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Medicine Science

Continued Rise In Autism Diagnoses Puzzles Researchers, Galvanizes Advocates 558

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-up dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised eyebrows, and concern among current and prospective parents, with a new report documenting that the rate of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis in the United States jumped 30% between 2008 and 2010, from one in 88 to one in 68 children. CDC officials don't know, however, whether the startling increase is due to skyrocketing rates of the disorder or more sensitive screening, or a combination of both."
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Continued Rise In Autism Diagnoses Puzzles Researchers, Galvanizes Advocates

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:03AM (#46619211)

    'Nuff Said

  • really? really. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:09AM (#46619225)

    about a century and a half ago, nobody ever heard about autism.
    you wouldn't be diagnosed an autist, but simply made to stand in a corner of the class with a dunce cap a lot.
    i can picture the headlines.

    autism discovered!

    sudden surge in number of autists baffles scientists!

    as we get better at diagnosing conditions like this, naturally there will be a rise in the number of positive diagnoses.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      about a century and a half ago, nobody ever heard about autism. you wouldn't be diagnosed an autist, but simply made to stand in a corner of the class with a dunce cap a lot.

      Another couple of centuries before that they would have been called hermits and generally venerated.

    • Re:really? really. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bickerdyke (670000) on Monday March 31, 2014 @05:17AM (#46619425)

      Plus a number of parents that can't accept that their precious offspring simply may be plain stupid or lazy as any other kid.

      There HAS to be a reason and there HAS to be someone or something responsible for Li'l Joe standing in the corner with the dunce cap so often.

      And I guess that still leaves a bit of wiggle room for an actual increase of people ending up somewhere in the autistic spectrum.

      • Re:really? really. (Score:5, Informative)

        by king neckbeard (1801738) on Monday March 31, 2014 @06:37AM (#46619707)
        Actually, the article states about half of those diagnosed have average or above average intelligence. Thus, autism is becoming less and less about intelligence and more about just having different behavior. I think this will likely be a great thing, as it will help separate the conflation of autism with mental retardation. This will benefit everyone across the spectrum of intelligence, and along the spectrum of what we consider severity for autism.
        • Re:really? really. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday March 31, 2014 @08:25AM (#46620401)

          ^^^ This is exactly true. The problem that many on the autistic spectrum face is that they can't figure out how to communicate their thoughts with neurotypical people or they get overwhelmed by sensory input. In the case of the latter, imagine trying to give a speech while five speakers play different genres of music turned up to 11, with spotlights aimed right at your eyes, and a team of people poking you with sticks. Now imagine that there was someone in the audience for whom the music and lights appeared normal. How articulate would you appear to this person? Probably not very. Autistic people get written off as "dumb" when the real description is often "has a hard time communicating."

          • And I'd say your description of the communication issues the autistic face is a definite disadvantage. The intelligence boost in 50% of mild cases isn't worth it.

            • Studies have shown that beginning therapy at a young age can help many people with autism. It's not a cure, but it helps them cope with the neurotypical world. I like to think of it as everyone else running the "social rules application" natively while those on the autism spectrum need to emulate it. Anyone who has used an emulator will attest that these always run slower and use more processor power than native applications. This leads to the person with autism being overwhelmed and needing to decompre

          • by sjames (1099)

            There could be something to that. Imagine a sighted person being distracted by a painfully bright flashing light in a room full of blind people.

    • Conflating (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728) on Monday March 31, 2014 @07:10AM (#46619861)

      Beware of conflating autism with autism spectrum disorders and asperger's syndrome. Classical, pre-2000s autism isn't a faddish behavioural disorder, it's the kind of debilitating condition that can require life-long professional care.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:09AM (#46619227)

    I suspect a lot of diagnoses concern borderline cases, that would previously not have been counted as verified autism - so before, people would be classified as "odd" or "geeky" but not as someone who carries a mental disability.

    The same thing happened with depression. In the old days, depression was virtually unheard of, aside from extreme cases of people constantly trying to take their own lives. Nowadays, everybody and their dog gets depressed at some point during the year, and prescribed medicine.

    • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:24AM (#46619263)

      Nowadays, everybody and their dog gets depressed at some point during the year, and prescribed medicine.

