Posted by: Chris Maloney | March 28, 2014

Are We In The Midst of An Autistic Epidemic?

When the CDC or other agency reports an increase in any disease, they issue public press releases.  Usually they counsel people to get vaccinated or to at least get checked for whatever is increased.

So why would the CDC release a report showing an enormous increase in autism and then say it isn’t increasing? Here’s the AP report: “”We can’t dismiss the numbers. But we can’t interpret it to mean more people are getting the disorder”.

Ummm… ok… if it was the flu, and the incidence of childhood influenza jumped by 200,000 children, the CDC would be screaming and quarantining the airports. But since it’s autism, we just shrug our shoulders and say it could be an artifact of how it was reported?

“Much of the increase is believed to be from a cultural and medical shift, with doctors diagnosing autism more frequently, especially in children with milder problems.” So the doctors are diagnosing it more frequently, and that is why we have so many more cases?

But isn’t that the same situation with any epidemic?  Are the criteria for autism so much different from the criteria for any illness? All illnesses have a certain range of diagnostic interpretation. Are we truthfully saying that the current crop of doctors has reinterpreted the diagnosis of autism fundamentally from, say, ten years ago?

Let’s look at a nice graph of autistic diagnosis, courtesy of the Autism Speaks blog:

Let’s assume all those doctors back in the 1970’s didn’t know anything except how to button their bell bottoms.  And in the 80’s they were too busy with corporate mergers. Even 1995 was just a silly year to graduate from medical school.

But by the turn of the century, surely M.D.s had sort of gotten the picture of what autism looks like.  And after thirty years of exposure, those in 2005 weren’t that ignorant. The only way that we can dismiss the jumps in autism is if we truly believe that doctors ten years ago were not over diagnosing it in milder cases.  But if you’ve been following your autism history, you’ll remember a diagnosis called Asperger Syndrome, which was very popular in the 1980’s and was just officially eliminated as a separate diagnosis.

So those crazy 80’s docs were pretty free with their diagnoses.  By now we’ve gotten more conservative, not less, in diagnosing autism.  And still the numbers keep rising.  Again, if this was an infectious agent, the CDC would be racing around with their hair on fire.  And we don’t know that it isn’t.  So why doesn’t someone take a step back and acknowledge that it is an epidemic so we can move forward together and combat it?

Has someone even really thought about whether males are more susceptible and whether the Y chromosome is involved?  The older reports show: “ASDs affect 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls.” If it was reversed, we would strongly suspect something to do with female hormones.  Does testosterone factor in? We don’t know, because largely we haven’t acknowledged the problem and put the whole weight of our medical research behind clarifying what is going on.

We have top group like John Hopkins addressing the issue, but they are still busy monitoring rather than acknowledging that we may be in crisis.

us autism prevalence




  1. I agree, thank you for acknowledging this. Hopefully some smart scientist will be able to find out what might be the cause of this.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I think we have some suspicious possibilities, but the open research is hampered by the politics of acknowledgement. I worry that future generations will not look kindly on our shortsightedness.

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