Autism Clusters Found: areas with high incidence of autistic children

1 Jan

Researchers at the U.C. Davis MIND Institute has discovered regions in the state of California that have notably higher autism incidence. But the story is more complicated, and more sad, than one might think at first. Instead of indications of an “autism epidemic”, these clusters point to the fact that minority and poor children are much less likely to receive autism diagnoses.

I don’t have the paper yet (I’m still trying to find the abstract), but articles in the Woodland Daily Democrat and the San Diego Union-Tribune are reporting the story.

The clusters do not appear to point to environmental causes. Instead…well, read for yourself:

Researchers said that in this investigation the clusters probably are not correlated with specific environmental pollutants or other “exposures.” Rather, they correlate to areas where residents are more educated.

Children with autism diagnoses in these clusters are more likely to be White and have parents with high education levels. Again, a quote:

“In the U.S., the children of older, white and highly educated parents are more likely to receive a diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorder. For this reason, the clusters we found are probably not a result of a common environmental exposure. Instead, the differences in education, age and ethnicity of parents comparing births in the cluster versus those outside the cluster were striking enough to explain the clusters of autism cases,” said senior author Irva Hertz-Picciotto.

Kids in the “clusters” are about twice a likely to be diagnosed autistic and kids in nearby areas.

Twice as high.

To the many of us armchair epidemiologists who who have looked closely at the California Department of Developmental Services (CDDS) data, this comes as no surprise.

For me, the most memorable discussion of the autism clusters came from Autism Diva, in her post from July 1997, Malibu and Compton: Compare and Contrast.

Here is a graph from that post:

The South Central Regional Center, in a predominantly non-White, poor area of the Los Angeles basin, had an administrative prevalence of 33 per 10,000. Compare that to Westside Regional Center with a prevelance of 84. Westside is a much more affluent are with a higher proportion of White families.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“There is mounting evidence that at least some of this clustering results from the greater access and utilization of services by those with more years of schooling,” the UC Davis researchers wrote.

Yes, there is a certain “I told you so” moment here. This blog, Autism Diva, Autism Natural Variation, Autism Street and others have been pointing out the apparent autism clusters in the raw CDDS data for years. Long before I started blogging. But the real story isn’t the effect such clusters have on the idea of the “autism epidemic”. Rather, this is a clear indication that we are underserving the disabled in our minority and poor communities. This is just plain wrong.

It is long past time for real autism advocacy organizations to work on increasing awareness and access to services in underserved areas. The autism “clusters” are probably not real. From where I sit, what is real are the “anti–clusters” of undiagnosed autistics, minorities, the poor, and, yes, adults.

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134 Responses to “Autism Clusters Found: areas with high incidence of autistic children”

  1. passionlessDrone March 14, 2010 at 14:54 #

    Hello friends –

    One of my pubmed alerts recently sent me this terrifying link, Body burdens of brominated flame retardants and other persistent organo-halogenated compounds and their descriptors in US girls, which may have some interesting information for this type of discussion. In it, researchers describe very different levels of a variety of endocrine disruptors and pesticides over geographical area, race, cultural practices, and BMI in US female children.

    Ethnically diverse cohorts of girls 6–8 y old at baseline are being followed for growth and pubertal development in a multi-site, longitudinal study. Nearly 600 serum samples from the California and Ohio sites were analyzed for lipids, 35 PCB congeners, 11 PBDE congeners, and 9 OCPs. The biomarker distributions were examined and geometric means compared for selected analytes across categories of age, race, site, body mass index (BMI), parental education, maternal age at delivery, and breast feeding in adjusted models. Six PBDE congeners were detected among greater than 70% of samples, with BDE-47 having the highest concentration (median 42.2, range 4.9–855 ng/g lipid). Girls in California had adjusted geometric mean (GM) PBDE levels significantly higher than girls in Ohio. Furthermore, Blacks had significantly higher adjusted GMs of all six PBDE congeners than Whites, and Hispanics had intermediate values. GMs tended to be lower among more obese girls, while other variables were not strongly associated. In contrast, GMs of the six PCB congeners most frequently detected were significantly lower among Blacks and Hispanics than Whites. PCBs and the three pesticides most frequently detected were also consistently lower among girls with high BMI, who were not breast-fed, whose mothers were younger, or whose care-givers (usually parents) were less educated. Girls in California had higher GMs than in Ohio for the pesticides and most PCB congeners, but the opposite for CB-99 and -118.