      Sadly this is literally true [webmd.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MrMickS (568778)

      The same thing happened with depression. In the old days, depression was virtually unheard of, aside from extreme cases of people constantly trying to take their own lives. Nowadays, everybody and their dog gets depressed at some point during the year, and prescribed medicine.

      How does this get modded as insightful? People feeling depressed and clinical depression are two very different things. Its easy to laugh off and make glib comments. It doesn't make them true though.

      When were these old days of which you speak? Winston Churchill, yes that one, suffered from depression which he called his "Black Dog". Greater access to healthcare, and better trained physicians, will always increased apparent incidence of mental conditions. Is it right that in previous times these people would

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Your post is correct, but the OP is making a valid (if inelegantly communicated) point. Depression is hugely over diagnosed and treated, [jhsph.edu] particularly in the US.

        Actual clinical depression is a serious disorder and of course has existed throughout history. However, currently about a quarter of women in the US between 40 and 50 are on antidepressant drugs at any one time, and about 10% of all Americans over 12. These people aren't all suffering from major depressive disorder. Many of them don't meet any of

        • Actual clinical depression is a serious disorder and of course has existed throughout history. However, currently about a quarter of women in the US between 40 and 50 are on antidepressant drugs at any one time, and about 10% of all Americans over 12.

          In particular, (I've heard that) more than 50% of adult women in the US have been treated for depression at least once in their lives.

          This is a source of one of the major pushbacks against gun control proposals that ban people who have seen a shrink from ever h

    • by gtall (79522) on Monday March 31, 2014 @07:52AM (#46620127)

      Really? Ever see someone in their manic mode of manic depression? I have a sister with this as well as schizophrenia because many mental disorders rarely come alone, it is something like a smorgasbord. Anyhow, one evening she took exception to the wall-to-wall carpeting in Ma's bedroom while Ma was in the hospital. She ripped up that carpeting in the bedroom and an adjacent room, moving several pieces of large furniture out of the way to do it. I asked her how long it took, it took a few hours in the evening and a few the following morning.

      She ripped up the carpeting with her bare hands. That's what can happen when she doesn't take her meds. And that was during a manic episode, the schizophrenic episodes are stranger.

      Unless you've lived with someone with mental illness, you don't know squat about it.

      • by lgw (121541) on Monday March 31, 2014 @12:31PM (#46623069) Journal

        The important thing for people to understand about real, correctly diagnosed, psychiatric conditions it that they're physical in nature; they're due to chemical problems in the brain. You can no more overcome them with willpower than you can "walk off" a broken leg.

        For all we like to think of the mind as being software, the fact is that brain chemistry has deep and profound effects on how we think. Our ability to "steer" our thought processes, to focus or stop obsessing, to synthesize our conscious perception of the world around us from actual sense data and not from fiction, all that sort of thing requires specific neuron chemistry. If the raw materials aren't there, the brain goes off the rails in pretty extreme ways.

  • Galvanises? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sockatume (732728) on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:10AM (#46619229)

    At last, the real culprit is revealed: zinc.

  • My bet:
    * Endo/entero-symbiotic microorganisms

    Known to alter behaviour in insects and small mammals

    • Yeah, that's known to alter behavior. However, neurologists can see inside brains now. [youtube.com] So, we can see the fucking problems, we don't have to guess. Now, we can name this type of problem something, and if there's some other chemical or microorganism, etc. THAT'S SOMETHING ELSE. It's not a "spectrum" of shit if the underlying causes are fundamentally different.

      So, if we start out noticing a behavior, and then go looking for a lot similar behaviors and then call them all a common diagnoses, like Autism "Sp

  • by korbulon (2792438) on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:12AM (#46619233)

    Not saying that all or even most of the diagnoses of autism are false positives, but when you're living in a world where human communities are dwindling and become more insular - so there is less direct social engagement, extended families are spread across continents - so this core social unit is less dynamic and extensive, and people spend more and more time in front of screens - at work and at home, this sort of result is not overly surprising. Shit, when did the first iPhone come out? Mid 2007? Coincidence? iThink not.

