“What bothers us is that we really don’t know why it [autism] is increasing"
Dr. Alexis Reyes, November, 2009
The above quote by Dr. Alexis Reyes, President of the Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, is taken from an article in the Manila Bulletin, Help sought as autism cases rise. Dr. Reyes discusses the rise in US autism statistics from 0.4 to 0.5 per 1,000 in population in the 1960's to 0.71 to 1.1 per 1,000 in 1990 to 1 in 150 a few years ago to current estimates of 1 in 91.
Dr. Reyes' honesty in admitting candidly that autism experts really can't explain the startling increases in autism is unusual and refreshing. Many experts point to the DSM and ICD diagnostic changes in the early 1990's to explain increased reports of autism and couple that with increased social awareness and diagnostic substitution. But the truth is that while it seems obvious that a substantial increase in reported cases of autism would result from such factors, particularly the diagnostic manual changes, it does not seem obvious that those factors explain all of the increase. In particular, no one can honestly say that autism figures are still being revised upwards every two years solely because of social factors and diagnostic changes made 15 years ago.
The truth is exactly as stated by Dr. Reyes, autism is increasing and we don't know why. What Dr. Reyes doesn't state is the reason we don't know why autism is increasing: funding authorities have refused to back research into non genetic causes of factors involved in autism over the past two decades.
Teresa Binstock reported in 1997 that the "it's gotta be genetic" official model of funding autism research precluded research involving environmental factors in autism. Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute Researcher, stated in 2009 that even today "about 10 to 20 times more research dollars are spent on studies of the genetic causes of autism than on environmental ones".
Hopefully Dr. Thomas Insel of the IACC and other "experts" charged with recommending which autism research projects get funded and which do not will finally have an awakening, will come to their senses and start funding environmental autism research.
Maybe someday years from now, after the necessary research is finally done, we will begin to truly understand why autism is rising and what we can do to treat and cure the autism disorders that restrict the lives of so many. Maybe ... hopefully.