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April 2nd, 2008
11:43 AM ET

Continuing to place the puzzle pieces

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Chief Medical Correspondent
 

Today is the first World Autism Awareness Day as designated by the United Nations.  First off, let me say that at CNN we have been preparing for this day for months, and have covered autism stories for years. Since I have been at CNN, I have been covering autism and I have committed myself to this area of reporting and investigation. If you ask most medical reporters, they will tell you the autism beat is sort of the third rail of journalism. It is so rife with controversy and passionate people on different sides of the issue. If you do stories on this topic, you will get criticized. Period.

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Still, perhaps because I am a neurosurgeon, I have been fascinated with the new brain imaging that allows us to peer deep inside the brain of a child or adult with autism and see the changes that may explain the mysterious symptoms. I will continue covering these stories. Maybe it is because I am a relatively new parent of two gorgeous little girls who jumps for joy every time they pass a milestone and grows a little concerned if they seem to be a little behind compared with their friends. Maybe it is because families from all over the world have sent their stories to me about their own family members with autism.

I have spent a lot of time as a doctor and a journalist with children that have autism. I have walked into those meetings with an open mind devoid of any preconceived notions about what type of person I was likely to meet and what may have caused his or her autism in the first place. As an individual, I find myself less dogmatic and more willing to listen to all sides. I have taken the time to read in detail the 16 best epidemiological studies that exist, as well as the more limited toxicity studies. I have researched studies from as far away as Portugal looking at the incidence of mitochondrial disease and its possible association with autism. I am a better journalist because of it and a better doctor as well.

 Truth of the matter, autism is a spectrum. It is hard to say for sure that someone has "serious" autism or "mild" autism. And, I hate those scales anyway. Truth is, I am not sure my daughter smiled socially at 3 months or she was just happy that I fed her. I am also not sure that her first word came right on schedule. I thought she said "daddy," my wife said it was "cat." We don't even have a cat. Every parent has likely thought about these same things at one point or another.

 As a journalist, especially one with my medical background, I feel responsible to keep the attention focused on this topic. I am delighted that CNN is presenting a worldwide investigation today. Besides the medical aspects, we will discuss the financial, the emotional (did you know the divorce rate has been estimated at 80 percent among parents of children with autism?) and the cultural aspects of autism as you see stories from South Africa, Qatar and many other countries. It is called Autism: Unraveling the Mystery, and I know we won't answer all the questions, but we will make a dogged effort to get at some of the answers – again, with an open mind and with the single purpose of finding the truth.

 We would like your help.

 Post a note here with your thoughts about how CNN should continue the worldwide investigation.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


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soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Gary Savidge

    Correction from first posting.

    Why hasn't anyone question the link between late parenting and Autism? If a study where done, I think the numbers would show a link with older parents and Autism!

    April 2, 2008 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. AMANDA CARLSON, SLP

    As a speech language pathologist, I can appreciate the growing number of persons with autism and the subsequent questions and concerns that follow. I recognize that there is frustration from those that feel that the medical community is not doing enough to "find a cure" for this disorder, but I truly feel that this is not the case–it's just that there are SO MANY variations of the disorder itself, and no two cases are the same. It is just not known exactly what causes autism at this point, but that doesn't mean that the medical community is not not trying.

    What is key for persons on the autism spectrum (or those that may be) is early detection, education, cooperation between family and involved specialists, and patience. Individuals with autism have so much to share, if only given patience and understanding that they are not going to be just like everyone else (nor do they necessarily wish to be). Each child with autism with whom I've worked has touched my heart in some way and helped me to change the way I think about communication and the work I do.

    One more recommendation for parents with concerns about autism–while it is important to understand your child's needs and to learn as much as you can about them, the actual label is less important than treating the child's needs, as each child exhibits different skill levels and challenges. I would also recommend evaluation by a speech language pathologist, who would be able to work with communication and social skills that may be lacking in a child with autism. He or she may also be able to differentiate characteristics of autism vs. speech/language delay, which are not necessarily the same.

