February 27, 2007

The 2007 CDC Autism Study

The Really Big Lie About Autism


About six months ago I wrote an OpEd piece called "The Really Big Lie About
Autism" <>
in which I described the persistent yet illogical claim that all the
autistic kids filling speech therapy sessions, classrooms, and even whole
schools, are the result of "better diagnosing and greater awareness" on the
part of doctors. In other words, autism has always been a major childhood
disorder; we just didn't recognize it for what it was.

That article focused on the Really Big Lie About Autism as told to parents
by the medical community. Regardless of the number of autistic kids sitting
in their waiting rooms, doctors are satisfied that it's all due to their
keener sense of observation.

The Really Big Lie About Autism has just been updated and expanded.

This past month the Centers for Disease Control released the findings of a
major study on autism. There were actually two surveys done looking at
8-year-olds, the first in six states and a second looking at 8-year-olds in
14 states. On average, they found that about one in 150 children born in
1992 and 1994, or 6.7 per thousand, have autism. New Jersey was on the high
side with one in every 94 children, including one in every 60 boys.

The CDC announced this latest mind-boggling rate with an air of pride. CDC
Director Dr. Julie Gerberding explained that the new numbers were because
"our estimates are becoming better and more consistent."

Now it seems that the CDC is on a par with the medical community with the
news about this new autism rate. Not only are doctors better at diagnosing,
but also CDC officials are better at counting.

Incredibly, the CDC still cannot say with any certainty that autism is
actually affecting more children despite all the autistic kids everywhere.
The CDC has been studying autism numbers for more than ten years, yet they
don't know if it's more prevalent.

Dr. Gerberding explained it this way, "We can't yet tell if there is a true
increase in ASDs or if the changes are the result of our better studies."

The CDC still can't tell? This agency gets billions of tax dollars each year
to run health care in the U.S. They can give us statistics on any other
disorder or disease broken down by age, sex, and ethnicity, including
changes in the incidence rate--except autism. The study's lead author, Dr.
Catherine Rice, made it clear that nothing in her research can tell us about
trends. "We hope these findings will build awareness," Rice said.

A number of experts quickly rallied to the defense of the "no real increase"
position. Doctors have come out officially to remind us that there is
nothing to be alarmed about concerning the new one in every 150 children

Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, chief of the CDC's developmental-disabilities
program at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental
Disabilities was interviewed in Newsweek and agreed that it isn't that "the
rates of autism have gone up, just that now we have some more definitive

On ABC,s 20/20 on February 23rd, Dr Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases
at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, explained that the increase in
autism is due to the fact that "people that we once called quirky or geeky
or nerdy are now called autistic."

He further stated that with a label of autism, it would "allow that child
then to qualify for services which otherwise they wouldn't be qualified to

Incredibility, there are those who are using the new autism numbers for
children born in the 1990s to create statistics all the way back to the
1980s. Doctors are citing this 2007 study as proof that the autism rate
hasn't increased in the last twenty years.

In the Atlanta Journal Constitution article, Are Autism Cases on the Rise in
the US? child psychiatrist Dr. Bradley Peterson told us "the numbers are
comparable to what they were 20 years ago."

In the New York Times article, Study Puts Rate of Autism at 1 in 150 U.S.
Children, Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, from Yale University School of Medicine was
quoted as saying, "It appears that the rates are unchanged over the past 20
years or so."

Correspondent Lesley Stahl reported on the one in 150 rate on "60 Minutes"
on February 18th. She interviewed Dr. Stephen Goodman, an epidemiologist at
Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who has studied autism statistics for
the past 30 years. He stated, "The explosive increase that has been claimed
is almost certainly not true."

Dr. Goodman believes that "if the numbers are rising, they're not rising
very quickly, if it's going up at all."

He added that the expansion of the definition of autism in 1994 is the
reason for more children diagnosed as autistic.

Dr. Goodman failed to mention that besides a wider meaning being given to
autism in the 1990s, this was also the decade of the dramatic increase in
the number of mercury-containing vaccinations in the childhood schedule.

