Autism Epidemic – How Real is it?


While there are few Flat-Earthers who insist that there is no real epidemic of autism, only an increased awareness, it is obvious to everyone else that the number of young children with autism spectrum disorders has risen, and continues to rise, dramatically.

Autism Epidemic
Is excessive Media Attention causing the fear of Autism Epidemic?
  • The background:

Leading news services are currently Pharma funded, so journalists can’t really write against the rigorously enforced pharmacological orthodoxies. They have gone graver than ever and the mercury/autism story is perhaps the most censored story of the century. A thimerosal/autism story may prove career-ending. So it’s natural that the epidemic will also be denied.

But the rising tide of scientific studies now links mercury-containing vaccines to be the cause.

Three people – Silberman, Donovan and Zucker jump into a surrealistic, distorted propaganda that brings a sense of impending doom. Contently, they look at an epidemic in the face and see nothing of it.

  • What the fight is all about?

There are scientific evidences that the autism explosion is a manmade epidemic of recent origins. Big pharmaceuticals and disease control centres and organisations combat against the public health agencies that refuse to admit the sudden explosion of autism as an epidemic or crisis. This, in turn, actively discourages scientific investigations to search for environmental triggers, according to Simpson University epidemiologist Dr. Brian Hooker. His real grievance is the public health agencies don’t like to prevent; they believe in curing. Weeding out the environmental triggers can go a long way.

On the other hand, Steve Silberman’s book NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity parrots the old propaganda and misleading fabrications. It discards everything but genetics and holds it to be the whole cause behind this psychological ailment. It has prevailed earlier and in the same ways as we know it today. There’s no difference; it seems odd since we noticed autism until recently.

Personal note: Formerly, noticeably-autistic people were stashed in mental institutions as a result of misdiagnosis.

  • From Silberman’s viewpoint:

He says autism is not a unique product of the modern civilization. This strange gift or legacy or curse comes from our deep past. It’s passed down through evolution, for over millions of years. Silberman considers investigating the environmental cause of autism epidemic is a waste of time and resources. His overarching message is: Stop looking for any potential cure; this neuro-diversity is a component of the humanity-mosaic.

Personal note: That makes him either a crackpot or a genius we are not yet prepared to invite.

Silberman won coveted prizes (for reporting) and has credulous print journalists promoting this tobacco science. New York Times or Washington Post; the Boston Globe or Forbes, Reuters or San Francisco Chronicle – even Atlanta Journal Constitution, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post and Miami Herald!

Personal note: It’s perfectly unnatural – as Jim’s dad would say – to think all this is corporate media echo.

  • Enter Cenk Uygur, CEO, TYT Network

The channel with 5 million subscribers and 170 million monthly views invited Silberman to debate on the merits of his thesis against the author of the book Thimerosal: Let the Science Speak. The book summarizes the overwhelming scientific evidences (e.g. mercury in vaccines) to prove the epidemic of neuro-developmental diseases. Silberman was found unwilling to defend his hypothesis. But well, he’s seen with hosts like George Stephanopoulos (Good Morning America), William Brangham (PBS NewsHour), Judy Woodruff (PBS), Terry Gross (NPR) and Martha Kearney (BBC Radio).

Personal note: That’s a parade of talk shows!

  • What’s in the book, anyway?

Silberman rarely cites actual science in support of his epidemic denial and rests his thesis through anecdotes. Accounts of autism linked to historical figures existing long before Dr. Leo Kanner and his rival, Hans Asperger – that’s the kind of things Silberman speaks about. His central assertion is about the autism epidemic illusion.

Personal note: How could you go on for 700 pages without coming across the basic science?

Silberman; however, is correct to note some criteria for diagnosing autism were expanded in the 1980’s, resulting in greater numbers of people detected under the new definition. Other criteria were constrained, which resulted in a wash.

Silberman’s thesis is not new. It’s been raised by Pharma/CDC flaks for 17 years and resoundingly rejected in scientific literature.

  • What’s Dr. Kanner’s version?

The term autism was coined 70 years back and it was so rare then, Dr. Kanner (honoured as the father of American childhood psychiatry) couldn’t help but describe the disorder as a completely unknown behaviour pattern.

  • What surveys claim:

The first surveys were run around in the mid-1960s, through the 1980s. The result was 1:2500 and that ratio stayed fairly stable till 1988. In 1989, there was a dramatic change in the vaccine schedule, exposing American children to higher doses of mercury (from 70mcg to 237.5 mcg) before age two. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls 1989 The Gateway Year, due to the sudden outbreak of neurodevelopmental and immune system related diseases.

That year and onward, ADD, ADHD, speech delay, tics, Tourette syndrome, SIDS, narcolepsy, seizure disorder, asthma, food allergies, and autism showed up in great numbers. Currently, there’s 1 in every 6 American children who suffer from developmental disabilities. But according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by CDC, it’s 1 in 68 children. Among boys, it’s 1 in 42.