    Increased screening sensitivity is probably playing a big factor as well: "Tommy seems rather introverted and shuns the company of others. He also throws a huge tantrum when we take away the tablet with the toons on it. Probably autism." I'm not saying this is due to negligent parenting, but when there is an obvious diagnosis that fits the symptoms, why look any further? Again, these are the marginal cases which are sufficiently prevalent to cause this spike.

    • so there is less direct social engagement, extended families are spread across continents - so this core social unit is less dynamic and extensive, and people spend more and more time in front of screens

      Hmm, don't the core traits of autistic spectrum disorders manifest themselves within the few first years of life? You'll have hard time trying to convince me that "spending more time in front of screens" applies to toddlers. That's where you probably where you ought to start if you're looking for the cause.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        Autism is early onset, autism spectrum disorders are less clear. It's not obvious whether this is because they are early-onset but the symptoms are subtler and harder to identify, or because they're distinct syndromes.

      • by korbulon (2792438)

        Hmm, don't the core traits of autistic spectrum disorders manifest themselves within the few first years of life? You'll have hard time trying to convince me that "spending more time in front of screens" applies to toddlers. That's where you probably where you ought to start if you're looking for the cause.

        Most toddlers I've seen in the past few years are far more adept at using a touchscreen than their grandparents. Again, my theory is that this spike is due to misdiagnoses rather than real cases. Some critical insight would be gained by looking at similar studies from other countries, assuming these exist.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        You'll have hard time trying to convince me that "spending more time in front of screens" applies to toddlers.

        You need to go outside more...

      • The number of people I have seen who just plonk their kid down in front of the TV and stick the kids network on has risen dramatically in the past decade - and now you even see it when out in public, the number of toddler aged children in push chairs with an iPhone or iPad (or equivilent) mounted on a stand attached to the push chair continuously playing some kids show or other...

        Interacting with children seems to be a huge issue these days, one most parents cant be bothered with.

    • by Two99Point80 (542678) on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:33AM (#46619287) Homepage
      There is much, much more to the process of professional evaluation and diagnosis than what you describe. The process is a whole lot more rigorous than idle speculation.
      • by korbulon (2792438)

        There is much, much more to the process of professional evaluation and diagnosis than what you describe. The process is a whole lot more rigorous than idle speculation.

        Even so, do you really think this spike is 100% due to correct diagnoses? If not, how much? A 30% increase is huge. When you get that kind of shift in your results, your first question as a researcher should be: how did my methodology change? Easier said than done for psychiatric studies where human judgment playts such a key factor, but the burden is on the researchers to reexamine their experimental method in light of such a spike.

      • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Monday March 31, 2014 @07:57AM (#46620159)

        There is much, much more to the process of professional evaluation and diagnosis than what you describe. The process is a whole lot more rigorous than idle speculation.

        Sure it is. But that doesn't mean there can't be other things going on here.

        Let me tell you a little story.

        About a decade ago, I taught high school for a few years. First, I spent a few years in public schools, mostly middle class or lower middle class communities. The percentage of students I had who had diagnoses (mostly cognitive disorders or deficits) which would get classroom accommodations like additional time on tests, etc.? About 1 or 2%. A REALLY small number.

        Then, the last year I taught high school, I taught in an elite private school which was one of those "feeder schools" to Ivy League colleges and such. The percentage of students with these accommodations and diagnoses? Roughly 15 to 20%. (I should be clear that there are some private schools known to cater to kids who have difficulties in normal public schools -- this was not that kind of school. You'd only tend to go here if you were rich and your parents wanted to get you into an elite college.)

        Now, there are a couple potential explanations for this significant difference.

        (1) The elite private school with rich kids had parents who had enough resources to devote to diagnosing obscure disorders and borderline cases, where the public school kids had to depend on an overworked school psychologist or something to note some problems.

        (2) The more cynical explanation: The rich kids got extra time when they wanted it because the parents had the resources to find a psychologist who could find a vague or "flexible" diagnosis that would allow the kids to have a "leg up" on not only standard school assignments, but also things like standardized tests (extra time on the SAT, etc.). A number of these diagnoses are related to things that would put a kid somewhere on the autism "spectrum."

        The second cynical explanation is not just idle speculation. It's been a documented trend, along with overprescription of drugs that have some cognitive benefit, which has received major media attention.