    The paper goes on to speculate that some of these findings may be driven by more robust regulations in fire safety in California.

    These findings struck me as a bit counter intuitive; we usually think about environmental exposures as operating over very large areas that do not discriminate by things like race or education, and yet, here we observe the opposite. Considering we have several disparate studies involving a variety of endocrine disruptors or pesticides pointing to a link to autism, I’m not sure that it is safe to assume that diagnostic availability is the sole driver for different rates of autism.

    – pD

  2. Laurentius Rex March 14, 2010 at 15:50 #

    Passionless you are chasing after Unicorns again. Your presumption that there MUST be an environmental cause is causing you to find that in cases where it is the data that are dodgy in themselves, e.g. the CDC statistics that contain enormous socio-economic artefacts. You are in effect looking at the data and failing to see the obvious because you have a passion for seeing something else.

    Let us suppose for example that a victorian police inspector becomes interested in the phenomenon of “Bertillonage” the now discredited ‘science’ of relating an individuals phsyiognomy to his criminal propensity.

    If he were a true believer this inspector might find himself seeing the evidence of criminal physiognomy in his colleagues on the police force, which provokes him then to start investigating each an every one of them on the basis that they must have committed some crime in order to rid the force of ‘bad apples’

    That may be a hypothetical example but unfortunately similar misplaced faith in ones scientific truth has led to miscarriages of justice in the case of cot deaths, not to mention those who see Munchausens everywhere or evidence of Satanic abuse.

    These people eventually become lost to science or reason, and usually end up fielding the Galileo gambit.

  3. Robin P Clarke March 14, 2010 at 19:33 #

    LRex, I agree that the Galileo gambit is a fallacy. But you should beware of an actually more insidious fallacy, which we could call the inverted Galileo gambit. It is very frequently deployed and goes like this: “This work is being ignored and or “debunked”/disproven/despised by all the experts; therefore it is reasonable to dismiss it as unsound”.

    To understand the reality you have to bear in mind that the vast majority of “great discoveries” are unsound, with just a tiny minority of sound ones. It follows that the vast majority of Galileo-invokers, or even just despised ideas, are unsound, and yet it does not follow that most sound ideas are promptly recognised. Instead there’s a wealth of evidence that the greatest breakthroughs regularly encounter great hostility, see http://www.autismcauses.info/2009/12/history-of-suppression-of-scientific.html. Galileo seems to be indeed the rule rather than the exception.

  4. passionlessDrone March 14, 2010 at 19:56 #

    Hi Laurentix Rex –

    It occurred to me that the irony is that our viewpoints seem to share a similar foundation; the difficult to understate stupidity of humans. To you, this is a reason that we have not begun yet to understand autism, and consequently, our observations are so tainted, we cannot reach any conclusions from them. [at least, I believe this is part of your view.] On the other hand, my view is that we have introduced synthetic chemicals into our environment with such recklessness, we cannot help but have had impacts; especially considering how nascent our understanding of how many of these chemicals interact with our own bodies machinery.

    As far as CDC statistics go and the problems with data fuzziness, the study I posted about is following specific children whose parents answered questions like: ‘Is the child white, blank, or of hispanic?’ or, ‘How many months did you breastfeed?’ or ‘How old were you when the child was born?’. This data is not subject to the problems you would ascribe to it.

    While your parable is eloquent, unfortunately, it does nothing to change the repeated clinical findings of deleterious effects of many of these types of chemicals to the developing nervous system. This type of study isn’t being funded and conducted by rationale of eighteenth century theory, but rather, after dozens or hundreds of studies showing that these molecules can interrupt, or augment, critical metabolic processes. If you would like to paint the science of endocrine disruption as soon to be discredited, you will have to bring a stronger case than trotting out “Bertillonage” and imperfections in statistical models.

