April 8th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Can a child recover from autism?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

From Wendy in Detroit:

"I have a daughter that I was told was autistic when she was younger, but now that she's grown I'm being told she is not and likely never was. I am told her only issue was language processing. I don't know whether to consider her misdiagnosed or recovering autistic.”


Wendy as you might guess, without meeting and assessing your daughter,  it's difficult for anyone to determine whether your daughter was in fact misdiagnosed or not.

But here are some things I can tell you. According to experts that we've spoken with there's no specific cure for autism. So if you were born with it, you'll always have it but it may become very mild almost to the point of becoming undetectable.

If it's diagnosed early – around age 2 – and a child gets therapy early, it's possible, in some cases, for a child's symptoms to improve so much that he or she no longer meets the criteria for autism. Some people call this "recovery" and experts estimate this can happen in maybe 10 percent of children who fall under the entire autism spectrum.

It is possible as well that a child was misdiagnosed as having autism while actually having a different developmental disorder all together. Wendy, I hope that helps you.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Esattezza

    I agree with most everything Dr. Gupta said. I just want to emphasize that it's actually quite common for children to "grow out of" autism to an extent. I'd like a reference for 10% recovery number that Dr. Gupta mentioned. Is that just in classic autism? Low-functioning? Nonverbal? It just seems terribly low to me. Anecdotally, I know many people who were high functioning, or had aspergers in childhood and moved off the spectrum in their teenage years. Given what we know about autism, the root of the disorder seems to lie in brain chemistry, which changes as children grow to adulthood, so it is not surprising that some of the problems right themselves.

    April 8, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Kathryn

    I've seen doctors duke this very topic out at a conference (mainstream) I just went to. It was interesting seeing a paper presented re: optimal outcome children. They were in the standard deviation of the NTs AND the HFAs, but the NTs and the HFAs were NOT within the standard deviation of one another. This was on all tests, EXCEPT joint attention – where no matter what they still had the joint attention of only a three year old (this would describe my son perfectly). The two scientists were both BIG WIGS – very famous, very well funded research. One – "Gee – they're off spectrum! Yeah!" – isn't that convenient? Taking kids off spectrum so the government isn't responsible. He's becoming infamous (within our town) – my son's SERT said "I didn't hear it, you didn't say it" (and we're not her first "off spectrum" via this egomaniac). Within the people within the know – we never go back to him. The other BIG WIG feels that there is too much brain damage early on (within joint attention) and they can NEVER come off spectrum – no matter how much they improve. Guess which doctor I adore?

    April 8, 2010 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Val

    Autism is a word to describe a delay in development and the manifestation of other symptoms. A physical cause has not been identified with regard to early autism. Lots of ideas are present about what contributes to autism.

    It is possible that your daughter is completely better and we will never know why she displayed the early symptoms of autism. It is possible that she is so high functioning that the label is made moot. Even Temple Grandin has said that she improves with each passing year.

    While early intervention helps with some recovery in areas of speech and language development. Studies have shown that 75 percent remain in the spectrum of autism after earliest intervention strategies – and they continue to need special helps.

    Autism covers a wide range of affect from moderate to very severe. Some get along quite well and others have a very hard time.

    April 8, 2010 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Anne McElroy Dachel

    Dr. Gupta infers that autism is something a child is born with. I find that amazing since officials never tire of telling us that the cause of autism is unknown. Unless Gupta is privy to research no one else knows about, he can't say that anyone is "born with" autism. My son wasn't born autistic. I watched him lose skills and regress into autism. Countless parents across the country have the same story.

    Those who claim that children are born with autism pretend that this is a genetic disorder. Millions of dollars are wasted looking for the genes that cause autism while autism is an exploding epidemic among our children. Genes alone couldn't possibly explain why one percent of children have autism at the same time no one has ever been able to show us a comparable number among adults.

    Anne Dachel Media editor: Age of Autism http://www.ageofautism.com/

    April 8, 2010 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Maurine Meleck

    A very small minority of children are born with autism so this answer is very misleading. Most children are perfectly normal past a year old-and then regress following vaccinations. This happened to both my grandchildren. We stopped vaccinating the youngest at 5 months of age and still he was diagnosed with autism at 13 months. However, bio-med treatments recovered him by age 4. His older borther, who had vaccines til age 2, is still in recovery at age 12. It's sad that so many doctors make statements with little knowledge of autism.

