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What's Next for Autism and the CDC

What's Next for Autism and the CDC?
What's Next for Autism and the CDC?
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

"My name is William Thompson. I am a Senior Scientist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where I have worked since 1998."

In 1995 the autism rate was 1 in every 10,000 children. No one really knew it was, nor knew anyone who had it. A first glimpse into autism for this generation was the movie, Rainman. Nonprofits were formed and progress was being made, or so parents thought. While everyone was focusing on which therapy was best, the autism rate skyrocketed. So much so that by 2002 it was 1 in 150 children. People began to know what the word 'autism' meant..But then two years later it grew to 1 in 125, with another increase in 2006 to a whopping 1 in 110 with an even higher increase in 2012 when the number went up to 1 in 88.

Where does the data come from? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In March of 2014 the CDC reported the rates hit the highest they have been when they announced the "official" autism rates were now at 1 in every 68 US kids, with 1 in every 42 boys.

According to the Director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Colleen Boyle, "We look at all of the characteristics of autism," says Coleen Boyle, the director of the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "So we look at the age in which they're identified. We look at their earliest diagnosis. We look at co-occurring conditions that these children might have, other developmental disabilities, whether or not they have intellectual disability, so essentially their IQ."

Those familiar with autism know all too well that a child with autism does not perform well on IQ tests deeming them unreliable.

However, the CDC, like any government agency, has whistleblowers and until yesterday his name was unknown. William Thompson, Ph.D. admitted that he had first-hand knowledge of a cover-up of data possibly linking autism to the MMR vaccination, or at the very least, not being forthcoming with how data was collected.

I think the world underestimated the passion within parents of children with autism. Not many know that without the power of true grassroots formation in the 1960's led by such pioneers as Dr. Bernard Rimland there would not be public education for any child with a disability. Just as the Civil Rights Act protected all citizens, it too covered the youngest and most vulnerable and from it came the IDEA act. Parents of children with autism made an impact for all disabilities when they arrived with their children in tow into Washington in the early 60's stating they refused to lock away their inquisitive, brilliant, and beautiful children with autism anymore. Now they would go to school and they would even ride the same buses their brothers and sisters did. Ironically, about the same time (1963) the first measles vaccine vaccination was required for school children with a major change happening in 1989 requiring two doses of the combined MMR vaccination prior to entering school.

Fast forward to the 21st century and you will see those in the news and those in office begin to be affected by autism. Who wouldn't be with the high rates being what they were? Enter Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana into the battle. He led the way by introducing the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program Improvement Act of 2005 (H.R. 1349) and it allowed for the first time for parents to act legally on behalf of their vaccine-injured children.

Congressman Burton states, "The families of those afflicted with vaccine injuries will have a fair and user-friendly venue to seek some means of restitution, and pharmaceutical companies will no longer be under the shadow of the threat of costly and potentially industry-crippling class-action lawsuits. Embracing this solution would be good for the industry as well as society."

Was this solution as good for the society and the industry as Congressman Burton had hoped?

Now, ten years later the whistle-blower has the same hopes of benefiting society when he remarks in his statement released today, " Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits. "

Dr. Thompson further explains in today's press release, " I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race." However, he sincerely believes, "... it is the responsibility of the CDC to properly convey the risks associated with the receipt of those vaccines. "

The public was reassured by Dr. Thompson when he said, "I will do everything I can to assist any unbiased and objective scientists outside of the CDC to analyze data collected by the CDC or other public organizations for the purpose of understanding whether vaccines are associated with an increased risk of autism. There are still more questions than answers, and I appreciate that so many families are looking for answers from the scientific community." [Dr. Thompson is represented by Frederick M. Morgan, Jr., Morgan Verkamp, LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio].

Today while Dr. Thompson's press release is circulating, the scientific world goes on and articles are shared via social media telling of genetics playing a role as well. Now parents have even less time but more information to read through. At least when the statistics were 1 in every 10,000 there were maybe 20 books available on the subject. This is one time where parents are not hoping for days long ago or simpler times.

And just as a child with autism develops and takes 1 step forward, but 3 steps back, so it goes in the steady, but exhausting world of autism awareness and advocacy.