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There are some who think that autism is simply the next wave in human evolution. I think not.
In the simplest terms, evolution proceeds by way of random changes pruned by the mechanism of selective survival. This all comes down to breeding success. If anything happens to alter breeding, that thing will have long term species adaptive effect. A change in some members of a species may have positive breeding effect in these ways”
- The affected members of the species have a greater chance of reaching maturity.
- The affected members of the species are better t caring for their offspring.
- The affected members are more likely to find a mate.
- The affected members are able to remove genetic traces of other members.
That is about it. Even the ability to survive changing climates or other natural conditions all boil down to reproductive efficiency. So if autism is the next phase and then our numbers are rising due to some positive effect of fecundity; where are all the happily married and financially successful autistics who are breeding further generations of us?
I know that it is said that Silicon Valley in California is a haven of autistics, that may well be so, but that location is not responsible for the vast increase of autism everywhere.
No, we are not the next phase in human evolution. Sorry.
I know of one spectacularly odd case of autism. While in Hawaii a few years ago I met a woman whose son was diagnosed autistic following a traumatic brain injury. There may be persons who would say, “Nah, that isn’t autism.” But it is. Remember, there is as yet no absolute, physical, diagnostic tool available. Autism is literally what autism does. After the TBI this man has sufficient autistic traits to have earned him an official diagnosis.
So far as I am concerned, that is it. He is autistic. There it is, right from the beginning of my personally knowing autism I have believed that there are probably at least two and likely more specific conditions lurking under the title of autism. TBI caused autism males the word, “autism” plural.
When I was diagnosed as autistic, way back in 1962, the US rate for autism was very low, being perhaps between 1: 12,500 and 1: 2500. *1 As I write this blog entry the US rate is possibly 1: 100, 1: 88, or even perhaps 1: 68, and even perhaps 1: 50 in boys. *2 Researchers at MIT are now predicting that by 2025 the US autism rate will exceed 50%, *3 I know that some people believe that the rise in rates is due to different standards and even different imperatives of diagnosis from years approximately 1960 to now (This being mid 2015).
I say that there is a chance that different standards of diagnosis might have some effect, almost certainly positive, on the autism rate. However, I sincerely doubt that standards and imperatives *4 A rate increase from one in more than ten thousand to one in approximately one hundred and a predicted one in two is tremendous. Something is happening. Something has changes and continues to change.
What causes autism? Since it would seem that autistic people have been here a long time I think that the essence is deeply biological and part of the human condition. I think that if autism rates are somewhere in the one on ten thousand region, that biology is probably the cause. *6 There must be environmental factors at work.
Generally the autism community does not like to consider environmental factors. Parents do not like the idea of implicit guilt in the exposure of their children to environmental causes of autism. *6 Autistic persons, especially at the Aspergian end of this spectrum *7 dislike the idea that we have been so affected in that defect is then implicit. No, we like to think, autism is genetic.
There had been a twins study that showed a strong correlation of autism spectrum disorders in twins, that study has been discredited. *8
In the meanwhile there is disturbing data concerning environmental factors increasing the rate of autism. Here are a few:
The first is of course vaccinations. This issue has become horridly polarizing, with insults and rage being hurled. Of course vaccines are both safe and effective. However. . .
. . . Back in 2004 a CDC study was published in “The Pediatrician”, a major peer reviewed medical journal in the United States. One of the authors of this study had been selected to speak at a conference. In advance of this conference he sent a letter to the then head of CDC warning that some of the information from his talk about the study would not be well received, and that the CDC ought prepare. His speaking was cancelled. Latter this CDC head left the agency to become head of Merck’s vaccine division.
The trouble is that the study’s protocol had been broken. One sub group of children in the study at the beginning had been dropped before the study was completed and the numbers computed. The group was black makes who received the MMR *9 vaccine prior to 36 months of age. This group had an autism rate 340% of normal. *10
Recall the evil English doctor Wakefield who published (in “The Lancet”, an English peer reviewed medical journal, I seem to recall) a fraudulent study linking the MMR vaccine to autism? Well, he has been exonorated of all charges and his license to practice medicine reinstated. *11 The charges against him were the fraud.
When I first heard of a possible autism to vaccine link I rapidly thought of these things: 1. Thimerisol, a mercury containing compound that killed a number of its initial recipients. *12 But wait! 2. Autism has several co morbidities, one of which is that of autoimmune troubles. My thinking was this: what if a child with an already different autoimmune system is activated by vaccination? Might that trigger the development of autism? And I am not certain.
Here is another possibility. The herbicide glyphosphate. Rates of glyphosphate use and autism rise in lockstep! *13 Correlation does not prove causality, however, correlation is a place to begin pondering. Look at this the article.
