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MrsPeel
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11 Nov 2020, 7:26 am

I'm a bit nervous about posting this as my view may be controversial.
However, I feel this is an important topic for consideration.
(Hoping for a discussion, but please don't attack me?)

We all know how autism rates have risen drastically (and probably globally) over the last 40 years or so.
Many with and without AS are denying that anything much has changed apart from improvements in diagnosis, and/or over-diagnosis (for instance to secure government assistance), and/or widespread autism diagnoses in those who might previously have been deemed "mentally retarded". I agree that all of those occur.

However, there's been a study that tried to correct for all those factors and concluded that they could not account for all the increase. I am personally inclined to agree that with such rapid increases globally, something else may be going on.

I've read studies that have shown correlation between environmental toxins - in particular insecticides, heavy metals and even tobacco smoke - and higher rates of autism in the children (or even grandchildren) of those exposed. Here we are talking especially about the more severe forms of classic autism rather than the Asperger type. Nobody is saying that these toxins are the sole cause autism, it seems to be more that they can sometimes trigger autism, or increase the severity of autism, in those with a genetic susceptibility. Certainly, it is feasible that accumulation of environmental toxins or other factors within the modern environment may be connected to rising rates of autism diagnosis.

A little aside here.
My father was a teacher, though he is retired now, but he's always been great with kids. He knows all the tricks of how to keep a class of unruly kids under control and spark their interest in the topic at hand.
When I observed him with his step-grandson who has classic autism though, he was way out of his depth. I could see that he was baffled to find that all his usual techniques were not working to maintain the sort of behaviour he was expecting. He got flustered and impatient.
Although this was only one personal observation, I think it is significant to see a competent teacher with about 45 years' experience having no clear idea how to deal with one autistic kid. He obviously had very little experience in that regard, which would be unlikely if historical prevalence had been as high as today.

The point I'm trying to make here is this.
By dismissing those who worry about the autism "epidemic", we may be denying a very real problem.
If in fact it is true that there has been a real increase in autism, or a real increase in the more severe forms of autism, society needs to be taking steps to address that.

At least, as I've alluded to above, there is an urgent need for teachers, healthcare workers, police and so on - anyone in a position of authority who is likely to have contact with autistics - to be provided the training and tools to be able to handle autistic people with understanding and respect.

And perhaps there is a need for more research into possible causes of the increase? I'm not talking about research to eliminate the natural genetic variations underlying autism (which I believe to be an important contributor to human genetic diversity), so much as that focused on understanding environmental triggers so as to prevent as far as possible some of the more severe forms, which can be really disabling.

My concern is that attributing rising rates of autism only to changes in diagnostic criteria could be harmful. Perhaps, by effectively saying "hey, we've always been here", we might be weakening the impetus that might otherwise be generated towards addressing the increasing needs of autistics within society.

Well, just putting that out for discussion.



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11 Nov 2020, 8:04 am

My thougths:
1. I think everything that contributes to one's general physical and mental health is likely to be reflected on "severity of autism". "Autism epidemic" may be a non-specific symptom of public health issues.
2. An old teacher was completely unable to manage my Aspie daughter. Teachers and child psychologists of all ages in 1960s and 1970s were completely unable to manage my Aspie uncle. There is definitely need for autism-trained specialists, independently from other aspects.


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11 Nov 2020, 11:17 am

The goal posts have been moved so many times with ASD that it’s difficult for statistical analysis.

Aspergers was noticed then disappeared for decades until 1994. Autism DSM 1-3 was more severe type and we don’t know exactly how ID was diagnosed back then.

However many scientists do believe numbers have gone up, there’s two related things that have gone up which are more likely to cause autism:

1.Older parents
2. Obesity

Then again smoking and alcohol use in pregnancy has gone down



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11 Nov 2020, 2:46 pm

Can you give a link to the study you referenced, even if that is just the abstract? It would help me understand your question better.

Environmental factors have been linked to autism. But the largest driver is simply better diagnosis and understanding of autism. There is also a large proportion of the population that did not have access to a diagnosis, known as the lost generation. I am a member of that--I was diagnosed this year at the age of 56.

Can you also link to the reading you have done on over-diagnosis? I often hear that claim, but have not seen any evidence that it is actually happening. I think if you are looking for benefits, something like depression would be a better choice as you need some proof that you have had autism from childhood to get an ASD diagnosis.



truthseeker999
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11 Nov 2020, 2:53 pm

MrsPeel I agree totaly with you, there must be something that causes increase.



