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April 2nd, 2010
08:48 AM ET

Latest on autism research

By Madison Park
CNNhealth.com writer/producer

April 2 is U.N.-declared World Autism Awareness Day. A life touched by autism is one forever in search of new information, and answers to the questions "Why did this happen?" and "How can I help my child?" Here's a brief wrap of some of the latest headlines about the mysterious neurological disorder, which affects as many as 1 in 110 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In March, a federal court ruled that the evidence supporting an alleged link between autism and a mercury-containing preservative in vaccines was not persuasive, and that the families of children who have  autism were not entitled to compensation. Vaccine court finds no link to autism

In February, a notorious study that linked the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism and digestive disorders, was retracted 12 years after it was published.  Its lead author Dr. Andrew Wakefield was found to have acted unethically in conducting the research by the British entity that oversees doctors.   Medical journal retracts study linking autism to vaccine

As research  indicates that the rates of autism are increasing and that about 1 percent of the children in the United States have the disorder,  there is an increasing body of science looking into causes and contributing factors to the mysterious condition.

Here are some major findings according to Autism Speaks, a leading advocacy and education organization.

1) Two major studies using different methodologies reached similar conclusions: autism is on the rise.  Four years earlier, autism spectrum disorder was found to affect 1 out of 150 children, but more recent data suggest it's closer to 1 in 91 or 1 in 110 children, depending on the study.  Research also found that autism is four times more common in boys than girls.

Prevalence of parent-reported diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder among children in the US

Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders – autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network

2) Delivering early intervention programs for children with autism improved IQ, language skills and adaptive behavior even for those as young as 18 months.

Randomized, controlled trial of an intervention for toddlers with autism: the Early Start Denver Model

3) An autism genome study found a genetic variation associated with the genes cadherin 10 and 9, which are responsible for forming nerve connections. This suggests abnormal interactions between neurons may cause the deficits seen in autism.

Common genetic variants on 5p14.1 associate with autism spectrum disorders

4) Researchers analyzed submicroscopic DNA deletions or duplications called copy number variants in the autism genome and found a new cellular pathway called "ubiquitin pathway," in the pathology of autism.

Autism genome-wide copy number variation reveals ubiquitin and neuronal genes

5) A study demonstrated that combining drug and behavioral treatments were more effective than drug treatment alone for reducing challenging behaviors.

Medication and parent training in children with pervasive developmental disorders and serious behavior problems: Results from a randomized clinical trial

For the complete list and expanded explanation, visit Top 10 Autism Research Achievements

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.


soundoff (141 Responses)
  1. BBennett

    Can anyone explain why, if the shots are to blame, aren't the autism rates at 90% or higher? There has to be some genetic abnormality, doesn't there? I'm just asking to learn – not to be attacked!

    April 2, 2010 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Anna C.

    @James Wilson: You're absolutely right that systematic, nation-wide research into children with autism would tell us quite a lot. Please understand, though, that such research is enormously difficult to conduct. It requires millions of dollars, which must be provided by the government or other grants organizations, and personnel all over the country to find as many families as possible that cope with autism. That in itself is a nearly impossible task, since I don't think there is a national register of families that would help us find you. There are prominent, well-respected autism researchers all over the country who I'm sure would love nothing more than to do that study, but it is a very difficult thing to do.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Missy K

    I believe that part of the reason more children are being diagnosed with autism these days is that many special educators jump to the conclusion that a child who is quirky or different has austism, or at least Asperger's. My daughter didn't speak until she was 3, and then only very few words. The psychologists and therapists all wanted to label her autistic, but I didn't believe that she had autism, so I did not allow them to "diagnose" her with the wrong label. Had I done so, she would now be considered "cured" of autism.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Vijaya

    Media, especially CNN, has done a great job during the past few years to raise the awareness of Autism. I have a 6yr old son in the severe spectrum of autism. Based on my interactions with the general public, it is clear that most people have a very narrow/specific impression about autism. It is important to raise awareness to the fact that there is a very wide spectrum and variety of autism; some of which is referred as "high-functional" or "aspergers" where kids are verbal and have relatively much milder symptoms/issues, compared to other types of autistic kids that are in a more severe spectrum (such kids cannot speak, communicate, highly dependent on every basic need such as eating, sleeping, toilet, etc., cannot learn alphabets, etc.).
    So my request to CNN and Dr. Gupta is to emphasize and educate the public about this broad spectrum of Autism. For example, I have seen 2-hour programs on Autism in the past where almost the entire program is about just one or two autistic kids. While this exposure to autism is better than nothing, people relate to only what they learned about these one or two kids when they think about autism; not realizing that there are several other types of autism and that there are kids with much worse symptoms than the ones they showed on TV for two hours. Also, if Mr. Larry King can interview some average people with autistic kids in addition to interviewing the celebrities (in the same show), that would be very helpful.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Jody salamirad

    Jackie-out of curiosity what medicine is your son on? We have a 5 year old with autism and are considering meds after 2 years of bio-medical approach.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Susan O

    This is fine and dandy for the newly diagnosed who will receive early treatment and special help. It does diddly for those of us struggling with older children whose speech has died and who spend their days headbanging and biting chunks out of themselves, freaking out because rain leaves spots on their coats. Autism is older than this "new" wave – I think your numbers are objectionably high – and I'm sick to death of people ignoring the older autistics, who are still being swept under a rug and not spoken about. They're still here, and they're not going anywhere.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. harl

    the vaccines cause autism. point blank period.

    doctors are afraid to say his because they might lose their jobs.on wow!!!!

