Respectful Insolence

Yesterday, I wrote extensively about a new study by Paul Shattuck that seriously casts doubt upon one of the key claims of those arguing that mercury in childhood vaccines causes autism, namely the existence of an “autism epidemic.” These claims are nearly always based on rapidly rising numbers of children being classified as autistic for special education. The findings of the paper, boiled down to their essence, is that it was diagnostic substitution that was largely responsible for this apparent increase. Before 1993, autism and autism spectrum disorders were not even one of the major diagnostic classifications for special education. Before 1993, these children would be categorized under various other classifications, such as mental retardation or a learning disability. After 1993, more and more of them were more properly categorized as having autism.

Knowing the proclivities of those who support the now untenable hypothesis that mercury causes autism, I asked at the end of my article: “How long do you think it will be before the mercury crowd starts attacking Dr. Shattuck as biased or a pharma shill?”

The answer: “Not long at all.”

Via Kev and Jennifer, I’ve learned of the first shot fired at Dr. Shattuck.

Kev does a good job taking it down point by point, but I’d like to add to a couple of the refutations he made. First, here’s the blatantly obvious (and surprisingly clumsy) pharma shill attack:

Additionally, Pediatrics failed to disclose a potential or actual conflict of interest. Although the article states that Dr. Shattuck has indicated he has no financial relationships relevant to the article, NAA has learned that he was a Merck Scholar Pre-doctoral Trainee from 1999-2003, and in 2003-2004 he successfully applied for $530,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Oooh, Shattuck received money from the evil Merck to support his training! Except that the Merck we’re talking about seems to be not the evil drug company but rather a nonprofit organization, the John Merck Fund, which supports research into a variety of areas, particularly developmental disabilities. (I couldn’t find a Merck Scholarship funded by the actual pharmaceutical company other than this joint scholarship program run by the United Negro College Fund and Merck designed to increase the presence of African Americans in biology and chemistry. Pretty evil either way.) Also, the research that Shattuck did for Pediatrics paper was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development, not the CDC. Clearly the NAA wants to give the impression that Shattuck’s work was funded by drug companies and the entity that it and other advocacy groups claiming a link between mercury and autism seem to hate even more than drug companies, the CDC. In any case, even if Paul Shattuck’s work had been funded by those entities, that would not make it invalid. To cast doubt on it scientifically, you need to be able to point out why the study was poorly designed or carried out or why the conclusions do not flow from the data, which the press release does not do. All it says is this:

A study published today in Pediatrics, “The Contribution of Diagnostic Substitution to the Growing Administrative Prevalence of Autism in US Special Education,” suggests that autism diagnoses haven’t actually risen over the past two decades, despite growing and credible scientific evidence to the contrary. In addition to the study’s weak methods and erroneous conclusions, questions have now arisen over possible failure to disclose conflicts of interest and recent findings that data from previous autism projects with which current study author Paul Shattuck has been associated were fabricated.

Note that it doesn’t point out or reference the specific “growing and credible scientific evidence” with findings contrary to Shattucks’ work, nor does it point out any specifics of the “weak methods” claimed.

And, of course, the NAA is perfectly willing to over look financial conflicts of interest in people supporting their point of view, as Kev pointed out. Basically they’re saying they don’t like the study’s conclusions but can’t give good reasons.

But what about the charge of scientific misconduct in the past? That, too, sounds fishy to me, given how sketchy the account is:

Although he was not personally implicated, Dr. Shattuck’s former research partner, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin’s Waisman Center, was recently disciplined by the Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity for scientific misconduct due to fabrication of data. Dr. Shattuck and others published several articles and delivered scientific presentations using data from the project in question.

Translation: Although Shattuck was not implicated in any misconduct and we have no evidence that any of the allegedly falsified data was used as the basis for this study that we don’t like, we’re going to smear him anyway by association. We’ll use the ad hominem attack of insinuating that he was somehow involved in research misconduct, rather than actually addressing the methodology used in the research that he did.

