Revisiting the Autism “Epidemic”

Anyone who cares about autism, and particularly the supposed spike in autism in recent years, would do well to read this very informative, cogent, and non-hysterical OpEd by Paul T. Shattuck and Maureen Durkin. It is written on the occasion of a case before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that’s investigating whether autism is linked to childhood vaccinations, as many parents of autistic children believe.

Shattuck and Durkin’s argument, in a nutshell, is that:

1. Vaccines do not cause autism, according to the scientific consensus;

2. There surely has been an eruption of documented cases of “autism spectrum disorder,” but this does not mean that autism itself is actually on the rise, as many people believe.

3. There are a variety of reasons for the increase in documented cases of autism and related disorders, including:

a. better reporting/diagnosing;

b. more funds available for treatment, which incentivizes parents to have their children diagnosed;

c. a much broader definition in recent years of what constitutes “autism,” including the reclassification of other disorders into the autism umbrella label.

If you have an autistic child or know someone who does, you may not be satisfied with Shattuck and Durkin’s article, for it may be more comforting to have a tangible villain, like vaccines, to blame for this disorder. And a tangible villain would certainly make it easier to prevent autism in the future. But you should still read the article with an open mind.

There is one point that Shattuck and Durkin didn’t raise, which I sometimes wonder about when people discuss a link between childhood vaccines and autism. Autism usually begins to present itself at about three years of age, by which time kids have started to get a lot of vaccines. This proximity may naturally cause many parents to link the two events in their mind. But just because one event happens shortly before another does not mean that the first even caused the second — as comforting, in a warped way, as that may seem.

Here’s what we’ve written in the past about the subject.

Leave A Comment

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

 

COMMENTS: 50

View All Comments »
  1. egretman says:

    It can be statistically proven that medical researchers are statistically inept at the use of statistics. Often coming up with vague correlations and then leaping to wild causes such as “pesticides in the environment” or “mercury in the vaccines”.

    And unfortunately, Dr. Levitt has given up on doing his peer review in order to take up the subject of just how stupid do you have to be to play poker for a living.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  2. egretman says:

    It can be statistically proven that medical researchers are statistically inept at the use of statistics. Often coming up with vague correlations and then leaping to wild causes such as “pesticides in the environment” or “mercury in the vaccines”.

    And unfortunately, Dr. Levitt has given up on doing his peer review in order to take up the subject of just how stupid do you have to be to play poker for a living.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  3. shanek says:

    As a parent of an autistic child, I think this article is wonderful. We need to face this issue with the courage to find the truth, instead of finding some convenient bogeyman.

    The experience of raising an autistic child is so frustrating–for the child as well as the parents–that we can be more easily misled by anti-vaccine people, or those hawking false hope techniques like Facilitated Communication.

    On top of the stamina we need to raise our children, we also need the courage not to be taken in by easy answers and peddlers of false promises.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  4. shanek says:

    As a parent of an autistic child, I think this article is wonderful. We need to face this issue with the courage to find the truth, instead of finding some convenient bogeyman.

    The experience of raising an autistic child is so frustrating–for the child as well as the parents–that we can be more easily misled by anti-vaccine people, or those hawking false hope techniques like Facilitated Communication.

    On top of the stamina we need to raise our children, we also need the courage not to be taken in by easy answers and peddlers of false promises.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  5. schadenfreude says:

    Shattuck and Durkin never make the argument that vaccines do not cause autism. Their analyses deal with years from 1991 thru 2003. During this entire time, thermisol was present in childhood vaccines, so they can draw no conclusions regarding the alleged vaccine-autism link.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  6. schadenfreude says:

    Shattuck and Durkin never make the argument that vaccines do not cause autism. Their analyses deal with years from 1991 thru 2003. During this entire time, thermisol was present in childhood vaccines, so they can draw no conclusions regarding the alleged vaccine-autism link.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  7. one_comment says:

    Something should also be said about the increasing numbers of adults realizing that they’ve known people with autism all along, or coming in to get themselves diagnosed, as autism, especially the milder variety, gets more and more widely written about.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  8. one_comment says:

    Something should also be said about the increasing numbers of adults realizing that they’ve known people with autism all along, or coming in to get themselves diagnosed, as autism, especially the milder variety, gets more and more widely written about.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0