    – pD

  5. Laurentius Rex March 14, 2010 at 20:59 #

    Well I chose Bertillonage because I wanted an example of something that had been completely discredited rather than something which is still disputed by a minority, for instance the notions of racial differences in g.

    However there is another logical fallacy committed by the self proclaiment anti neurodiversionists and that is to assume that because I do not believe that x, y or z causes autism, that I believe that x, y or z is necessarily a good thing.

    I dare say there are lots of background effects from toxic chemicals in the environment, however they are not significant enough to cause the rather specific (however ill defined at the edges) phenomenon of autism. PCB’s organophosphates and heavy metals are there but I think they pale into insignificance with the amount of gunk one introduces into the system when on smokes a cigarette and if anything were around that could have affected my development in the womb smoking would be it. (not that I am saying it is)

    Pure genetic arguments won’t wash, neither will pure environmental ones, there has to be some threshold of genetic complexity that maybe triggers specific susceptibilities that then encounter a sort of multiplier effect, you know the equivalent of the butterfly effect in the chaos mathematics of the weather system.

    The problem too with a lot of this looking for new causes for autism is the assumption that is is increasing, which I do not buy, if it is toxins you are looking for, something that has an effect prenatally, there is plenty that has been around since before PCB’s

  6. Robin P Clarke March 14, 2010 at 22:22 #

    Laurence, I liked your thing about the “persons with autism” nonsense (in concurrence with my http://www.autismcauses.info/search/label/political%20correctness ).

    Meanwhile you reckon/suspect that autism is not increasing. I’d be interested to know what you think is most likely going on in this second graph here: http://www.autismcauses.info/2009/03/age-of-onset-graph.html. Cheers.

  7. Robin P Clarke March 14, 2010 at 22:28 #

    LRex, I liked your thing on the “persons with autism” nonsense, in line with my own http://www.autismcauses.info/2009/02/offensive-inappropriate-language-about.html.

    Meanwhile you reckon/suspect that autism has not been increasing. In view of that I’d be interested to know what you think is the most likely explanation of the second graph here: http://www.autismcauses.info/2009/03/age-of-onset-graph.html. Cheers.

  8. passionlessDrone March 14, 2010 at 23:22 #

    Hi Laurentis Rex –

    However there is another logical fallacy committed by the self proclaiment anti neurodiversionists and that is to assume that because I do not believe that x, y or z causes autism, that I believe that x, y or z is necessarily a good thing.

    Well, I’m trying very hard lately not to assign arguments to people they do not make. My line of reasoning allows for improved diagnostics and the like to be impacting our observations, but the notion of a static rate of autism allows for no environmental impacts; your argument that there is no real increase in autism implies a non impact of these types of chemicals. A good thing versus a bad thing is difficult to assign here.

    I dare say there are lots of background effects from toxic chemicals in the environment, however they are not significant enough to cause the rather specific (however ill defined at the edges) phenomenon of autism.

    Well, this gets murky pretty quickly, as part of your argument (I think), is that we can’t even quantify autism sufficiently.

    However, what we are finding is that these chemicals are capable of causing neurological differences and/or interferring with metabolic processes that we already have associated with autism, or other neurological conditions.

    For example, hypothyroidism is associated with autism, again in autism, and impaired intelligence and motor skills and more. We have a good body of evidence on the importance of thyroid metabolism in brain development. It turns out, we also have detailed information on how some of these environmental pollutants can modify thyroid metabolism, and indeed, affect the developing brain.

    For example, here, here, here, or here.
    Or, we can look to this study that found associations between PFOA levels and thyroid problems. Or many, many others. The fact that people have smoked during pregnancy for some time does absolutely nothing to change these findings.

    Pure genetic arguments won’t wash, neither will pure environmental ones, there has to be some threshold of genetic complexity that maybe triggers specific susceptibilities that then encounter a sort of multiplier effect, you know the equivalent of the butterfly effect in the chaos mathematics of the weather system.

