Sunday, March 29, 2009

UK Autism Rate 1 in 60? Did Those Darn Brits Broaden the Definition of Autism Again?

Quick, where's Dr. Fombonne?

With the Daily Mail reporting that a soon to be released study by the Cambridge University's Autism Research Centre will indicate UK autism rates of 1 in 60, nearly twice the already astounding rate of 1 in 100 accepted by the National Autism Society in the UK, one has to wonder how broad the definition of autism is now in Merry Old England. After all, Dr. Eric Fombonne has just published another study confirming that the current accepted North American autism rates of approximately 1 in 150 , are due to:

1) A broadened definition of autism
2) Expansion of diagnostic criteria
2) Improved autism awareness
3) Development of services

Those darn Brits must have broadened the definition of autism again without telling anyone on this side of the Atlantic. Of course they could also be more than twice as aware of autism disorders as North Americans. Or perhaps the services available for autistic children in the UK are over twice as good as those available in North American backwaters. Yeah that must be it.

My autistic son Conor was diagnosed 11 years ago. During that time the rates of autism have changed dramatically:

1 in 500
1 in 250
1 in 166
1 in 150 (Center for Disease Control)

In the UK:

1 in 100 (National Autism Society)
1 in 60 ( Cambridge University Autism Research Centre)

My son's diagnosis in 1998 came 4 years after the changes in the DSM which broadened the concept of autism. Services were not generally available in most jurisdictions in Canada and the US until several years after that and are still pathetic in many areas. And still rates have increased dramatically.

These factors undoubtedly explain significant increases in the rates of autism diagnoses. But frankly, I don't believe that the explanation trotted out every time there is a reported increase in autism rates, broadened definition, awareness etc. explain all of these startling increases. I have little doubt that if the rates were reported as having increased to 1 in 10 the same rationalizations would be trotted out.

In the US the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee has announced a strategic research plan that will include investigation of environmental causes of autism. Actual research to determine whether the toxic substances present in vaccines, toys, jewelry, air and water to name some possible sources will be conducted. It is about time.

It is time for Dr. Fombonne to be thanked for his past services in calming people's fears.

It is time for the autism epidemic to be seriously investigated by researchers who are not bound to the notion that increased awareness and development of services explain it all.

It is time for the autism epidemic that parents have seen developing in our children be taken seriously.

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Jill Southgate said...

Autism rates in the UK are so very high because our government refuses to listen to the parents of vaccine damaged children.

They refuse to report any adverse effects and push for MMR and mutiple vaccines constantly.

I took part in the London Autism March on Saturday 28th March - nearly 500 people - not one press report!!!!

Unknown said...

Here in Canada the media - Andre Picard of the Globe and Mail newspaper and Stephen Srtrauss writing on the CBC web site - have declared the debate over.

Strauss even disgraced himself, as an alleged journalist, by suggesting that perhaps it is time to consider creating an offence for people to publicly discuss vaccine-autism safety issues.

Barry Hudson said...

Hi Harold,

I am not sure if it is the broadening of the definition or better records. The UK administers all health matters centrally so perhaps better recording is telling us the matter is more significant than thought. I read in the past that the rate in the UK was one in ninety four, though I do think one in sixty is quite high. In reference to your earlier post about the explanation that the incidence rate is increasing because of better awareness, etc my response to those making the claim of "coincidental" diagnosis increases means that we under recognized the condition in the past and now that we know the real numbers we have more cause to do research and provide effective treatments - these arguments will not make those with autism disappear. It surprises me to no end the resources that will be expended to disprove the issue is significant. I do not recall such claims being made at the times of the polio epidemic, the influenza epidemic, or TB epidemic.

Thank you,

Dr Chun Wong said...

I'm positive that autism is a growing problem and is at epidemic proportions in our children, but there does need to be a proper consensus on what defines autism, otherwise statistics are meaningless!