So Autism Has Risen Another 30% in two years to 1 in 68. Who Cares?

dr bob sears 2014 pic

By Dr Bob Sears

The reason we don’t have to care is because autism has ALWAYS been this common. There’s no real rise; we’ve just gotten better at diagnosing it. The government and many health experts are very adamant about this “fact” because, if word gets out that autism is truly on the rise, people are going to start wondering “why?” And, God forbid, if people actually realize there’s a real epidemic, instead of simply an outbreak of good diagnosticians, then they are going to get very concerned.

So, what happens when too many concerned people band together to try to effect change? The government listens. Or it doesn’t. What happens when it doesn’t? We are finding that out now. People start theorizing on their own as to why autism has risen so dramatically. And we wouldn’t want that, because people will come up with some really crazy theories as to what is causing autism.

Instead, if we can convince people that autism has always been this common, then they won’t worry so much about what’s causing it. It would probably just be some genetic factor that’s always been around. Maybe there’s something about the environment that we’ve been exposed to for centuries. But people won’t panic and start coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas about something NEW that might be causing a recent rise in autism. And the CDC can take its own sweet time in coming up with the answer. It might take a few decades, but what’s the rush? Since it’s not really increasing, and there’s unlikely to be a NEW cause lurking around, we can put the matter into the hands of our scientific community and let them run with it. Or crawl with it. Science takes a long, long, long, long . . . . . . long, long time to come up with answers to complex problems–especially when politics, money, and big business are involved.

So, let’s pause and review the numbers:

Decades ago, we thought autism affected about 1 in 10,000.

In the 80’s, we estimated 1 in 2,500.

Then the CDC started collecting data in a coordinated manner that allowed us to closely monitor what was happening. The CDC studies groups of 8-year-olds all born in a given year in various cities around the country and determines the rate of autism in those 8 year olds. Here are the data we have so far:

Studied in 2002, the rate of ASD for children born in 1994 was 1 in 150.

In 2006, the rate of ASD for children born in 1998 was 1 in 110.

In 2008, the rate of ASD for children born in 2000 was 1 in 88.

In 2010, the rate of ASD for children born in 2002 was 1 in 68 – this latest report. These are children born TWELVE years ago at this point. And it’s now 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls (1.)

So what is the rate now, for kids born this year? We don’t know. At the rate we are going, what’s it going to be? 1 in 40? 1 in 20?

Growing up, I don’t remember meeting ANYONE with autism. During my years in medical school in the early 90’s I didn’t see a single case. When I started as a pediatrician in the late 90’s, I thought autism was Rainman. I then began to see the kids with autism come in for help. I saw maybe a few each year at first; then, one per month. Then, they started pouring in and I hand to turn some away. I started seeing regressive autism in my own toddler patients whom I’d been seeing since birth. Now it’s 2014 and it’s still climbing. It’s becoming so common that I am thrilled when a whole week goes by without having the “I’m worried your toddler may be showing signs of autism” talk with a patient.

So, who’s right and who’s wrong? Is autism increasing or not? I don’t think anyone’s arguing that it’s actually 1 in 68 kids now. But if this is a real rise, at the rates we are seeing, and this latest number is for kids born TWELVE years ago, we are in deep trouble! We are falling apart and I have no doubt that it IS a real rise.

We can’t abandon science. The scientific method is important. What we NEED is for EVERYONE in the medical science community to ban together to figure this out. We need to start calling it for what it is: the most devastating medical emergency of our century. If we don’t find an answer soon, the day will come when we start screening all kids to identify the developmentally typical ones so that we can know who not to start early intervention therapy on. We must focus our research on environmental factors which cause the genetic and metabolic changes we see in autism. And we must make it stop. (2,3.)

Meanwhile, we’ve gotten pretty darn good at treatment and offering some preventive measures. That’s where organizations like TACA and MAPS (4) really shine. But finding THE CAUSE, and bringing an end to autism – that’s what we really need.