    April 2, 2008 at 12:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Hans-Christian Siebert

    Hey guys!
    As somebody is talking about vaccination according to autism, I would like to ask: what about tensides in the kitchen and the bathroom according to autism. Tensides have lipophil and hydrophil functional groups. These functional keys might cause problems for example in a cell´s membrane. Natural growth might face disfunction or disorder??? Maybe especially while very young kids grow fast, there might be an impact. You can study autismn statistics and see whether a connection might be possible. And what about a connection to allergy stuff???
    Hans Cybird

    April 2, 2008 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Blake

    Autism is a truly life changing diagnosis. I would venture to guess parents now would almost prefer their child be diagnosed with leukemia because there is more information about the disease and the treatment. I feel some parents are looking for a scapegoat as to why their child autistic. Vaccines are portrayed as a malicious government instituted program to sicken children. I work with vaccine preventable diseases in public health therefore most anti-vaccine advocates would consider me extremely biased on this topic. It would be great if you guys could show another side of the vaccine debate. Speak with parents that are continuing to care for their debilitated child or lost a child to meningococcal disease, pertussis ( I took care of a 6 week old last year that died from pertussis septicemia) or any other vaccine preventable disease. No, we do not have the incidence of vaccine preventable disease as some developing countries but with today's global society, polio is only a plane ride away. People are quick to point the finger at vaccines for causing autism spectrum disorders but those people never give credit to those same vaccines for preventing deadly infections.

    April 2, 2008 at 13:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Kevin

    As a father of an almost 8 year old autistic son, I applaud the coverage that you are giving to this difficult issue.

    After the reading and observations that I have done, I am inclined to think that there are probably multiple causes to ASD – it is a spectrum after all and we really know so very little about the human brain. I also tend to believe that autism is probably the result of genetic predispositions with enviornmental trigger(s). But as much as I would ove to know the ins and outs of the causes and possible treatments, the reality is that we are more likely than not years from that kind of understanding.

    More pressing, in the here and now is figuring out how to live well in the light of this affliction. This is not simply an issue for the person living with autism (who is probably more aware of what is going on and more frustrated than any of us know), or the exhausted and frustrated parents and siblings of autistic children (not all autistic people are kids either), but also for the extended families, social networks, schools, churches, insurance world (don't get me started on that one), government services, and well, you get the picture.

    The question is, what are we, as a society going to do about it. Today is a good first step. Thanks for your coverage CNN.

    April 2, 2008 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Lillian

    Gary: yes, I agree. It seems that late parenting hasn't received the attention it should with respect to the child's risk of autism. I would also like to see more stories and coverage about the link between older parents and autism.

    April 2, 2008 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Roni Davidi

    Dear Dr. Gupta, I have been watching CNN for years and I appreciate all the Autism awareness you and others on this network have provided. I also have been sending emails for a couple of years now in regards to my story and experience. I realize that you can not respond to everyone but I have a seven year old son who has had the Autism spectrum diagnosis for four years now. I see many stories told how people are unable to get the proper therapy for their children and how much money people are spending on many treatments.
    My son is fortunately fairly high functioning but he has come a long way and I attribute this to the fact that our town of Marlborough, MA, has "stepped up to the plate" so to speak, on this disorder. For the past ten years they have implemented an intensive ABA therapy program starting at the preschool level and continuing throughout a child's entire school life. I never would have guessed that this relatively small town would have these services that are truly stellar. Until my son was diagnosed I never thought about special education and what it entailed.
    I have been hoping that someone like yourself or the CNN network would do a story on this program which has people moving here from all over the state for. Other towns have good programs but Marlborough has been a model not only for Massachusetts but for the country.
    Please do a story about this. They have saved my son and myself in ways I can not even express. Thank you for your time and for your committment to this cause. Sincerely Roni Davidi

    April 2, 2008 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Steve Cohen

    Knowing your a neurosurgeon and understanding the new brain imaging available, why then has the lack of oxygen during birth not been discussed as possible reason for the cause of autism? My wife and I have 5 children, all full term normal pregnancies. Our third child is Autistic and we believe it was caused or brought on by the loss of oxygen during delivery. Our doctors have told us our child has had a hemispherical paralysis. Our childs balance is off when walking and OT and PT have been needed for him as he was delayed in these areas, etc. All the signs of autism are brought out and can easily be seen. Our child is on the spectrum and I have been unable to have a doctor tell me anything more we can do. The possibility of any vaccinations or other medicine received after birth could be possible, although reported not proven as of yet. Maybe the concern of how many children with Autism is so high that a reason will not be found but hopefully a cure will be. A previous blog mentioned the age of the parents. My concern is more in the delivery room than in the bedroom. No matter the age of the parent. I would like to know if lack of oxygen has ever been reported as a possible trigger to set off autistic behavior.

    April 2, 2008 at 13:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Elisa Redican

    Why are the majority of public schools concerned more with the academic success rather than the social success of ASD children in the mainstream? Is it due to funding and PSSA scores? Obvoiusly, social competence measures and navigates your success in life!