  1. A study in 2014 by the Journal of Public Health and Epidemiology speaks about changes in diagnostic criteria almost have had no significant effect on reported autism incidences. California documented the rapid increase in autism among that state’s children since the 1980s, noting that, as of 2003, that autism – once a rare disorder – is now more prevalent than childhood cancer, diabetes and Down’s syndrome. In adults; however, there were no such signs.
  2. California’s Department of Developmental Services documents a 273% increase in reported cases of childhood autism. It’s the count between 1987 and 1998. The reason behind was sought by I.N.D. (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders; University of California) Institute at UC Davis, after California state legislature commissioned them.

The study specifically tests the hypotheses from two view points: If the increase relates to expanded diagnostic criterion – or – it offers a better recognition. They rejected theories that are unsupported by scientific evidence. The study concluded stating the epidemic is real. The lead author (of the study) Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto stresses on looking for the environmental culprits that are responsible for the remarkable increase.

  1. A 2004 review article citing more than 50 studies on estimates of autism frequency, found that the large increases in prevalence cannot be chalked up to better diagnostics or case ascertainment.
  2. A 2005 retrospective study by Craig Newschaffer surveyed in all U.S. children 6 to 17 years of age between 1992 and 2001 in various disability category classifications—as documented by state departments of education and reported to the federal Department of Education—documented a year by year increase in autism rates, but not other neurological illnesses during that period.
  3. A 2009 Columbia University study comes to identical conclusions. It examined children born between 1987 and 1994 and found the steady growth of autism in and. The autism epidemic is real.
  4. Another California study examined annual autism increases (1990 to early 2000s) in 2009. The authors found expanded diagnostic criteria and the finer distinctions result in a better diagnosis, but could not explain the dramatic increase.
    • The same year, a report by the OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs; U.S. Department of Education’s) documents a steep rise in real autism prevalence. The incidences are more frequent than over the previous decade. Their quest is on since 1992, when OSEP first began collecting autism statistics. It was about students (ages 6 years through 21 years) identified with autism and also receiving special education and related services under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The jump from 1992 to 2004 is from 5,208 to 166,424!
    • A more recent study (2013), researchers for pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly (the makers of thimerosal; 1930s), confirmed that the increase in prevalence of autism is genuine and cannot be attributed to diagnostic criteria or misclassification. They too agreed on the environmental causes to be partly responsible for the epidemic.

Where Silberman goes wrong again

Silberman faces a lethal blow when we consider regressive autism, which is, normally developing children suddenly become autistic. They lose their previously acquired language and social skills. This relates to the increased use of mercury containing vaccines after 1989 and through 1990s. There are thousands of evidences of perfectly healthy and socially adjusted two and three year olds messing up – even with toilet training – following vaccine related seizures and fevers. Some even lost their motor skills (pointing with fingers, making eye contacts etc.) and got engaged in stereotypical behaviour. This included stimming, head banging, swaying, hand flapping and screaming.

Note: A 2005 study objectively validates the phenomenon of regressive autism. It reviews 56 home videotapes of children’s birthdays and compares typical children 12 months old against those with an early onset of autism. It is one of the many that also blames foetal/early-childhood mercury exposure as the cause behind developmental regressions with autism symptoms. According to Autism Speaks, regression at 18 months than closer to birth is noticed in around 30% autistic children. It is a more recent phenomenon if compared to the data collected since 1965 by the Autism Research Institute. Late onset of autism (2nd year onward) was an almost unheard phenomenon in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Today, it outnumbers autism cases 5 to 1. The increase is parallel to the increase in vaccinations and implies genetics has nothing to do with regressive autism. It is more of an acquired condition.

Epidemic: A logical approach

Boyd Haley (Toxicologist, Chairman Emeritus, Chemistry Department; University of Kentucky) says – “Genes don’t create epidemics. Genetics may only create vulnerabilities; epidemics need environmental toxins.”

The way regressive autism appeared suddenly after 1989 and its current predominance status are all strongly documented in scientific literature. It throws a direct challenge to Silberman’s hypothesis of autism been always with us. Do we see any historic account of bright, healthy children suddenly losing their faculties at a tender age?

Silberman deals with it by accepting its nonexistence. Well-documented scientific facts of regressive autism he considers to be as baseless as old wives tales.

Personal Note: PubMed deals in them? Seriously? I thought they have peer-reviewed study archives! But seriously, do you really need to depend on studies to know the Epidemic is real? Step into reality and common sense becomes Silberman’s most vexing critic.

Silberman’s ultimate proof of his hypothesis is, if there are autistic children, there must also be adults. Where are them, the adults with classic autism? Hand flapping, head banging, self-abuse, spinning, stimming, rocking, screaming – do we see adults in the society who are non-verbal and violent? 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 or 90 year olds? How many wear autism helmets and diapers? And many more such points to back up, even to the point of absence of frown ups with GI tract problems! Steve Silberman refuses to accept that autism prevalence in adults is the same as in children, throwing the scientific data away. Instead, he measures everything on the context of times when autism was unknown to the society despite the presence of smart and diligent psychiatrists and psychologists, mental institutions and other meticulous arrangements? However, Silberman’s pernicious condensation aside, the answer is—they didn’t miss it in those days also – neurologically injured children with an unparalleled tsunami of tantrums – though lower – were not rare.

