Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Clinic Notes: Early Signs of Autism

Pediatricians are recommending that children be screened for autism at 18 months and again at 2 years of age. There is no question that early intervention helps and this is certainly a step in the right direction. Usually, parents are the first to notice that something is wrong, but are sometimes hesitant to take action for one reason or another. Without question this early screening will result in more false positives but that can't be helped. I have a link on my website, www.aba4autism, for parents who are interested in reading about the early signs of autism

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Clinic Notes: The Autism-Vaccine Debate: Stat 101. Correlation and Causality

Autism takes two forms: Infantile, which is present form infancy, and regressive where the child develops normally and then between 2 and 3 years of age begins to loose language and appropriate social behavior. Often self-stim and sensory problems also put in an appearance at this time. Of course, concerned parents look for a cause and the only thing that they note that was different was the MMR vaccine that there child received before autism began to develop. Further inquiry by the parents finds that the vaccine contained mercury, which is known to be toxic to the brain.
Congressional hearings have been held, research supporting and refuting the mercury-autism link has been presented and mercury has been removed from vaccines, but the debate goes on.
Stat 101. Much of the retrospective research on health issues relies on a statistical test know as correlation. A correlation will tell you if two variables are statistically related. So height and weight are correlated, intelligence and grades are correlated, and cigarette smoking and cancer are correlated. Since vaccinations are mandatory for the most part in the US and everyone receives the MMR vaccine it is hard to come up with an accurate. In parts of Europe where vaccinations are not mandatory the rates of autism are the same in vaccinated and non-vaccinated groups of children. What most people don't understand is that a correlation will tell you if two variables are related, but it will tell you nothing about causality. Just because autism follows the MMR vaccination does not mean that the vaccination caused the autism. Maybe mercury does play a role in autism. Increasingly there is more mercury in our environment as well as other neurotoxins. But a correlation cannot make a statement about causality.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Clinic Notes: Is There An Autism Epidemic?

According to a recent Associated Press article by Mike Stobbe, The 'Autism Epidemic' Largely Fueled By Special Ed Funding, Shift In Diagnosing (
It is true that as the number of cases of children diagnosed with autism increases the number of children diagnosed with mental retardation and learning disabilities are decreasing. And in my practice I see this everyday. But I also see many, many more kids that have autism and there is no question about the diagnosis. The number of children with autism is increasing at an exponential rate in my little corner of the world.