    April 2, 2008 at 14:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. lookingforlifeshumor

    Families with Autism need all the help we can get. Please continue to shine a light on all aspects of Autism. We need more awareness in our home communities. We need more interest in the research communities. We need more funding from our governments. We need more support from social services. We need more compassion from our neighbors. We need more coverage from insurance policies. We need more informed professionals. And most of all... we need ANSWERS. Please continue your coverage and THANK YOU for doing what we parents are unable to do by ourselves – keep shining that light!

    April 2, 2008 at 14:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jan Ogle

    Thank you for bringing attention to autism.. I have a 6 year old grandson with autism. Please keep up the good work to focus attention and seek solutions to this problem.

    April 2, 2008 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Roni Davidi

    Dear Dr Gupta, Just after I wrote my last comment I went back to watching CNN and you did a story about a New York family who is facing the idea of resident care for their son. The facility that you showed I believe was the New England Center in Southborough MA. ironically this facility is now being run by I believe, the woman, Jill Maher, who started the Autism program in the Marlborough public school which I have just praised in my last email. This is definately a story you should look into. Thank you Roni Davidi

    April 2, 2008 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Lou in Des Moines

    Every time I hear reports of how autism is increasing, I wonder how many people have experienced what I did with my "autistic" son. At age 5, it was obvious that John would need some extra help in school. He was given an IQ test and scored 71 – one point too high to qualify for services as a mentally disabled student. The special education coordinator at his school said, "No problem, we'll classify him as autistic so he'll qualify for federal funding." I protested strongly, as John was an outgoing and talkative child with no major behavioral issues. But the expert said, "We do it all the time – and it's the only way we can get funds for the extra help he needs." So I reluctantly signed the form, and John went through 12 years of school as an "autistic" student. (He is now 20, and working thanks to Easter Seals.)

    April 2, 2008 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Julie

    I think the attention that CNN has devoted to autism is wonderful as this is a true epidemic, but there are other learning disabilities out there that hardly get any attention primarily because of the length of time that they have been around. My daughter has Down Syndrome and Good Friday was this year's National Down Syndrome Awareness Day, and went by without any mention for public awareness for that. I see a lot of kids with autism when I take my daughter to weekly therapy sessions, along with cerebral palsy. My only hope is that CNN could devote more time to other common learning disabilities and pariticipate in educating the public on accepting everyone, regardless of there specific difference.

    I do commend CNN for focusing on such an importance cause.

    April 2, 2008 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Mary

    Dear Dr. Gupta,

    Thank you so much for providing this very public forum for so many different issues surrounding autism to be discussed. This is a corrected version of my previous post.

    Like many other commenters to the various stories, my focus has been on the vaccine debate and many on the “no link” side are expressing concern that the “pro-link” side are trying to undermine public health (see Blake’s comments in this section). This could not be further from the truth – many people who believe that there is a link between vaccines and autism still believe in vaccinations to prevent serious diseases FOR WHICH OUR CHILDREN ARE SUBSTANTIALLY AT RISK.

    However, the public health system (in both the US and in Canada) gives little apparent consideration for assessing the actual need for a vaccine before administering it. The childhood vaccination programs have grown from about 2 or 3 when I was born, to 11 when my son was born to now more that 30?? This may not only be leading to some cases of autism but also be undermining public resistance to the very diseases we are purporting to be vaccinating against. My son reacted to the DPT vaccine (given at about 4 months, as I recall). At that time, there had been no instances of pertussis in my region for many years; however, I believed it was better to be safe than sorry and the vaccine was given. Regardless of whether or not it triggered his autism, the reaction precludes him from ever receiving the Pertussis vaccine (which has been only assumed to have been the culprit in the reaction). Incidences of Pertussis have been on the rise in our area in the last few years, and now, I can do little to protect him.

    It took the medical community to arrive at the brink of making antibiotics completely ineffective before they realized that prescribing them for every cough and cold was not an effective way to protect public health. Are we currently doing the same thing with our vaccines?

    April 2, 2008 at 17:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. P Meharry

    Do autism studies indicate link to type of infant feeding?

    April 2, 2008 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Janet Boulet & Cheryl Dougherty

    Autism, in varying degrees, is a common characteristic of Fragile X Syndrome, the most well known cause of inherited mental impairment.

    Go to http://www.fragilex.org for information gathered world wide by the Fragile X Foundation, a wonderful organization of families and professionals.

    God bless you and I hope you have the chance to check out the above web site.

