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Autism, how come it seems so common, is there another explanation

88 replies

mamadadawahwah · 04/03/2005 09:31

Now that I am researching autism, and speaking to friends neighbours etc, it is all too common. It seems every 2nd person i know has someone belonging to them with asd. Is ASD a symptom of our "times", too much pollution, not enough focus on our children, what?? What is making our kids go inside of themselves and not want anything to do with the outside world, thats the way i see it presently anyway.

Is it really a well researched condition or are the medical professionals just winging it? I have read numerous reports of many behavioural methods in which to deal with it. The best are very expensive, the worst are downright laughable.

Are we approaching autism in the wrong way because we are missing the link it has with today's society? I had my child late and maybe my toxin ridden body caused this to happen. I dont know. All i do know is that is far more prevalent than what we would expect and it often runs in two per family. What gives.

Does anyone know of any new research/approach to this condition. I have heard of bio - feedback which allegedly has made some inroads.

OP posts:
expatinscotland · 04/03/2005 09:33

It's hard to know what is behind the rise in diagnosed cases of autism when don't exactly know what it is.

Freckle · 04/03/2005 09:44

I doubt that there is one single explanation. I had all three of mine late in life and none has any disorders (that I'm aware of). Perhaps it is linked to pollution, additives in food, etc. A combination of a number of different, modern factors. Has any research been done into the incidences of autism in countries where processed food is not that common, where pollution is negligible? Is there as much there as elsewhere?

How about the effection of radiation on our bodies, where the baby might be affected in the womb? Our bodies are subject to all sorts of unseen invastions, from television and computer screens, microwaves, etc.

I don't think it can be put down to not enough attention on our children in any way.

Freckle · 04/03/2005 09:45

Sorry, that should be invasions, not invastions.

mummytosteven · 04/03/2005 09:53

i think also that there is far greater awareness in the last 20 or so years of the milder end of the Spectrum. Before the early 1980s, when Lorna Wing published her work on autism, I don't think that Aspergers was know of in this country, so that people were either undiagnosed or wrongly labelled.

Davros · 04/03/2005 10:03

Nearly all professionals involved in autism now accept that there is a true increase, not just "better diagnosis". NAAR is a US-originated charity that is starting in the UK this year and raises funds for research into causes of autism. Google for them, their first walkathon is in July. The NAS has recently set up a reserach trust to look into interventions. So a lot is happening, albeit slowly.
I have heard Gillian Baird say that the proportion of regressive cases of autism has stayed the same in the last 30 years, quite a surprise to hear that but I'm sure she wouldn't say it if it weren't true. But as there are more cases then, of course, there are more regressers as well as from-birth cases.
The other thing not to uderestimate is how much the internet has affected people's awareness and ability to network, exchange information, give advice etc.

MrsFROSTgetful · 04/03/2005 10:08

all i know is it's strange how for something that is 'numerically' so rare... you know 'only 1 in so many 1000 are affected'......yet like you said almost everyone either has an autistic relative...or works with Autism....or has an Autistic child in their childs class etc etc!!!

Eg: we have lived in this hiouse for 8 years....
and i have 2 out of 3 sons dx with AS
my neighbours son is dyslexic
ex-neighbour has 3 out of 4 dx with ASD
another ex neighbour has 1 out of 2 dx with ASD....all this within a stones throw....i only know the people within say 3 or 4 houses either side of my house.

There are many 'illnesses/disabilities/disorders'... that are supposedly more common...and yet i still know more people affected by autism than these added together.
indeed...often i feel 'gulity' as if you look @ the SN threads here on MN...the majority are about ASD

As an adult who is probably one of the 'undiagnosed AS children' ....i do think in some way that years ago there were may austistic children who nowadays would be picked up and 'labeled'.... back then 'they' were the :
slow ones
disruptive kids

and there were not all the screening tools that we have access to now.

back tthen if you had a 'withdrawn quiet child' he was labeled SHY. If he was however lively and talkitive he was 'just' a bit 'Hyper'.

so now toddlers are being 'picked up' as being possibly ASD...when before they we 'just miserable babies' or 'contented' or 'gonna be a bright child' etc