    April 8, 2010 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Lila White

    Why is it that doctors can make a mistake and "misdiagnose" someone as autistic, but they are never wrong when they say that vaccines don't cause autism or that children can't recover from autism? My son was mistakenly given an MMR at 8 months of age. This particular "mistake" was made by the nurse, not the doctor. He regressed into high functioning autism afterwards. After five and a half years of biomedical interventions (exclusively) including chelation, hyperbaric oxygen, supplementation he is recovered from autism. My son used to be on four psychiatric medications and is no longer taking any of them.

    April 9, 2010 at 00:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Robert J. Krakow

    Dear Dr. Gupta:

    I appreciate your past reporting on related issues, but your comments makes no sense.

    Autism is defined by symptoms only. If the symptoms are “undetectable” than what is it that one has if, as you say, “you’ll always have it.” What precisely does one have if autism is not defined biologically or physiologically and there are no symptoms.

    If a child does not meet the criteria for autism then he does not have autism, by definition.

    Now, be sure to understand that what is called “autism” is, in my opinion, various forms of metabolic and biochemical dysregulation that triggers developmental regression at key points for infants. But none of the so-called “autism” experts have ever explicitly supported this view.

    In any case, to say one always has it, begs the question of what “it” is.

    Do you know?


    Robert J. Krakow, parent

    April 9, 2010 at 00:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. joe

    This is a carry over from the previous post of mine on my son Colton that was normal till his 27 month vaccines, at the injection site was a knot the size of a nerf football cut in half. So hot it could burn you to touch it the next day three mini seizures. After that, the next day he began showing signs of what we perceive today to be ( Autism ). Spinning in a circle flapping his arms and fingers within months he lost all his speech down to mooom and Daaad from sentences to almost nothing. Signs of mercury toxicity are that it effects the speech the gate and the eyesight, it turns a child into a mad hatter they cannot control the laughing and the crying they have self abuse issues also very bad gastrointestinal problems. All the signs of our children Dr.

    April 9, 2010 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. karenatlanta

    I have a son that has recovered from being severely non-verbal and diagnosed with Autism. He still has some processing issues but life is a million times better after chelation therapy and the GFCF diet.
    He got loads of Mercury in his infant vaccines as soon as we treated that with a doctor he began to recover. We did some genetic testing and he has some predisposition to chronic illness. I personally think the toxins threw him over the edge. Agree that treating early gives the child the best chance at a higher quality of life.

    April 9, 2010 at 08:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dan

    I think Dr Gupta nor other doctor deeply involved into Autism can give any comment or advice. Consider that there are like 500 doctor or so in the USA qualified to treat autism. A parent of a child with Autism knows more than any regular Doctor.
    Epigenetics and Enviroment as a causal, vaccines in many cases the trigger element.
    With that premise, Autism has different manifestations depending on the genetic map and the time of the injury.
    A child can show simptoms since birth, but did the mother received a Flu shot during pregnancy, did the baby received the unnecessary and for political reasons the HepB vaccine the first day of life without even the parent acknowledging it.
    Sensory Integration is the norm in Autism, as many other problems of the immune system. If you said your child never gets sick, well..there is a problem there, your son has an overactive immune or underactive immune system, not a normal system.
    So..please do not give advice if you do not know Dr Gupta.
    Please go here and listen the radio conferences, I found them very complete in explaining and solving the "mistery" of Autism.
    look for the keys Stewart and AutismOne

    April 9, 2010 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Florencio Mendiola Jr.






    April 9, 2010 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Dan

    By the way i did not like the way you ask Karl Taro Greenfeld about what was wrong with Jenny McCarthy's views.
    Autism can be caused by vaccines, specially it we are dealing with life viruses. Mercury and heavy metals can affect the biochemistry of a baby. You were lucky, and who knows if this is true, that you vaccinated according the vaccine schedule to your children.
    Many people, about 50% of the population or so have genetic vulnerabilities that make them not able to process so much assault at at early age. You see that 1 in 3 children have some sort of immune disregulation problems (asthma, cancer, autism, ADHD, ADD, dislexia....) my God where you doctors get your degrees...or what is worse, what are you learning?

