Here we provide comprehensive discussions of the science and evidence behind many of the claims made by speakers at AutismOne by general topic. There are a few common themes that underly many of the issues with claims made by AutismOne speakers.
- A major flaw with most of the interventions promoted at AutismOne is that that are based on the assumption that autism is a result of some damage or insult that occurs after birth that can be reversed, restored or cured. This flies in the face of current scientific evidence that autism is largely genetic in origin and that the neurological underpinnings of autism are established very early in prenatal development.
- Hysteria over an autism “epidemic” and increasing diagnosis rates are not grounded in evidence. While there has been an increase in diagnosis of autism, the broad consensus among scientists is that this is due to changing diagnostic criteria and that the prevalence has not actually changed (discussed here and here). Again, data suggested that there has not been a real increase in the prevalence of autism, but rather an increase in awareness, diagnosis and changing diagnostic criteria.
- Many of the claims promise to cure or “restore” your child to some pre-autistic state. Again, people are born with autism; it is not something that is done to them that can be undone. They have not been damaged or stolen by GMOs, pesticides, vaccines, or any of the things that AutismOne speakers say cause autism. While there may be measures that reduce specific symptoms that are common in autistic individuals (like GI effects), many speakers misrepresent these as cures for the underlying cause of autism.
Be wary of claims that depend on an increase in autism prevalence. Be wary of claims that purport to know THE cause of autism; autism risk is complicated and multifactorial. Be wary of any claims that promise cures and restoration. Be wary of using language like this in front of your children, the impact of these can be harmful, discussed here. Be aware of how you talk about these issues, your child can hear you and they internalize these messages.
The panel discussion being broadcast was teens and adults with autism and how federal funding could better support them. As the show closed, the moderator asked if anyone on the panel felt a vaccine had caused their autism.
One teen panelist spoke up, “no, but it hurts that you would ask that question.”
The moderator’s tone softened, he apologized and asked why. I’m going to paraphrase the boy’s response because it has been several years and for the life of me I have not been able to find a transcript of this event anywhere, which has driven me to madness. If anyone from C-SPAN reads this and knows the talk I’m referring to, please send me a transcript! The panelist’s response was incredibly moving and I wish I could give him credit for it and do his response justice.
As I recall his response was, “because it makes me feel like I’m damaged or broken, when I’m not. I was born this way. My brain just works differently than most other people’s. When people talk about vaccines and autism it makes me feel like I’m not a person but a ‘bad result.’ It reminds me that no one wants a kid like me and parents will risk their kid’s lives and everyone else’s just to make sure their kid doesn’t turn out like me.”