Archived Story

More medication means more autism

Published 10:21am Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Column: Staff Notes

One in 88.

No, that’s not your chance of winning the lottery, or the odds of getting struck by lightning. That’s the odds of having a child with autism in the United States, according to new reports by the CDC.

One in 88.

Scarier, still, is the ratio for boys: 1 in 54. Your odds of winning $3 on a scratch off lottery ticket in Minnesota is 1 in 100. Chilling, isn’t it?

So what exactly is causing the rapid increase? Ask 10 people, you’ll get 10 different answers.

Many doctors and scientists will tell you it’s because of better diagnostic efforts. That may be true in some cases; since autism is a “spectrum” disorder, it ranges from very mild to very severe, and the symptoms can be radically different from child to child, so one child with autism is nothing like the next.

However, it seems a bit far-fetched that better diagnosis can explain away an increase from 1 in 10,000 in 1980 to 1 in 88 today. If that were truly the case, then where were all of the children with autism when I was in school? I went to a high school of around 1,200 kids. We had one boy with autism in the entire school. One in 1,200, not 1 in 88.

My 10-year-old son has autism, and I, of course, have my own theories as to the cause of his autism. At the risk of opening a flood gate of finger-pointing “conspiracy theorist” claims, I will admit freely that I’m on the anti-vaccine wagon.

I had, I believe, four vaccines as a child: polio, tetanus, MMR and diphtheria. My son received 32 by the time he was 5.

We, as a nation, are drunk on medicine. We are always looking to a pill or a shot to cure what ails us. We obsessively reach for the antibacterial hand cream 12 times a day, when what we really should be doing is letting our immune system do its job.

If I had it to do over again, I would have rejected that first Hep B vaccine when my son was a day old, but I was a new mother, and my doctor recommended it, so of course I was going to comply. What responsible mother wouldn’t? No one in my family receives a flu shot or boosters of any kind, and we don’t get sick.

After our experiences of the last 10 years, and the research I’ve done, the child we’re currently expecting will receive no more shots than I did as a child, and not until an older age. It’s just not worth the risk, in my opinion.

That being said, there are any number of underlying causes of autism overall, because as I said, no two people on the spectrum are alike.

While some have an obvious stage of regression into autism after a vaccine, still others show signs from birth or show no definitive time when they regressed. It stands to reason, then, that there really is no single “magic bullet” when it comes to the spectrum.

Genetic abnormality? Recessive genetic trait triggered by an environmental impact, such as a vaccination or exposure to some other toxin? I don’t think we’ll ever get an answer, truthfully, and that’s the scary part. There are so many things we take into our body each and every day, either knowingly or unknowingly, that can have any number of effects on us in the long term, and as much as we like to think that things are safe, the ugly truth is, we just don’t know.

Bottom line is, with the numbers steadily on the rise, I’d be very surprised to meet anyone in this country who hasn’t been affected in some way, either directly or indirectly through family or friends. You’re more likely to be affected by autism than childhood cancer, as the number of children diagnosed with leukemia in the U.S. is around 1 in 10,000. It can’t be ignored any longer, and it’s not going away any time soon.

 

Stacey Bahr is the creative director at the Albert Lea Tribune.