    I have no problem with very complicated genetic and environmental interactions, but I’m not sure that it necessarily involves application of chaos level theory.

    The problem too with a lot of this looking for new causes for autism is the assumption that is is increasing, which I do not buy, if it is toxins you are looking for, something that has an effect prenatally, there is plenty that has been around since before PCB’s

    Speaking of fallacies, using the fact that because there have been mechanisms by which the prenatal environment could be affected for a long time, that therefore, our newly minted forces must not be having a significant impact is a whooper. By way of example, examination of smoking and altered thyroid hormone levels was recently found in NHANES data in Cigarette smoking and iodine as hypothyroxinemic stressors in U.S. women of childbearing age: a NHANES III analysis. Smoking levels may have decreased somewhat over time, but when your mother was of child bearing age, a great many of our current suite of sythentic chemicals hadn’t been invented, much less distributed widely.

    – pD

  9. Robin P Clarke March 15, 2010 at 10:50 #

    pD, A commendable job of links to associations there. You could have added that hypothyroid is a significant consequence of adult amalgam poisoning (as if I need reminding myself, 35.9 this morning, with world record oral Hg vapor of 460mcg/m3).

    However the problem with these sorts of association is that it soon gets to feel like just about everything is associated with everything else. In the absence of Mengeleian interventionist experiments or any “outside” pointers to the directions of the causality arrows, some very boring books could easily be written consisting entirely of speculations about how those arrows might link together into nice diagrams. (Actually, come to think of it, one such boring book may have already been written in Cambridge uk!)

    A way out of this insoluble maze could be to look at other evidence, such as the nature of the symptom syndrome, as for instance I did in my own explanation. I asked the question of quite what the autism characteristics have in common. Answer: they are suppressions of innate programmings/tendencies. But then the handflapping, webbed feet etc contradicted that. To address that we add in the established concept of reversions to atavisms, which enables the handflapping and other peculiar things to be explained with due Occam’s Razor principle.

    Such an analysis does not result in anything like total clarity about everything about autism. But I would argue that it allows a start on climbing out from that boring books quagmire.

  10. passionlessDrone March 15, 2010 at 18:01 #

    Hi Robin P. Clarke –

    . In the absence of Mengeleian interventionist experiments or any “outside” pointers to the directions of the causality arrows, some very boring books could easily be written consisting entirely of speculations about how those arrows might link together into nice diagrams.

    Hm. Well, have you read this study, Associations between indoor environmental factors and parental-reported autistic spectrum disorders in children 6-8 years of age, where researchers report a rough doubling of autism risk if raised in home with PVC flooring? [as does a smoking mother]

    One of the links I sent indicated changes to the brain in very specific areas associated with autism by many studies, purkinje cells, Disrupting effects of hydroxy-polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners on neuronal development of cerebellar Purkinje cells: a possible causal factor for developmental brain disorders?

    Did you know that children with autism have been found to have reduced levels of molecules used in detoxification of organic pesticides? Paraoxonase 1 activities and polymorphisms in autism spectrum disorders

    The direction of these arrows seems pretty straightforward to me, but may be boring to some. (?)

    Such an analysis does not result in anything like total clarity about everything about autism. But I would argue that it allows a start on climbing out from that boring books quagmire.

    Maybe. (?) Unfortunately, I’m not sure I understand your position clearly enough to say for myself.

    – pD

  11. Joseph March 15, 2010 at 21:48 #

    Hm. Well, have you read this study, Associations between indoor environmental factors and parental-reported autistic spectrum disorders in children 6-8 years of age, where researchers report a rough doubling of autism risk if raised in home with PVC flooring? [as does a smoking mother]

    That sounds a lot like data dredging, and reminds me a bit of Dr H-P’s pet shampoo finding. Even if they did control for multiple comparisons, it’s prudent to wait for an independent replication to start to believe it’s possibly true.

