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Why is the Prevalence of Autism Rising?

Publication date: 10 June 2013

In March of this year the US National Center for Health Statistics issued a report estimating the prevalence of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has risen to 1 child in 50,  up from 1 in 150 in 2004, 1 in 500 in 1992 and 1 in 2000 in 1986. (Here's the link to the prevalence of autism report.) Why is this happening?

Parents in this country are routinely told there is little that can be done for autistic children - it's an incurable condition. A commonly held belief is that ASD is genetically caused - but since the gene pool hasn't changed significantly in the last 50 years how can that be the case?

An alternative theory is that ASD is epigenetic in origin. Epigenetics is the science of how genes are expressed (turned on or off). Of course this is key: problems are going to result when "bad" genes are turned on, and "good" genes are turned off.

More and more evidence is emerging that nutrition plays a key role in gene expression - beneficial nutrients can turn on healthy genes.  On the other hand toxins can turn on "bad" genes.

It's true to say that autism has a heritable component in its causation. However research has demonstrated that some epigenetic changes and enduring (life long) and even passed on to children. Often autism is "regressive" meaning that development of the child is normal until something triggers a regression or loss of function.

There are lots of theories about what might trigger ASD. Two examples are mercury toxicity and gut infections. Dr Kenneth Bock's book, "Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma and Allergies" is a pretty good place to start, if you're interested in finding out more.

There are case reports of neurofeedback helping ASD (which includes autism, Asperger's and Pervasive Developmental Disorder or PDD). For example the leading neurofeedback practitioner Dr Swingle has produced a webinar on Autism Spectrum Disorder. My guess is that neurofeedback can offer more when combined with a "biomedical" approach such as that advocated by Dr Bock.

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