        Honestly, I'm sure both of these explanations are true. But they both go a long way to explaining the continued rise in documented cognitive disorders -- and as more middle class parents learn about these things and want their kids tested (either because they legitimately see something wrong, or because they want to try to "game the system" like their richer peers), it's inevitable that the numbers will go up.

        In recent years, I've been teaching at the college level, and I've seen similar trends. Kids at elite institutions are more likely to come in with lists of accommodations for extra time, etc. because of some obscure cognitive disorder, while kids at lesser universities usually only have these things when they are truly struggling.

        I have a friend who is an educational psychologist, and when I asked her about my observations, she flat-out told me that many of the diagnoses I've seen for rich kids are used precisely to take advantage of the system, because they are more vague in terms of diagnostic criteria.

        I should be clear that I also have some people in my family who have severe cognitive disorders, and I completely understand why parents fight at every level to get whatever help they can for their kids. But it's also clear that there are people taking advantage of this system, which is driving up diagnosis numbers, but also drawing resources away from kids who really need it. It's also created this bizarre system in education where your diagnosis determines whether you get "double time" or "time-and-a-half" or "time-and-a-quarter" or whatever for tests, including major standardized ones that can have significant impacts. How do we diagnose kids with that level of precision to determine exactly what "handicap" to give them, and how do we deal with rich parents who can "shop around" for a convenient diagnosis from a psychologist?

    • by Striikerr (798526)

      As a parent of a 4 year old with Autism, I can safely say that you have no clue what you are talking about which is fine (hell I knew very little about it before having my daughter diagnosed at the age of 2). I do take issue when you make such idiotic comments as Autism is the new ADD. There's a difference between "throwing a huge tantrum" because a child had a toy, tablet whatever taken away and not having your child want to look at you, smile for pictures and be oblivious to everyone around him or her. I'

      • by korbulon (2792438) on Monday March 31, 2014 @10:21AM (#46621611)

        Since when did not knowing anything about a subject ever stop someone on Slashdot from having a strong opinion about it? Shit, if that were true, the comments sections would look like downtown Detroit.

        Autism is not ever diagnosed because a kid has tantrums or is nerdy etc. The professionals know what they are doing.

        Yeah, I'm going to take issue with this. I'm sorry about your daughter, but are you saying that professionals are somehow infallible, always getting it right? Come on!

        You're right, I have no real expertise in the matter; however, as an ignorant schlub this won't stop me from forming an educated guess about it; and in the light of this study I will conjecture that one of the following is happening:

        * Rates of autism have not changed in recent history, but the the diagnostic measures have - this may be due to improvement in methods, greater awareness in the mental health community, but possibly because - for whatever reason - doctors are more disposed to incorrectly diagnosing autism. It's not like this has never happened (http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/welcome/features/2013-2014/01/20140108_autism-22Q.html).

        * Rates of autism are indeed on the rise, though a direct mechanism has yet to be discovered. This would be alarming to say the least.

        I'm skeptical about the second case, because - Jenny McCarthy aside - no one has established a clear link connecting autism to anything. Most evidence points to problems arising during prenatal development (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1307491), but as to what causes that, no one knows.

  • Part of the problem in the UK (so may not be the same in the US) is that there is additional funding and support for kids with diagnoses like ASDs so there is a big incentive for schools and parents to push for it. It's driving a whole approach of medicalising behaviour. Kids who in the past would have been simply regarded as a bit unusual and who a teacher would have had to just cope with are now being given medical diagnoses and possibly additional help.

    As discussed in the article what would be interesting to see is more detail on the distribution of ASD diagnoses, in terms of where they sit on the spectrum. If there is an increase the diagnosis of severe autism (the kids who would reasonably have been diagnose as autistic 30 years ago) then that would suggest that there is some environmental factor at work. If, on the other hand it's mostly high functioning and borderline then it seems likely to be mostly down to diagnosis.

    While I'm very much in favour of education being better able to deal with kids' differences, I'm not sure medicalising it is the way to go.

    • by symes (835608)

      While I'm very much in favour of education being better able to deal with kids' differences, I'm not sure medicalising it is the way to go.

