1. "Haven't the criteria for diagnosing austism changed greatly over the years?"
Update as of 12-18-09: The CDC Reports "True Increase in Autism Risk Can Not Be Ruled Out".
"...Although some of the increases are due to better detection, a true increase in risk cannot be ruled out. Increased concern in the communities, continued demand for services, and recent prevalence estimates underscore the need for a coordinated and serious response to improve the lives of people with ASDs. The CDC considers ASDs to be an urgent public health concern." You can read the entire article here:
Here's my old post:
The data I used to make the chart seen on the "The Correlation that Does Indicate Causation" post is from TACA now and includes only individuals specifically diagnosed with autism. The percentages shown in my chart do not include Aspergers or PDD, and the data cites the CDC's study.
Also, here is TACA Now's response to that question:
"BETTER DIAGNOSIS? Some of suggested that autism is just being better diagnosed today versus ten years ago and that many cases of mental retardation are now being coded as autism. This would also assume that the experts diagnosing autism before did not know what they were doing.
This is NOT TRUE. Autism is the only rising dramatically disorder while mental retardation, Down syndrome, and cystic fibrosis remain relatively the same. Autism is now more prevalent among California children than cerebral palsy."
If other disorders were now being classified as autism, their rates would be dropping; not remaining the same. This question also makes me want to ask "if so many doctors can't get the diagnosis right, why should we trust them when they say vaccines don't cause autism"? Prior to the 1990's could doctors have missed true cases of regressive autism following vaccines because they were unfamiliar with the symptoms of autism?
See David Kirby's website for much more detailed information about the increase: www.evidenceofharm.com/
2. "What about environmental factors?"
Environment definitely does seem to contribute somehow since compared to the national average Arizona has a lower percentage rate and New Jersey has a higher percentage rate. I've discussed, briefly, that environmental factors could increase a child's risk in the "how could vaccines harm only some children" post. I did not explain these factors in detail, however, because if autism was strictly due to environmental factors, I don't think you would hear so many stories from parents stating the day their child received certain vaccines the child had a severe reaction that caused permanent brain damage or even death. Here's one family's story reported on ABC News. Here's another family's story documented on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YswnGsfZsQI
These parent's first-hand accounts, which are sadly often dismissed or even cruelly scoffed at, are the main reason why I believe the vaccines are somehow the trigger for some children that have currently unknown risk factors. I'm not claiming that vaccines injure every child, but that doesn't mean that it is impossible for any child to be injured by vaccines. Hannah Poling's case has already proven that it is possible.
David Kirby's website also contains much more information about environmental factors for those who want more information about this subject: www.evidenceofharm.com/
3. "And the most common argument of all: Correlation does not automatically mean causation."
I know that correlation does not automatically mean causation. That's why I specifically said it was a correlation that indicates causation, not a correlation that proves causation. I'm trying to show that more research is needed. That's also why I stated in my blog, "Even though correlation does not prove causation, I think this correlation does warrant more research regarding the safety of using aluminum compounds as vaccine adjuvants."
Also, while it may not have been clear to my critics, I wasn't saying that the chart alone implicates the vaccines. I was trying to say that a combination of the correlation between the increases in vaccines and increases in the autism rate, plus the stories of parents, plus certain studies performed/cited by the CDC and FDA, mean that vaccines cannot yet be ruled out as a cause of autism in certain susceptible individuals.
I've read some scientific blogs that ridicule the whole correlation theory with a bogus example such as 'since autism rates have increased and people use MP3 players instead of CDs, that means that MP3 players cause autism". That is ridiculous and I know that. The difference between the bogus correlation and the vaccine correlation is that no parent ever said, "I let my child use an MP3 player and later that day he regressed into autism".
I believe the vaccine-autism correlation is plausible because: I think it is beyond coincidental that, after all the increases in the autism percentage rate that correlate to increases in childhood vaccinations, there was NO INCREASE in the autism percentage rate from 2002-2004 when no aluminum-containing or live-virus vaccines were added to the recommended childhood immunization schedule. How do scientists explain why there would be no increase in the 2002-2004 time period, especially while at the same time making the argument that autism is overly diagnosed now? Since that time period more vaccines have been added to the childhood schedule AND the autism rate is increasing again. This temporary plateau in the autism percentage rate is more convincing in my opinion than just looking at all the increases in shots and autism rates alone.
Also, eye witness accounts are considered valuable information in a court of law. Many parents have claimed that they saw their children have a severe reaction to a vaccine and then regress into autism in just a few short days. If a person develops hives after taking a medicine, it's obvious to doctors that this could possibly be an allergic reaction. So why are the testimonies that a child had a bad reaction to a vaccine so quickly dismissed or scoffed at?
And finally, even the CDC, FDA, and AAP have all published statements that aluminum can cause neurological harm. (these statements along with their references can be found on my other posts.) So that creates, at least in my opinion, a combination of plausibility (b/c well reknown public health institutions have already witnessed that aluminum can cause neurological harm), and what appears to me, to be a direct correlation between aluminum-containing vaccines and autism rates.
In my opinion, the combination of all these factors warrants further research into what could make vaccines dangerous for certain children. But I'm not a Scientist and I could be wrong.
HOWEVER, even Dr. Bernadine Healy (former head of the National Institutes of Health) who once used to think that a correlation between vaccines and autism was "just silly", is now saying that it has not been proven that vaccines do not cause autism in a specific group of susceptible individuals. She also says that research should be done to identify this group so that they can be protected, and other children who are not at risk can continue to be vaccinated.
Click Here to see the interview.
Disclaimer- I am not a doctor or even a scientist. Always consult with a doctor before making any medical decision.
I don't claim to know all the answers. All I do know is that every medical treatment has risks, and that some doctors refuse to acknowledge that vaccines carry risks too. That is dangerous. What about the precept that all medical students are taught, "Primum non nocere 'First, do no harm'". It's supposed to remind physicians to consider the possible harm of an intervention since even human acts with good intentions can have unwanted consequenses.
Certain diseases can be devastating, but so is autism. If scientists could figure out why some children have severe reactions to vaccines, then the susceptible group could be protected.
However, by refusing to investigate the parents' claims that their child regressed into autism after a severe vaccine reaction, other parents (especially me) are becoming increasingly more distrusting of the medical community and the vaccination program in general. Doctors are only human, and therefore I will always receive their advice cautiously. And if I think they're wrong I'll get a second opinion. There is much to be said about a mother's intuition. Yes it can be wrong sometimes, but doctors are wrong sometimes too.