    TRY THIS:

    Doctors say that vaccines are safe and do not cause autism.

    Print up a contract that states that your doctor must be financially responsible for the child's medical care for the rest of the child's life if the child becomes autistic after receiving the MMR vaccination.

    I promise you not one doctor will be willing to sign that contract, even though their mouths are saying that the vaccinations don't cause autism.

    Doctors are either cowards or hypocrites.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. onceagain

    Yes, more research is needed. Early diagnosis is important, meds, counseling, and is our case homeschooling helped our Aspie reach incredible goals. Now 20 (very young 20) he works part-time, drives (thought we would never get there!) and has a great life. Nine doctors later we had the right diagnosis, and while no meds now (his adamant choice!) many trials and errors with medication. I read a book that suggested these kids do better when they are the only child. I wanted 6, but realized that this one was going to need more of my time and 6 kids would not be in his best interest. Again, glad I went with that advice. He is still a work in progress, but the most loving child ever.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. John A

    Please: just do one study:

    Just do a study of kids who have taken the MMRs and other vaccines and kids who haven't. That's all it takes. If kids who haven't taken the vaccines don't get autism or get autism at a much reduced rate then we know vaccines are factor in causing autism.

    Why hasn't this study been done?

    April 2, 2010 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Tina Hillson

    This is very important news, but it leaves out one major thing: There are just as many autistic adults as there are autistic children. Autism is NOT new, and the large numvbers of adults who suffer with it need help and intervention too. Autistic Spectrum Disorders do NOT go away, and the need for help is lifelong. Let's see some attention to the plight of the adult sufferers.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Irene Robertson

    Im all the way with Seth and the metals not being processed properly through the body. I have MCS, multiple chemical sensitivities or chemical illness. Ive had it since working in a factory with many chemiclas back in 1964, Ive not been listened to by doctors, in fact Ive been laughed at on some occassions when telling them of the symptoms I suffer, All chemicals affect my life, and I believe the increase in autism in recent years is also caused by all the new fangled fabric conditioners, perfumed soap powders, baby lotions, shampoos. cigarette smoke, petrol, paints etc.. seems if I can put two and two together surely doctors can wake up and take the blinkers off once and for all... please read about autsim, mcs and overlapping illnesses on mcs-global.org

    April 2, 2010 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Beck

    Since this is a spectrum disorder, could it be possible that there are different causes depending on the severity?

    My son (3yrs old) was recently diagnosed, but he is not very severe. He is in speech several times a week as he has a speech disorder that was also diagnosed.

    Many professionals saw him before either diagnosis and neither issues were diagnosed though he didn't change between seeing them. They told me he was lazy etc. and that is why he wasn't speaking. That tells me that professionals are not being trained enough on identifying autism.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Vince

    New Research for Public School Programs Coming Out This May.

    ABA 2010
    # 217 Symposium
    05/30/2010

    Alternative Behavioral Interventions Revisited: Which Approach, for Which children, With What Resources?"
    Chair: Philip N. Hineline (Temple University)
    Discussant: Gina Green (Association of Professional Behavior Analysts)
    For Which Children, Which Approach? EMILY B. BISEN-HERSH (Temple University), Betsy Wurstner Swope (Temple University)

    Abstract: Rate of skill development is a hallmark concern for effective autism treatment approaches. Data were collected from 53 children with autism between ages 3-7 years, who were receiving Early Intensive Behavioral Interventions within public school classrooms. Classrooms were self-identified as using a traditional Lovaas-derived, Applied Verbal Behavior, or Competent Learner Model (CLM) approach to instruction. Assessments every six-months included the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, the Brigance Inventory of Early Development-II, the Behavioral Language Assessment Form, and (annually), the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence. To compensate for uneven sample sizes between approaches, a baseline composite score was created in order to match students from each approach on the bases of baseline performance of academic, language, and social skills. This measure was then used to compare overall rate of learning among these intervention groups, as assessed by slopes defined by each child’s successive scores. Statistical findings indicated a significantly higher rate of learning academic and language skills for children in CLM classrooms, compared to the other two approaches. This effect was enhanced when only children with low baseline composite scores were considered. These results support further evaluation of CLM as an effective approach to autism treatment.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Sarahi

    Don’t take a “no” for an answer. Government doesn’t want to put your child through that because budget, but you have to insist… My husband identify signs of autism in my daughter at 2 years old. I didn’t notice them because; with me I think she is the most open. After push a little bit Kaiser, they start to evaluate her, but they haven’t been so helpful (it seems they are very busy with the Octomom)… in the mid time we find a Center that specializes in children with this kind of problems, they accepted her right away and start working with my child. We don't pay for that school. Her schedule is full, 3 days she goes to a special school. We pay for 2 days in a normal day care and an for a gym she goes on weekends, also she has a speech therapy class. She has been doing that for 5 months… and she is better, not where we want her to be, but definitely better. I think is super important to start ASAP. Good Luck!