My son has a friend who i am 99.9% certain is AS too....but his parents still believe at age 11 - that he needs a Firm hand- and he will 'grow out of it'
Because i am well convered with AS now i 'try ' things out on that i deliberately try to engage him in small talk...and he cannot. Or i use a very literal pjrase and he ....takes me literally etc....he is such a wonderful child and so innocent- and yet he goes up to secondary school this year- and i bet he will be 'noticed ' there.... as at primary school it seems that as long as the child isn't disruptive- and the parents don't insist the child has a problem,,,,then they are let be,,,then when they move to secondary the bullying starts...and they get lost in a large school etc.....
so in his case (if i'm right'...) he will become another statistic when he is diagnosed i've known him for 9 years ....and tecnically he has been ASD all that time...yet he will only become a 'statistic' once he is dfiagnosed

does that make sense????

Bit like it's only relitively recently that we are able to save lives that would have been lost years ago to things like cancer and heart attacks.....due to miracles of modern medice....look at the women that dies in childbirth in the past that are now diagnosed with preeclamsia...and are cared for and traeted so they survive what used to be a common cause of death in child birth.... those diseases were ALWAYS there... it's jiust now we can in many case diagnose and 'cure/prevent' them from becoming fatal;

hope i make sense!!!

This Japanese 'MMR' thing on the news kind of says that they stopped MMR and autism still increased.... to me still doesn't convince me that IT doesn't 'trigger' or 'impact' autism...but that deserves it's own thread!!!!

dinosaur · 04/03/2005 10:11

Fab post, mrsf.

I'm sure sure sure that DS1 would NEVER have got a diagnosis if he'd been born in my generation.

But that should not detract from the fact that experts such as Gilly Baird believe that there has been an actual increase in the nubmers of children affected, not just better diagnosis picking up more children on the spectrum.

MrsFROSTgetful · 04/03/2005 10:33

It's true- as there are may autistic/adhd children who if on a GT diet, without E numbers, take fish oils or eat organically etc certainly seem to be 'less autistic' and that definitel fits the notion that the increase can be linked to pesticides,pollution .....By the way i'm not saying you can CURE autism....but maybe if these 'bad' things weren't around then our children would not have developed in this way?

We 'joke' along my road that 'there must be something in the water'...and wonder about the 'old lead pipes' we are in a victorian house

beccaboo · 04/03/2005 10:58

I wonder about what we feed our kids too. Milk is now full of antibiotics and who knows what else, we eat purpose-bred types of wheat that are so processed they lose most of their nutrients - our children's diet is very different to what we grew up on, even if in theory we're feeding them the same things.

Mrs F, I'm sure you're right about those labels. I remember boys at my secondary school who were very clever, but outsiders. There was one in particular who wore unfashionable clothes, carried a briefcase and always had a row of biros in his top pocket. He was very good at science.

Our paediatrician actually told us that even 10 years ago our ds would have simply been labelled 'shy'. The nursery say that academically he is ahead of the rest of the class, despite being the youngest. But he's not in the least bit interested in the other kids, or in things that don't fit in with his own agenda.

I worry about lead pipes too, and lead paint in old houses - not to mention all the mercury fillings in my teeth. Just call me Jaws

maddiemo · 04/03/2005 10:59

My ds3 is diagnosed autistic. I think 30 years ago he would have been labelled retarded or slow. I have a cousin who is very similar to ds3 and that is his dx.
Ds3 also has birth defects and we took part in the study that made the link between bd and living near a landfill. I also have concerns over the over use of antibiotics, my ds is allergic to penicillin and had masses of antibiotics at the age of one.
Better dx of asd is also a factor imo. We have many children at my sons schools with asd dx that have more subtle needs and are not say at the level where they would need a statement of sen.

mamadadawahwah · 04/03/2005 11:06

I can remember distinctly at the age of 6 or 7 not knowing how to join in a game of baseball. I wonder if I was slightly autistic. I just didnt know or "get" what the rules were or why, and why i was being picked for a team. Further I remember stabbing a little girl with a pencil in her hand (yeah, i know, awful) but i was only six. I didnt give it a moments notice. Also my sister always had to make friends for me when we were young. I would say, go and make friends with that little girl. Would i have been labelled today??