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11 Nov 2020, 5:51 pm

Hi Mrs Peel, you’ll receive no hostility from me, although I could never refer to autism as an “epidemic”. To do so implies autism is a disease and something requiring a “cure”. I’ve lived, raised and worked with severely autistic children and adolescents both here and in the US. You mentioned more training is required for teachers, the Police/First Responders etc. This has been in place for a number of decades now, in fact some of us on the spectrum have visited other countries with the sole purpose of teaching the teachers how to “teach” and create an environment that encourages learning. Some people I have taught and even some on WP are members of the Police Force. I remember the good work of Dennis Debbaudt(who is on the spectrum) ... https://autismriskmanagement.com/

We also provide positive strategies in dealing with negative and challenging behaviours, and this has proven to be very effective in many schools. However, I find that sadly, the older the staff, the harder the battle to bring about change. I can only agree though, that in many respects it’s the parents who must advocate for their children and often attempt to educate staff as best they can. Understanding autism and bringing about change in how teachers approach and handle situations generally, is a battle. I have seen this work best when an autistic person themselves has made a career out of assisting in Behaviour Management, as only an autistic person can truly “understand” from an autistic point of view the true meaning of what it is to be on the spectrum. Not every autistic person has the self awareness, but in those who do make it their life work, differences can be made, that’s for certain.

I firmly believe that autism is genetic through and through and present from birth. A person who is not autistic can still develop behaviours that mimic autism, in cases of for example, blindness and certain other brain related differences.



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11 Nov 2020, 6:19 pm

Hello. May I comment.

What may appear to some is the Autism Epidemic, may not be a sudden escalation in numbers of people with Autism, but more a escalation in the numbers of people who are now recognised as having Autism Spectrum Disorder.

I for example have ASD of what used to be referred to as the Asperger Syndrome variety.
I was diagnosed only 3 years ago, at the age of 44 years of age.

This meant that I have spent my entire life without a diagnosis. So prior to being diagnosed, did i have ASD.
Yes, as you know the condition is a lifelong condition that people are born with.

This is likely true about a number of other people who are included in the latest figures.
So, does this mean there is a dramatic rise in the number with a formal diagnosis. Well, yes.

However, a percentage of the people who now have a formal diagnosis will be people who had ASD
but no one was aware that they did, so they went unnoticed and unsupported for many decades.

Now, in today's understanding of ASD, so many more people are aware of the condition and so many more
people are getting diagnosed during their early years of schooling, this is significantly different to 30 or 40 years ago,
when kids with ASD went to school, they may only be picked out as having Autism, if they also had an intellectual disability as well.

The rest of us ASD kids were just lumbered in with the rest, and no one took into account of our abnormalities.
Our abnormalities would simply be seen by teachers, peers, siblings and parents, as us being naughty, so then punished with a slap or a detention or ridicule.

Yup, that's what we got in those days.

Now, however, thank goodness, the awareness and understanding is much better so all kids with ASD can get the right support.

As to why people get ASD, it is still unknown. I personally think that it is likely related to brain damage either during pregnancy, during birth or in the early months or years of the childs life.

I also think there may be a possible link between an abnormal blood flow from the placenta from the mother and the baby. But this last theory is pure speculation on my part.

>>>for those who read David Icke<<<
One least likely possibility is that ASD kids are children of aliens or angels.
<<< believe that and you'll believe anything>>>



Mountain Goat
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11 Nov 2020, 6:50 pm

Just before I joined this site I happened to realize that the shutdowns (Which at the time I did not know what they were called) had something to do with autism (Hence why I joined to try to work out what was going on as I had spent a lifetime trying to work out what was happening to me).
Anyway... I had discovered a link with autism through researching about prosopragnosia (A trait I happen to have... The only trait I knew I had when I joined this site though since then I have found (With everyones help) I have many more).
Now while researching prosopragnosia via youtube (I watched every single youtube video on there about the subject) I happened to lastly look at "Ask an autistic". I put this off because I was annoyed because so many had told me they thought I was on the spectrum... I did not know I could be on the spectrum. I assumed I was not and was just a rather wierd character who did not fit in anywhere.
But one youtube video led onto another, and soon I found myself looking at more and one was a TED talk given by a professor who specialized in autism, and he said that part of the problem is that the assessments are given to those who have found out that they are likely to be on the spectrum. Most who are not severly impacted may never know. He said that he went round the world from country to country and assesed random people. People who had never considered they may be on the spectrum... A random cross section of at least a few hundred people, but he preferred to have more. Now he then assessed all these people and he said that right round the world, the figures gave him a consistent 6% of those assesed were found to be on the spectrum.
Now the issue here is that around the world in the developed world the percentage of those on the spectrum is at 2 1/2% dalling to 1% or even less in 3rd world countries. This was because autism in its many forms are not understood by most of the population so that only those who are severly effected by it in a noticeable way will find themselves assessed and out of the rest, they have had to find out when they have reched crises after crises and somehow have read or heard something where the realize they may be on the spectrum and need to be assessed.