    Janet, 88 year old mom of two diagnosed Fragile X Syndrome children & her good friend Cheryl with a computer

    April 2, 2008 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Mary

    Dear Dr. Gupta,

    After watching Larry King's discussion panel with Jenny McCarthy, I would like to ask the doctor's on the panel if they could see logic in the following position. I believe that if an infant is exposed to a limited number of adults and older children – all of whom are vaccinated, there is little risk in not having the infant vaccinated – since none of the other people in that infant's circle should be able to get the disease (even if they are in contact with it) to pass it along to their infant. I see very little risk to public health in waiting a little while until our babies' brains are more developed before assaulting them with a myriad of 30 or more vaccines. I think it is more a risk to public health to have adults in the population who cannot be vaccinated because of reactions to various vaccines given in infancy.

    As one of them said, a disease is only a plane ride away, but autism is perhaps as close as the nearest public health clinic. Flying young infants anywhere is usually a matter of personal choice and perhaps we should just make a commitment to vacation close to home while our children are very young.

    I do agree that we should be looking at more than vaccines, but I do not agree that we should stop looking at vaccines. The so called "scientific" proof that there is no link between vaccines and autism is not sufficient to warrant giving vaccines a clean bill of health on the matter. One blogger to another story mentioned that all of the studies to date have excluded children who jaundiced at birth and suggested that a study focusing on vaccine reactions of children who jaundiced at birth might be a valid line of inquiry. If this is true and since my son did jaundice at birth, reacted to his 4-month DPT, and showed a temporary seizure response (lasting for 2 weeks following the shot) to his MMR booster given at school – and is autistic – I agree. More studies from a variety of different angles are needed. Just because the studies so far have found nothing significant does not mean that something significant does not exist. I will conceed that a link between autism and vaccines has not been proven IF they will conceed that all possible links between autism and vaccines have not been disproven.

    April 2, 2008 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Ray Hausler

    What can CNN do to improve its coverage of the Auttism epidemic?

    Cover the vaccine safety meeting scheduled for April 11 in
    Washington, D.C. The meeting is open to the public.
    It could be very interesting if it treats the latest evidence
    available on how vaccines might trigger regressive autism
    in some children.

    Thank you for your attention to this important issue.

    April 3, 2008 at 00:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Cindy

    My son is 27 years old and has been diagnosed with high-functioning Autism. During his early stages of life, there was no early intervention for Autism and even no speech therapy until Kindergarten at school. I hadn't heard of Autism until he was diagnosed at the age of 14 (even though my college curriculum was Early Childhood Development).

    There was no recognition of this throughout his school years, including high school. I was on my own to deal with the individual person he was and tried to the best of my ability to be "in touch" with him. We have both learned, however there is a lot more to learn as we go along. I am happy to see that now there is early intervention and screening.

    He is referred to as 'high functioning", although I see it as "limited functioning", as his quality of life is limited. Even though on medications, he struggles daily with anxiety and lack of interests to where he often feels bored. His tolerance to be around people is very low, including me, his mother who has utmost unconditional love.

    I feel that this is the first milestone, with Autism becoming a national awareness. Allowing and encouraging them to communicate amongst each other by speaking their special language, and the continuation of research will hasten the process to a better world for them.

    Cindy

    April 3, 2008 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Henry

    Dear Dr. Gupta:

    I watched your work on CNN quite often and I have lots of respect to your work trying to present the varies diseases and health issues for public awareness. I want to share an important point that I think CNN has been leaning on one side of the point of view while not presenting sound data.

    I am a pediatrician currently training under the discipline of developmental and behavioral pediatrics. In my training, I learn to help family for many different neurodevelopmental disorders and one of them is Autism. As much as I love my patients and their families, I also feel helpless in the situation about the message families received from the media. Since the broadcast of Larry King show about autism, more and more families became extremely confuse about the situation. I also feel helpless in the way that I was trained in an evidence-base learning pattern while the public does not understand. How do we, as physician, treat and help families with such confusing information that were presented in the media so one sided? I do support more research and to broaden the investigation. Until we can find the cause, we are not certain what causes Autism.

    In my residency training, I have not seen one case of bacteria meningitis that used to kill hundreds if not thousand of children each year. The reason I never saw one case is because the vaccination help save lives. Today, children that do not receive immunization and not getting those deadly disease was due to a statistical fact that many have ignored. When enough children that are being immunized, that become a protective factor for children that do not immunize.

    However, the CNN continuously sided with the non-evidence base information and families came to us seeking explanation. I wish I can tell families that I know it is true that vaccination cause Autism, but I can not, at least now. Just imagine if more than 1/3 of children in our country not receiving any vaccination, the protecting factor no longer be effective.