Dr. Bob Sears

Pediatrician, TACA Physician Advisor, and author of The Autism Book






4) and


Dr. Bob Sears blogs on TACA now:

36 thoughts on “So Autism Has Risen Another 30% in two years to 1 in 68. Who Cares?

Add yours

  1. Thank you very much for the thoughtful essay, Dr. Sears!

    One thing that I suggest that everyone do is give up outdated notions of “nature versus nurture.” Genes ARE affected by the environment. Epigenetics is key. A problem can be genetically based and not have been around forever.

    I encourage you to look at this study that was published in Nature in September, 2013 – It notes that topoisomerase interrupters profoundly affect genes that have been linked to autism. It should also be noted that fluoroquinolone antibiotics (Cipro, Levaquin and Avelox) are topoisomerase II and IV interrupters. Autism rates have gone up lock and step with fluoroquinolone use by parents.

    Eventually we will get to a point where people just won’t have kids because it is too risky. I am not going to have children because I suffered from fluoroquinolone toxicity after taking Cipro to treat a urinary tract infection. I am sure that my mitochondrial DNA was damaged. I will not pass that damaged mtDNA on to a child. If everyone starts thinking along the same lines as me, we will have an issue of a declining population shortly. (Of course, I’m not saying that autistic children are not a blessing, I’m just saying that it’s a risk that I am choosing not to take.)

    Epigenetics are nuanced and non-linear. Perhaps some good scientists can design a study that takes epigenetics into account.


  2. I feel and see that Autism is not only ignored by the Medical community, it is looked upon as a genetic defect, you can say genetics about anything! We need a study that will not be shot down, covered up and discredited to get to the truth. The information we have been told is incorrect ( to us), we saw it happen, We are Vaccine Injury, and the day I questioned the 4 large syringes being given ( my older son did not have these many) I knew, deep within something was not right, that Day, I hate, I regret not stopping it ! Within 15 minutes I knew I was right 103 fever, Vommiting , Slime, choking,very sick for 3 weeks, after they looked right through us, if you ever experienced that void in your childs eyes, you know, Why! You will never tell us, the experience we went through was not from Vaccines!!! Never! Vaccines are for profit, not Health ! Now our children are in therapies and doing well, as we forge on for Voice and understanding and they have not been sick( occasional sniffles)! As the vaccinated children, that’s what we see.

    1. My son had the exact response! 😦 It was 1995 and he had been a very playful, social, verbal toddler (14 months old) , he had 6 shots that day, I too, held him down…. he had been sick and “they” felt it was a good idea for his make-up shots too. HE Burned with fever for 3 days after, screamed/cried, then.. silence… no more talking. Doc’s advice was to alternate motrin/tylenol. Yep. Shortly later, he had an atypical febrile seizure and the storm began….. HUGGING YOU> I BELIEVE YOU! I SAW THE SAME THING HAPPEN TO MY SON> HE TOO IS VACCINE INJURED!

      1. What you describe about 6 shots in one day is exactly what happened to my grandson at the local health department. He was as you described before hand and afterwards he became non-verbal, staring, not interactive at all anymore. We took him to see the doctor shortly after this happened, within the same week that it happened, and he said my grandson was vaccine injured and told us to never go to the health department again, which we didn’t, but it was too late for my grandson. He’s now going to be 14 this year and still exhibits ASD but it has lessened with proper care, without drugs mind you, and his extreme intelligence is showing once again. His ability in mathematics is amazing. He wants to design cars he says. I am happy for him but the fact that he was vaccine injured in the first place is unacceptable!

  3. Oh, bloody hell. You know what’s an epidemic? MEASLES. Because of people like you scaring everyone into thinking autism is the most horrible thing ever. There’s no, let’s try to understand about autism from autistic people. No, let’s not fear it but figure out practical things to help children and adults. No, it’s just more FEAR! Stop it! You are not helping.

    1. Less than 200 cases of measles in the US a year and 180 will be diagnosed with autism today. Your comparison is lost on me.