So in other words, if at a certain age in ones life everyone is assessed, the figures will be as high as 6%. But as things stand now they are lower because around 4% carry on struggling along without even knowing why or what is wrong with them... (I say this because my personal journey started with a prayer when I prayed "Lord, what's wrong with me?" I am not implying that there is something wrong with anyone who is on the spectrum).

Now think of this. The population increases. So do those with autism, but this professor, if he is right in his theory reaconed that those on the spectrum remains around 6%.

Here in Wales there has been a massive increase of those coming forward to want or need to be assessed. The reason for this is that there has been a push for autism awareness. Twice I saw a TV programme about autism. I would normally change the channel over like I probably had done many times in the past, but for some reason when I watched the first few minutes, something within me seemed to relate to it though I could not think why. I was puzzled. The second time it came on was a repeat, and I was somehow feeling that it made sense to me but I just did not know why. (I did not know I could be autistic. But these people on the program were not severly dissabled in wheelchairs like I had assumed autistic people were (If one watches the news one thinks that as they report on the more severe cases). These people actually appeared to be people who I would not have thought of as having autism. But after being assessed they were. It was plain that my past thoughts on what autism is happens to be different to what it actually is.

But anyway... I am guessing that over half the people on the spectrum never know. They will have found themselves jobs where they can cope where they don't get to see so many people so they cope better... So to them their introverted lives are "Normal" but different.

Sorry. I hope that I am making sense here.

To me the increases are all due to increasing awareness, especially since the internet has arrived as prior to the internet, we also lived in different times... Times where those who were autistic would be forced to attend special schools and not given a choice to try a conventional school. And... Even if they were they would have been kept very seperate from other children in the school so few children understood what autism actually is.

One may have seen meltdowns and not known what they were as no one explains...It is not taught in schools. Most of the teachers themselves do not know what autism actually is as they may only know from a single child they may come across... They very much WILL be teaching autistic children and not even know it. Those children who mask and have had to learn to mask or end up punished. I HAD to learn to mask. I was in fear of being singled out as being different, as teachers picked on children who were different. It is how it is, so if one wanted to survive school, one HAD to learn to mask. (It is why I assumed everyone masks!)


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Mountain Goat
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11 Nov 2020, 6:58 pm

I like David Icke. I love "Nutty" people. Sometimes he speaks truth. But at least he is brave enough to speak out. (Ok, I do not agree with everything he says... But someone simply has to challenge popular thinking, because unless we challenge popular thinking, how do we know that popular thinking is true? Challenging it will make us realize it is true, or uncover faults to our popular thinking ideas... So we really need these people who think outside the box however unusual their theories may be, as unless we question things, how do we reach the truth?

(Ok, rant over. :D ).


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11 Nov 2020, 7:05 pm

madbutnotmad wrote:
The rest of us ASD kids were just lumbered in with the rest, and no one took into account of our abnormalities.
Our abnormalities would simply be seen by teachers, peers, siblings and parents, as us being naughty, so then punished with a slap or a detention or ridicule.

Yup, that's what we got in those days.


It is why I soon developed masking techniques from an early age to be able to survive. It was enough to be bullied by ones classmates, but bullied by teachers as well and life was worse!


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Last edited by Mountain Goat on 11 Nov 2020, 7:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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11 Nov 2020, 7:06 pm

Mountain Goat wrote:
But someone simply has to challenge popular thinking, because unless we challenge popular thinking, how do we know that popular thinking is true? Challenging it will make us realize it is true, or uncover faults to our popular thinking ideas... So we really need these people who think outside the box however unusual their theories may be, as unless we question things, how do we reach the truth?

That's a good point.


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11 Nov 2020, 7:07 pm

MrsPeel wrote:
A little aside here.
My father was a teacher, though he is retired now, but he's always been great with kids. He knows all the tricks of how to keep a class of unruly kids under control and spark their interest in the topic at hand.
When I observed him with his step-grandson who has classic autism though, he was way out of his depth. I could see that he was baffled to find that all his usual techniques were not working to maintain the sort of behaviour he was expecting. He got flustered and impatient.
Although this was only one personal observation, I think it is significant to see a competent teacher with about 45 years' experience having no clear idea how to deal with one autistic kid. He obviously had very little experience in that regard, which would be unlikely if historical prevalence had been as high as today.