    April 2, 2010 at 13:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Margaret Deitsch

    My son, Jamie who has Asperger's was unfourtantly missed diagnosed at the age of 4. He was finally diangnosed at the age of 13 unfourtantly he did not have the intervention that was needed during his curcial years. He is currently an 18 year old young man you struggles every day. He developed agoraphobia at the age of 12 when he was placed into an institution that was not appropriate for him. This was done on the advice of his doctor. Jamie is tutored at home and will graduate from high school in June. The unfortunate part is that he can not seem himself beyond the age of 12. I tell this story so that other parents will get second and third opinions from doctors and make sure you find a doctor that listens to the parents you know your child best. If you think there is something wrong then there probably is. I wish I could go back and make those doctors listen to me and not blame me. Jamies loving mom.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Hope

    I started using the Glenn Doman program when my son was 3 years and 9 months.

    My son progressed so quickly and everything fell into place and he started talking and did so well. The speech therapists were amazed. His vocabulary is amazing and he says the funniest things that keep us laughing. Today, he blends in well and most people won't know that he couldn't even speak when he was 3 years and 9 months.

    If you send me an EM at hopeandprayer3@yahoo.com, I will send you a list of things that I did.

    I have heard that Glenn Doman's program can help older autistic children and grown ups too.

    It is a miracle.

    April 2, 2010 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Heidi

    I need to caution parents on biomedical interventions. There are lots of supposedly effective treatments out there for autistic children but have no medical research to back them up. Parents of austic children are an especially vulnerable group because they will go to any lengths to 'cure' autism and there are people out there who will take advantage of this. What we know about autism is this–if you are born with autism, you are not 'cured' of it. If you 'lose' the label, it maybe was a label the child shouldn't have been given anyways. Make sure you research thoroughly any kind of interventions that you give children.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jacqueline

    Agree totally with James' Wilson's comments. My daughter was induced with pitocin and does have social developmental issues within the autism spectrum as well. I have faith in God that she will work though them with the help of therapy, family, friends and of course the influence of the church. Academically she is fine, it is only the social aspect.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Becky

    Three primate studies have linked vaccines with autism/developmental delay. Let's say it like it is – close to 1 in 100 children with autism were vaccine injured.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Traycie

    I do not care how my wonderful 4 yr old son got AUSTISM. Shots, I drank to much, maybe second hand smoke etc. What I do care about is giving this child the best care possible.
    Any that is hard with the insurance company's fighting me in this middle class world that I live in. With the govorment taking away the grants that fund the feeding clinics and speech classes. It is harder every day. To give this child everything that he needs and deserves.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. stephanie

    im not a parent yet but its true ... don't rely so much on teachers and some psyciatrists they try to diagnose a kid without actually working with them and mostly try to get more money out of this.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Todd E.

    @harl
    I'm sure that if you got your tetanus booster and asked your doctor to sign a statement that he would be liable if you ever got tetanus he wouldn't do that, either.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. MC

    I believe the causes of autism are as varied as the multitude of toxic substances and diseases that permeate our environment (that our government is doing absolutely nothing about). In our particular case, undiagnosed gestational Lyme Disease (acquired in-utero) set off a cascade of problems that resulted in impaired detoxification pathways and many other metabolic abnormalities that contribute to autism. The good news is that Lyme-induced autism is often curable with proper treatment. You can go to http://www.lymeinducedautism.com to learn more.
    In response to the ignorant people who have commented above that autism is "overdiagnosed", parents just "don't have patience" with their kids, or it is simply a "set of behaviors," etc.: These children have an overwhelming number of physiological abnormalities that are the cause of their behavior. They are SICK, and they respond to biomedical treatment when parents are given access to the right testing and treatments. Unfortunately, most parents don't have the financial resources to get the help they need and insurance companies won't pay for it either. These children need our help–not just their parents' help, but society's help. I think I speak for most parents of autistic children when I say that you'd never last one day in our shoes, and thank God our children weren't born to you or they'd never stand a chance.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Lynn

    John A-good point. Why don't they do research between vaccinated and non-vaccinated kids to see if rates rise in the first group?

    April 2, 2010 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Patty.

    Why are doctors cutting the umbilibical cord se early after delivery? It has been proven that over the years the cord is cut iwth in seconds of delivery and that iw why the increase in aspergers', autism, adhd. This is basic epigenesis and when the baby is delivered and waits 3 – 5 minutes before the cord is cut, the brain adjusts and becomes much better at becooing sensitized rather than beocmes over sensitive due to brain damage from too early cord cutting.

    This is never in the research papers but do a google search on epigeneisis and early cord cutting.......lots of informtion there. The probelm, doctors will never admit what they are doing might not be ok......get a grio doctors, this is not about you its about thousands and thousands of kids and famillies who deserve better from the medical profession!

    April 2, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Brady

    Remember, drug companies will LOSE millions if there ever was a link to not just autism, but to any behavorial isorder on that spectrum associated with their drugs. Less information is better for the general public in their minds.

