My practice is fortunate enough to involve young people as student ‘interns’, who learn by helping out with the patients and performing other office duties. Occasionally, Karen, our patient and efficient Practice Administrator, even lets me use their services for data collection and research.Recently, one of the new recruits to our developmental clinic asked Question #1, (“What do I think causes autism?”) and her reaction (less-than-satisfied) to my explanation (about susceptible individuals whose immune system is, or becomes ‘dys-regulated’ by our poisoned world), just didn’t cut it. Modern thinking is that patients can’t recover from autistic signs and symptoms. “Autism is genetic and medicine can’t do much about the outcome,” pretty much covers current beliefs by people who do not have autistic family members or have not searched the web endlessly for answers. Even the remarkable progress that affected young children can achieve with ABA, S&L, OT, PT and other appropriate therapeutic interventions does not seem to impress the uninitiated.
I usually offer that human epidemics are environmental and the discussion slips into a circular discourse that begins with Question #1-a, “Is autism really an epidemic?” So, in an effort to help our readers who are often challenged to produce quick answers, here’s a list that might be helpful:
1. Has autism really increased, are you guys just recognizing it more, or is the diagnosis added to other syndromes?
It’s really increased, we’re recognizing it more, and the diagnosis can be included with other congenital conditions.
2. So, is it really an epidemic?
3. It’s sorta been proven that vaccinations don’t have anything to do with it, right?
The individual vaccines have been studied, but the schedules have changed dramatically. There are lots of parents and even doctors who know of stories where the vaccine was more-than-coincidentally related to a child’s regression.
4. I heard that it might be due to poor parenting, is that true?
There hasn’t been any epidemic of ‘Refrigerator’ mothers (see #2). In fact, the families are devastated, they care VERY MUCH about their child, and they spend a great deal of resources searching for help.
5. I heard that it was related to older fathers, is that true?
They have been around longer than the increase in autistic children.
6. I heard that it was related to older mothers, is that true?
7. I heard that it was related to overweight mothers, is that true?
8. I heard that it is related to the immune system, is that true?
Oh, that’s right, I never heard this one. It’s just the most likely explanation.
9. But, the doctors all say that it is genetic, right?
There are so many different chromosomes and genes that have been implicated. It must be that genetic differences only identify susceptible individuals.
10. So, you think that it’s the environment?
The environment affecting susceptible individuals, yes.
I really want to explain that, “It’s the perfect storm of minor genetic differences, possibly insignificant in previous millennia, acted upon by various, multiple, new and foreign substances. The interaction appears to affect an increasing percentage of developing infants…” But, the door is closing, “Going down, children’s toys, ladies lingerie…”
At the present level of knowledge, even texts such as Dr. Martha Herbert’s The Autism Revolution leave many new directions for research. Dramatic sound bites and headlines proclaiming autism cures rarely illuminate the situation. For future reference, you can print The List to carry in your pocket or download my TheAutismDoctor-Quick-Answer-List app 😉