    April 9, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. joe

    You did not Ok this post of mine yet I'm trying again, it contains only truth if Dr. Gupta does his research then he will find there are no inaccuracies. Also this is still the land of the freedom of the press
    in-fact that is why our young men and women are coming home from war in body bags and with no arms or legs. Please say America is still free!

    Ps I did not cuss, or attack anybody, and there was no lies. Only truth!

    Please do not mock their service to our country, by blocking the truth

    (My original post, it contains no inaccuracies)

    Dr. Gupta my son Colton was normal till his 27 months vaccines, at the injection site was a knot the size of a nerf football cut in half. So hot it could burn you to touch it the next day three mini seizures and the child we knew that was there and normal was gone! The next day everything he ate changed, he was down to two sometimes three items of food. Please explain a child that ate cake and ice cream and loved it, one day after his vaccines would not touch ever again. After the 3 mini seizures he started chewing and sniffing everything like a rat and I assume his sense of smell was greatly enhanced and that changed the way he perceived food, We later found out that the toys he had chewed flat. Had contained lead in the toys & plastic and in the paint. So we now have a child with mercury and aluminum poisoning, and now lead. Dr. Gupta, you and yours cannot figure out where all this autism is coming from. May I shed some light on this subject, when the EPA sets the safe limits for mercury at 200 ppb and the children that played CDC AAP catch up in the 90's on vaccines. Those very very unlucky children could receive 9 vaccines in one day at one setting, 7 of which could contain the mercury. Dr.Gupta that amount is far from small it totals 32,500 ppb, And Dr. that is not even taking into account the synergy effect of the two salts mixed, the "Thimerosal" which is them ( Vaccinial Mercury ) used as a preservative and the Aluminum that is used as a catalysis in children's vaccines. You see the two react very violently together when mixed, with the production of heat which in turn causes the oxidative stress in the children's brains. In fact Dr.Gupta it is on the MSDS of Thimerosal under reactivity data not to mix with Aluminum, Dr. what is something that reacts violently together doing in a children's vaccine? Am I to assume Dr. that the agencies who are responsible for vaccine safety do not listen to warnings that are even in a written form no less? It is also on the MSDS that pregnant women should not be exposed to Thimerosal for it can cross the placenta and go in to the baby and cause mild to severe mental retardation, let me expand that for you a little Dr. Mild ADD, ADHD, Speech delay, and then the severe Autism, Bipolar, Childhood Explosive Anger disorders,All the chronic diseases that we did not know where they were coming from. It does seem truth is coming to lite, Care to defend the Thimerosal or may I reword that, Mercury being injected in Children?

    Coltons Dad

    April 9, 2010 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. joe

    Vaccines are either safe or not, we can no longer put our heads in the sand and pretend this Sacred cow is to big to fail. Sound familiar, you are still paying and will for years to come the last sacred cow. BANKS

    Definition sacred cow ; Something too highly regarded to be open to criticism or curtailment

    The most vaccinated generations in American history has also the most sickest children and adults in American history. With health insurance premiums for a family of four, costing as much as a mortgage for a two story brick home. Has anybody ever wondered how we got in this pathetic state?Greed Arrogance and Ignorance...

    April 9, 2010 at 23:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Claire M.

    My best friend had a child that my husband and I realized very early on had a problem. We tried to bring it to the parents' attention, but they said it was an ear infection, and then it was something else, on and on. Eventually he was diagnosed with low-functioning autism, but the parents attributed it to vaccines, saying he was completely normal before. It's tough because I don't even talk about it with them because they continue to be in denial. I've always thought it must have a genetic component.

    I also know several adults with Asperger's and it's really clear they still have it and don't seem to be getting over it even in late middle age. They are not at all like those who were diagnosed with autism, so I fear that the "spectrum" designation is doing a disservice to people with various disorders that are very different although they share some attributes.

    April 10, 2010 at 01:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Barbara, San Jacinto, California

    My four year old son was recently diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder, I HOPE AND PRAY THAT ONE DAY THERE IS A CURE!!!!!!!