    Think about the politics of it. Do you really think greedy drug company CEOs want their shareholders to hear any detrimental news? Do you think it's possible these kinds of people exist in our country. You better believe it. Public companies' success is hinged on consumer confidence in the respective product. If people pull out, the stock will lose money and the C-suite exes will lose their fortunes.

    I truly believe they lobby for congress, the FDA, to keep publishing reports that there is no link to thermisol and how it affects children.

    Remember, a newborn's brain is underdeveloped when it enters the world. Inflicting it with 22 vaccines full of thermisol the first year can be damaging. It's really that simple. Mercury can be endured by child who's brain has fully developed, but not when they're a newborn.

    In addition, vaccines are not subject to any lawsuits. So, where are internal controls for side affects?? Isn't that just playing with fire?

    People have the right to do what they feel is best for their child – full vaccines, limited schedule of vaccines, or none at all. But you have to wonder how the cases of autism have increased exponentially over the years. And there is no onus on the governments end to do anything about it.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Tammy Quraishi

    re:Connie Burciaga
    Connie- I have two sons on the spectrum. I do not medicate either one of them. Your son should take him to a psycholgist and and have them test him for aspergers or any other behavioral issues. Schools offer help with behavioral issues with children and could figure out if just changing the layout of how he does things or observing if something triggers any behavior -removing it, or alternate teaching styles. There are many options out there. But, the first thing is to find out what is going on. If insurance is a problem the schools are required to do it for you. We pay for it with our taxes. They can offer advise for home issues, too. I hope this helps some.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Ruth Kirkpatrick

    My son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 1 1/2 yrs. He is a 34 year old adult male living in a group home with other young men. He conitnues to learn and grow, although his speach and social skills are limited. I also had my labor induced. My doctor made sure he was fully developed. I had him two weeks early. He weighed 7bls, 14 oz. and was a happy healthy baby. I thought. I noticed that he wasn't trying to learn to speak and potty training was not going well. I also noticed that he wasn't crawling well, but as he got older, he had perfect balance. He stayed in his own little world until the age of 3. His school taught him sign language and then he started to speak. They used behaviour modifacation with him using cheerios. If there is any possiblily that the drug used to induce me, may have caused his autism, I would sure like to know. I have spoken to other parents and couldn't come up with a common link. I have three other adult children that are not special needs. Thanks for letting me post.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Wendy B

    @Todd E. – Thank you so much for saying what was on my mind: Correlation DOES NOT EQUAL causation. Symptoms of autism have very little opportunity to arise before a child's round of immunizations. So it means very little that a child may begin showing symptoms after being vaccinated.

    @ James Wilson – The problem with a large survey is related to the correlation issue. While it would give us an idea of environmental (and biological, depending on the extent of the survey) factors to focus on in future research, it would only give us correlations and not definitive answers about what :causes: autism spectrum disorder. I also imagine that a survey of that scope would cost quite a lot of money and would have some confounds based on how people were chosen for and responded to the survey.

    @Connie Burciaga – While your grandson may be exhibiting some odd behavior, it is possible he is just a different kid than you expect him to be (my brother made noises to himself growing up and rarely played sports, but it turned out he was shy, non-athletic, and a little ADD!). However, he could also have another disorder. If you are concerned and can't get cooperation from his parents, you could ask his teacher to pay attention to him for you. The teacher would have to approach the parents if (s)he suspected a learning disorder.

    @harl – The contract for doctors to sign is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. If you were asked to sign a contract when you gave a toddler a bowl of chicken soup stating that, if the child developed chicken pox, you would pay the parents tons of money... you wouldn't sign that either! Because though you are confident the soup wouldn't :cause: the chicken pox, there is a risk that that child would :develop: chicken pox. The doctor's job is to give your child protection against diseases, and vaccinations are proven to do that. Until a drug is advised against or proven to cause complications, your doctor will continue to give it.

    @John A – There are several issues with a survey asking about autism spectrum disorder in people who did or did not receive vaccinations. First, the population who isn't vaccinated is small in this country, and because these vaccinations are strongly encouraged, people who refuse them are likely to have special characteristics (eg, pre-existing concern over autism–which might actually make them more likely to report a diagnosis, general distrust of the medical community–which could lead to undiagnosed cases, etc.). And also correlational issues, survey selection, and so on.

    Has anyone noticed that AWARENESS of Autism is climbing as the :rate of diagnosis: is climbing? Maybe more people are being diagnosed because more people are bringing up behavioral earmarks with their doctors and teachers. Not because more people are actually developing the disease.

    I don't know if vaccines are contributing to the disorder, but since most people receiving the vaccines in question are :not: diagnosed with the disorder, there is clearly at least a secondary factor at play.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Todd E.

    The CDC chart recommends the following vaccinations for 0-6 year olds:
    Hep. B, rotavirus, Diptheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, pneumococcal vaccine, Hib vaccine, polio, seasonal influenza, MMR, Varicella, Hep. A, and meningococcal vaccine.

