Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


UCare generously supports MinnPost’s Second Opinion coverage; learn why.

Autism rates rise nationally, but reasons remain unclear

The percentage of American children diagnosed with autism, Asperger syndrome or a related disorder increased by 23 between 2006 and 2008, although the reasons for that increase remains unclear, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, released Thursday, found that 1 in 88 American children aged eight years old in 2008 had been diagnosed with one of these developmental disorders, which are known collectively as autism spectrum disorders. That was up from 1 in 100 eight-year-olds in 2006 and 1 in 150 in 2002. (Data about eight-year-olds was used because most children with an autism spectrum disorder are diagnosed by that age.)

The data was collected through the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network, which includes 14 different areas of the United States. None of those areas is in Minnesota.

“Some of the increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their local communities, although exactly how much is due to these factors in unknown,” states a summary of the report on the CDC website.

Indeed, the number of children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder varied widely, from 1 in 47 in Utah to 1 in 210 in Alabama.

The largest increases in diagnoses were among black children (91 percent) and Hispanic children (110 percent), probably because screening has improved among those populations, according to the CDC. The researchers also found that five times as many boys as girls were diagnosed with autism: 1 in 54 boys versus 1 in 252 girls.

No data for Minnesota

“The numbers are concerning,” said Maggie Diebel, director of the Minnesota Department of Health’s Community and Family Health Division, in a phone interview Thursday.

“As they say in the report,” she added, “we don’t know the reason behind them.”

The numbers may reflect a real increase in the prevalence rate, she said, or they may reflect the fact that more parents and health-care providers are aware of the signs and symptoms of autism, and thus more children are getting diagnosed.

Minnesota does not currently have an autism surveillance system, although the Health Department is currently investigating what it would take to put such a system in place, Diebel said.

No link to vaccines

Statistics regarding autism have become a controversial topic in Minnesota and elsewhere due to the belief among some parents that childhood vaccines triggered the disorder in their child.

Research has not supported that view, however. Last year, for example, after analyzing more than 1,000 studies, a 16-member committee of experts for the Institute of Medicine reported that it had found no link between childhood vaccines and autism.

“There is no evidence to date that shows any correlation between vaccination and autism,” said Diebel.

Not getting your child vaccinated, however, puts him or her at greater risk of developing vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and whopping cough. These illnesses can be life threatening. Several Minnesota children were hospitalized in 2011 during a measles epidemic, which health officials linked to an unvaccinated child who had acquired the illness while travelling overseas.

Need for more research

As the CDC stresses in its report, scientists are working hard to identify the causes of autism spectrum disorder. Genetics is believed to play a role, but it does not appear to be the only factor. A recent twins study, for example, estimated that only 38 percent of the risk of developing autism can be attributed to genetics. Environmental factors — especially, perhaps, those encountered in the womb — appear to play a larger role in the development of the condition, those researchers concluded.

“Until we have a better handle on what the true rates are, it’s very difficult to try and address causation,” said Diebel.

In the meantime, Diebel and other health officials urge parents to be alert for the signs and symptoms of autism, which include a broad range of social and communication difficulties that start early in childhood.

Any concerns that a child is not meeting developmental milestones should be brought to the attention of the child’s pediatrician. Most delays do not mean that a child has an autism spectrum disorder, but research has shown that early screening, diagnosis and intervention can improve the long-term outcomes for children who do have it.

“With appropriate support, kids really do quite well, said Diebel.

Parents can find more about developmental milestones through the CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early” program.

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/30/2012 - 04:13 pm.

    It’s the criteria

    We’ve seen this before in medicine, the criteria keeps expanding to the point where almost any atypical situation can receive the diagnosis. The “spectrum” is so wide now as to almost be diagnostically meaningless. We have to stop pretending we’re looking at some kind of discrete disorder of some kind and recognize that we’re creating a support system for children and parents.

  2. Submitted by Nancy Hokkanen on 03/30/2012 - 11:17 pm.

    Autism can’t be dismissed by speculation & gov’t/industry PR

    The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has settled many cases of vaccine-induced autism; note the 2011 Pace Law Review article. Thus MDH’s Diebold’s statement is incorrect but a predictable bureaucratic non-response.

    The only question is how many children have suffered autism via vaccine-induced neuroimmune damage. But we won’t know because MDH and CDC sit reading industry-tainted epi studies rather than pursuing physical examinations of the 1 in 88 sick children with autism. (No, Ms. Diebold, most parents will tell you they do not “do quite well.”)