    I often think the Autism epidemic similar to the AIDS epidemic. We had blamed the etiology of AIDS to many different things until we finally realized it was HIV that caused AIDS. Shouldn't we face this epidemic with the same respect as well?

    Finally, I hope Larry King can show the evidence and interview families who did not believe in traditional treatment for autism and seek the alternative paths. There were many cases of failure and the condition of the children actually worsen. So, please don't just show an one sided story but also seek the truth on both side. Thank you.

    April 3, 2008 at 04:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. joelle

    to Gary Savidge(first post)
    You are right and there is a reason why autistics children have parents around 30's(rarely less than 25y.old).Those parents have already a certain way of living,busy ,and they usally live aside their children not really with them (doesn't mean they don't love their kids or they do wrong but they don't have time or are too preoccupied to do it as the children would like them to do.

    April 3, 2008 at 04:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Rob -Canada

    The results of a Canadian study on Autism were released today.In that study they found that one of the largest groups that had developed Autism were those children that had experienced a pre-mature birth.The rate of Autism in that group born substantially pre-mature was the highest at a 25% rate of autism.Studies also showed that in reviewing various chartings and tests after a premature birth that the area of the brain that pertains to autism had a high incidence of fluids.It was highly recommended that children in this group be watched for early signs of autism as early intervention and treatment bears the best results.You can get more information from the Canadian Medical Association website.

    April 3, 2008 at 04:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. joelle

    Have just seen Larry King. Dr.Harvey Karps(AAP) is the only one who spoke right!and Jenny MC Carthy is "getting on my nerfs".After food,now it is vaccines.What helped her son is that she was doing better after her divorce and felt better with Jim Carey.When a mother feels good ,her child feels good too.Also,she is excessive with her child,not natural (can see my sister)and Evan feels uncorfortable.

    April 3, 2008 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Rob Murphy

    I've got a question concerning autism that I think may provide some benefit. Since there has been a proven link between the brain and smoked THC, as well as there has been some research done showing a benefit for people with Alzheimers, I wonder if there may be a connection with autism also? I mean, the brain is not quite firing like it is supposed to, and the people afflicted with autism end up displaying bizzarre behavior. So, the question is, would it be possible for medical marijuana to help ease or cure people with autism? I'm pretty sure that they could find several adults with autism that would be willing to take part in a study.

    April 3, 2008 at 09:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Char Brandl

    Thank you, Dr. Gupta, CNN and staff. What a wonderful day it was. I couldn't sleep last night, my mind full of thoughts of all the wonderful people with autism – and their families – that I have known over the last 30 plus years as a special educator. They have so much to teach us, and I hope your wonderful programming will show that we are listening. I hope too that the programming will continue, with a focus on how we can best help these people feel comfortable and accepted in the world of "neurotypicals." Thanks to Amanda and others as well – your advocacy is so powerful!

    April 3, 2008 at 09:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Val Bruce

    Autism – just a word to describe symptoms. Those symptoms could be signs of some sort of brain damage or brain disease. People who have sudden onset of psychosis experience periods of regression (autistic like). The psychosis, of course has some sort of cause. Some disease process or damage has occured.

    Labels – Autism is a label. It seems to be satisfying to the parents because they can point to it and say "our child has autism". Point is they are no further along then when they first started in searching for reasons behind their child's lack of development, regression, or odd behavior. This label gives many doctors an out so that they don't have to go the whole way in trouble shooting about the child's regression.
    There are many stories where a child is healed of autism because the true cause of their illness has been identified and then the proper intervention has been applied.

    Truth – These kids are neurologically compromised either due to actual brain damage that occured during development or after their birth. Brain damage or progressive brain disease have differing ways of manifesting. One of those ways is via symptoms of psychosis. One of the most interesting things I have dealt with in our journey with our daughter is how I chose to put aside the reports of autistic children who deal with auditory hallucinations that are quite disturbing. I simply hoped (when she was very young) that she wouldn't have them. We pressed on with all the interventions that would help her. For a while when she was still young the interventions helped. As she got older she broke into full blown psychosis and then I watched as the doctors deliberated about if her initial diagnoses of autism was wrong and she has always been schizophrenic. And then they moonwalked about that because it defies their system of labels and logic and supposedly schizophrenia in the very young is highly rare. And then I threw away the labels.

    What good is a label that gives absolutely no answers?

    I have found your reporting really great. Especially the piece about Amanda.