    Here are some of the diseases/illnesses they prevent:
    Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, diptheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), ear infection, eye infection, sinus infection, invasive pneumococcal disease, polio, seasonal influenza, measels, mumps, German measels (rubella), chickenpox, bacteremia (bacteria in the blood that can lead to sepsis), pneumonia, and acute bacterial meningitis

    This is the risk a parent takes by not having their child immunized. Which will you choose for your child so that he or she might not get autism?

    Attributing the prevention of autism to the avoidance of vaccinations is a logical fallacy of causation called post hoc ergo propter hoc. The logic is as follows: "I did not have my child vaccinated. My child does not have autism. Therefore, not having my child vaccinated caused him to not have autism." It is a small leap to the inverse of the conclusion. That's how we get, "Having my child vaccinated (would have) caused autism."

    I have a rock. There are no bears around. Therefore the rock must be keeping the bears away.
    (thank you Lisa Simpson)

    April 2, 2010 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Brenda Morrisey

    Irene Robertson... that's an interesting correlation. I also suffer from multiple chemical sensitivities... mine are aggravated by sweet perfumes and other fragrances, diesel smoke, cigarette smoke, and pollution in gerneral. I can't be near anyone that has just put on perfume or is wearing too much of the "wrong" kind. I can't drive behind heavy equipment because of the diesel smoke, and I can't be near most kinds of air freshner sprays and plug ins. I've been to mutiple doctors, come back negative for allergies, and most think this disorder is a joke... I say live with it and you get the worst migraine of your life and then maybe you'll take it seriously!

    Interestingly, my son has Asperger's Syndrome.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Leopold

    My step-son has Asperger's. I wish people would stop pretending they know the answer. It does not help those who suffer from these disorders.

    There are likely several causes, just as there are several causes of broken bones or fevers. The anti-vaccine people drive me nuts trying to portray everyone with autism spectrum disorder as "damaged" by vaccines. We know for some people, that just isn't so, but that doesn't stop the anti-vaccine people from pushing their narrow focus.

    And all they point to is correlation. Here are some more correlations: Number of McDonald's restaurants correlates with rising autism diagnosis. Number of televisions correlates with rising autism diagnosis. Number of automobiles correlates with rising autism diagnosis. Size of federal government deficit correlates with rising autism diagnosis. Big deal. Correlation does not mean causation. It definitely does not when there is a genetic cause.

    I suspect many of these kids would not have survived years ago. There would be some kind of "accident", and the local sheriff wouldn't look too deep because he knew what a burden this kid was. And autism? Who knew what autism was 50 or 100 years ago? Of course it was under-diagnosed then.

    Vaccines have caused tremendous good. Can there or will there be a damaging vaccine at some point? Or has there been one? Possibly. But I hate these anti-vaccine people who try to portray that they "know" the truth. All they hear are rumors from like minded people or point to articles written by like minded people. When someone points out something contradictory, they act like the people who believe in some stupid government conspiracy to hide aliens in Roswell, New Mexico. They completely turn off their minds because they just "know" contradictory information can't be someone trying to find the truth. It "must" be a conspiracy. And people with autism suffer anyway.

    I applaud those that do research in this area. We know the answers are not easy to find. But keep working on it. Maybe there is a vaccine that affects 4% of cases. Maybe television at a very young age is doing it. Who knows. No one does yet. But lets keep our minds open, not closed.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. dan

    It is simple, look at the symptoms of heavy metal poisoning (not just mercury...) and autism. THEY ARE THE SAME. The gentics accounts for less than 10%, the government just doesn't want to bankrupt itself and countless corporations to repay the damages they have done to millions of Americans. My son was diagnosed at 15 months, my wife and I went to see a DAN doctor and after tons of blood, urine, fecal, and hair tests we discovered he was suffering from numerous food allergies and astronomical amounts of lead and arsenic (high but not tipping the scale lvls of copper and mercury) in his system. We put him on a GFCF diet, did some vitamin shots, speech and occupational therapy, did a month of chelation, and now he is 4 and you can't even tell he was ever autistic. Hopefully one day someone gets voted into office who actually cares about the people and not the bottomline of a piece of paper.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. E.C.Coleman

    TO: CNN

    WHY ISN'T AN EMAIL ICON PROVIDED SO THIS ARTICLE MIGHT BE
    FORWARDED TO OTHERS?
    IN MY OPINION,
    THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MORE INFORMATION AND PARENTAL
    INPUT THAN ANY ARTICLE EVER PUBLISHED.
    THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT MERCURY SHOULD BE BANNED
    FROM ALL VACINES.
    WHY ARE VACCINATIONS STILL BEING PRODUCED WITH HARMFUL INGREDIENTS?
    PARENTS SHOULD STOP GIVING KIDS VACCINATIONS UNTIL
    THIS QUESTION IS SETTLED.
    IN THE COMMENT REGARDING THIS STATEMENT:
    "NOT EVEN ONE AUTISTIC CHILD IN 35,000 KIDS TREATED IN THE AMISH COMMUNITY, NO VACCINATIONS; THIS INFORMATION GIVES PAUSE TO INCREASED PREVALENCE OF AUTISM IN OTHER AREAS OF THIS COUNTRY.

    THE FDA IS NOT FUNCTIONING AS IT SHOULD.
    THE FDA SHOULD BE MORE AGRESSIVE AND PROACTIVE.

