Much love to ALL! I’ll be hugging all of my children today and forever :)

Anonymous October 7, 2009, 6:21 PM

What’s with all the screwed up kids?

Cody November 3, 2009, 9:39 PM

I’m not sold that the problem is the Mercury. Whether or not vaccines may lead to autism could still be possible, due to other substances or just a generic allergic reaction to seemingly innate substances.

In support to the Doctor’s article, the autism rates haven’t declined even though thimersol is no longer in children vaccines, this website showed that the tuna we eat actually has way more mercury than we find in the vaccines!

Anonymous November 5, 2009, 4:26 PM

Has anyone investigated a link between autism and aspartame (the artificial sweetener). It seems like it would be fairly easy the prove a link (or at least warrant further investigation) if you could find data on per-capita consumption by country or state and autism rates in those countries or states. I had this idea when I noticed that autism rates began to climb around the same time that aspartame was approved for use. There have been links made to aspartame damaging neurological systems in mice with high doses. They say the amount contained in a soft drinks is safe, but what about long term use and heat exposed cans (aspartame is notoriously unstable under heat).

Leasa April 21, 2010, 7:44 PM

To say autism is the new ADHD implies lack of understanding of how testing for disorders occurs. We are not talking about a family practitioner prescribing something to make children behave. We are talking about an official diagnosis from presumably educated psychologists or neurologists. You could make an argument that more parents are having their socially awkward children tested, but do not imply that diagnostic inclusions is based on professionals including individuals who are not actually autistic. Of course I may be biased but my opinion is based primarily on knowledge of testing procedures (parent of severely autistic child and psychologist).

Beth August 14, 2010, 8:50 PM

I think the reason why there is so many kids with ASD is because of a cell Mutation caused when we were children as it does seem to be more prevalent in our Generations children .

I would like to say though unless im missing something ! how can people say the parents of ASD children dont take responsibility .I have 4 children and my youngest child has autism and I have done everything for him with very little help from anyone ,infact the last time I looked there was not a great deal of support out there .Autism is a 20th century disease with a price tag to match !

Eric Corria February 10, 2011, 4:30 PM

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Elenora Mcintire March 16, 2011, 12:35 PM

protracted journal you’ve get

Mickey Menninger March 16, 2011, 2:31 PM

I’d be inclined to comply with you on this. Which is not something I usually do! I really like reading a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for allowing me to comment!

Dwight U. Gupta March 25, 2011, 7:42 AM


backlink and dofollow list March 29, 2011, 12:52 PM

There are a lot of strange comments on here.

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