The elementary grades, particularly, are often overwhelmed with children with symptoms of neurological or immune-system damage, Vaccines create many damaged, sick kids and missing out on autism is like missing out on a train wreck occurring in front of your eyes.

  • Similar other authors:

Donvan and Zucker endorses Silberman’s theory – the invisible, giant population of autistic people in olden days. Back in 1948, there were 150 million people in America, and according to the modern 1 in 68 prevalence rate, autistics would amount to 2 million! But there were only 554,454 patients in American mental institutions, including the autistics. Where did the rest go?

Like Silberman, Donvan and Zucker also use historical cases to solve the baffling problem. Their strongest point is an 1846 estimate by Dr. Samuel Gridley (1,300 patients in Massachusetts state institutions classified as idiots among a total population of 737,699). Even if all the 1,300 are really autistic, it comes to only 1 in 567. Idiot itself had too many interpretations in 1846.

A farther, deeper dive into state medical records got Donvan and Zucker some of Gridley’s other diagnoses like of microcephaly and mental retardation and inconsistent symptoms from autism diagnosis. Still, the count remains 1 in 18,900, much smaller than today’s.

The retrospective study of 2014 by Associate Professor David Mandell of University of Pennsylvania about the 1950 state historical records of inmates at the Norristown state hospital finds 10 percent of state inmates to be autistic. The number is then compared to the state’s total population, assuming that nearly all autistic people were hospitalized. As Donvan, Zucker and Silberman contend, we estimate the total population prevalences of 1 in 2,718 (close to the historic levels of 1 in 2,500). The 1989 epidemic brought a 5,500 percent increase.

However, Donvan and Zucker also acknowledge the severe sides of autism and that it has resulted in an explosive prevalence among children. They consider childhood autism as a ticking time bomb that’s going to blow the fuses off 500,000 teenagers as they turn into adults. It might not so happen they really don’t find a place.

Though acknowledging the autism explosion among children, Donvan and Zucker tries deceiving with intellectual dishonesty the word epidemic. They don’t deny the epidemic completely; neither wants to admit its existence. They imply both. They settle for evasions at the mention of epidemic, as if they don’t know whether to believe it or go vague. The NPR interview (Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos ) from 2010 also carries it a bit. John Donvan sounds calm; it shouldn’t matter if there is an epidemic.

The reserved tone is for the forbidden area of vaccines journalists happily avoid. Because, they have to talk about mercury exposure! Which means, they are not sure whether or not there is an epidemic? Well, but they are dead sure that vaccines aren’t causing any. They dutifully dismiss the autism and vaccine link (mercury exposure) without scientific citations, thus deftly sidelining the issue.

  • Who’s better?

What these writers present as compassion is really a thinly veiled defence of a monumentally cruel and indefensible orthodoxy that always airbrushes away the clear scientific links. They media never read the science for themselves. Thimerosal also started a journalistic crisis.

Silberman’s approach is less cowardly. He ventures into a scientific debate in the no-man’s land and soon lands up in a field filled with land-mines. His views on the uselessness of removing mercury from vaccines offer to support just a supposition. But ‘People’ magazine shows ASD rates in Scandinavia dropped by 33 percent after thimerosal was removed in 1993.

Note: The Groenberg paper is there at PubMed and links Thimerosal to the autism epidemic. Thimesoral is neuro-toxic by nature. One hundred million children in Africa, Asia and Latin America receive mega doses of the neuro-toxic thimerosal through many vaccines, including flu.

Silberman also assures readers that the trace amount of mercury (less than 1 microgram) is harmless. But Thimerosal delivers 25 micrograms per shot, which is MASSIVE! To comply with the EPA’s maximum exposure level of .1 micrograms per kilogram of body weight, a baby must weigh 550 pounds to handle that dose properly. Such high levels affect a growing foetus even more, which is mentioned in Thimerosal’s own insert literature.

So it gets like Silberman gives some fundamental, scientific talk that qualify as reliable pitfalls. Claiming Thimerosal safety by referencing scientific studies would have been better than the blind repetition of the standardized formulation – Overwhelming science shows no link. Nevertheless, all three take an overly optimistic approach instead of demanding robust and transparent science to identify environmental triggers. Silberman’s, Donvans and Zucker’s approach that we should pretend that there is no epidemic. Its victims must be accepted as different, but not any less.

It is sad, but not surprising, that Donvan and Zucker is ignorant on the science. Autism prevalence detection is a different science than claiming mercury containing vaccines innocent.

Believe in absurdities and be committed to atrocities – on the receiving side.

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