    April 10, 2010 at 02:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Peter Sammarco

    We can heal anything and EVERYTHING in our lives...To believe what we read on the internet about Disease Vary and can be VERY dangerous...We must have some faith in our own body, mind, soul our inner spirit to happily heal anything and everything in our lives. We can capture our mind:
    AS Einstein wrote:
    "Imagination is more important than Knowledge"
    IMAGINE Healing all of the challenges our children have by helping them BELIEVE in themselves to talk to Their OWN Body.

    Love and Smiles from Peter Sammarco

    April 12, 2010 at 05:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Esattezza

    I'm right there with you. In the mean time, check out sites like Science Based Medicine to learn why it's unwise to be taken in by fear-mongering anti-vaccinationists posting on this blog and why, although hope is a wonderful thing, you should not hope so much that you are blind to science and ignore medical advice.

    For example, chelation therapy is a bad idea. Autism as NOT caused by mercury toxicity. Most reputable doctors will tell you this and refuse to give a child chelation therapy to treat autism – because it's neither safe nor effective for that condition (to be clear, an autistic child died from chelation in 2005).

    In the meantime, keep your head up. Your child is different, sure, but he is also wonderful. Give him all of the love and help he needs and deserves and we will fight for the resources all such children need and deserve. And if you ever need someone to talk to about this, you can find a way to contact me by following the link to my blog. There's more information there on this topic that you might be interested in as well.


    April 12, 2010 at 22:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. california grandma

    my grandson was normal until he took a series of vaccines. first, it shut down his pancreas...he went into ketoacidocis and eventually becaome a type 1 diabetic, at 14 months. several months later, he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
    he is high functioning. he is loving, gentle and has a new joke for me every week.
    not without challenges (outbursts) which i found to be frustration from not being able to communicate and be understood. i taught him the work "help" early on. then i or anyone else could come to his level and figure out what he needed help with – hungry? sleepy? bathroom? huh?
    i could talk/write for hours.
    i find it's the "annecdotal" (read "experiental") evidence and advice that has been the most helpful.
    those doctors who have not had a child with autism really cannot separate themselves from the drug companies (i.e. vaccinations) or/and the established thought to really think about why autsim exisits.
    they simply cannot think out of the box, whereas parents and family who deal with autism look at EVERYTHING or combinations of things that seem to have created the slow decline into autism.
    and, in subtracting things from an autistics childs world (gluten, negative stimuli to name just two things) you may well begin to see an emergence from autism, as with my grandson.

    April 14, 2010 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Esattezza

    California Grandma wrote: "i find it's the "annecdotal" (read "experiental") evidence and advice that has been the most helpful. those doctors who have not had a child with autism really cannot separate themselves from the drug companies (i.e. vaccinations) or/and the established thought to really think about why autsim exisits. they simply cannot think out of the box, whereas parents and family who deal with autism look at EVERYTHING or combinations of things that seem to have created the slow decline into autism."

    And what of those doctors and scientists who DO have autism in their family? Those of us who are effected by it every day? Anecdotal evidence has it's place. That place is to identify areas where research needs to be done. Research has been done on vaccines and autism. The results were negative. Time to move on. I'm very glad your grandson is such a joy, but you are doing him and others like him a disservice by clinging to a false belief in the face of scientific consensus against it.

    April 15, 2010 at 03:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jane

    As a School Psychologist, I can say that the vast majority of ASD students I deal with have a parent or grandparent with symtpoms as well, even if they were never diagnosed. I think there is a huge genetic component, but environment may direct how it is expressed.

    April 15, 2010 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. susan

    I would like to encourage people to read Barry Kauffmanns book Son-rise. It is a wonderful story of the healing of an Autistic child. Even if Autism in its pure forms cannot be cured at this time, for many people on the Autistic spectrum there are a variety of treatment modalities which can help the child to be higher functioning. and in the end, it is a spectrum we are ALL on, and the line between abnormal, weird, mostly normal and supposedly normal is blurry and inconsistent.