    For Emma's Dad: Please let him know I am sorry for the forceful suggestions on his blog. Knowing he has walked the walk that we have to some degree I know it must be frustrating to have people tell him to go ahead and take his daughter to church anyway. Maybe it is too much for her...Wherever two or more are gathered together in His name...there you will find a body of believers gathered together for His purpose and glory. Emma's family has a journey a bit more unique and an experience of refinement a bit more challenging. Emma's family figured out they could chose the least of these over an idea that we must make whole what is not ready to be whole. Emma's family is simply waiting and staying alongside her...because it has been given to them to do.

    Have a great day,
    V Bruce

    April 3, 2008 at 10:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Amanda

    Hey Dr. Gupta, first let me say Halliluha to CNN, thank you for your continuing diligence on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

    I am a mother of two beautiful children, one of which is Autistic. My son was diagnosed when he was about 2 years old, he is now 17. I have been battling my way through the "system" trying to keep my son from becoming a statistic. The Functional Behavioral Analysis (FBA) and the Applied Behavioral Interventions (ABI) seem to be corely focused on the younger population of people diagnosed with Autism; my question or concern shall we say is, What do you do when these systems no longer apply to you child? What do you do when the system wants to give up on you child and it seems all of the doors are closed except one; institutionalization.

    I live in a very rural area with very limited resourses for autism. I give credit where credit is due, they are trying, but it seems not enough. It is a truly daunting tast trying to change the worlds perception of what is Autistic, and what are the abilities of the Autistic person; but I fear there are not enough people willing to fight for the success of our children with this disorder. It is us against the world.

    What scares me the most is not being able to provide the kind of life for my child that he deserves, especially concerning finances. What kind of life will my son lead? Is he doomed to be in an system that does not understand his behaviors? Being a divorced/single mom, there never is enough money to be able to use the latest technologies, latest treatments be it traditional or non-traditional.

    I too agree with Jenny McCarthy, if I had known then what I know now, give me measles any day.

    April 3, 2008 at 12:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Mary

    I think many important questions have come out of this day of coverage. I, for one, of thinking of different aspects that I personally never thought of before. We all see autism from different perspectives. For example, many older people with autism are understandably beyond seeking either a "recovery" or a "cure" and just want to get on with living; while many parents of younger children with autism are understandably desperate to find a "recovery" or "cure" that will free up the lines of communication with their autistic children. There are those that withdraw to the "science" corner and those who side with "faith" and all ranges in between. With all of this, comes a full range of emotions – fear, anger, frustration, relief, compassion, and on and on. This just shows that we have a long row to hoe yet; and ultimately, we all have to find ways to live together in this confusing world. In the words of one inspiring young man who was part of your coverage – What is normal anyway?

    April 3, 2008 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Roderick

    I too had a question about late parenting and autism. It would seem that there could be a connection between the two. There are many other problems with late pregnancies. If it is not the cause it should be eliminated through some kind of a research study or just collect and analyze the data that is presently available.

    April 3, 2008 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Sandy5280

    Regarding FC (Facilitated Communication):

    In the "Finding Amanda" show, there was a small part showing a boy using "Facilitated Communication". I was glad that Dr. Gupta included a "disclaimer" to the effect that some people consider FC to be a hoax. It is my understanding that it (FC) has been thoroughly discredited through extensive testing. He mentioned that the boy had been tested to show that his "facilitator" was not influencing his communication. I would have liked to know more about this testing.

    April 3, 2008 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Marielly Monge

    Helo, Lary i am mother of child with autism l4 years old and she never talk, i don't speak English, but last night I saw you show it very interesting. I want more information about the doctor in my city who do studies whit autism I live in Himilton NJ. thanks. Marielly

    April 3, 2008 at 15:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Sherry

    I'm glad that CNN has taken the lead on reporting about Autsim and the many facets of this disorder. Its really sad to see how many children's lives are affected. I know first hand how life is for these kids and for their families. as I am a mother of a 14 year old boy with autism. Families are literally torn apart, they are desparate for help of which there is very little of, from the doctors to the school systems, insurance companies, the government, your own family and friends. As there were many good stories reported this week, there are so many more to talk about. 1 in 150 tells me this is an epidemic and what is anyone doing about it? These are our children, our future? Doesn't anyone care?

    April 3, 2008 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. V Bruce

    Mary,

    Well said. It is funny when an illness is what brings so many from many different walks together. Another thing to consider is the fact that it is not so rare to have one who is "autistic" in a family. My son has much empathy for our autistic daughter and since he has started college he has sent me multitudes of articles that refer to the personhood of the autistic individual. While they are different they just want to be accepted for who they are...that is what the ones who function well feel.

