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An Epidemic of Autism

October 26, 2002

Re " 'Sobering' State Report Calls Autism an Epidemic," Oct. 18: I am president of the Autism Society of California and have two children with autism. The results of the study cited reiterate what most parents of children with autism already know: Autism is an epidemic in California. It is a relief to see it finally in writing, using scientific methods for validity.

The Autism Society and the autism community at large have, for many years, advocated for research into causes and therapies to help our children. It fell on deaf ears for so long because the "incidence" of autism didn't "justify" the research. The Centers for Disease Control now estimates as many as 1 in 500 are affected with autism. Do we now, finally, have the "incidence" needed to justify spending money on research for this lifelong disorder?

Some research is finally happening, but very little is being done to help the families provide therapies that may help their children today.

For most families, the therapies and services needed are expensive, and some require legal action in order to obtain them. Also, there are not enough trained "autism specific" service providers to go around for the demand. We hope that we can build awareness of autism and the needs of the autism community. This is not a condition that, if ignored, goes away.

Dean C. Wilson

Long Beach

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As the father of an autistic child, I have observed that parents are much more intent on getting their children the proper help once a problem has been diagnosed than in the past. Also, they keep their children at home and as a part of the family -- and in society's eyes -- immensely more than they used to, rather than sending them into institutions.

My wife and I saw many doctors in the pursuit of a cure for our autistic son. To our dismay, a doctor whom we were referred to recommended that we put him in an institution, forget about him and get on with our lives. And this recommendation was made even though he had "high functioning" skills that surpassed those of many "normal" kids. In the past, many parents would either submit to this horrible advice or keep their loving but challenged kids within the home, not to be seen by anyone.

No more. That is what society is saying and that is why there has been a so-called "epidemic." Our kids will stay in their loving homes and we parents will pursue the best educational and medical means to have them succeed to the best of their abilities.

Larry Bickmann

Thousand Oaks

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I read with sadness about the explosive growth of people with autism. But my sadness turned to anger when the article included the allegation that some believed the measles-mumps- rubella vaccine to be the cause of the rise of autism. Repeatedly, the best medical research organizations in this country and around the world have determined that vaccines do not cause autism. The MMR vaccine has been available in California for more than two decades and the measles vaccine has been around since 1963 -- long before this tragic wave of autism.

It is easy to jump to false conclusions when a child has a serious illness with no obvious cause. But the diseases that vaccines prevent are very, very real. Vaccines do not cause autism; they save lives and protect our children from very real diseases. As a survivor of the last polio epidemic in America, I cannot speak out forcefully enough to stress the value of childhood immunization. No family should suffer as mine and thousands of others did during the "polio summers" of 50 years ago. Please don't put your children at risk of real diseases in the mistaken belief you are protecting them from autism.

Laura Lake

Parents for Prevention

Los Angeles

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It is no mystery to us that there is an autism epidemic in California. Autism research concentrates on genetics when it should be looking at immunology research.

Why are children with autism indicating elevated measles antibody titers? This should be looked into with clinical science. Too many vaccines at too early an age is more than likely the culprit. It is no mystery to the parents and independent researchers what is going on with this epidemic. There has never been nor will there ever be a genetic epidemic. So why are all the millions of dollars in research funds going to genetic research for autism?

Raymond Gallup

Autism Autoimmunity

Project, Lake Hiawatha, N.J.

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