    ANY POSSIBLE INGREDIENT IN A VACCINATION THAT WE KNOW AND HAVE PROVEN TO BE HARMFUL..... SHOULD BE IMMEDIATELY BANNED FROM VACCINES.
    THIS CASE OF HARMFUL DRUGS IS NO DIFFERENT THAN THE CONTAMINATION OF HARMFUL INGREDIENTS FOUND IN MILK AND PET FOOD PRODUCTS FROM CHINA.
    THE FDA SHOULD BE FORWARNED THAT THE PUBLIC DEMANDS THAT THEY PROHIBIT THIS USE OF MERCURY , AS WELL AS ANY OTHER HARMFUL CHEMICAL, IN VACCINATIONS IMMEDIATELY.

    PITOSIN SHOULD BE TESTED ALSO.........AND A NATIONAL STUDY IS CERTAINLY EASY TO ACCOMPLISH BECAUSE OF ALL MOTHERS WHO KNOW THAT PITOSIN WAS ADMINISTERED FOR LABOR.
    THE STATISTICS ARE ALREADY OUT THERE.
    THE FDA SHOULD IMMEDIATELY GATHER THIS INFORMATION FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY, EITHER FROM OB-GYN DOCTORS OR MOTHERS OF AUTISTIC CHILDREN.
    TO GATHER THESE FIGURES AND STATISTICS IS NOT A DAUNTING TASK.
    WHY HASN'T THIS RESEARCH ALREADY BEEN ACCOMPLISHED?
    THERE SHOULD BE AN ANSWER AVAILABLE AND ONE THAT IS CURRENTLY QUITE EASY TO OBTAIN.

    THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT DOCTORS PERFORM FAR TOO MANY INDUCED LABOR DELIVERIES (FOR THE DOCTOR'S CONVENIENCE) AND FAR TOO MANY UNNECESSARY C-SECTIONS, (FOR THE DOCTOR'S CONVENIENCE.)

    EXPECTANT MOTHERS SHOULD IMMEDIATELY STOP THIS PRACTICE BY DOCTORS BY REFUSING TO USE THEM .........THE FIRST TIME THAT 'INDUCED LABOR'.....OR "POSSIBLE CAESARIAN SECTION" IS EVER UTTERED BY THE OB-GYN IN AN EXAMINATION.

    THIS EXPECTANT MOTHER SHOULD SEEK A 2ND OR 3RD OPINION.
    THERE IS AN UNUSUALLY HIGH PERCENTAGE OF CAESARIAN
    DELIVERIES WITHIN THE UNITED STATES.
    THIS FACT IS IGNORED, BUT SHOULD BE PURSUED BY THE FDA AND THE AMOUNT AND TYPE OF DRUGS USED.

    AUTISM SOUNDS MORE LIKE AN EPIDEMIC THAN A BIRTH DEFECT.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Kris

    As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, it is frustrating to hear people make blanket statements regarding possible causes when science has already proven otherwise. I did not have pitocin with my son and we did not vaccinate and he still ended up with autism. I'd love to hear how this is possible, based on your weak arguments?

    @Todd E. – Thank you for calling out Jenny McCarthy – I cringe everytime she opens her mouth in the name of autism. I want the world to know she doesn't speak for all parents of austistic children.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Teri

    In response to: Connie Burciaga
    Connie, my heart goes out to you. Your son should be looking out for the welfare of his son. He shouldn't be living out his job fears through his son either. Having a diagnosis of autism doesn't mean he would be medicated. My son isn't. Are any support groups in your area that you can get involved with? (Google autism support, check with Autism Speaks, Autism Society of America.) Is your daughter-in-law in the picture, would she be willing to have your grandson get tested? These children are amazing kids. My son has grown so much, physically and intellectually, in the past 6 years since being diagnosed. With intervention, we went from a handful of words to him talking in sentences, though not at an 8 yo level. He's taught us many things also. In the meantime, be as supportive as you can to your grandson. Sounds like he's got a great person on his team...just have to get the others on board. I wish you the best!

    April 2, 2010 at 14:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Teri

    Vijaya - totally agree!

    April 2, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Catherine

    Has anybody ever heard of Ron Davis? He's go some incredible insights into dyslexia and autism. Absolute cures.

    April 2, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Shannon

    First, let's all agree that we have a personal stake in this debate: our children. Secondly, let's agree that we would do whatever we need to do to make our children 'better'. It is my opinion that these basic facts are often overlooked when the debate begins. Regardless of your beliefs or your 'facts' or your statistics on "why this happened to my child" it has, none the less, happened to your child.
    My son has Aspergers/HFA and he was vaccinated, I was given pitocin during delivery, has had no evaluation in regards to the metal content of his body and has no intolerence to casein or gluten, and is not the child of an older father or mother. I could go on with a list of comorbities, but I won't. I find it important that I not get caught up in the details because I might start looking at my son as a 'disorder' and not my oldest child(yes, he has a younger brother that is NT).
    When something as profound as this touches us, we all become pseudo scientists and medical professionals. Get to know your individual child and try whatever you feel comfortable doing to improve your child. There are plenty of organizations and individuals out there that will provide that opportunity. Use your judgment before your emotions in advocating for your child. Let's agree to disagree..at the end of the day my son is still on the spectrum and no amount of arguing is going to change the physical structure of his brain. He seems to be okay with it and I am too, because that is part of him and I love him. I'm not saying 'do nothing' but I am saying know your child and advocate for him/her every day in every situation for whatever is in the best interest of your child.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. gen Y

    Mercury has been removed from almost all childhood vaccines. You should be more worried about feeding fresh Fish to your child than you should Vaccines.