    My son went through all the interventions with us. I remember one day when he was really still quite young. I was using all this behavioral stuff to get our daughter to comply to something that she just wasn't understanding. My son got frustrated and started to cry. He said "Mom, she just isn't getting it". I then looked at him and and thanked him for looking out for his sister. While I was first frustrated by his intervention for her I ultimately became quite impressed with how he had observed so much and had formulated his own impressions about his little sister. This happened over the course of many years for him. He was maybe eleven years old at the time that he finely spoke out but that was after going through in home therapies with her starting from when he was about seven.

    The above being said, my son had already come to grips with the idea that our daughter wasn't going to think exactly as we do and she was going to be different. He decided to love her more then anyone and to regard her as significant even as she would never be exactly like us. I have another daughter who feels exactly the same as my son.

    My son and I have recently considered the concept that soon there will be as many of them as there are of us. We had better learn how to handle that.

    Take Care,
    V Bruce

    April 3, 2008 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Verna

    McCarthy most likely is right about autism, in twenty years the MDs will finally adit she is right.

    April 3, 2008 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Rosa

    I loved this report let me count the ways. I have two children with autism. Dr. Gupta one comment, please use �people first language.� Our children have autism they are not autistic, people first and the disability second. Amanda has given me more insight into my sons' worlds. I didn�t quite understand before how my sons were communicating with their environment. Thanks, Amanda for giving this me a better understanding into the world of Autism. Next time, my son flaps his hand because he is happy I will too. : )

    April 3, 2008 at 18:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Suzanne

    As a parent with 3 boys with autism, I believe autism is caused by many factors. Our sons were born at 24 weeks and 30 weeks. Their little bodies were pumped full of many different meds just in order to live. They received their shots just like they were full term babies. In the NICU, there were buzzers and bright lights which caused us to be tense just image what it type of impact it on their undeveloped bodies and mind.

    April 3, 2008 at 19:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Grace

    I would like to read the 16 best epidemiological studies mentioned in this post. Is it possible to get this list of references?

    I do not know if this level of scientific debate is in the realm of CNN, but I would like to see these researchers and doctors actually address the critiques and flaws of their studies. And actually take a real look at the studies of those they disregard. They both reveal part of the truth but we are not going to find and understand the whole truth if we actively selectively disregard and suppress part of the truth.

    Whenever I bring up such issues, I am usually met with emotional reactions rather than science and logic. Certain author names will just trigger complete disregard and scoffing. And I doubt most of them have even read the studies, on either side.

    When there is disagreement between studies, how can one side just decide that their own is right and they can disregard the others? As well as ignore critiques of their own work while piling it on the others?

    Having an education and experience in research methods in multiple disciplines as well as statistics, more than most doctors, I am really puzzled by how I encounter doctors think that just because they have an MD that they know what they are talking about and don't need to have the equivalent education in research methods of an MS or PhD like every other scientific research discipline requires.

    There are many many problems with even just the few research papers I have read on the topic. Bringing these up is always met by hostile reactions, which puts an immediate stop to a search for truth.

    For example, how many doctors and even medical researchers can explain in depth what are the advantages and disadvantages of case-control studies? How many know of and can describe such case-control studies that were done in other areas of medicine, that when different research methods were used, the opposite conclusion was actually found? How many really understand the statistics used to analyze these studies and could tell if something was wrong with the statistical methods used and the interpretation or not? If they can't, then what are they basing their opinions and beliefs on?

    April 3, 2008 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Lauren

    I think what needs to be investigated is whether at least some autism spectrum problems have to do with food intolerances. Like amino intolerances? Like phenylketeturnia (sp)?? Becasue what's weird here is, like I'm irish–big appetites in my family! But me and my nephew–both Aspie's–we both had "funny stomachs" growing up; as babies, we were "spit-up" babies. Nobody else in the family really was like that. We both had curiously far-away sort of eyes–and we both looked half asleep, meaning, our eyes were always a little puffy. Again, could it be that there's some kind of amino acid that our bodies (brains, kidneys, etc.) can't tolerate/eliminate? Or something on an even smaller level..some kind of mitochondrial disorder? I just think it's weird that the tummy problems aren't getting a more thorough workup. Seriously, growing up, I couldn't eat pizza, and iced tea tasted like throw up. So please look into this tummy problem thing a little more, there IS something to it.

    April 4, 2008 at 00:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. joelle

    How can the HZ waves affected the young children brains.This just to say that kids are to often in font of TV!

    April 4, 2008 at 07:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. joelle

    Before to "be autistic"(to stop to communicate),there are some signs that show that the child is "kind of deppressive".For ex.:don't sleep well,infections or allergy(immune system down...reaction in 9vaccines shot !!!!).
    In China the problem is begining because of the evolution of the family and the society.I bet it's gonna be an epidemic in 10 years.