I realize that press releases need to be brief, but surely the NAA could have pointed out what data from what study was allegedly falsified and who this “research partner” of Shattuck’s was. My guess is that this incidence of scientific misconduct, whatever it was, had nothing to do with the current study. All you have to do is to look at the description of the raw data used in Shattuck’s paper to see why the NAA’s insinuation is utterly ludicrious:

For the present analyses, annual state-by-state counts of children ages 6 to 11 with disabilities in special education came from the 1984-2003 annual Special Education Child Counts published by the US Department of Education. Corresponding US Census data were used in the denominator for prevalence estimates (note that Oregon included 5-year-olds in its age 6-11 child counts, and the denominators have been adjusted accordingly). Census data for the 1980s were linearly weighted estimates of the 1980 and 1990 decennial census counts. Data for 1991-1999 came from publishedannual population estimates. Denominator counts for1990 and 2000-2003 came from the 1990 and 2000 decennial census, respectively.

In other words, Dr. Shattuck used publicly available data published by the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Census Bureau, which means that the raw data is there for any researcher to look at.

Even though I doubt that there is anything to this charge of Shattuck somehow being associated with scientific misconduct, particularly scientific misconduct related to the Pediatrics study attacked by the NAA, I’d like to know more, just to be certain that my impression from the rhetoric on of the press release is correct. I tried to find out online, but so far have utterly failed to gather more information. Of course, if the press release had simply named this “research partner” who was disciplined, (which should be public information if there truly were a disciplinary action by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Research Integrity), I could have found out right away what the situation was. I’m guessing the NAA doesn’t want to make it easy to find out what its spokesperson is talking about, probably because it has nothing to do with the current study. The NAA could very easily prove me wrong and shut me up on this by simply citing the sources behind their charges, so that I could investigate for myself the true circumstances of this incident.

Besides, the NAA and other such advocacy groups certainly aren’t disturbed by real and substantive allegations of scientific misconduct directed at their favorite “researchers,” Mark and David Geier. They apparently have one standard for researchers whose results don’t support mercury-autism scaremongering and another for researchers whose “results” do.

ADDENDUM: The misconduct to which the NAA is referring appears to be the case of April Swe:

April Swe, University of Wisconsin-Madison: Based on the report of an investigation conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UWM) and additional analysis conducted by the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) in its oversight review, PHS found that Ms. Swe, former graduate student at UWM, engaged in research misconduct by fabricating data on thirty-nine (39) questionnaires of sibling human subjects associated with an autism study. The research was supported by National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant R01 AG08768.

And here is the only joint publication I could find in Medline:

Seltzer MM, Krauss MW, Shattuck PT, Orsmond G, Swe A, Lord C. (2003). The symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in adolescence and adulthood. J Autism Dev Disord..Dec;33(6):565-81
.

It looks as though I was correct. The data falsified had nothing to do with Dr. Shattuck’s current study, and he was not involved. The only paper coming from April Swe and Paul Shattuck didn’t even list either of them as first authors.

The NAA press release is an intentionally misleading hatchet-job, pure and simple.

Comments

  1. #1 Bartholomew Cubbins
    April 5, 2006

    Bravo for outing the outrageous smear tactics. Do these people really look themselves in the mirror and convince themselves that what they do is worthwhile?

    Raise your hand if you’re surprised.
    Bueller…

    Raise your hand if you’re sick of pathetic press release tactics that attempt to trump science and honest, open discussion.
    hmmm, where’s my slide rule?

  2. #2 anonimouse
    April 5, 2006

    Groups like NAA and SafeMinds are little more than political action committees masquerading as non-profit organizations. Their goal is to convince the world that mercury causes autism so that many of their members can win big money in thimerosal-related lawsuits.

    Therefore, it is entirely plausible that they would vehemently oppose any study that suggests autism is not caused by vaccines. And considering the personal financial stake many of them have in the cause, it is also entirely plausible that they would resort to any tactic necessary to discredit research to the contrary.