Mrs forgetful, you make some excellent points and said what i was trying to say. Good to know the ideas of autism are being challenged cause I for one am not willing to accept pat answers and I know there must be more to it than what the clinical "experts" say.

OP posts:
mamadadawahwah · 04/03/2005 11:08

Just did a cursory count of the kids i know who are autistic and who live in a five mile radius
there are eight. Two of which are from the same family. Now that is weird cause there are only 11,000 people in this area.

OP posts:
MrsFROSTgetful · 04/03/2005 11:12


There is a lad Luke Jackson whom many of us are familiar with who has AS...on a tv programme about AS in mainsteam schools that i taped he says 2 key things

  1. is that if you add up all the ASd percentages of the popluation - it turns out that infact the majority of the population are the NT portion are the minority (LIKE THAT IDEA!!!!)

  2. and that as far as AS people getting obbsessivley interested in something and talking NON stop about it- he says basically noone ever tells the doctor that there's something wrong with a child who talks about nothing other than football- but if it's computers they obsess over then 'they are a geek'

    SO TRUE!!!!!

    so just picture this....every time you meet someone theres greater than a 50% chance they are ASD/Dyslexic etc!!!!!!
beccaboo · 04/03/2005 11:22

That's fantastic Mrs F . So true about the football/computer thing.

I read recently that if you are a member of Mensa you are six times more likely to have a child with ASD. Must say something about what type of intelligence IQ tests are measuring.

sparklymieow · 04/03/2005 11:44

a headteacher once told me that we are all a little autisic if you think about it!! so true!

coppertop · 04/03/2005 11:53

20 years ago ds1 would have been labelled as very bright but naughty. Ds2 would probably have been labelled a very bright child with a bit of a temper.

I see people in my own family who would, if they were growing up now have an ASD label. My own dad would probably be seen as having classical autism.

In our own little family we have ds1 (officially ASD), ds2 (preliminary dx of ASD), dh (AS) and me (lots of AS traits). I would think it's safe to say that in our case it's genetic - although I dod sometimes wonder if the DTP might have pushed ds1 a little further along.

I agree about the football/computers idea. My brother could probably tell you all you could ever want to know about football and certain football teams but no-one has ever questioned whether this is obsessive. In our society it is seen as 'normal'.

coppertop · 04/03/2005 11:54

classical autism??? Must preview....

sophy · 04/03/2005 12:00

According to research done at Great Ormond Street Hospital, seven percent of the general population could be considered to be on the autistic spectrum. In an average class of 30 that would be 2 kids. So it is not surprising that it seems to be so prevalent now.

beccaboo · 04/03/2005 13:42

CT, that is really interesting - especially that your dad went on to get married and have children.

I have several male friends who know everything there is to know about pop music, could tell you every detail about certain bands, their back catalogue etc. and have gone on to work as music journalists - and that was definitely seen as normal. But if computer games had been their forte, I'm sure they would have been seen as nerds.

I hope this isn't an insensitive question, but I'd be interested to know what everyone thinks about diagnosis/labelling and what impact it will have for this generation. Would it have been better for our partners/parents to have had a dx?

I worry that when ds is applying for jobs, life insurance etc, he's going to have problems if he is officially classed as disabled. (I am obviously touching lots of pieces of wood here that he is going to do any of these things in the future, I'm not taking it for granted).

Pagan · 04/03/2005 14:12

Might add my tuppence worth and probably be shot for it. I think society today tries to label everyone and everything. In bygone times people seemed to accept others as they were but now everything has to have an 'ism' attached to it. It's like we cannot accept that everyone is different. I'm not for a minute suggesting that ASD doesn't exist but I'm sure a bigger deal is made of it to justify human's natural insecurities

mamadadawahwah · 04/03/2005 14:30

Pagan, i agree completely. If it aint got a label, it aint worth nothin. TV is very explicit about this as is the grocery store. Its gotta have a label. Further , unless its got a label, no money with be forthcoming for research.

