Parents Talk: More Kids Have Autism

A spectrum of conclusions explain autism spectrum disorders. What are you doing to limit autism risks for your children?

Some scary new statistics on autism were released last week.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now estimates that 1 in 88 children in the United States have been identified as having autism, according to a study that looked at data from 14 communities.

Results have changed since 2009, when 11.3 per 1,000 8-year-old children had been identified as having autism. There has been a 23 percent increase since the last report. Some of this increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their communities, although exactly how much is due to these factors is unknown, according to the CDC.

Although the cause of autism is not yet known, scientists have studied children on the spectrum and parents have been there to witness their behavior.   

Is the cause vaccines?

Although science has so far proven that autism is not linked to vaccines, there are countless parents across America who have decided to sign the school’s consent form and forgo immunizations. This week, Donald Trump told Fox News viewers that he strongly believes that autism is linked to vaccines.

Is the cause genetics?

A recent study demonstrates that genetic mistakes can occur across the genetic code. Although many are harmless, the errors can cause big problems when they occur in parts of the genome needed for brain development.

Is the cause faulty sperm?

Another new study found that new mutations occurred four times more frequently in sperm cells than in egg cells. Also, the older the father, the more likely he was to have sperm with these mutations. This is possibly resulting in cases of autism.

Is the cause the environment?

A study of twins done in July 2011 found that environmental factors are more responsible for autism than previously believed. In this study, environmental exposures– like environmental chemicals and certain drugs– were found to trigger autism as often as genetics.

With so many potential causes for autism, what are you doing, if anything, to limit your child's autism risks?

