First and foremost, let me wish you all a very happy Autism Awareness day.
Many people, without autism close to their everyday lives, seem to have only a very basic understanding of what autism is and how it affects the lives of those with the condition and their family, friends and even employer. I think the fact that very many autistic individuals can and do work, do pay taxes and make a positive contribution to society may be news to a few people. This day isn’t just about awareness but acceptance.
The latest figures released in the USA suggest that the prevalence of autism to be 1 in 88. Some groups have latched on to the data to, as Orac perfectly states it, “resurrect the zombie of the autism epidemic.” I object to the portrayal of my son’s nature as a disease and am offended deeply that there are some who will use his condition to scare parents into cheating their own children out of vaccines that can prevent disabling and potentially fatal disease not just in one child but in a community.
Various groups have taken hold of this story to imply that there is no way that 1 in 88 children could possibly be born with autism. There’s no such thing as a genetic epidemic, they claim. Well, actually as one poster at Respectful Insolence elegantly points out:
“Genes do not change that quickly”??? This person seems to be unaware of the concept of recessive genes, which is the same fallacy underlying the usual “no genetic epidemic” line. I find it ironic that, in the process, anti-vaxxers miss a rather disturbing implication of Mendelian genetics: Even a FATAL recessive trait could survive and even spread in the gene pool indefinitely, until and unless large numbers of carriers start having offspring with each other. Then a “genetic epidemic” is exactly what happens.
Ok, so there can, in a sense, be genetic epidemics but is this really what we’re seeing with autism? It’s doubtful to say the least. Prevalence is highest in countries with greatest awareness and, taking the United States in isolation, a study carried out by the CDC noted that autism prevalence to be at its highest in states with the best autism health and support services, such as Arizona and Missouri (121 in 10,000) and lowest in states with fewer services such as Alabama (60 in 10,000) and Florida (42 in 10,000).
“Autism Mothers” have started a “not born with autism” thing. Not sure it ranks as a campaign as yet. There are pics of happy, smiling babies from the days before autism stole their souls. Oh please! Autism is not an event. Autism is a human difference that, perhaps, 1 in 88 people in the USA exhibit. In response, I, with the expert back up of autism self advocate Zoey Roberts, have launched a new facebook group: Born This Way Autism.
Autism is not an injury. Autism is part of the intrinsic make up of a proportion of human beings on this planet. This group believes that people with autism are born that way.
Within a couple of hours we were up to nearly 500 members. Please join us even if it’s only to look at the happy, smiling faces of autists from all over the world. People who, just like my adorable Pwdin, were born that way.