Even furthermore, yes, i agree that our own insecurities come into this. Its like a park isnt a park, until we give it a name. No one goes to a piece of land with trees and rivers on it, till its XXX Park. No what i mean. On the conspiratorial side too, we are imho heading to wards the "perfect human" society and those who dont fit in , are gonna have a stigmatising label. If i didnt have to worry that my child will have to have 3 university degrees to work at Mcdonalds, i wouldnt give a damn really. He is my son and is so so loved. But what happens if something happens to me. Its a battle.

OP posts:
MeerkatsUnite · 04/03/2005 14:40

I personally don't think that in the good old days people were accepted any more and people with such problems were generally ignored or shunned by society. Fortunately we do live in generally more enlightened times but problems of "acceptance" do persist.

I once read an excellent article entitled "Autism in the blood" in the Daily Telegraph. It related to the story of a woman who had two boys who were diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. She took her sons along to an appointment with her father in tow - the specialist turned around and said to her, "oh by the way your Dad needs help as well because he is autistic as well". This man was 60 years of age. She realised at that point all the reasons behind his behaviours towards her (he was regarded as eccentric and mad by society as a whole and consequently the whole family were shunned) and her mother while she was growing up. BTW this girl grew up thinking her father's behaviours were normal, it was only when she became older that she thought that something was well awry.

As some people on here have correctly pointed out there is little to no real provision of help for such people in society today.


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coppertop · 04/03/2005 16:25

The sad fact is that without a label a child with SN will get little or no help. Even with the label it can be a battle. Resources are scarce and all too often parents aren't told what help is out there. I guess the thinking is that if they don't know it exists, they won't ask for it.

Ds1 is doing really well at school. Despite being one of the youngest in the class he is apparently one of the brightest. He has settled well and enjoys pretty much all aspects of school life. Without his dx it would be a completely different story IMHO. He would be in a lot of trouble for pushing and shouting at other children, possibly even running out of the classroom. We would be hearing reports about how he could do much better if he could just learn to sit still for 5 minutes and stop running around in circles and spinning in the classroom. No doubt the teacher would also be concerned about having a 4yr-old in her class who refused to join in with activities, who refused to touch anything and who could only say a few words.

It's only because of his dx and the help that came from it that he is able to tolerate using his hands, able to speak like an average 4yr-old, join in with class activities, not stim in the classroom and sit still when necessary. I suspect ds1 without a dx would have been heading for an exclusion by now.

We're still just starting out with ds2 (2yrs). Since his assessment last month we've been given a whole list of things to try out with him to help him develop. He saw the SALT this week and she was amazed at the differences in him already in the space of less than a month. Ds2 can learn things at an amazing speed but this is pointless unless people know which bits he has 'missing' and therefore know exactly what to teach him. Without the things that we'd learned through his brother's dx ds2 would still IMHO be unable to communicate with us at all, unable to manage any kind of play skills and would be spending most of his time screaming in frustration. Without the labels we would be seriously struggling atm. It's still very difficult but at least we can make some real progress in helping both boys.

dinosaur · 04/03/2005 16:27

Brilliant post Coppertop.

Very much how I feel about DS1 - but you put it much more lucidly than I could have!

beccaboo · 04/03/2005 17:02

I second that, brilliant post CT. The reason I ask the question is that we're in a bit of a weird situation at the moment, and it really is bending my brain a bit.

The paed has told us that ds is on the spectrum. However we've been given the choice as to whether we have an official dx or not. She has written a report outlining his problems - social communication, language, concentration etc - and this has gone to SALT, his nursery, and Early Years. We are seeing the specialist SALT at our next meeting.

He is on School Action Plus at nursery, he has an IEP and someone from Early Years goes in once a week (he goes to nursery four mornings a week) to support him. We are getting SALT from NHS, and are planning to supplement with private SALT.

What more help would we get with a dx? Is he missing out on something crucial? They have said we can change our minds at a later date and they will put dx in writing if we ask. I really don't know what is the best thing to do.

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