    April 15, 2010 at 17:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. JLS

    I am the mother of an 18 year old autistic son, who developed epilepsy at adolescence. Bluntly put, vaccines don't cause autism. Stop spreading this falsehood. I do know people whom I respect who had children that appeared to be developing normally, and then regressed around the time of vaccinations. I believe them when they tell me that their child regressed. However, let's quit hanging onto falsehoods, and enriching people who offer quackery. Remember Secretin? I have done everything that a parent can do, and have done intensive educational interventions full time since my son was 3, as well as advocated for the same for others in my state, so that now, it is the standard. We have tried any medicinal intervention that made sense. He is not "recovered" by a long shot, but he is better off than he otherwise would have been. There are different causes and appearances of autism, different symptoms, but please, stop grasping onto mistruths that waste our time, energy, and enrich those who seek to take advantage or sell books.

    April 15, 2010 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Lisa B

    How can any of us really know if Autism is genetic or not since the majority of people today with young kids received vaccinations themselves.

    I recovered myself from AD/HD (and a whole host of other health problems) going GF and a wholesome diet of veggies, eggs and organic free range meats. My son is mostly recovered from ADS although he has some habits to break. I'm sure he would be fully recovered if we had known sooner. Yes, received my childhood vaccines and yes suffered from horrific ear infections and yes took several bouts of antibiotics which is also a contributor. Anything that messes up your small intestine will be a factor in an autoimmune disorder. My AD/HD and my son's autism were both autoimmune disorders (more than likely caused by vaccines and antibiotics) and cured through a strict diet. Not all autism is the same though. I believe there are different paths to developing autism- genetic (rare), vaccines, antibiotics and other toxins children and pregnant moms are exposed to.

    April 16, 2010 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Michele

    I would counter that we do not "see" the same level of autism in adults. I work in a field of introverts (technology), and some of them are openly described as "nuts" or "crazy" or "just plain weird". These are people who would have been diagnosed as moderately to severely autistic were they born today. They are quite obviously odd in comparison to 'normal' people. There is no epidemic, there is an increase in diagnosis, and yes, it is most likely genetic. The people I know who have autistic children either were born extremely prematurely or who themselves seem a little off... introverts, extremely intelligent, socially different (as if everyone shoudl be the same anyway). I know of several people who had an autistic child, swore it was the vaccines because the regression occurred after vaccinations, then didn't vaccinate the second child, who also was diagnosed with autism. Lots of research points to videos of 1st birthdays... parents who would tell you their children were *totally* normal missed signs evident on these videos of their children already displaying autistic behaviors.

    April 16, 2010 at 16:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. joe

    Michele time to eat your words this new research confirms the hero
    Dr. Wakefields research vaccine strain measles found in the guts of American children.

    New American research shows that there could be a link between the controversial MMR triple vaccine and autism and bowel disease in children.

    The study appears to confirm the findings of British doctor Andrew Wakefield, who caused a storm in 1998 by suggesting a possible link.

    Now a team from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina are examining 275 children with regressive autism and bowel disease – and of the 82 tested so far, 70 prove positive for the measles virus.

    Last night the team's leader, Dr Stephen Walker, said: 'Of the handful of results we have in so far, all are vaccine strain and none are wild measles.

    'This research proves that in the gastrointestinal tract of a number of children who have been diagnosed with regressive autism, there is evidence of measles virus.

    'What it means is that the study done earlier by Dr Wakefield and published in 1998 is correct. That study didn’t draw any conclusions about specifically what it means to find measles virus in the gut, but the implication is it may be coming from the MMR vaccine. If that’s the case, and this live virus is residing in the gastrointestinal tract of some children, and then they have GI inflammation and other problems, it may be related to the MMR.'

    The 1998 study by Dr Wakefield, then a reader in gastroenterology at the Royal Free Hospital in North London, and 12 other doctors claimed to have found a new bowel disease, autism enterocolitis.

    At the time, Dr Wakefield said that although they had not proved a link between MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and autism, there was cause for concern and the Government should offer the option single vaccines – instead of only MMRs – until more research had been done.

    The paper – and the confused interpretation of its findings – caused uproar and led to many parents withdrawing their co-operation for the triple jab. Ten of the paper's authors also signed retractions on the interpretation but stood by the science.

