Isolated in worlds of their own, people with autism appear indifferent and remote and are unable to form emotional bonds with others. Although people with this baffling brain disorder can display a wide range of symptoms and disability, many are incapable of understanding other people's thoughts, feelings, and needs. Often, language and intelligence fail to develop fully, making communication and social relationships difficult. Many people with autism engage in repetitive activities, like rocking or banging their heads, or rigidly following familiar patterns in their everyday routines. Some are painfully sensitive to sound, touch, sight, or smell.
Children with autism do not follow the typical patterns of child development. In some children, hints of future problems may be apparent from birth. In most cases, the problems become more noticeable as the child slips farther behind other children the same age. Other children start off well enough. But between 18 and 36 months old, they suddenly reject people, act strangely, and lose language and social skills they had already acquired.
As a parent, teacher, or caregiver you may know the frustration of trying to communicate and connect with children or adults who have autism. You may feel ignored as they engage in endlessly repetitive behaviors. You may despair at the bizarre ways they express their inner needs. And you may feel sorrow that your hopes and dreams for them may never materialize.
But there is help and hope. Gone are the days when people with autism were isolated, typically sent away to institutions. Today, many youngsters can be helped to attend school with other children. Methods are available to help improve their social, language, and academic skills. Even though more than 60 percent of adults with autism continue to need care throughout their lives, some programs are beginning to demonstrate that with appropriate support, many people with autism can be trained to do meaningful work and participate in the life of the community.
It has been thought that autism is found in every country and region of the world, and in families of all racial, ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds. Emerging in childhood, it affects about 1 to 2 people in every thousand and is three to four times more common in boys than girls. The incidence is increasing, with some parts of the world experiencing 17 cases per thousand children. Girls with the disorder tend to have more severe symptoms and lower intelligence. In addition to loss of personal potential, the cost of health and educational services to those affected exceeds $3 billion each year. So, at some level, autism affects us all. [Taken from NIH Publication No. 97-4023 Printed 1997. Booklet. 60p.]
However, one reporter set out to analyze the autism rates among Amish communities.
Since they have been cut off for hundreds of years from American culture and scientific progress, the Amish may have had less exposure to some new factor triggering autism in the rest of population. The likely culprit: vaccines.
Traveling to the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country in search of autistic Amish children, the reporter, based on national statistics, should have found as many as 200 children with autism in the community -- instead, he found only three, the oldest age 9 or 10:
The first autistic Amish child was a girl who had been brought over from China, adopted by one family only to be given up after becoming overwhelmed by her autism, and then re-adopted by an Amish Mennonite family. (China, India and Indonesia are among countries moving fast to mass-vaccination programs.) The second autistic Amish child definitely had received a vaccination and developed autism shortly thereafter. The reporter was unable to determine the vaccination status of the third child.
In some vaccines, they use a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal that keeps multiple-dose vials from becoming contaminated by repeated needle sticks. After health officials became concerned about the amount of mercury infants and children were receiving through thimerosal-tainted vaccines, the toxin was phased out of U.S. vaccines starting in 1999. [Washington Times April 18, 2005 ]
The increase in reported cases of autism has not only slowed, but actually reversed now that thimerosal, a mercury-based vaccine preservative, has finally been removed from childhood vaccines. Studies of two government databases indicate that autism rates went up as thimerosal dosages increased, then began to decline as thimerosal was removed. [Association of American Physicians and Surgeons March 6, 2006]
However, a new MUHC study provides conclusive evidence that the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine is not associated with the development of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The study, published in the scientific journal Pediatrics (Oct 16, 2006), reveals fundamental errors in previous molecular studies that falsely implicated the MMR vaccine as a risk factor for autism. This study arose from a cross-disciplinary collaboration between Dr Brian Ward, Chief of Infectious Diseases at the MUHC, and Dr Eric Fombonne, Director of Pediatric Psychiatry at the Montreal Children's Hospital of the MUHC
The biological evidence from this new MUHC study correlates with the epidemiological evidence from another previous MUHC study that also proves that the MMR vaccine has no link to autism. The previous study, led by Dr. Fombonne, was published in the July 5 issue of Pediatrics. All well-conducted epidemiological studies have found no association between the MMR vaccine and autism at the population level. The MUHC team's new data now demonstrate that the putative MMR-ASD link can no longer be argued even at the level of the individual child with autism.
An additional study was led by Dr. W Ian Lipkin of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, New York, New York, and is published as an online open access article on 4th September in PLoS One, the journal of the Public Library of Science. According to MedPage Today (September 4, 2008), Lipkin told the press: "We are persuaded that there is no link."
There are many sites dedicated to the subject of Autism. Useful examples include autism.com, autism.org and Autism Research Institute.
It is important to determine whether the child has health problems. These problems may include a need for essential vitamins and minerals (vitamin B6 with magnesium, DMG (TMG), vitamins A and C), gastrointestinal problems (leaky gut, yeast overgrowth, viral infection), high levels of heavy metals and other toxins (mercury, lead), and food sensitivities. The majority of autistic individuals have one or more of these problems.
Scientists have renounced their conclusions in a study that suggested a link between childhood vaccinations and autism.
Ten of the 13 authors involved in the study signed a formal retraction stating the main author was being paid on the side by lawyers for parents who claimed their children were harmed by the immunizations. The scientists wanted to make it clear in the retractions that although there was no casual link between the vaccine and autism, the possibility of such a link was raised. [Yahoo! News March 3, 2004]
While it's highly unlikely that any one vaccine is responsible for the autism epidemic, there are many signs indicating that we may be giving our children too many vaccines, and that vaccines of all kinds may be less innocuous than previously believed.
Research in 2012 has discovered that exposure to low levels of antidepressants, such as found in water supplies, can turn on the same genes found in fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) as those found in autism. Please see the link with Conventional Drugs on this page.