    To John A:
    Because Vaccines are everywhere in the Western world.
    it's harder to go tot he middle of Africa and use them as the control group because their situation is very different from ours.

    To Margaret Deitsch.
    Even non Asperger's children are emotionally devloping later on.

    Here's my question for Asperger's.

    How many of the sufferers had birth Trauma?

    April 2, 2010 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. milton greenberg

    The school systems are not funded and do not have adequate instructors. My son is 23 years of age and has autism, the schi=ool board system in palm beach county, florida push our children through their program like a herd of cows. If you have the resources and thats big money to go to Dan Marinos place or similar your very lucky. The teachers will spend their energy on the elite children and i do not blame them as it is easier to teach them. Do not send your child to FLORIDA with special needs, their is no funding. Try cities like new york who take care of their own, they pay for housing etc. My son finally got a job at a grocery store after being home for 2-3 years

    April 2, 2010 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Tony Bateson

    In 2002 Boyd Haley made me almost sit up out of my chair as he showed the effect of Thimerosal when combined with testosterone upon snail neurons under an electron microscope. This was because I had long thought that there were apparent testosterone anomalies in the large number of autistic families I knew as a board member of the National Autistic Society in the UK, Much later two UK researchers Professors Simon Baron-Cohen and John Thomas Manning said that in their studies they had found "testosterone running through autism families like a river".
    There is an existing study that would reveal this to be the case if it could be examined. It is the ALSPAC Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents And Children that has recorded hormonal data and other medical information on 14,000 children born in the Avon district of England since 1991. For reasons best known to the managers of this study Professor Jean Golding et al they will not release this data. However since I learn that within this 14,000 group there are some 100 or so autistic children I am certain that there are enough to confirm or rebut the hypothesis that testosterone and vaccines are associated with these cases.
    I would be happy to work with any significant group whose efforts might be usefully combined to prise this data out of the ALSPAC study.

    About Mr Thorsen. I thought his study was highly suspect at the outset and had an exchange of emails with Kristeen Madsen that did nothing to convince me. If Thorsen has ramped up the CDC money to the point where $2 millions could be loose change, and if this work was designed to please a rich paymaster then it's no surprise that Thorsen would regard it as dirty money that he could take as just reward for burying his professional principles and integrity. He will be found however dead or alive because such people are never as clever as they think.

    Tony Bateson, Oxford, UK.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Tony V

    As a father of a 10 year old boy with autism, I think we could ALL agree that the parents pf these children need to get educated yes? Now the fun part...there are as many facts and schools of thought as there are comments on just this article alone. Its tough to say the least but it will be worse if we do nothing and expect schools and medical pros to do all the work for theses kids. And yes least we forget the economy we still must put these kids first. I'll be the 1st to admit publicly that its tough having a special needs child but I've had to step up for my son and make the best informed choices for my son. I myself have had to watch how I treat this boy as I was in the military and I found myself jumping the gun when the boy would act up. (Getting my chest hairs yanked off by his mom cured me of that quick) Its just plain hard and yet as I read your post, I find some gems of good info and I want to ask nicely to all of you this question and answer it with a open mind please.....Does anyone else remember reading a article from either cnn or msn news health that stated that the doctor from the U.K. who conducted the study that linked vaccines to autisim was flawed by that countries version of the U.S. health Dept. Autism is not new and many older people 45yrs + did not get those shots or different ones. Like other disabilities we need to find the cure.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. amom

    I recommend a fantastic book called the "Impossible Cure", about how homeopathy cured her son's autism.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Joyce

    A number of people have been working with me to meet with various U.S. Senators and Representatives to get more attention to the obvious and the still-to-be-learned factors on autism. We had a two hour meeting with Sen. Harkin December 2009, and we are requesting another meeting to review what he has been able to accomnplish since then.

    Join us by contacting your own elected officials. Continue to ask why this condition has been ignored by a true review. Continue to ask why the FDA/CDC and Big pharma is in charge of the U.S. Senate and House.

    I realize that progress has been slower than cold molasses, but I will take any amount of progress I can get.

    And keep in mind there are numberous people like me with no direct impact with autism............lots of Grandmas and Grandpas around the U.S., recognize the extremely tough situation for so many families!

    Thanks...............ejhs

    April 2, 2010 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. bill

    I have a 17 yr old mildly autistic son. We tried all the therapies: applied behavior, audio integration, milk & wheat free diet, chelation. The behavior worked very well but is expensive. The diet made a huge difference when he was little, but he isn't on it now. the audio integration didn't seem to help much. the chelation lowered his mercury load alot and also helped.