      I completely agree with this - but more with those maybe cases. There will always be a bunch of kids with very clear and profound issues and who need a formal diagnosis to trigger appropriate support. It is those kids who go through the usual developmental issues but who have uninformed helicopter parents pushing clinical staff into providing treatment in some shape of form. It is not just school. What I think we do need in some cases is professional face slappers to bring people back to the real world and

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 31, 2014 @05:54AM (#46619555)

      My grandparents clearly had autism. It was never formally diagnosed. They had all sorts of interesting personality disorders (DSM!) and unhealthy destructive relationships.

      My parents clearly had autism. It was never formally diagnosed. They have all sorts of interesting personality disorders (DSM) and unhealthy destructive relationships.

      I clearly have autism. It was never formally diagnosed. My parents dealt with it by physical punishment. They hit me with wooden sticks so they wouldn't hurt their hands. I grew up really fucked up. Imagine being randomly beaten for reasons you do not and can not understand. I spent 2 decades clinically depressed, actively trying to kill myself. I know what arsenic tastes like. I know what it's like to hold a knife to my wrist, a gun to my head, and want, more than anything, to pull the trigger and end my pain and suffering. Sometimes you hold on for just another day. Sometimes for only a few more seconds of life. You know how a child's mind works? I used to wonder if I had already died, and already gone to hell, as I couldn't imagine anything worse.

      I got out of that. I got help. I spent almost another 20 years in psychotherapy, putting the pieces of my mind back together again. Unlearning the self-destructive behaviors I had unconsciously accepted. Not an easy thing.

      Today, I'm in my fifties. Today, my children have autism. It has been diagnosed. I have them seeing some of the best doctors in the country, right on the leading (bleeding) edge of medicine.

      Today we understand how layers of the brain's neural structure do not develop properly in autistic kids. How autism has many causes. Some kids will respond to gluten free diets. Others to dairy free diets. There are blood tests that can pick up on the antigens, telling us which kids can be helped by such alterations. It's known that their gut (intestines) are leaking proteins, causing the immune reaction picked up by the blood tests. It's known that these proteins can bind to neural receptor sites, and how they can act exactly like narcotics.

      Today it's known how still others kids have problems with nuts, with artificial sweeteners, or with artificial colors. There are a many dietary problems, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Other kids have difficulties with heavy metals. Others have, well, the list of causes here goes on and on and on. Autism is a catch-all disease, describing symptoms with a great number of underlying causative factors.

      Bottom line here is that there is a lot we can do to help these kids without fucking them up for life with depression or psychosis through abuse. If you don't deal with their problems, it is abuse. We assume control they do not possess. They can develop into great engineers, doctors, whatever. They're bright kids. Just different. They don't have to become monsters. We don't have to turn them into monsters!

      • by dontbgay (682790)
        By your own account, those problems aren't medical. They're cultural.
        • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday March 31, 2014 @08:58AM (#46620693)

          It's not that the problems are "cultural not medical", but that the cultural response exasperates the medical issue. Before my son was diagnosed, his principal convinced us that he was purposefully being defiant and disruptive. On the principal's suggestions, we had a regime of punishments put in place. My son's behavior got worse, not better. Once we got he diagnosis, we stopped those punishments immediately and put a program in place to help him based on our better knowledge of what was happening with him. (Unrelated note: That principal later threatened us when we tried to get an IEP because we "went over his head." Thankfully, he was removed albeit due to an unrelated scandal.)

          So, yes, Autism is a medical condition (a developmental disorder) but a cultural mis-understanding of it and wrong responses to it can lead to the condition worsening. Thankfully, people are getting better informed about what Autism is. Unfortunately, not everyone is well informed and too many people make judgments about what Autism is based on little to no information/personal experience. (Sadly, judging by some of the comments here, there are many people on Slashdot who fall into that category. And I wasn't talking about the commenter I just replied to.)

  • Could it be food? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ruir (2709173) on Monday March 31, 2014 @04:58AM (#46619377) Homepage
    The way we feed has changed radically in a few decades. Nowadays we can only find often GMO sources of some foods, not talking about plastic food and MGS sources ... cookies, potato chips, bread... As a pure anecdotal "evidence" I was recently with my wife in the Philippines two and half weeks, and despite eating far much more, she lost weight, and I lost my belly.
    • by ruir (2709173)
      Sorry, MSG sources. And soda pops. My ex used to drink about 10 litres of coke a week, even when pregnant.
    • I was recently with my wife in the Philippines two and half weeks, and despite eating far much more, she lost weight, and I lost my belly.

