Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Autism Rising - Are Grinker's Assumptions A Sufficient Explanation?

Autism diagnoses are rising, of that there is no dispute. In the United States the number, as estimated by the CDC, is now 1 in 150, where just 2 years ago it was lowered to 1 in 166 and it had been 1 in 250, 1 in 500 and so on. The debate is over why so many more children are being diagnosed with autism today.

There are those who argue that the causes are environmental, from pesticides to mercury based vaccine preservatives. Others argue that the increasing numbers of diagnosed autism cases are a product of changing of changing definitions, changing diagnostic criteria and increased public awareness. Roy Grinker, anthropologist, of Unstrange Minds fame, attributes the increasing numbers to these cultural factors. But what evidence are Grinker's conclusions based on?

While the factors cited by Grinker seem like probable contributors to the increases in autism cases do they provide a complete explanation? The newest genetic theories of autism causality are based on genetic mutations, leaving open the possibility of environmental triggers of such mutations. Grinker's assumptions may have to make room for these environmental considerations, in providing a complete understanding of the nature of autism. And some of the parents, physicians and other health care providers who actually work with autistic children in providing biomedical treatments may yet be proven right.

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