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Dr. Edwards' Blog

Autism Controversy Continues As Cases Rise -- April 22

April is Autism Awareness Month.  It's a time to consider the effects of this disease on so many young lives and also to acknowledge the need for more research into a cause.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) encompasses a wide range of abilities and challenges that affect an individual’s social skills, communication, behaviors, and interests. It includes a spectrum of subtypes that include Asperger’s syndrome, high-functioning autism, and on up to severe or profound autism.  Click here to learn more about ASD.

Despite extensive studies involving millions of children worldwide, there is still no known cause of ASD -- nor is there a cure.  Many parents blame it on childhood vaccines required at a young age.  But there is no evidence to support that theory.  The health care community believes vaccinations save lives and limit exposure to diseases that often can turn deadly.  So it recommends all children be immunized.

While some parents refuse to have their children vaccinated, some others who have autistic children feel very differently.  They believe it was some environmental factor or genetic defect that caused their children to be autistic  -- not vaccines.  Martine O'Callaghan is the mother of a boy who has autism.  In a blog published on the site Voices For Vaccines, she never questioned that her little boy needed the MMR shot (measles, mumps, and rubella).  "My son has autism.  That's just part of who he is.  He was giggly, happy and autistic before he got the MMR shot and, five years on, he still is."

Whether you believe the Vaccination Theory is fact or fiction, there's no disputing the rise in cases of ASD.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says in the 70s and 80s, about 1 in 2,000 children had some form of autism.  Today, the numbers show 1 in 150 eight year olds have it.  Boys are five times more likely than girls to have this disorder.  CDC stats from a 2010 study* show 1 in 68 boys has autism while 1 in 189 girls does.  A study of 8 year olds in Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles and St. Louis counties along with St. Louis City are similar:  1 in  43 boys and 1 in 200 girls has some form of autism.  The state with the lowest rate of autism is Alabama -- 1 in 175 boys.  New Jersey has the highest -- 1 in 28 boys.

While there is still no cure there are treatment options like medicines and therapy.  Consult your child's pediatrician for more information.

If you have a child with autism or you suspect your child has some form of the disease, the state of Missouri has resources to support and empower you.  Clicking this link will lead you to more  Missouri stats plus phone numbers and websites where you can find assistance.


 *Data was collected in 2010 from more than 300,000 8 year old boys living in 11 states:  Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.

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