By Dr Bob Sears
I was really hoping that my latest blog would be entitled “Finally, Someone Cares About the Autism Epidemic!” But alas, it is not to be. The word “epidemic” is being reserved for the hundred or so cases of measles we see in the U.S. each year (no fatalities), or the very tragic twenty to thirty annual deaths from whooping cough. But autism? Don’t worry, it’s NOT an epidemic, because the government continues to reassure us it’s not an epidemic (Past blogs have been featured here 1.)
Tell that to the one million or more children currently affected (2.)
Remember back when autism was 1 in 10,000 and eventually 1 in 1000? Then 1 in 150 came along, and some of us got worried. Last year we were told it had jumped to 1 in 50. So, I was certain that “the powers that be” would finally step up and declare an emergency. Either that, or show us research that demonstrates autism is on the decline. But silence? SILENCE? What’s up with THAT?
What got my blood boiling again was the latest news (which I didn’t actually see on the NEWS): 1 in 48 Minneapolis children ages 7 to 9 have autism (3.) For Somali children in the city, the number is 1 in 32. We’d heard about the Somali problem a few years ago, and the government figured the Somali issue was due to some sort of genetic factor. The rest of our children in the area, whose parents were voting constituents, were safe. Not so. This latest study shows that Caucasian children in the city have an autism rate of 1 in 36. In other ethnicities, it’s less-commonly identified, thus diluting the total number down to 1 in 48. So, it’s not just some genetic factor unique to certain populations.
As autism continues to rise nationwide, we are no closer to an answer as to why or what. We know it’s partly genetic, but why? We know it’s largely environmental, but what? We all have our theories, and we have some great treatment options to help improve, and in some cases, resolve the disorder. But as long as the government continues to pretend that this isn’t an emergency, and continues to hold back funding for the right kind of research, I’ll have to keep writing on this blog, and continue seeing new patients with autism in my pediatric office every week. I want to go back to treating diaper rashes, colds, and smiling sympathetically as moms complain that their babies aren’t sleeping through the night. You know, the old days, when children were healthy, and virtually all of them developed and thrived socially and behaviorally as toddlers.
I’m tired of getting my weekly “Eye on Influenza” newsletter from the public health department. Where’s my “Eye on Autism” weekly update? If 1 in 48 of my infant patients is going to develop a disorder, I want to know that the government is on top of it. I want to know that someone, anyone, cares.
Dr. Bob Sears
Pediatrician, TACA Physician Advisor, and author of The Autism Book
1) Past Dr Sears previous “Who Cares” Blogs:
2) Autism Statistics http://www.tacanow.org/family-resources/latest-autism-statistics-2/
3) Minneapolis Somali Autism Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Project 2013 http://rtc.umn.edu/autism/doc/Autism_report.pdf