  3. #3 Paul Shattuck, the Pediatrics author
    April 5, 2006

    Hi,

    I don’t know who you are, but I appreciate your comments very much. I am the author of the article in Pediatrics about the changing prevalence of autism in U.S. special education. Indeed, my Merck scholarship was via the John H. Merck fund…a foundation started over thirty years ago by the mom of a child with disabilities. In 2005 they funded millions for research and service into disabilities, environmental protection, and human rights causes. In the small world of developmental disabilities research, it is seen as a mark of distinction to be selected for one of their awards…hence the listing on my vita. I have never accepted any money from any pharmaceutical company.

    As for the $540,000 from the CDC…it’s not entirely clear what they are talking about. I certainly don’t have a grant that big from anyone. They are probably talking about the autism surveillance grant that our center received from the CDC…a proposal which I helped prepare but am not listed as a co-investigator and am not funded from. Our University is one of several sites around the country funded to do prospective monitoring of the prevalence of autism and other disorders…am not sure why that is so horrible in the eyes of some advocates.

    I do have a small grant for about $12,000 from the CDC to investigate racial and socioeconomic disparities in the timing of autism diagnosis and service utilization. Prior research has indicated that the timing of identification and the level of service receipt can vary as a function of race and class. This is not a good thing in my opinion. So, I’m trying to find ways to do something constructive about it. I cannot imagine why some people would think that’s such an awful thing.

    Unfortunately, the media and some advocacy groups have distorted what my article was all about. I was quite explicit in the article that A) my work does not prove or disprove the existence of an epidemic and I think that is still an open issue, and B) my study is not to be taken as supporting or refuting a putative link between autism and vaccines. My number one goal was to raise awareness about the limitations of the special ed. data. I consider myself a strong advocate for autism and believe the credibility of the movement is threatened when I see people displaying the special ed. data in flagrantly ridiculous ways. For instance, one advocacy magazine last summer compared the counts of children with autism in 1992 to 2002 and then calculated the percent change. Illinois was listed as having 5 children with autism in 1992, and then 5,080 in 2002. The conclusion was that the true prevalence of autism in Illinois had increased by 101,500%. Who could seriously argue that Illinois only had 5 children with autism in 1992? And if we believe the true prevalence is around 6/1,000 then the 2002 child count is clearly an underestimate as well….and if your data are not accurately measuring the prevalence of a disease then how can you use that data to suggest there’s an epidemic? And that’s not even getting into how variable the identification practices are among states and districts.

    As you pointed out, the data I analyzed are from a public-use data set that is freely available to anyone over the Internet via the US Dept. of Education. So, there is no way I could have fabricated the data as if this had been a survey or lab experiment. The data are public record and anyone who takes the time will be able to easily replicate my findings.

    Sooner or later politicians and the media are going to get hip to the weakness of the school data. And I believe that if the advocacy community leans too heavily on the school figures to make their case, then they are going to fall real hard when that stick gets kicked out from beneath them. And I realize this makes me unpopular in some circles. But I am truly passionate about helping these kids and their families and believe in the power of sticking with the facts without exaggeration. I believe we can make a compelling case for continued increases in funding for research and services without leaning on the un-credible special ed. count figures.

    With respect to vaccines, I would describe myself as nonpartisan and open minded on the issue. The link has not been demonstrated in a way that I personally find compelling. But I do believe there is enough tantalizing evidence to keep examining the issue. Most notable to me was the mouse model study at Columbia showing the differential response to mercury exposure as a function of genetic manipulation. And of course the CDC has completely bungled how they’ve handled the situation and I totally understand why people are mistrustful at this point. But I don’t know what is more troubling – the CDC’s bungling of the issue, or the fact that a lot of advocacy group’s have a vicious “you’re either with us or against us” stance on the issue. My sense from going to scientific meetings and conferences is that there are a lot of scientists like myself who are in the middle somewhere and who feel adrift in the sea of hostility.

    Concerns over autism prevalence have driven research funding to record levels at NIH and CDC over the past decade. If I was truly an unscrupulous researcher looking to boost my grant portfolio in any way possible then I would be better off trying to stoke concerns about an epidemic, rather than do the research I’ve undertaken. I’ve actually had colleagues from other universities nervously joke that if concern about autism fades then their research funding might dry up. So, the “unscrupulous researcher bends findings to boost financial self-interest” angle doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    Finally, yes there was a graduate student who was caught doing bad things at the same University where I was a graduate student. She was disciplined appropriately by the University and the NIH, and the small amount of affected data was quickly quarantined and never made its way into any published work. The attempt to paint me as guilty of data falsification because I was a graduate student at the same time as this person is just incredibly insulting.