    About that IOM committee of “experts” — some eye-opening quotes from the advocacy group SafeMinds’ critique:

    – Due to a narrow set of objectives defined for the IOM by the government, the report only looked at a small set of published research studies linking just two vaccines to developmental disorders such as autism.

    – Only four epidemiological studies were considered of sufficient quality to evaluate the MMR vaccine in relation to autism and no studies were deemed of sufficient quality for the DtaP vaccine and autism analysis.

    – The committee did not attempt to evaluate six other vaccines for autism causation, the safety of the cumulative vaccine schedule and health outcomes like autism, or the safety of vaccine ingredients like mercury and aluminum in the context of chemical exposures from other sources like air pollution or consumer products.

    The parents who live with these vaccine-injured children 24/7 know best — they witnessed sickness and regression following vaccination, due to encephalopathy, seizures, GI inflammation, autoimmune disorders and more.

    And those parents are appalled that reporters continue to parrot the fallacious PR
    of government/corporate partnerships, rather than conducting honest, old-style investigative journalism on just how corrupt and harmful the vaccine program has sadly become.

  3. Submitted by Will Blesch on 04/01/2012 - 08:35 am.

    CDC Changing Definition to Lower Numbers of Diagnosed Kids….

    With the CDC recognizing that Autism rates have gone up by 23% in just two years (1 in 54 boys being diagnosed)and saying that Autism is reaching epidemic proportions…

    What is the CDC’s remedy? How do they plan to LOWER the numbers of those diagnosed?

    As a CBS News article noted: They’re going to change the definition. Instead of finding the cause, and treating it…they’re simply covering up the real numbers by removing a significant portion of those diagnosed NOW under current criteria in order to FALSELY lower the numbers based on a NEW definition of Autism.

    That should be a criminal offense. Shame on those who think otherwise.

    Seriously, what is the cause for this “sudden” jump in Autism? If the autism rate has doubled in six years and is becoming an epidemic…what’s causing it? Environmental factors? Viruses? Bacteria?

    What happened starting around 6 years ago that would cause a sudden spike in the ensuing years?

    Wasn’t there a change in vaccines given to babies around that time?

    Kathy Wakefield, immunisation lead at NHS Rotherham, said “Some years ago, there were many stories in the media linking MMR with autism. These caused some parents to delay their child’s MMR immunisation or not to have it at all resulting in outbreaks of measles. However, independent experts from around the world have found no credible scientific evidence for such a link and in fact now have a large amount of evidence showing that there is no link.”

    In contrast to Ms. Wakefield’s statement, the Center for the Biology of Chronic Disease (CBCD) would like to show how Microcompetition could be the missing link.In other words, Microcompetition could be the biological mechanism linking the MMR II vaccine to Autism.

    The vaccine package insert for the MMR II vaccine written by Merck & Co., Inc. and that can be downloaded from the FDA website, shows that Fetal cell line Wistar RA 27/3, Fetal cell line WI-38, and genetically engineered human albumin are all used in the vaccine.( )

    The CBCD believes that the current purification processes cannot completely filter all foreign DNA plasmids used in the process of manufacturing the MMR II vaccine. Therefore, some foreign DNA fragments end up being injected into infants.

    In support of this belief, Dr. Helen Ratajczak, Ph.D. who published two papers on the subject in the Journal of Immunotoxicology, says “The MMR II vaccine is contaminated with human DNA from the cell line in which the rubella virus is grown. This human DNA could be the cause of the spikes in incidence. An additional increased spike in incidence of autism occurred in 1995 when the chicken pox vaccine was grown in human fetal tissue.” (Merck and Co., Inc., 2001; Breuer, 2003).

    The contamination of MMR II with foreign DNA fragments, discussed by Dr. Ratajczak, combined with Microcompetition, discovered by Dr. Polansky is the missing link between MMR II and Autism.

    If the MMR 2 is causing microcompetition, which in turn “could” cause Autism, one needs to ask what the CDC’s motivation in ignoring such evidence could be.


    For more information on the Center for the Biology of Chronic Disease, or to learn more about microcompetition, biologists, virologists, geneticists and doctors should definitely read “Microcompetition with Foreign DNA and the Origin of Chronic Disease”. People can check it out for free at:

  4. Submitted by PJ Carroll on 04/01/2012 - 03:09 pm.

    Young Parents Should Be Alarmed

    So the CDC now says that 1 in 88 children has autism. And these figures are based on kids born in the year 2000, so they are already extremely outdated. Our government has stood by, scratching their heads for nearly three decades while the rate of neurologically impaired children in this country has skyrocketed. And amazingly, they are still trying to convince people that it’s partially due to better diagnosing. Really? Were doctors so clueless 20 years ago that they just didn’t notice all those 8-year-olds who were non-verbal, still in diapers, and sitting in a corner flapping their hands??