      In two and a half weeks??? You had a very small belly then, I take it? Because it's pretty hard to lose even ten pounds in that time-frame without stopping eating altogether.

  • by Buck Feta (3531099) on Monday March 31, 2014 @05:01AM (#46619385)
    The question is simply answered: diagnoses are more prevalent because the drugs to treat those patients now exists. It is not mere coincidence that the FDA approved the use of Risperdal in late 2006, and its generic, Risperidone, in late 2008. There were more than a few doctors who have made more than a few dollars from prescribing tis medication. Johnson & Johnson has to pay a $2.2 billion dollar fine [digitaljournal.com] for illegally marketing this drug through the use of kickbacks to doctors and pharmacists. So don't tell me the pharmaceutical isn't dirtier than a whore's whose-its. Everyone relax. Autism rates will decline when these drugs get a bad enough name. Then, a more expensive drug will be produced to treat a more common malady, and everyone will freak the fuck out again.
  • Of course, just why it would suddenly go up a the same time vaccination rates are at such a massive low that we're dealing with major outbreaks of formerly all but eradicated diseases I'm not sure but I'm certain that you could understand if you had her PHD (Pretty Hump of Distraction).

    • Of course, just why it would suddenly go up a the same time vaccination rates are at such a massive low that we're dealing with major outbreaks of formerly all but eradicated diseases I'm not sure but I'm certain that you could understand if you had her PHD (Pretty Hump of Distraction).

      Vaccination rates are at a "massive low"???

      According to CDC, vaccination rates for MMR are about 90%, which is where they've been for the last couple decades.

      As to "major outbreaks of all but eradicated diseases", the numbe

      • When the number a decade ago was near-zero - 175 is massive, because it predicts that this years number will be much higher, it's the beginning of the breakdown of herd immunity.

        Are you actually suggesting the the antivaxer (sorry, that's not politically correct - I mean the "pro-disease") movement has had zero impact on vaccination rates ? This should be news to the medical fraternity - you better inform them !

  • I blame High Fructose Corn Syrup.

    I would blame Obama, but that doesnt fit the same time window.

  • I know science has yet to prove this, but as a betting man i'd say women delaying birth well into their unfertile 30+ years is a big factor in this. Men don't have a wall and a clock, women have a crazy one.
  • School aid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday March 31, 2014 @06:41AM (#46619731)

    So the neighbor kid was diagnosed with this... and I didn't want to irritate his parents by pointing out the obvious but that kids just obnoxious, there's nothing wrong with him. But oh well... then the school brought in a specialist for MY kid, and they determined that my kid was having trouble in school because he was bi-lingual. You see, my son was born in Africa and we adopted him when he was 2. The funny thing is, he never spoke their language. The only word he knew in his native language when we got him was "Abas" which means "Father" which he'd yell whenever he was afraid of something. I pointed this out to the school but they insisted. Being somewhat of a libertarian I objected to the school wasting money on a special program for him. Then they got nasty. I was trying to impede the progress of my child and it would not be tolerated. A week later the teacher had an assistant 2 days of the week provided by the state to handle her "Bi-lingual" class. Ah, it was all clear now... The school diagnoses disabilities to garner more aid, and more resources from state and federal agencies. They push parents to doctors they know will produce favorable diagnoses and use anything they can find in the childs background to get the result they want.

    • I have a neighbor who has two autistic kids, or at least that is the diagnosis. I'm not sure its the proper one but there is definitely an issue. The mother did have the kids relatively late in the child bearing age range and the husband is in that upper band too. I don't doubt there could be something to this. All that said, I cringe at how much our society leans on the crutch of illnesses (especially psychological) to try to explain bad behavior or reasonable departure from the norm. Child behavior

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday March 31, 2014 @07:19AM (#46619911) Homepage

    First of all, just going to say it again. The definition or classification "autism" is too broad. Different people under the classification have different ranges of impairment. It needs to be broken down. In one area, Asperger's, it once was and has since been blocked in with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Why? (perhaps part of the larger trend of tyring to label more people as "mentally incompetent" as a means of separating people from their rights?) I don't know.