    2. I live in South Orange County. They’re 21 confirmed cases of measles(and we have no confirmation yet as to how many of those cases had been previously vaccinated). Those individuals will have them for a couple of weeks and develop immunity. That’s not an epidemic. My child’s preschool is made up of approximately 15 classes with 15-20 students per class and 97%of those students have Autism. THAT, is an epidemic! And we should all be very afraid if we just sit back and do nothing.

    3. Acantholycosa – Comparing measles to autism is quite a stretch, no? Measles may be a problem in some countries, but in the US measles impacts roughly a couple hundred individuals a year. Some (not all) cases require hospitalization. None have died here in many years. Perhaps you live in a different country where measles rates are higher.

      Compare that with autism, which (according to the most recent data) impacts 1 in 68 children. Let’s think about that for a second. You are comparing the ‘damage’ of measles, which is highly treatable and temporary condition that may not even require hospitalization, with autism, which for many (not all) requires therapy and lifelong care. There are of course some that are diagnosed with autism that can lead normal lives, but for many the future will require care and little independence.

      Is autism the worst thing ever? Of course not, and I don’t believe the article (or this organization) made that assessment.

      For some, autism is considered a gift. If you are one of those people, please, keep your gift and the entire autism community is certainly happy for your ability to tell is about your gift. I assure you that for many, perhaps most, autism is far from a gift. Being unable to speak, when you want to, is not a gift. Being unable to communicate or understand those that communicate with you is not a gift. Let us not pretend that one person’s autism is the same as that of someone else.

      I think I speak for every parent of an autistic child by saying yes, I’d love to learn more about autism from autistic people. Unfortunately, my child cannot speak, so I cannot learn from her. If you are able to teach us about autism, please do so.

      With 1 in 68 kids being diagnosed, autism is a big tent these days, and there is plenty of room underneath it. It’s quite a varied tent, and we’d love to hear from those that have the ability to tell us what many of our own children are unable to say.

      I’d encourage you to be part of the solution, and not divisive.

      1. back in the 80’s growing up in another country, all of my four siblings and I got the measles and we all live (we are in our thirties now). No hospitalization was required, I don’t even remember seeing a doctor. I think I was six. I just have a small scar on my face but can’t even notice it. Why are people so stubborn as to what the real health problem is now, especially in this country.

    4. Kind of silly to worry about those who don’t vax because of autism. I mean, if you vax your child against measles, then they shouldn’t get them. So why worry about those who don’t vax.

    5. acantholycosa – taking a look at your profile….. What exactly do you mean by “I am perhaps on the autism spectrum.” You act like this is some sort of club? Are you picturing Big Bang Theory?? PERHAPS you need to actually step outside yourself and meet some ASD kids with severe GI issues. I’d take the measles myself. I have some families I know that need help…. put down the minecraft and shelf the ego – Get out and meet real people who need real help.

    6. For those with autism that are able to teach us about having autism, I am truly, truly happy. Being able to function in society, go to college, find true love, have a family, and be happy is a blessing. But for those children who can’t do those things – and for their families that can only dream of even hearing their children speak – it is for those children that so many of us fight every day.

      I want to see practical things that help the children and adults. Because Lord knows we need a lot of them. But why is it so wrong to say we also want to know WHY it is happening and HOW to stop it? Who is going to pay for all of the services the most affected children will need as adults? Medicaid and Medicare? Which means all of us. And when there’s not enough of that to take care of the millions of children that will be reaching adulthood in the next decade where will we as a society be?

    7. I appreciate those other thoughtful responses. I am so weary of people trying to lift autism up as some sort of blessing. yes, if you have it and are still functional on some level, can communicate, can type that you like it, great!–and that is NOT the autism that many of us live with. Frequently autism means being nonverbal or at least entirely unable to string words into sensible sentences. It means screaming and tantrums–from 22-year-olds, 32-year-olds, and up….NOT from toddlers. It means unprovoked violence, parents at their wits’ end as they band together to provide constant care for an adult who can’t wander on his/ her own, but is entirely unsafe around others and quite often injures the parents too. It means incontinence or purposeful manipulative “accidents.”