    It’s worth noting none of the attacks on me have actually addressed the evidence presented in my paper. It’s been my experience in debating that when one side abandons talking about evidence in favor of personal attacks it’s usually because they have no credible evidence to bring to the table themselves. In science we argue about things all the time and I would not shy away from debate or argument about the validity of my findings that actually focused on the design of the study or methods of analysis. In fact, that’s what the peer review process is all about…subjecting studies to the scrutiny and criticism of peers prior to publication in order to weed out poorly designed or executed studies.

    Best regards,

    Paul Shattuck

  4. #4 Not Mercury
    April 5, 2006

    Hi Paul,
    As a parent of two ASD children I’d like to say thank you for your fine research and for taking the time to respond to these unfounded and inaccurate criticisms.

    “It’s worth noting none of the attacks on me have actually addressed the evidence presented in my paper. It’s been my experience in debating that when one side abandons talking about evidence in favor of personal attacks it’s usually because they have no credible evidence to bring to the table themselves.”

    Truer words were never spoken.

  5. #5 Jonathan Semetko
    April 5, 2006

    Hi Paul,

    thanks for the great article on this issue.

  6. #6 Dad Of Cameron
    April 5, 2006

    Hi Paul,

    Another parent with an ASD child saying “thank you for taking the time,” as well.

  7. #7 BronzeDog
    April 5, 2006

    It’s worth noting none of the attacks on me have actually addressed the evidence presented in my paper. It’s been my experience in debating that when one side abandons talking about evidence in favor of personal attacks it’s usually because they have no credible evidence to bring to the table themselves.

    I certainly know a lot about that, Paul. I’ve given up pointing out ad homenims: I point out the specific types of ad homenims.

  8. #8 Hank Barnes
    April 5, 2006

    Dr. Shattuck,

    Excellent, sober and fair-minded observations. I salute you, Sir.

    Simple question:

    Did the defintion of autism change 1 or more times between, say, 1992 to 2002?

    There are numerous examples where advocates persuade the CDC to change the definition of certain diseases, which results either in an increase or decrease of reported cases, depending on what the advocates want.

    I’m not suggesting that happened with autism, because I don’t know and don’t have a particular point of view on the matter. I’m simply curious as to the source of this controversy.

    Hank Barnes

  9. #9 anonimouse
    April 5, 2006

    Paul,

    As with most attacks by advocacy groups like NAA, SafeMinds and Generation Rescue, the truth is generally far less interesting and provocative than their initial claims.

    I appreciate you taking the time to address the issue. While I may quibble about the characterization of the Horning mouse study and other similar research as “tantalizing”, I think your centrist, reasoned approach on the vaccine-autism matter is refreshing and appropriate.

  10. #10 Ms. Clark
    April 5, 2006

    “With respect to vaccines, I would describe myself as nonpartisan and open minded on the issue. The link has not been demonstrated in a way that I personally find compelling. But I do believe there is enough tantalizing evidence to keep examining the issue. Most notable to me was the mouse model study at Columbia showing the differential response to mercury exposure as a function of genetic manipulation.”

    Dr. Shattuck,

    Please read the Hornig study you mention (out of Columbia) or read it again… it is so incredibly un-credible. Mady Hornig is a mercury mom of an autistic gifted child that she hides in the “closet.” The third name on her paper out of Columbia is her significant other.

    Her work is in autism is worthless, please read her paper again and also read what these criticisms of her work.

    http://autismdiva.blogspot.com/2005/07/rain-mouse.html
    http://autismdiva.blogspot.com/2006/02/fools-gold-redux.html
    http://autismdiva.blogspot.com/2006/03/nightmare-at-columbia-u-return-of-rain.html

    Thank you for commenting on the character assasination attempts coming from the extremely unethical mercury parent groups like NAA.