    This is the second independent study to back up Dr Wakefield. In 2001 John O'Leary, Professor of Pathology at St James's Hospital and Trinity College, Dublin, replicated his findings.

    Last night Dr Wakefield said: 'This new study confirms what we found in British children and again with Professor O'Leary. The only exposure these children have had to measles is through the MMR vaccine.

    'They were developing normally until they regressed. They now suffer autism and bowel disease.

    'The Department of Health and some of the media wanted to dismiss our research as insignificant. The excuse was that no one else had the same findings as us. What they didn't say is that no one else had looked.'

    A spokesman for the Department of Health said they had not read the American report, but added: 'MMR remains the best form of protection against measles, mumps and rubella.'

    April 16, 2010 at 23:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. joe

    More bad news the FDA suspends common child vaccine because of pig virus DNA found in the vaccines.

    “U.S. federal health authorities recommended … that doctors suspend using Rotarix, one of two vaccines licensed in the U.S. against rotavirus, saying the vaccine is contaminated with material from a pig virus,” CNN reports.
    The Rotarix vaccine, which is made by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the FDA in 2008, has already been given to about 1 million U.S. children along with 30 million worldwide. The vaccine was found to contain DNA from porcine circovirus 1.
    “The FDA learned about the contamination after an academic research team using a novel technique to look for viruses in a range of vaccines found the material in GlaxoSmithKline's product and told the company,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told CNN.
    One million U.S. children, and about 30 million worldwide, have already received GlaxoSmithKline’s Rotarix vaccine. Now a research team has discovered it is contaminated with “a substantial amount” of DNA from a pig virus.
    What is pig virus DNA doing in a vaccine intended to prevent rotavirus disease, which causes severe diarrhea and dehydration?
    It’s anybody’s guess, although CNN reported that GlaxoSmitthKline detected the substance in the cell bank and the seed used to make the vaccine, “suggesting its presence from the early stages of vaccine development.”
    It is actually common for vaccines to contain various animal matter, including foreign animal tissues containing genetic material (DNA/RNA), but even FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told CNN:
    "It [Pig virus DNA] should not be in this vaccine product and we want to understand how it got there.
    It's not an easy call and we spent many long hours debating the pros and cons but, because we have an alternative product and because the background rates of this disease are not so severe in this country, we felt that the judicious thing to do was to take a pause, to really ask the critical questions about what this material was doing in the vaccine, how it got there."

    Disturbing Findings in Rotarix and Two Other Common Childhood Vaccines
    Dr. Eric Delwart is the researcher who, along with colleagues, made the discovery of contamination in Rotarix. Their intent was reportedly to “show that live attenuated vaccine only contained the expected viral genomes and no other,” but what they found told a different story.
    Using new technology to test eight infectious attenuated viral vaccines, the results showed three of the vaccines contained “unexpected viral sequences”:
    A measles vaccine was found to contain low levels of the retrovirus avian leukosis virus
    Rotateq, Merck’s rotavirus vaccine, was found to contain a virus similar to simian (monkey) retrovirus
    Rotarix (GlaxoSmithKine’s rotavirus vaccine) was found to contain “significant levels” of porcine cirovirus 1
    So in their tests, nearly 40 percent of the vaccines they tested contained viral contaminants. The implications of these findings on the alleged safety of the vaccine supply remains to be seen, but clearly there is contamination occurring that was a complete surprise to researchers, health officials and vaccine manufacturers alike.

    April 17, 2010 at 00:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Raja

    Dr. Gupta, my wife and I recently watched your show on Autism. Our boys are older and do not have autism. However, my nephew has a serious case of autism and my neice has a less serious case. They were both born when my sister-in-law was in her mid-30s for both (and her only) pregnancies. Can having children at that age worsen the chances for autism? I also wanted to know if the huge increase in autism is speceifc to the United States, or is it increasing at the same rate in european, asian of african societies? When we watched the show we didn't notice other nations mentioned. Thanks, Roger

    April 17, 2010 at 21:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Esattezza