      Is this something you all want in your families?? Yes, I invite you to ask my sister all about autism. See how far you get. Last couple of times she had a keyboard/ computer presented to her to try to type, she became very agitated.

      She doesn’t enjoy her autism either. That’s what she’d tell you if she could.

  4. @ acantholycosa – I’m sorry, but you are misinformed. There isn’t a measles epidemic. Yes, there have been some outbreaks, but there were less than 200 cases last year and about 50 the year before. Further, Dr. Sears does not tell parents not to vaccinate against measles. He presents a balanced view so they can make an informed decision.

  5. If you want to talk about measles you realize that the Orange County “epidemic” is 21 people and 17 of them were vaccinated. Is autism the most horrible thing ever??? I think it depends on the person you talk to. For some families yeah it is. They are dealing with self injurious behaviors, chronic health problems, children who can’t speak and tell their parents if they’re being hurt and abused at school. Fear is real. Fear of wandering away and being injured or worse yet death. Fear of who will care for my child when I’m no longer here. Fear of services being taken away or your child being taken away. 1 in 68 is ridiculous!!! My son born in 2002 rate of autism 1 in 250. He was diagnosed in 2006, rate was 1 in 110. In 2014 the rate is now 1 in 68 and he was not counted cause CA was not one of the 11 states counted. Eleven! There are practical things we all can do. Help other families, donate time or money to groups like TACA that give help to families. It’s time for our government to realize our kids will get older and need more services unless something is done to help the thousands of families waiting for help. Our kids are not going away and neither are their parents.

    1. I’d rather have 2 weeks of measles vs the years my kid has suffered with asthma, allergies, severe acid reflux, cyclical vomiting syndrome, seizures, migraines, low muscle tone, celebral folate deficiency and mitochrondrial dysfunctions.

  6. I’ve had multiple MMR’s & per my doctor I should be immune. My titers test tell a different story. I cannot hold a measles titer. I think there is something to Simran’s comment

    1. Same here Lisa. I had measles three times as a child and still did not have the titers as an adult. They gave me an MMR just prior to my son being conceived and I sincerely believe it contributed to his autism. One of the things they forgot to mention before they gave me the MMR is that it is linked to neurological defects if a child is conceived shortly after it is administered.

  7. 23 deaths from lighting strike in US in 2013
    44 deaths of kids with Autism from wandering since 2011
    0 deaths from measles in the US since 2003

    Anyone ever hear of the great lighting epidemic of 2013? Makes as much sense as the big fear of measles….

    The shame of Autism is that someone that can write an opinion comment to a blog bears the same diagnosis as a kid that smears poop on the wall, can’t speak, has constant diarrhea and darts into traffic. Hoping that will change one day so you can keep your gift and kids that are really affected can get the help they need to prosper.

  8. I agree that the occurrence of Autism is on the rise. However, as a therapist and diagnostician, I am concerned that it is being over diagnosed. It seems that every child who has any kind of quirkiness or sensory issue or social struggles or whatever, is diagnosed as autistic. I have been practicing for 22 years and it seems that there is always a diagnosis of the moment. For awhile it was ADD, then ADHD, SID, then APD, now Autism. I think early intervention and therapy is necessary for those who truly have the diagnosis AND it impacts their ability to participate in life and be successful. There are many, many, many who fall “on the spectrum” (a term I hate) but are able to function productively in society. As professional diagnosticians, we must be very careful and thorough in assessment before giving a diagnosis/label of Autism.

    1. Hi Anon – I am curious are you still practicing? I attend 6-10 conferences a year with most of the participants doctors and clinicians and not once heard this statement? Interesting.

      Most of the families I meet have children who are very sick, more than meet the autism diagnostic criteria and are in need of help. There is no autism light. I would like to know more about your current findings. Thank you.