  11. #11 David Edwards
    April 6, 2006

    Well, well, well. No surprises there.

    What really hacks me off, however, is that reputable scientists are having to waste time fending off politically and financially motivated slurs by self-proclaimed ‘advocates’ engaged in ambulance chasing, when that time could be (and should be) better devoted to their own continued research programmes. As someone with a compelling interest in this field, I am growing heartily tired of the vultures hovering around looking for carrion that isn’t there. I’m sure Orac and Paul Shattuck share this sentiment. Unfortunately, until they are well and truly hosted by their own petards in a Panda’s Thumb style legal case (again diverting money that is better spent on labs and experiments than lawyers), it looks as if this tiresome exercise in deflecting the marshmallows will have to continue.

  12. #12 mike stanton
    April 6, 2006

    Thank you, Orac, for rebutting NAA’s attempt to smear Paul Shattuck, and thank you, Paul, for your own measured response. Many of us parents of autistic children value the non partisan work of scientists and researchers like yourself. Please, keep up the good work.

  13. #13 Hawise
    April 6, 2006

    Thank you both for keeping rational as the world goes buggy about you. We need more people who will look at the raw data and find the slow and steady solutions, we have far too many quick-fix shamans out there peddling their snake oil. As a mother of an ASD child in Canada, the whole thimerasol argument rang hollow from the start. I will not doubt that there are some environmental factors, possibly even social factors that impinge on ASDs but the hard fact is that we still don’t know and killing the messengers is a damn stupid way of finding out.
    Don’t let the nutbars and greed monkeys get you down,

    Cynthia Dudley

  14. #14 TheProbe
    April 6, 2006

    Hank:

    I’m not suggesting that happened with autism, because I don’t know and don’t have a particular point of view on the matter. I’m simply curious as to the source of this controversy.

    —-

    The controversy stems from several sources, most notably the anti-vaccination movement. These people needed to find a bogeyman, and, when looking for one, they tried to find the scariest one, preferably a life-long condition.

    They could not choose cerebral palsy, as that condition arises peri-natal, nor could they use Down Syndrome, as that is clearly genetic. The next one up was Autism.

    What makes this “work” is the simple fact that many parents feel guilty, want to blame something, etc. when they discover that their child is not “perfect” (whatever that means). Thus, Autism fits, since it is lifelong, had no clear cause, and, changes the life of families forever.

    The Thimerosal< ->autism mob NEEDS to maintain the link. Adding an “epidemic” to their claims just makes it so just so much scarier.

    I fully expect that that other MercuryMobsters (I’ll take a credit for that term, as it came to me in the shower this AM) will load their respective guns and keep firing at him. He has stolen one of their pet theories supporting their evil deeds.

    I have previously suggested to some people that they find the attorneys who are defending the Thimerosal suits and provide them with any information that they have to better prepared for the Omnibus Claim. What the blogosphere did with analyzing the Geiers trash is just what these attorneys need.

    BTW, if I had read Dr. Shattuck’s paper pre-publication, I would have sent him my old bullet-proof vest. I hope he gets one, as it is just starting.

  15. #15 HCN
    April 6, 2006

    It has been my observation (non-scientific, just anecdotal), that the general atmosphere has changed since my 17 year old son was first brought into the special ed. system.

    Fifteen years ago it seemed many did not the issue of a 2 to 3 year old not talking seriously. We got all sorts of “helpful” advice to just “wait and see”, “doctors don’t know everything”, and “why would we want the stigma of seeing a speech language pathologist?”. Oh, and another friend cut out Thomas Sowell’s first editorial on “late-talking children” about how it was not a big deal and speech therapists were worthless (even though his own son was taken to one).

    Fortunately we have a very good family doctor who referred us to a speech/hearing clinic and to a good child neurologist… and through the speech therapist we learned of the very good special ed. program that was a direct off-shoot of the hard of hearing program (started when they would get preschoolers who could not talk, but could hear).

    I sometimes noticed a child at a playground or my younger kids’ preschool who seemed to have a speech delay. I mentioned it to one mom, and she told me her doctor said to “wait and see” (later I saw her bringing the child to see the same speech therapist as my son). I also gave information on free and low cost services to one family, only to have them ignore it until their child finally got services when he entered kindergarten.

