There is No Conclusive Evidence for an Autism Epidemic


Some more rumblings on the wider web regarding the autism ‘epidemic’ – I’m not allowed to carry on commenting at Harold’s (he allowed me one then when I further backed up my points he refused to allow those comments through. Amazing behaviour from someone who invited me to take part in a dialogue!)

Take a closer look – always take a closer look – and what do we see from those convinced there is such a thing as an autism epidemic. We see opinion and we see personal anecdote. Much of it self fulfilling nonsense along the lines ‘before my Billy was diagnosed I didn’t know any autistic kids, now theres 20 just in his class!’ or the classic ‘I asked my teacher/doctor/social worker/whatever and they said they’d never SEEN so many autistic people!’ Well…d’uh…of course not. Better diagnosis, increased ascertainment, more centres for diagnosis, more cultural awareness etc etc etc will lead to more people with a diagnosis. As would a real increase.

The bottom line for me is this: nobody knows if there’s a real autism ‘epidemic’ or not. Not in the strict epidemiological manner the word is used in. Why? Because really, despite all our bombast we (the entire autism and autistic community) know jack shit about autism from a perspective of how many autistic people thre are and what may cause fluctuations.

Take this story I found today which argues very persuasively that girls are not fully accounted for in autism epidemiology. Imagine that we take this too literally and hypothesise that autism is equally prevalent amongst girls as it is boys. The rate in the UK would shoot up to between 1.5 and 2% of the entire population. Would that have been a real increase? Of course not.

Beware of those people who will tell you with certainty that there is an autism epidemic. The truth is that there is no conclusive science either way. Until it is done no one knows .


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