And another is air automobile exhaust! *15
And although loss of IQ is not autism, loss of IQ is definitely a neurological related issue of some sort. A Harvard study links fluoride to reduced IQ. *16 I mean, sure fluoride lowers IQ and can lead to cancers, but at least you might have fewer cavaties!
And as a general, that is to say less specific as any precise cause but nonetheless pointing to environmental causes, is this study by the EPA. *17
I think that it is very likely *18
Something is happening here people! Whether it is artificial colours or preservatives or fibres or whatever, something is making people autistic. I will make two statements now: 1. An autistic person has the right to be autistic. 2. A person not autistic has the right to remain not autistic.
We do not know what is causing the autism epidemic, but there is one and we should be paying attention.
*1 I have seen each of the numbers, I cannot recall where. I do not know the reliability of either of these numbers. In any case, in 1962 I was one of a very few.
*2 Depending on whose numbers one accepts.
*4 Imperatives like Pharmacutical company profits and school system subsidies.
*5 Biological is more than just genetics as such. There are also genetic related issues such as gene expression and genetic mutation to be considered. There may well be more biological factors than these gene related ones.
*6 I see no reason for guilt. Many of the factors are simply there no matter what a parental decision may be. Other environmental factors are so well sold that parental decisions are made upon contaminated information.
*7 I think it is far more complex than a spectrum. I see autism space as a highly elastic multidimensional manifold.
*8 So I have been told by someone I consider to be highly reliable. I find most studies to be highly questionable. Most studies prove precisely what the researchers wanted to prove; there may be some bias of expectation going on. Further, few studies seem to be at all open ended research; most do have a point to be demonstrated.
*9 MMR, Measles, Mumps, Rubella
*18 I have thought this from nearly the moment that I found, at fifty three years age, that I am autistic.
So I am autistic. What is autism? Autism is a syndrome. That word implies several things. Autism is part of the human condition. Autism is not the most probable part of the human condition. And autism is diagnosed by way of symptoms. There is as yet no objective and physical method of diagnosis. There is no blood test; there is no DNA test. Autism is diagnosed by watching a person’s behaviours.
Autism is likely to be diagnosed while the autistic person is a child. Indeed, autism may well be diagnosed prior to that person’s being able to talk. This implies that watching and cataloging behavior truly is at the core of diagnosis. What I mean here is that an autism diagnosis is not only made without any clearly objective physical analysis, but also possible without so much as asking the person to be diagnosed about their internal states of thought and / or emotion. An autism diagnosis arrives from the outside.
An autism diagnosis is likely to begin with a child’s schooling. Someone, perhaps a teacher, notices something. That someone says something to someone else and a series of events is initiated that leads to the child’s visit with a professional of some sort who gives the diagnosis. Autism is rarely diagnosed later in life. Indeed, an older person wanting diagnosis to explain their life and their self will probably find that adult diagnosis is very difficult to obtain. Once a person slips through the cracks, one is likely to remain there in limbo.
Even people with autism can be grandly mistaken in their conceptual definition of autism. I once met one such person, on Twitter, who proclaimed loudly and with absolute certainty that autism is merely the lack of social grace and extroversion. Autism is more than that.
Autism is part of the human condition. There is probably no one alive lacking all of autism’s characteristics. I like to say that if people do not rock, then why are so many rocking chairs sold! Further, I doubt that any autistic person has all of the characteristics that define autism. One person is autistic and another is not; this is statistics. One autistic person’s autism is not the same as another’s. There are as many types of autism as there are people defined by autism.
What is autism? It is part of the human condition and experience. What is autism? Autism is people. Autism is people; that must be remembered.
I am now sixty one years of age and autistic. The school system child psychologist diagnosed me as autistic (Whoa! He used the “A Word” correctly rather than some case of juvenile schizophrenia or other mis-labelling term of the day. He also said that at fourth grade I was maxed out and ought be placed into an institution. In those days institution would have meant life in an excrement filled closet with three or four others and a bowl of oatmeal (possibly radioactive!*1) per day.
Although I cannot say what, precisely, this blog will be about on an entry by entry basis; I can say that it will always be inclusive of autism. It cannot be otherwise. All I perceive I do so from the perspective of autism. All I think I think with an autistic mind. All I feel I feel with an autistic heart. Will this blog be any good? I don’t know and will hesitate to judge it for myself. You, kind reader, are the judge. Come along with me if you wish. Thank you.
*1 Really! There have been awful human experiments conducted in the USA. This was before my time and done to boys, but who knows what might have lurked nearby me in the dark corners of an institution. See: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1997-12-31/news/1997365029_1_quaker-oats-mit-researchers