    Then there was the time when we got our first internet connection. I asked about “dyspraxia” in the Compuserve Disability forums and got all sorts of replies on “dyslexia”. Sigh (okay, maybe the responders were really dyslexic!).

    Now there is all sorts of information… though not all of it very good.

    NOW… I have friends who have kids who are sent for evaluations for even the slightest delay. One of these “autistic” kids was known to phone us to talk to my daughter about playing their Game-Boy games (the boy was just like his father, a scientist).

    Times have changed… and it is just not the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

  16. #16 Mark Paris
    April 6, 2006

    Maybe this is not the right place to ask, but I wonder about why some are so intent on linking mercury/vaccinations with autism. Some of the comments here imply that some people oppose vaccination (for some unidentified reason) and simply look for a justification to attack the process. My impression before that was that parents of autistic children were seeking answers for a problem that apparently does not now have an answer, or at least not a satisfying answer, and they found a group that could give them an answer. The mercury/autism people loos to me a lot like the creationist/ID people. I have thought that one way to fight these groups is not to try to convince them that they are wrong but to understand why they believe (or want to believe) something that is pretty clearly unsupportable by any credible evidence.

  17. #17 anonimouse
    April 6, 2006

    Mark – I think you answer your own question.

    parents of autistic children were seeking answers for a problem that apparently does not now have an answer, or at least not a satisfying answer, and they found a group that could give them an answer

    Being able to pinpoint vaccines as the cause of your child’s condition (whatever it may be) IS an answer. It’s the wrong answer, but there are many people out there who simply cannot accept the notion that sometimes things just are what they are.

  18. #18 Joseph
    April 6, 2006

    suggests that autism diagnoses haven’t actually risen over the past two decades, despite growing and credible scientific evidence to the contrary.

    Yeah, that’s the funniest part. I have yet to see a single argument about actual prevalence increase that does not rely solely on apparent prevalence numbers. A single one. I don’t know what in the world this credible scientific evidence might consist of.

  19. #19 Karl
    April 6, 2006

    Why is the time period for the “epidemic of autism” dated from 1992 to present? Why not from 1942? When I was in elementary school (in the 40’s), nobody was autistic. (sarcasm)
    When did thimerosol first begin to be used in vaccines – was that in 1992, or thereabouts?
    What was the growth rate of “autistic” diagnoses from 1942 to 1992?

  20. #20 Joseph
    April 6, 2006

    Hi Dr. Shattuck,

    Unfortunately, the media and some advocacy groups have distorted what my article was all about. I was quite explicit in the article that A) my work does not prove or disprove the existence of an epidemic and I think that is still an open issue,

    I respectfully disagree it’s still an open issue.

    Who could seriously argue that Illinois only had 5 children with autism in 1992?

    I know a guy who does seriously argue that.

    And if we believe the true prevalence is around 6/1,000 then the 2002 child count is clearly an underestimate as well….and if your data are not accurately measuring the prevalence of a disease then how can you use that data to suggest there’s an epidemic? And that’s not even getting into how variable the identification practices are among states and districts.

    Increasing identification outside of the MR population can be clearly seen in dropping client characteristics, and regional differences. I’d like to see a mainstream study on population inequivalence from year to year. Any idea if someone’s working on that?

  21. #21 Jonathan Semetko
    April 6, 2006

    Hi Karl,

    1931 was the first year thimerosal was given intravenously (although this was not part of a vaccine) Thimerosal was added to vaccines some time the 1930 however.

    The first autism epi study was Lotter (1966). That is as far back as the epi goes.

    Well controlled incidence studies which are what we would need to know actual growth are few in number and all very recent.

  22. #22 David H
    April 6, 2006

    Jonathan,

    I’d like to see a study that evaluated many different people across various age ranges (i.e. 3-5, 10-12, 15-17, 25-27, 35-37, 45-47, 55-57, 65-67, 75-77, 85-87) for autism based on a consistent DSM IV criteria.

