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May 4, 2011
What Autism Epidemic?
There's a new study out looking at the prevalence of autism across different age groups across the United Kingdom. Since autism shows up in childhood, if the rate of its occurrence had changed over the years, that would be expected to be preserved in the population as you move up in years. But it doesn't.
It absolutely doesn't. Despite report after report of an "autism epidemic", what this study supports is the idea of an increase in diagnosis, not in the underlying condition. None of the adults surveyed who fit the autism criteria had any idea that they did so: they never knew that they were autistic, and had never been diagnosed. (I've no doubt, though, that they or their neighbors were aware of their seemingly eccentric personalities). These people also turned out to be generally socially and economically disadvantaged, which given what they've had to work through, I can well believe.
But there was no change related to age group. The demographics were what you find in current children: about 1% of the total population, males much more common than females. No change. No sign of an epidemic. But it won't change a thing for those people who are convinced that one exists; they'll already be out there today telling everyone about the flaws in this study, its biased nature, its gaps and omissions. Dark forces will be alluded to, huge conspiracies - and if you doubt that, just watch the comments to this post, because I'll probably attract some of these people, too.
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