    They can tell us nothing for sure about why or how this is happening, except to continue repeating that is isn’t caused by vaccines – despite the fact that thousands and thousands of parents report that their beautiful, healthy and perfect babies became violently ill after a round of vaccines. Parents then report that those children lost skills, stopped speaking, suddenly began having seizures, screamed inconsolably for weeks/months/years afterward, and were eventually diagnosed with autism.

    Medical tests of these children show clear mechanisms by which vaccines caused them harm. Forward-thinking doctors who actually listen to parents and run the proper medical tests on these children have been able to devise various treatment protocols to try and heal the many types and levels of vaccine damage. But the CDC – the agency charged with controlling diseases in this country – is more concerned with a small measles outbreak (does the MN Department of Health truly believe 21 people constitutes an “epidemic”??) than they are in the fact that a child is diagnosed with autism (a devastating, lifelong disorder) every 15 minutes.

    Why are these agencies not telling people the truth? Why do they not mention that the child who (they believe) brought the measles to MN last year was too young to be vaccinated? Why do they gloss over the fact that nearly a third of the people who got the measles were fully vaccinated for it – meaning the vaccine obviously does not work in a good number of people? Why do they make a big deal of the fact that many of the people who got the measles went to the hospital, but fail to tell people that this was on the recommendation of the MDH? Why do they not inform the public that in the past two decades, the exact same number of people have died from the measles VACCINE in Minnesota as have died from the measles? And of course, this does not include those cases where a previously healthy child’s mysterious death following the MMR vaccine is simply called “SIDS”, and not fully investigated.

    As a previous commenter noted, a peer-reviewed analysis of confirmed cases of vaccine-induced brain damage (meaning the U.S. government is paying for the lifelong care of these individuals) shows that nearly half of these people have autism. If vaccines and autism have nothing to do with each other, the rate of autism among the vaccine-injured should be the same as it is in the general population. But instead of 1 in 88, the rate of autism among those brain damaged by vaccines is 1 in 2.

    Not only should young parents be alarmed that they are not getting the full story from the so-called “health authorities”, but they should also be alarmed that media outlets like this one continue to fail them by not properly investigating the ridiculous and bogus claims these conflicted groups continue to regurgitate.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/05/2012 - 08:06 am.

    It’s not Vaccines

    There is no evidence that vaccines cause, or have caused Autism. The one group of studies that claimed a connection were the product of scientific fraud. This is why no one is mentioning vaccines. The culprit is expanded criteria. If you look at the 1980 DSMIII criteria for Autism you can see that 95% of the current cases would simply not meet the diagnostic criteria for Autism. You expand the criteria you increase the number of cases diagnosed, it’s that simple.

    Furthermore, in the current environment of shrinking government budgets this diagnosis has become a major vehicle for support services for a variety of at-risk families.

    • Submitted by PJ Carroll on 04/06/2012 - 12:42 pm.

      Oh yes it is Vaccines

      Paul –
      Please provide proof that “The one group of studies that claimed a connection were the product of scientific fraud”.

      And by the way, simply sending links to articles that CLAIM fraud do not count.

  6. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 04/07/2012 - 09:31 am.

    Nice try PJ

    The fact that Wakefield’s research was fraudulent was “finding”, not merely a claim. It was the product of extensive review by multiple researchers. Likewise the fact that his results were not replicable is a matter of public record.

    “Retracted autism study an ‘elaborate fraud,’ British journal finds”

    I’m afraid this all the “proof” your going to get from me like it or not.

  7. Submitted by PJ Carroll on 04/10/2012 - 01:45 pm.

    That’s what I thought, Paul

    As predicted, you sent a link to an article which merely reports that another article made claims of fraud – with absolutely NO substantiation of any actual fraud being committed.

    The reason that’s all the proof I’ll get from you is that there is no proof of fraud. Doctor Wakefield has never even been charged with fraud, much less convicted.

    Apparently, just reading a story that repeats another story is enough to persuade you. But these days, more young parents are choosing to look beyond the headlines to do their own research on vaccine safety – like it or not.

Leave a Reply