Julie McMonigal April 05, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I don't know what causes autism but i can say that it is commonly misdiagnosed. The school district came out and tested my daughter for pre-school when she was 4 years old. She did very poor on all of the test and she was labeled as/on the "autism spectrum disorder". Which when explained to me as having certain learning disabilities associated with autism. As a concerned parent I had her seen by 2 different physcologists. One at Central Center and one at the U of M. Which both agreed with me, that she did NOT have ASD. However, presenting this information to the school district did not get them to pull their label on my daughter. After fighting for years about it I gave it a rest. Please keep in mind that just because a school district labels your child autistic does not mean they have a medical conformation of it. And that is where I see the increase in autism. I do not believe that it is just doctors labeling, I believe it is also the schools.
Caitlin Burgess (Editor) April 05, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Interesting Julie. A couple years ago someone told me the school her son was going to insisted that he be treated for ADD. She had him tested by a couple psychologists, with them concluding that he didn't have it. But, it was difficult for the school to accept. I'm not sure exactly what happened after that, but it looks as if many schools could have quite a different way of judging behaviors.
Rachel Powell April 06, 2012 at 12:29 PM
My son has Asperger's, and since it runs in my family, the only way I could "prevent" it was by choosing not to have my son, which would have been tragic, because he is an amazing child and a wonderful addition to this world. Autism is on the increase for many reasons: more doctors are diagnosing it sooner thanks to clearer definitions, apparently schools are diagnosing autism where there is none, as illustrated by the comments above, many doctors will purposely diagnose children who are not autistic as autistic because they know the parents can get more services with an ASD diagnosis, etc. Every child should eat healthfully. I don't know if feeding a kid only organic foods could prevent autism, but it couldn't hurt. Not having your child vaccinated could prevent one disorder only to leave your child succeptible to diseases that scientists had all but wiped out in the 50's and 60's. If anything, ask for a less intensive vaccination routine - don't get your kid three-four shots at once at doctors like to do - and the MMR that everyone worries about can be given as three separate shots - one for each disease - and those separate shots do not have the chemical many blame on autism. If you do end up with a child with autism, all hope is not lost. Yes, it's difficult to raise a child with this disorder. But it is rewarding. I am proud of my son and would not change him for any "normal" child. He is wonderful.
Caitlin Burgess (Editor) April 06, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Thanks for sharing Rachel. What is your son's name and how old is he?
Becky Glander (Editor) April 06, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Rachel, do you feel like some researchers that Asperger's is not a disorder, but instead a difference in human behavior?
Dr.Barbro Brost, DC April 06, 2012 at 03:28 PM
At The Brost Clinic, we have parents in our patient base who choose to limit the number of vaccinations for their children. The parents that study the research often decide to not have their children vaccinated at all due to the strong insistence of the onset of symptoms after a recommended shot. A great source for information for parents is the National Vaccine Information Center: http://www.nvic.org/
Rachel Powell April 07, 2012 at 01:28 AM
Caitlin - I'd rather not give my son's name to protect his identity, but he's 10. He is a wonderful child with a completely different way of looking at life. Let's not forget that almost all great inventors have been posthumously or unofficially diagnosed on the spectrum, due to what is known about their behavior. And Becky - yes, I do think Asperger's is just a different way to be. Unfortunately for these people it is not the societal "norm" so they are labelled and forced to learn as best they can how to "act normally" so they can survive in society. But I know all the symptoms run in our family and my son just got them all together.
James Sanna (Editor) April 07, 2012 at 03:34 PM
A bit off-topic, but here's a well-told story of a mother and her 12-year-old son, who has Asperger's. The son interviewed his mom for Storycorps: http://storycorps.org/animation/q-and-a/
Melanie Lundheim April 09, 2012 at 07:05 PM
USA Today reported (today) that autism may be linked to obesity during pregnancy. View full story here: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-04-09/Autism-obesity-pregnancy/54126558/1
rob_h78 April 10, 2012 at 12:38 AM
The tragedy regarding vaccines and autism is that while no evidence has been found linking vaccines to autism, our society has redirected enormous amounts of money and research effort away from real research that may well have provided some real answers regarding the cause(s) of autism in order to chase the fantasy and unfounded fears that vaccines are to blame. Regarding obesity - the research is interesting and would anyone be surprised that obesity is responsible for yet another health issue? Obesity is a time bomb just waiting to go off in a person's body. Obesity is a a horrible version of a high stakes, pretty good odds lottery - you can get all sorts of really bad health issues and who knows but autism may also be related. But of course its easier to blame a shot than to actually lose weight so don't plan on seeing any of these organizations that are concerned about vaccines and autism to start telling obese women - hey lose weight because there may well be some real research that links your obesity and pregnancy to your child developing autism.
Caitlin Burgess (Editor) April 10, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Thanks for adding a little more background! And I totally understand why you didn't use his name. Just curious.
Rachel Powell April 10, 2012 at 11:39 AM
While I agree that obesity is a huge problem in today's society, I think that now they're just grappling in the dark for answers to a huge mystery.
Rachel Powell April 10, 2012 at 11:51 AM
While i agree that obesity is a huge problem in today's society, I think that now they're just grappling in the dark for answers. I know many obese women who have gone on to have healthy children, and I know many average weight women who have had autistic children. Plus if you look at the alarming outbreak of Somali women in our country giving birth to autistic children, you have to admit - I have not seen an obese Somali woman. And that one population has more than the average amount of autistic children. Funnelling money into teaching women to not be obese when they get pregnant doesn't seem really practical. Funnelling money into prevention AND education about the kids already out there is the most important thing to do. Schools don't educate their teachers on how best to teach these children, even though every school must have several autistic children. My son has had nothing but trouble in school because they don't understand his needs, how he is not a cookie-cutter kid that will follow the rules like all the other children just through their strength of will, etc. We need the people who deal with our children with autism in a way that they have a chance to grow up and lead as productive a life as possible according to their abilities.
623 parent April 10, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Personally I would seek the advice of a Medical Doctor over that of a Doctor of Chiropractic when making choices regarding vaccinations!
James Sanna (Editor) April 10, 2012 at 03:31 PM
FYI, for any readers who are struggling with their autistic child, check out the SW Minneapolis nonprofit End of the Spectrum, a non-profit that helps parents advocate for their children with severe autism. http://www.endofthespectrum.org/ Here's our story on their work: http://patch.com/A-rwwK


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