  23. #23 Joseph
    April 6, 2006

    I’d like to see a study that evaluated many different people across various age ranges (i.e. 3-5, 10-12, 15-17, 25-27, 35-37, 45-47, 55-57, 65-67, 75-77, 85-87) for autism based on a consistent DSM IV criteria.

    You’re not proposing this might tell you how prevalence changes as time goes by, are you?

  24. #24 David H
    April 6, 2006

    “You’re not proposing this might tell you how prevalence changes as time goes by, are you?”

    I’m suggesting that it would allow us to figure out if autism has had a stable prevalence of 60 per 10K, like we think exists today, over the past 80 years or so. If autism is strictly a genetic disorder and is simply better diagnosed today then you would expect to find a stable prevalence of 60 per 10K across every age group. If we found this then we will have found the “hidden horde.” But if there is a much lower prevalence of autism among young adults, adults & the elderly it would tell us that autism has really been increasing.

    I’m not an epidemiologist and there may be problems with the study I’m proposing… I’m just thinking out loud.

  25. #25 Joseph
    April 6, 2006

    David:

    I wouldn’t expect the DSM-IV prevalence to be the same across all age groups. The genetic prevalence, yes. I’m guessing some children who are just inside the diagnostic threshold can probably move outside of it with time, especially the younger ones. The prevalence you cite includes Asperger’s syndrome, BTW. There might be some factors that are problematic in such a study, like the fact that younger people might already have a diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s. It’s unclear if this would affect the evaluation.

    When the CDDS autistic population stabilizes (many years away still) we might get an idea of age distribution at least for California. This still won’t be right for a while, though, because a lack of diagnosis will likely be more common in the older population.

    I think a better way to check is to see if the average age speech is acquired at has increased, by looking at pediatrician’s records. Perhaps an anecdotal way to check is to see if ‘geeks’ are more common today than a generation ago.

  26. #26 Jonathan Semetko
    April 6, 2006

    David H.,

    So, would I.

    I have a few pie-in-the-sky epi studies I would
    like to do one day.

  27. #27 Angladrion
    April 28, 2006

    Joseph, as I read you, you say you would assume that using a consistent DSM-IV criteria, and rediagnosing everyone, regardless of the present classification alloted, that the same genetic prevalence would be the same but the incidence would not? Is that what you are saying.

    If it is, why would you expect the genetic prevalence to be the same, but the incidence to change?

    A study of when average age speech is acquired can only be a prospective long term future study and wouldn’t answer David H’s retrospective question.

    Can you clarify your ideas further please?

  28. #28 Autismom
    July 2, 2006

    Correct me if I am wrong. I believe that we all have a generic predisposition for autism. Just like everyone has a cancer gene. It lies dormant inside us until something triggers those genes. It’s like not everyone has allergies. When a child is first introduced to the vaccine, it is a foreign substance that is injected into their system. Once the body identifies the foreign substances it tries to attack it. Each time the body is exposed to more vaccinations and the foreign substances, the body goes into over drive. Somewhere along the way, the immune system can’t seem to shut down and starts attacking everything in sight including the neurons because the vaccine is now distributed throughout the bloodstream.

    The neurons are being attacked, causing some damages to the Nodes of Ranvier and incoming informations are being lost or misfired, and are not connecting. Messages are not getting through. That is why autistic kids have a hard time communicating or understanding is because there is no connections.

    I found it really interesting when my autistic son was put on Predisone by his neurologist. It lowered his immunity, but it also gave his body a chance to rebuild the damaged neurons. After a week on the Prednisone, I noticed an increase in alertness, language and comprehension. It was like a light had just turned on. He was much more alert. I didn’t tell anyone about the medication, because I didn’t want any bias report. All the teachers, my friends and neighbors commented on his language spurts and amazed at his eye contact.

    Unfortunately, we can’t keep him on Prednisone for too long because it causes other side effects. But the changes was remarkable. After being taken off the medication, he speech slowed down, but not to a halt. It just takes longer to develop.

    Are there any research in this? I would be very interested to find out if there is. I believe that vaccine may not be an direct cause of autism but a catalysis.

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