    April 4, 2008 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Pamela

    Did any of these children with Autism have human milk the first year of their life, or were they all chemical-fed?

    April 4, 2008 at 18:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Marni

    The night that the Hannah Poling concession was discussed on CNN, I believe that we all witnessed Dr. Sanjay Gupta experiencing an EPIPHANY. The look on his face that night showed someone having the realization that things are far from what they seemed. It is inspirational to see that he, so far, is moving forward with integrity. I feel that Dr. Gupta has the ability like no one else in this debate, to shine a light on the truth.

    April 4, 2008 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. anne

    What are the numbers for older people with autism? More of this needs to be brought out also.
    thanks

    April 5, 2008 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. shirley haas

    I contintemtly wonder about autism in the older person, one that is considered adult. Is there sucha thing as autism witha oerson of hgigher intelligence? Say, of a person that didn't let anyone hold her as a rather young childe? One that didn't talk unti after 5 years of age? (And then in complete sentences.) One who,after marriage, though she would be found out by a Doctor thinking that she was different inside and finding out she was normal like everyone else?

    I watch CNN every morning and would like to hear the answers to the above questions.

    sh

    April 6, 2008 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Estee Klar-Wolfond

    Where are the autistic adults - so many of them that you never interview? Wouldn't it be a great idea to have them actually conduct the interviews on your autism shows?

    April 7, 2008 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Judy Barrie

    My only child is almost 18 and early on was diagnosed with stabismus (requiring three eye operations), motor and language problems and has also been diagnosed with ADHD with a comorbid obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and NLD, (non-verbal learning disorder), which is on the autistic spectrum. We have recently also been told that she needs back surgery to correct severe scolisis which has been tracked for three years. I have struggled for years to learn more about strategies to help her. During that time, I have been fortunate enough to have a wonderful family doctor and psychologist. I have been amazed at two things which some parents may relate to well – the persistance of the school system to try to put a "round peg in a square hole" and the tacit blindness to bullying in the school system of those who "look normal." My advice to parents starting on this long journey with the medical but most especially, the education system, is to follow the advice my GP (family doctor) gave me when my daughter was very young: 'There is no medical evidence to support the idea of a mother's intuition but always follow your mother's intuition. No one, he continued, knows a child better than the mother. Secondly, be prepared to advocate for your child for what you feel is right. We were forced to withdraw her from the school system 18 months ago and I am home schoolIng her with the support of a wonderful tutor (we pay out of our own pockets). She is getting the time, attention, skills and coping mechanisms she need and when she graduates, it will be with more than the normal number of credits and an average in the 90s. DO NOT GIVE UP. DEAL WITH EACH SITUATION AS IT ARISES AND CONTINUE TO TELL YOUR CHILD YOU LOVE AND SUPPORT THEM.

    April 7, 2008 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. karen

    It was just announced this week that the AAP will finally sit down and listen to the DAN! physicians. Cover the conversion of the AAP as they finally embrace the DAN! physicians and all their groundbreaking research and success stories. Many DAN! physicians have children with autism, and like Dr. Polling said, if he hadn't witnessed it himself, he never would have believed that his daughter could be so affected by vaccines. I think the AAP needs a wakeup call and the DAN! physicians are about to give them one. The AAP has abandoned us, and they have lost credibility in their misguided attempt to follow the status quo. Why have they not shown more concern for the autism epidemic? This was the patient population that they took an oath to serve. Their silence has been deafening.

    April 8, 2008 at 01:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. joelle

    About autistic adults, here a story : a french man ,pianist who won about 15 y.ago a famous piano competition here in Belgium,had autistic behavoirs(journalists embarrassed to interview him).
    Lately,talking about autism with somebody,we came to talk about him and she said: that man(his name is Pierre Volondat) is "normal" now because he found love !!
    There is an other one : an british man (he wrote a book) found God's love !!

    April 8, 2008 at 04:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. joelle

    me again,Dr.Gupta : when you say Amanda is not typical autistic:what is a typical autistic ?? I remember months ago when I saw your reportage,you said (if I clearely understood) that Amanda was a ""normal"" little girl before she got autistic.Now you found that she was not.How people (parents,teachers,pediatricians,family doctors.....) can not see when a child doesn't act as the way it should be ??Ok it was 15y.ago but no excuses...
    I could talk hours about autism.....because I know what they feel....

    April 8, 2008 at 07:31 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.