I think that makes a good point.


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kitesandtrainsandcats
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11 Nov 2020, 7:13 pm

madbutnotmad wrote:
... However, a percentage of the people who now have a formal diagnosis will be people who had ASD
but no one was aware that they did, so they went unnoticed and unsupported for many decades.

... this is significantly different to 30 or 40 years ago,
when kids with ASD went to school, they may only be picked out as having Autism, if they also had an intellectual disability as well.

The rest of us ASD kids were just lumbered in with the rest, and no one took into account of our abnormalities.
Our abnormalities would simply be seen by teachers, peers, siblings and parents, as us being naughty, so then punished with a slap or a detention or ridicule.

Yup, that's what we got in those days.

...

As to why people get ASD, it is still unknown. I personally think that it is likely related to brain damage either during pregnancy, during birth or in the early months or years of the childs life.

...

>>>for those who read David Icke<<<
One least likely possibility is that ASD kids are children of aliens or angels.
<<< believe that and you'll believe anything>>>


Yep, was there and lived that in the 1960s, 70s, 80s.

And on the David Icke thing, I was so, so, very different from my parents I sometimes wondered if they were aliens!
Everybody else was different too, surely the whole of humanity had been replaced by aliens but they had somehow missed me and I was the lone true human remaining!


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11 Nov 2020, 7:36 pm

kitesandtrainsandcats wrote:

And on the David Icke thing, I was so, so, very different from my parents I sometimes wondered if they were aliens!
Everybody else was different too, surely the whole of humanity had been replaced by aliens but they had somehow missed me and I was the lone true human remaining!


In my family, for the first 18 years my Dad seemed to be the odd one out. His ways were different and he thought differently. Yet now looking back now I understand what autism is, I believe that if I am on the spectrum,then the one brother and my Mum will likely be as well. (I had a second brother when I was 18).
My Dad may have been on the spectrum but if he was, he was the opposite end to my Mum and I and the one brother. My youngest brother thinks more like my Dad... Uhmm. Well. Not quite. A mix. But as childhood goes, my youngest brother was unusual. He was very independent and he was the opposite to being close if that makes sense? I have always been close to my Mum. We think in the same wavelengths somehow. Very few people on the planet think in the ways like we do (Or it feels like that). The strange thing is my Mum thinks in word form and I think in picture form so we are not the exact same... But at the same time we are on the same wavelength? I can't describe it.
I was never able to quite think along the same lines that my Dad used to think. I would marvel how he could go up to a complete strangers house, knock on the door and start speaking to them and in no time he would not only be invited in, but be invited into their front room in his work clothes (He was a carpenter). If you know Wales, the tradition in townhouses was this front room was reserved for such high honours that even royalty would be sent to the middle room. (Welsh Victorian town houses had three living rooms. The back room was used as the day to day family living room. Guests who were not thought much of would end up in there! The middle room was reserved for semi precious guests like fellow church people or school teachers and white collar workers etc... But the front room could go years and years with no guests as only the most priveledged would ever get to go in there. Yet there was my Dad being not only invited in, but into the front room in his work clothes! I would not even get past the front door if I had been there on my own).


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kitesandtrainsandcats
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11 Nov 2020, 7:42 pm

Mountain Goat wrote:
If you know Wales, the tradition in townhouses was this front room was reserved for such high honours that even royalty would be sent to the middle room. (Welsh Victorian town houses had three living rooms. The back room was used as the day to day family living room. Guests who were not thought much of would end up in there! The middle room was reserved for semi precious guests like fellow church people or school teachers and white collar workers etc... But the front room could go years and years with no guests as only the most priveledged would ever get to go in there. Yet there was my Dad being not only invited in, but into the front room in his work clothes! I would not even get past the front door if I had been there on my own).

Now that is interesting!
All I know about Wales is from a bit of reading about UK railway history and from watching several narrowboaters on YouTube, some who are from Wales themselves, and some who journey along canals in Wales.


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11 Nov 2020, 8:01 pm

Simple: there appears to be an "increase" in autism because psychologists are better able to diagnose more subtle and female cases, not because there are actually more autistics now than 3-4 decades ago. A lot of so-called "high-functioning" autistics wouldn't have been diagnosed in 60s, 70s, or 80s.


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