    I'm not a doctor... well not that kind (I'm a PhD student studying genetics) but I think I can answer your questions. FIrst, yes, increased age of the parents has been shown to correlate with an increased risk for autism. Actually, unlike Down Syndrome, which is all about the mother's age, autism rates trend more with the father's age, though we don't yet know the mechanism. Regarding, your question about the increase in autism rates in other countries, yes it is increasing. The rate may be different, which I tend to attribute with varying cultural awareness and acceptance, as well as with differing diagnostic criteria – clearly not everyone follows the american psychiatric association's guidelines. I'm not sure about in all of the areas you mentioned, but it is certainly true in Europe (I believe Denmark has really good records of this) as well as in Japan. I'm not familiar with numbers in African countries, but if the research is being done, I'm sure they're finding an increased prevalence there as well... probably precisely BECAUSE the research is finally being done, whereas before no one was paying attention. Hope this helps. If anyone else has data, feel free to add.


    April 19, 2010 at 22:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Michael Allen

    Ms. Meek,

    I'd like to respond to your comment that children are not born with Autism but they acquire it due to vaccinations. I know that you have personal family involved, so please don't take this personal, that simply is backed by scientific proof. Study after study have not causation of autism from vaccinations. The argument in the past has been that mercury preservatives were to blame. At around 2001, most vaccine's had all thimersol removed with only trace amounts remaining. Also, there was a ethically flawed study done by Dr. Andrew Wakefield in 1998 that said MMR vaccine was causal in autism, but there turned about to be serious issues with his study, and major conflicts of interest. Also, several studies have been done since Dr. Wakefield's study and no study has been able to replicate the results that he had with his study even while using the same testing procedures. This study by Dr. Wakefield, therefore would be consider unreliable.

    April 22, 2010 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Michael Allen

    It is possible too that some people have a genetic predispostion to Autism or the autism spectrum disorders and that an eviromental situation, exposure of some sorts causes a epigenetic change in the affected genes. There is a recent study that shows epigenetic changes with people with a predispostion to autism having to do with oxytocin receptors.

    April 22, 2010 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Esattezza

    Michael, first... were you responding to Ms. Meleck? Second, thank you for being so considerate about her personal involvement with the issue. I love to see that in a topic this heated. Now to the science:

    Your statements about thimerosal and the Wakefield study are accurate, but I wanted to elaborate a bit on your second post. Environmental triggers for a genetic predisposition is definitely the right idea, though I should add that all of the triggers we've seen so far happen before birth (the mother's use of thalidomide or her coming down with rubella while pregnant are two well documented cases where the children resulting from these pregnancies have a higher autism rate). Also, I believe I've read the study you mentioned about oxytocin, but I've also read two others that have failed to replicate the results, so I wouldn't be so sure of that hypothesis just yet.

    April 23, 2010 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Michael Allen


    The oxytocin study was published October 22, 2009....here is a link to anyone interested in reading at least the abstract.


    I agree, they do need to be able to replicate the results of this study in order for it to be considered reliable. There does seem to be alot of conspiracy theories on this blog.

    I would also like to comment to those who think of Dr. Wakefield as a hero...when he did his study in 1998, he was also a PAID legal consultant for families sueing vaccine makers and DID NOT disclose this before release of his study. Also, some people here want to believe that the government will not do reliable studies through places like the NIMH, CDC, IOM, because they are colluding with the vaccine makers. That assertion seems obscene considering the government spends tremendous amounts of money each year paying for the health care of children who are affected with autism, so why would they protect vaccine makers that are costing them?? Doesn't make any sense.

    Dr. Wakefield it seems, just wants to remain someone important so he keeps peddling his falsehoods. I, just like the rest of us, want to find a cure for autism, or for the autism spectrum disorders, but I will not listen to junk science in order to find blame. Also, I think people forget or have never experienced what life was like before vaccines, it has changed and improved the lives of probally billions of people and probally has saved millions of lives over the years.