  12. Robin P Clarke March 16, 2010 at 03:13 #

    Farbeit from me to interrude between Joseph and pD here, but,
    I think J’s point about data dredging is far from entirely unsound, and is part of the reason why I think one should not get too unbored by such reports, when untethered from any wider theoretical moorings.

    But I think nevertheless I got overdone with my ‘boredom’ there. The first and last look like worthy studies. I’d put them alongside the evidence about Lyme disease being autism-associated too. (It soon starts to look like everything causes autism doesnt it?!)

    I’d then tie all these envirofactors in with my mercury-caused-increase updated concept, as follows. They all, I hypothesise, as nasty toxins, stress certain detox capabilities and thus tend to throw the system into a detox failure (such as is hypothesised by those DAMN! people). Thereby these organic nasties make the victim more vulnerable to the effects of the increasing dental mercury onslaught. So everything (at a rough approximation) adds up. Someone with more time and energy (and months of ‘life’ left) could do a great job of precisely calculating the exact factor analysis of it all.

    As for the directions of the arrows, some higher class parents might prefer the latest Swedish fashionable gimmick of PVC in their bedrooms and the higher autism be caused by their genetics alone with no causality from the pvc. Or such like. Until you have an anchoring theory and a good knowledge of the context, anything goes.

    As for the pcbs zapping the Purkinjes, lots of things zap lots of things, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that the pcbs cause any significant level of autism. They might merely damage the Purkinjes specifically and this tend to spuriously inflate autism diagnoses. I’d compare this with the famous youtube of mercury decomposing a neuron with allegedly great similarity to Alzheimers; again I’m sceptical of this as “proof” that mercury is a main cause of AD by that mechanism or anyhow.

    (pD: Re understanding my position, it is that everyone else is partly wrong. More precisely, there is firstly my 1993-published paper. To which is now added a draft of an update review paper. The latter is not puttable on web until accepted by a journal, but can be got by emailing a request to rpclarke[at]autismcauses[dot]info, cheers.)

  13. Robin P Clarke March 16, 2010 at 03:27 #

    More on the PVC in bedrooms. The idea of having PVC in one’s bedroom strikes me as distinctly weird/nutty. It suggests living in a relatively quiet, wealthy neighbourhood. But one still has to wonder quite why anyone would choose PVC for their bedroom. Apart from the nut factor (which could genetically link to autistic descendants) there could be a concern for reducing allergen/pollutant exposure. So the choice of PVC could also be a consequence of the parents’ difficulty with allergy/immune/detox. And thereby a genetic connection again with no causation by the polymer.

  14. passionlessDrone March 16, 2010 at 04:20 #

    Hi Joseph –

    That sounds a lot like data dredging, and reminds me a bit of Dr H-P’s pet shampoo finding. Even if they did control for multiple comparisons, it’s prudent to wait for an independent replication to start to believe it’s possibly true.

    According to the author, this was supposed to be a studyregarding asthma, but the numbers of children with autism that were correlated to vinyl flooring were so significant that it warranted publication.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=link-between-autism-and-vinyl

    I don’t know if that is data dredging or not. (?)

    The authors make a similar call for caution and additional study before any conclusions can be reached.

    – pD

  15. passionlessDrone March 16, 2010 at 04:32 #

    Hi Robin P. Clarke –

    As for the pcbs zapping the Purkinjes, lots of things zap lots of things, and it doesn’t necessarily follow that the pcbs cause any significant level of autism.

    Well, Purkinjes do seem to be particularly vulnerable to a variety of insults, however, I’m curious if you are aware that deficiencies of Purkinje cells are among the most widely observed neuroanatomical difference observed in autism? I don’t want to earn another commendation on link spamming, so I’ll leave that research up to you, but even with everyone being wrong somewhat, it is difficult to paint a scenario where Purkinje cell development (or abnormal development) is involved with at least a subset of autism cases.

    Re understanding my position, it is that everyone else is partly wrong.

    This sounds a lot like my ideas, to tell the truth.

    Finally, the flooring in the mentioned study was vinyl, something not so exocit as pvc piping as floors. I believe the salient idea is the breakdown of the materials.