    I don't know what causes autism or not, and I only have my son as a data point. I do know his mercury level when measured was 2x of my non-autistic daughter so it correlates in his case. My advice to parents is to try everything that is a safe treatment. Yes chelation is safe if done correctly – its been done for lead poisoning for decades.

    if you think they have a problem get it checked out. Our pediatrician at the time didn't think there was a problem. Don't be afraid to push the school system as well to perform. We had to have lots of IEP meetings and tell them what to do.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Jackie Monroe

    For those that need to know what meds my son is on – please know this:

    he has been through 6 different meds to varying dosages. Everytime he has a growth spurt, his hormones change, he blinks his eyes, eats somethng green, or a butterfly happens by we have to start changing things around. It's hit and miss. The one that worked the best for the longest is Adderall. That is not what he is on now, but may be back to that tomorrow. Who knows? We have tried everything – believe me. I have a great health care plan and great doctors and we work together and talk about every piece of new something that someone speculates about. What one thing helps best? Time and behavior therapy for the WHOLE family.

    It has been quite a fight. I have fought with doctors, insurance, schools, systems, teachers, special needs personnel, autism specialists, speech therapists, even a husband who didn't think it was a big deal (4 years – I'm most proud to tell you he is my biggest cheerleader now – whew!).

    I read all the speculation about how this came about and, honestly, I can't even guess. I did the same thing with him that I did with all three of my children. Each of them is as different as the colors of the rainbow. Each of them has their own quirks and needs. Gordon is the only one with Autism. But I fight for each one of them and they count on my to be the strong mom.

    I won't give up – I can't! Gordon is super smart, incredibly insightful, surprised when he makes us laugh, talented ,and super cute. I'm a pusher. I have mastered telling people what has to happen with a smile on my face and steel in my eyes. Gordon will succeed in this life. I know it – I believe it. I may have to stand by his side to make it happen but it will.

    What do I think about having him with me the rest of my life?
    Well, I would tell you I am not that lucky.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. saf63

    Some of you commenting regarding this article have made reference to Robert F. Kennedy's article. As much as I do respect Mr. Kennedy, and I surely do, I must point out that he is not a doctor nor a scientist. But, we do have researchers/scientists who have gone through many years of study who have given much time to this subject. Why choose a non-scientist over someone who actually knows the subject? Also, it is more than unfair, it is unjust, to label the pharmaceutical companies' work as "pharma spin". These companies have been demonized by certain people, and the public chooses to believe it–to find someone to blame. People, these scientists working for these companies are not those demons. My son is one of those scientists. He has had years and years devoted to study–much money spent to get where he is. He is neither an elitist nor wealthy. He could make much more money being, say, a medical specialist. And the others working with him are the same. What do you think? That these people, these companies have some agenda to promote autism? That they are willing to infect your child with such a terrible malady? My gosh, people, when research after research does not show the connection, why do you hold onto it? And something else. I think many or most of you are too young to remember a time when a parent's greatest fear was to lose a child to a childhood illness prevalent in years' past–typhoid, polio, smallpox, measles to name just a few. You can go to areas in this country and see graveyards full of little gravesites of children who died during one particular time of an epidemic. You think you have fear now? I tell you, these people had many children because they knew they would lose half or more of them. So you think the answer is going back to a time without immunizations? I guess it is easy for you to imagine that since we've been without these fears for so long. The truth is that research is being done constantly to try to find a link between autism and some everyday element in our lives. Don't put down those who are giving their time and expertise, have given many years of their lives in study to be able to do so. Stop putting down the very companies who have ensured that you will live longer with a better quality of life. Most of all, quit hiding your heads in the sand and insisting something when these very ones who know what they are talking about cannot find a link. And stop listening to non-scientists, fear-mongers, talk show hosts who are nothing more than less than educated shock jocks. Have a little respect for those who deserve it.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Seth Goldberg

    @Matt…Matt, honestly I was not trying to scare anyone or sell my services; I simply want to provide knowledge and insight that I have obtained over the past two plus years of providing testing services. In all my testing, there has been one constant, when I test for parents of autistic children and they inform me of their children’s blood metals, I find the same metals in the consumer products and items these children are exposed to and regularly use; to me this a big coincidence. As I said in my initial comment, I’m not saying that heavy metals are the cause of autism but I have found them in 100% of autistic homes I’ve tested. I suspect that these metals found in the blood of these autistic children are masking the ability to properly treat autism and until you remove these metals from these children’s environment, you may not even be able to treat autism properly. I apologize if you thought my intention was to scare or make money, I’d much rather be out of business because consumer products didn’t have potentially harmful toxicants. I really just wanted to add to the conversation and hope that potential studies can be done. I have data on consumer products and I want to help anyway I can, right now, information is what we provide so people and businesses can make educated decisions as to what is in their environment and ultimately what they are exposed to.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Ute

    I have had no direct experience with this disorder, but my heart goes out to anyone who has. Knowing how corrupt, misleading and biased medical reseach tends to be in the name of PROFIT, I am much, MUCH more inclined to believe what parents have observed and tried !

    I am getting REALLY sick & tired of this world putting profits before people!

    Bless everyone who is out there trying very hard to find the correct answers.

    April 2, 2010 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
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