    But instead of creating a broad classification and diagnosis, there needs to be increased study into variants and ranges of disability. Some people are just fine and are a bit awkward while others are completely incapable of taking care of themselves. It's inaccurate to simply put it all under that one umbrella and treat things under a "common core" and ultimately unhealthy to do so.

    But the complete and utter resistance to seeking out causes blows me away. If one in 68 children were missing limbs at birth, there would be an international outcry. But because the impairment isn't readily visible, people want to ignore it and especially many want to deny it even exists at all seeking to classify it as a "choice" or "behavior disorder." Those people seem to be incredibly selective of their understandings of the connections between the body and the mind. On one hand we all agree and understand that hormone and other chemical balances of the body and especially nutrition and the use of drugs have a profound effect on the mind. Yet at the same time, there is a set of people who want to believe something entirely different despite knowing what they surely already know. (We're magical spirit creatures inhabiting bodies... ignore the fact that taking chemicals can change how your spirit creature feels and acts. People seem immeasurably incapable of connecting the body and the mind.)

    Why aren't we investigating more? Why?!

    This problem definitely fits the definition of "epidemic" and yet somehow it doesn't warrant investigation and study? Is it because important business models will be threatened? I believe that will be of high likelihood. Some might think it's worse than that and I hope that's not it but there are documented and unclassified cases where out very own US government really and truly has done things to people -- horrible and terrible things. Sometimes it was intentionally and other times perhaps out of wilful ignorance. The question of intent is important, but we do have some basic facts we can at least point to:

    1. The rate is high and climbing still.
    2. The problem isn't being studied properly.

    That's enough for now. It needs to be proven or disproven. There's no need to go any deeper than that at this point.

  • by TeethWhitener (1625259) on Monday March 31, 2014 @07:21AM (#46619925)
    Here's an exercise: count up how many of the posts above begin with "I'm not a mental health professional, but..." or "I don't have any scientific data to back this up, but..." followed by some theory about how autism is overdiagnosed/not real/etc. It's amazing how people will lambaste (rightfully) a woman--famous for showing her vagina and advertising electronic cigarettes--for claiming without evidence that vaccines cause autism, and yet turn around and promulgate some other ridiculous claim about autism, all while ignoring 1) the clinical evidence that exists, and 2) the interpretation of that evidence by those most qualified to interpret it. Pot, meet kettle.
  • by Theovon (109752) on Monday March 31, 2014 @07:43AM (#46620061)

    Let’s see rising levels of mercury in fish, arsenic in rice, methylbromide in bread, adding fluoride [*] to drinking water ON PURPOSE, BPA in plastic food containers, volatile PBDE flame retardant in yout furniture, VCOs in your paint and building materials, trans fats. I can go on and on and on.

    Besides eating a diet excessively high in carbs and low in other nutrients, we’re poisoning the shit out of ourselves. And you’re surprised that some people aren’t handling it well?

    [*] Fluoridation is controvercial, the target of commie conspiracy theories, etc. In reality, it’s shown to have a substantial positive impact on tooth development in children, it’s dirt cheap, and kills many pathogens in water. However, it’s also strongly linked with lowered IQs and thyroid disease. It’s basically poison. If you’re smart, you’ll get a fluoride filter for your water and give your kids high doses of iodine instead, which has the same effect on teeth, the same disinfectant properties, and is an essential mineral.

  • by RebelWithoutAClue (578771) on Monday March 31, 2014 @08:35AM (#46620495) Homepage
    I'm surprised that no one has mentioned this study yet. Perhaps Hypothyroid rates are skyrocketing and with it autism? http://www.sciencedaily.com/re... [sciencedaily.com] Autism four times likelier when mother's thyroid is weakened Pregnant women who don't make nearly enough thyroid hormone are nearly 4 times likelier to produce autistic children than healthy women, report scientists from the Houston Methodist Neurological Institute and Erasmus Medical Centre in an upcoming Annals of Neurology. The association emerged from a study of more than 4,000 Dutch mothers and their children, and it supports a growing view that autism spectrum disorders can be caused by a lack of maternal thyroid hormone, which past studies have shown is crucial to the migration of fetal brain cells during embryo development.

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