Dr. Goodman doesn't accept that mercury-laced vaccines are a factor in
autism. Furthermore, he told us that he was on a national medical panel that
found no evidence connecting the use of the mercury-based preservative,
thimerosal, in children's vaccines to the high autism numbers.

In truth, the Institute of Medicine panel that Dr. Goodman served on used a
host of easily manipulated population studies to show that adding a known
neurotoxin to vaccines is safe. These are the same kinds of studies devised
by the tobacco industry in the 1950s as proof that smoking wasn't harming
people's health.

It should be noted that Dr. Goodman isn't able to do the one thing that
would settle the debate over vaccines and autism. He can't show us the
rigorous testing done on thimerosal before it was ever allowed in our
children's vaccinations. He can't do that, because there was none.

The drug company Eli Lilly invented thimerosal back in 1930. They said it
was safe and after the creation of the FDA, its use was simply continued.
It's hard to understand how a federal panel could claim that thimerosal is
safe when they knew it was never tested for toxicity. That's hardly
oversight information that either the CDC or FDA wants publicized.

Dr. Goodman may think autism numbers haven't changed, but he would have a
hard time convincing school district officials across the U.S. that all the
autistic kids everywhere are the result of an expanded definition of autism
and better recognition of the disorder.

These are just a few examples of how autism is affecting state and local

Two months ago, Raquel Eatmon, at CBS 11 News in Fort Worth reported,
"According to the Texas Education Agency over the last five years autism has
nearly doubled from 8,972 to 17,282. Some researchers insist the numbers are

In New Jersey they spent $3 billion on special education last year. New
Jersey also reported a 30-fold increase in autism since 1991, with 7,400
students now diagnosed as autistic.

The Concord Monitor in New Hampshire reported this week that the number of
autistic students had tripled since 2001. School board president David Immen
said that the increase in students with autism "is not a bubble passing
through; it's a wave that's coming."

Salem Statesman Journal in Oregon reported that there are now 700 students
in the Salem-Keizer school district who are autistic.

The Grand Rapids Press announced this past week that the number of students
with autism has increased 200 percent since 1999 in Holland MI. The school
board is seeking a $1.3 million increase over the current tax levy for
special education.

In the Oakland Press in MI, Tom Brown, executive director of an autism
support center, and a psychologist said, "Largely, the parents of children
with autism forced the issue of getting the government involved in trying to
get more funding for research."

He called autism, "a medical crisis," and said, "Twenty-five years ago, the
incidence of autism was 1 in 10,000."

Remember polio? At the height of the polio epidemic in the 1950s, the
disease affected one in 3,000 Americans. Polio was a health care emergency.
A massive effort was made to address it. Not so with autism. Amazingly, the
CDC isn't sounding an alarm over the autism numbers.

Members of the press never ask officials whom they're always quoting to
prove that autism hasn't increased. All we seem to hear about are autistic
kids. Where are all the autistic adults who were missed in the past--in the
days before all the better diagnosing?

Show us the autistic kids from the 1980's who are now the autistic adults in
their twenties and thirties at the same rate as children with autism today.
Where are the forty, fifty, and sixty year olds with autism at a rate of one
in every 150?

What are they doing?

Lots and lots of parents desperate about the future for their autistic
children would like to know. News sources never give us the proof and
neither does the CDC.

Regardless of the hoopla over the new CDC autism rate being presented in the
press, it changes nothing. While news coverage makes this seem like
officials are addressing autism, it doesn't impress parents.

The 2007 CDC Autism Study does nothing to help our kids. In the long run,
worthless efforts like this will destroy the credibility of this agency
because they simply can't explain the numbers.

Dr. Kenneth Stoller of Santa Fe, NM, a pediatrician who treats mercury toxic
children and uses hyperbaric oxygen therapy summed up the reality of the
autism crisis:

Despite all the official denials.....there is just one little
problem.....the autistic kids keep on coming, and coming and coming. They
will bankrupt school systems, public services, and social services.

No, autistic children haven't always been with us or called something else
any more than the toxins that are causing this environmental neurological
disorder have always been with us in such great amounts.

The truth will come out in the end, but the question is, will it be our end
as well?

Anne McElroy Dachel lives in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. She can be reached
at: [log in to unmask]