    April 23, 2010 at 23:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Camelia

    Dr. Gupta is right! My kid was given the label of Aspergers when he was 4, and he continued to display a delay until his 16th B'day in language and social skills when compared to his peers. When he entered high school at 13 he had zero motivated and hated going to school. They were not teaching him and he felt bored. It was at that time we decided to home-school him to get a feel for what he really liked in high school. He took all of music and band classes at school, but we took on the challenge of teaching him all other subjects like science, math, chemistry etc. It turned out to be a real challenge trying to engage him at home. Surprisingly, on the flip-side, he now loved going to school! He was the new leader of his band, he was top chair in many music groups and he felt important. We had made sure that he took ONLY music and nothing else at school. In one year, he had created a niche for himself and knew that he could do anything in music. By year end, we put him back to school for all subjects. He now loved going even though he needed a lot of tutoring in the rest of his subjects. By senior year, he had secured himself a seat in a local college with scholarship to study music. Today, he cannot wait to get up and leave for college. We tutor him a little with the one or two liberal art subjects, but he is the undisputed king in the area of music performance. He reads a lot, talks very well, and carries himself with such confidence that no one knows his so called 'autistic' side. It is now a minor idiosyncrasy, which is no different than the quirks that we 'normal' people have. Music has led him to better his language skills to a level where he can carry a normal conversation on any topic. Music has given him a life and hidden his autism forever! Has he recovered fully? Who can tell that he had autism in the first place? No one!

    April 30, 2010 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Niki

    A Hypothesis: The rise in children diagnosed with autism, across racial and socio-economic backgrounds, is attributed to the pronounced use of Acetaminophen in children from birth to age 5. The theory of vaccine causation has masked the true cause of this epidemic. Acetaminophen is the sole environmental cause of this epidemic. These children are suffering from Acetaminophen Induced Autism. Acetaminophen given to children from birth to age 6 damages the immune system and inhibits receptors in the brain resulting in the symptoms of autism. When children are diagnosed with autism by the age of two or three many parents often note that while their children have passed all hearing tests they did suffer from one or even frequent ear infections as infants and babies. This is notable because infants with ear infections are often given Acetaminophen (as it is the most often recommended by nurses and physicians) for the pain and crankiness associated with the ear infections. A child that is particularly sick or feverish between birth and age 5 may be given Acetaminophen on a regular basis to treat fevers and for general comfort. Parents often do not switch to Ibuprofen since they become brand loyal to the Acetaminophen products. Parents say have been told by nurses and pediatricians to give infants and babies Acetaminophen not only after each vaccination but before a vaccination is administered to prevent a fever, whether or not it is known if a fever will result for that child. Parents have given Acetaminophen for crankiness and the assumption of pain due to teething. Many children's cold and cough medications sold over the counter have a fever reducer (Acetaminophen) added. Parents may or may not be aware of this additional Acetaminophen being given with this medication. Parents of children diagnosed with autism often note that their children seem to have a lowered immune system (getting sick more often or for longer periods of time than their siblings) and complain that the autistic children suffer from frequent diarrhea. Parents note they have seen success with the addition of probiotics to the child's diet. According to these parents the consumption of daily probiotics has improved immunity and resulted in normal, firm stools. Many parents of autistic children have found success with dietary changes and supplements – indicating that these dietary changes are reversing an environmental cause. This hypothesis contends that the use of Acetaminophen in infants and children through age 5 has resulted in compromised immune systems and digestive issues in addition to the cognitive and developmental delays and impairments that reveal themselves in the typical autistic characteristics – lack of verbal communication, eye contact and social engagement. Acetaminophen induced autism can be prevented. The use of Acetaminophen in infants and children through age 5 must be reviewed and severely reduced. This hypothesis suggests that Acetaminophen should only be used in this group in emergency situations and should not be available in over-the-counter form for infants and children under age 6.

    November 3, 2011 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Amanda

    I am doing research because my son has be diagnosed with autism, but he is seeming to "recover" from it. He no longer just plays alone. He seeks attention now from others. He also no longer "flaps". He is still a very picky eater and sticks to what we like to call the autsim beige diet. Other than that he seems to be okay. He can also count higher than my 5 year old. They have also recently diagnosed him with social aniety disorder. I think that might have been a big part of it all along. Thank you so much for writing this. It gives hope to all parents out there!!

    January 16, 2012 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. autismepi

    Niki appears to be correct. A new well done, prospective cohort study supports the association between acetaminophen use and autism. Prolonged use during pregnancy was associated with severe neurodevelopmental outcomes (all autism phenotypes) in 3 year olds.

    December 21, 2013 at 22:58 | Report abuse | Reply

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