    – pD

  16. Robin P Clarke March 16, 2010 at 04:49 #

    Vinyl is the popular word for PVC. And it’s 4am over here in the civilised world so g’nite.

  17. Robin P Clarke March 16, 2010 at 04:57 #

    The Purkinje abnormalities just happen to be big (they are after all big cells involved in big movement stuff). Most of the behavioural syndrome is very unlikely to be attributable to them, just the other abnorms are subtle tweaks in the undercomprehended info-tangle in front of the cerebellum.

  18. Berthajane Vandegrift October 21, 2010 at 19:11 #

    Suppose this is not just a matter of diagnosis, and autistic children really are born to more highly educated parents. I see autism as a deficiency in the ability to automatically absorb culture, language and attitudes. In other words, nonconformists. Perhaps many of us are becoming more autistic, not just developmentally disabled children, and many of us are forced to substitute learning for instinctive knowledge. The inheritance of culture is a valuable trait, ensuring that culture does not have to be created anew in each generation. But our culture is changing rapidly; concepts that endured for generations are discarded in a lifetime. Some individuals are able to compensate for a deficiency in intuitive knowledge, mainly by learning – education.

    A Few Impertinent Questions about Autism, Freudianism and Materialism
    http://30145.myauthorsite.com/

  19. RPClarke October 21, 2010 at 21:56 #

    Suppose this is not just a matter of diagnosis, and autistic children really are born to more highly educated parents.

    No need to suppose about autism’s relationship to parental SES and IQ. Enough evidence was available at least 20 years ago as reviewed at http://cogprints.org/5207/

  20. Berthajane Vandegrift January 22, 2011 at 23:49 #

    Perhaps autism has many causes, but it is non conformity that is on the increase – in all of us, including some mentally deficient children. Lots of people may be losing their intuitive abilities, such as automatically absorbing language and culture at a young age. Some autistic children are able to compensate for the deficit, and are able to function by substituting learning and creativity for intuitive abilities. Perhaps autism is more likely to occur in higher educated families that have already learned to substitute learning for intuitive abilities.

    A Few Impertinent Questions about Autism, Freudianism and Materialism
    http://30145.myauthorsite.com/

  21. sharon January 23, 2011 at 00:17 #

    BV, with all due respect I think that’s an unlikely explanation.

  22. Berthajane Vandegrift October 18, 2011 at 20:46 #

    A year later and I’m more convinced than ever that autism is not a “disability”. It is a personality type, and nonconformists are subject to all the same variety of disabilities to that other personality types might suffer. Mine is a personal story about the time when autism was said to be caused by maternal rejection and mother was treated with psychotherapy. Instead of convincing me I rejected my child, therapy demonstrated to me the fallibility of scientific pronouncements. (It also persuaded some therapists to look for easier ways to earn a living.)

    A Few Questions about Autism, Freudianism and Materialism
    http://30145.myauthorsite.com/

  23. Chris October 18, 2011 at 22:29 #

    Why should we care what you think? What are your academic and research qualifications?

  24. Robin P Clarke October 18, 2011 at 22:43 #

    Berthane, you start there with a false dichotomy. Consider for instance whether planes crashing into buildings are accidents or terrorist schemes. In the NY 2001 case it was the latter, but the Concorde crashing near Paris was the former. With the multicausality inherent in biology it gets even more mixed. The use of the word “type” would also be better replaced with variance. In reality there is no autism thing that people “have” but only the adjective autistic (in greater or lesser degree). Up to a certain low level of severity autisticness is a worthy freedom from neurotypical flaws. Beyond a certain point it becomes for practical purposes a tragic pathology. In all cases (both “normal” variation and “pathology”) there is contribution of genetics and of environment to greater or lesser extent. Just as the questions of whether the struck building catches fire and of whether residents die are independent of whether it was terrorism or accident.

    While overly conforming/’intuitive’ neurotypicals can be intellectually compromised thereby, nonconformists can include those that are simply a bit silly in various ways, so I wouldn’t get too preoccupied with which side of some imaginary fence one lies there. P.S. – liked some of the questions on your website!