    2. Even if there was over diagnosis, it would not explain the large amount of little boys who seem to have some type of developmental or behaviour difficulty.As a parent, I have 3 little boys and its quite noticeable just how many of their little friends and classmates have significant behaviour and developmental issues.. One of my boys included. He was fine until about 2.5 when he had his 4th round of vaccinations. His Kindergarten teacher wants him to be diagnosed, as they have difficulty with him, they are hinting at an autism type disorder. He avoids eye contact, and will not follow what is going on in the class. He much improves when we remove the wheat and dairy, sugar, and corn from his diet. I also noted following his first set at 3 months he had the usual expectable fever but he twitched an enormous amount all evening/night. Seemed fine the next day.
      I also have worked as an RN on an inpatient child psychiatric unit and have seen the increases. My sister who works as a teacher in elementary schools has also seen the increase.

  9. Stop for a moment, everyone, & think back to when you went to school. Think about the kids in your classroom. Think about the ones in your school. How many were developmentally delayed (not the ones we know were actually mentally challenged or had Down Syndrome)? How many had major speech delay and behavioral issues? How many “flapped” (stimmed)? Now look around you: How many kids do you see like that? I see a whole lot. My friend who is an EA in the school system sees a lot. These aren’t merely ‘quirky kids’ but kids who can’t converse, or have comprehension issues and are “happy flappy”. So with all due respect, this article is a pile of doggy do & is false. There IS more Autism today. Never before have there been so many happy flappers out there, and it is way too obvious. Again, not the quirky kids, but ones severely delayed. Sorry, but I’m not buying this!

    1. I agree with you. It’s all the stuff in the food and vaccines that many of us so willingly give to out kids. Sad to hear this coming from a physician. I personally don’t remember kids with so many developmental or behavioral issues. As you’ve mentioned, it’s not that it wasn’t diagnosed, there just weren’t any to diagnose.

    2. @Lara and @Kat – I think you’ve missed the tone of Dr. Sears’ article. I believe he’s trying to call attention to the rise in autism. In the concluding paragraphs he calls it a “devastating medical emergency of our century.”

  10. Autism…..who cares? It would probably just be some genetic factor that’s always been around. Maybe there’s something about the environment…….(it couldn’t be GENTIC-ALLY MODIFIED FOODS……NO not GMO’s ……..who cares anyway)

  11. For those of you, looking for one cause you are not going to find one. But if you see enough children on the spectrum like myself, Dr. Sears and many other practitioners do then you start to realize very quickly that there is a recipe of things coming together creating a perfect storm and the damage from that storm is regression at times, seizures, ADHD, ADD, OCD, SPD or any other meriad of diagnosis listed in the DCM. Maybe if you are truly interested you should look up “The Perfect Storm” by Dr. Tony Ebel or go to

  12. I’m all for finding “the cause” as Dr. Sears puts it, but it’s much more likely we’ll find “the causeS.” If we’re searching for just one thing, we might be searching forever. It’s more complicated than that, and I suspect there are a whole host of risk factors in modern society that are contributing to this epidemic. Sometimes it seems people get too defensive about individual potential causes – but it can’t be XYZ.. oh, it can’t be ABC. Well, yes it can, just not for every child. Just my 2c.

  13. My heart goes out to all with family with any level of symptom, but especially those with severe incapacitations. My nephew was diagnosed with Asbergers and a speech impediment. He is 16 and although he is high level functioning and intelligent, his social skills are undeveloped and has missed out on a childhood that most normal people enjoy. A childhood that includes many friends and cherished memories. I hope we can find a cause and cure so that the millions of people affected can improve their lives and the lives of their families.

  14. @Lara and Kat read Dr Sears article in entirety before commenting. @Richly Rich there are lot of us that care passionetely perhaps you would as well if your child or grandchild were on the Spectrum and dealing with these beautiful kids. If your opinion is who cares then please do not post or follow.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by

Up ↑