    • Sullivan October 18, 2011 at 23:01 #

      “Up to a certain low level of severity autisticness is a worthy freedom from neurotypical flaws.’

      What a strange thought. Or a strange way to present it.

      “In all cases (both “normal” variation and “pathology”) there is contribution of genetics and of environment to greater or lesser extent.”

      You have something to back that up, “in all cases”?

  25. Robin P Clarke October 18, 2011 at 22:59 #

    [apparently directed to Berthane here:] Why should we care what you think? What are your academic and research qualifications?

    Normally I bemoan people not asking enough questions.
    But in this case instead I have to wonder what point there is in trying to respond with answers. Instead, how about: “Isn’t that a fine self-declaration of narrowmindedness?”?

    But OK, being the kindly fool I am, how about: (1) because Berthane is also a thinking human being and may know/understand something you don’t. and (2) Berthane’s qualifications are already that she has quite a lot of personal experience of autistic people and the treatment thereof, and competence in a subject does not crucially depend only on the pretentious authoritarian status labels conferred by the institutional conformity system.

    (Now let’s have a little bet that this “has to be” replied to with some display of yet more etc….)

  26. Robin P Clarke October 18, 2011 at 23:07 #

    “In all cases (both “normal” variation and “pathology”) there is contribution of genetics and of environment to greater or lesser extent.”
    You have something to back that up, “in all cases”?

    Sullivan, it appears that you are here expecting some empirical data in support of the notion. I don’t propose to even try to provide it. For the simple reason that you cannot make a cake without using [in all cases] (a) ingredients, and (b) a cooking device. Likewise you cannot make any sort of person without genetics and an environment both involved. Or maybe you know a trick I don’t?!

    • Sullivan October 19, 2011 at 04:15 #

      Robin,

      I was not really expecting anything from you. That was a non direct way of pointing out that you made a baseless statement. Clearly you can’t back it up. I knew it. You know it.

  27. Chris October 18, 2011 at 23:18 #

    Okay, Mr. Clarke: what are your academic and research credentials?

    Why should we care what you think?

  28. passionlessDrone October 19, 2011 at 00:25 #

    @ Robin P Clarke –

    For the simple reason that you cannot make a cake without using [in all cases] (a) ingredients, and (b) a cooking device. Likewise you cannot make any sort of person without genetics and an environment both involved

    Hehe.

    @ Chris –

    If you have no interest in what people without academic and research credentials think, it would probably be more appropriate for you to stop commenting on anything written by anyone on this site. This is a large world, and autism casts a wide net, and very, very few people have the credentials you seem to find so necessary for caring. Why not go somewhere where they people who type things have the credentials that make you care about their thoughts? I doubt you’ll be missed.

    @ Berthane –

    I strongly, strongly disagree with the notion that autism is not a disability.

    – pD

    • Sullivan October 19, 2011 at 17:01 #

      passionlessDrone,

      seriously, you found that analogy good? Aside from the fact that all analogies are inaccurate, I found this to be a rather simple dodge. It doesn’t address the simple question of how Mr. Clarke can make a statement without

      It isn’t about the individual, it is about whether the individual is autistic. Can you (or anyone) say that there are no cases where fertilized egg with a given genetic makeup is destined to be an autistic, no matter what the environmental influences come into play? If so, please present the evidence. As in, submit a paper to Science or Nature, as you have broken new ground.

      I could give counterexamples within the framework of the cooking analogy, but why? It’s silly and incorrect.

  29. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 00:26 #

    It appears that one of those spambots has started posting automatic comments to this page!
    PS – apols to Berthajane for name mis-spelling)

  30. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 00:29 #

    pD- well said, better than I managed myself.

  31. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 00:45 #

    @Sullivan:

    “Up to a certain low level of severity autisticness is a worthy freedom from neurotypical flaws.’
    What a strange thought. Or a strange way to present it.

    Well – I was speeding over a whole load of not-yet-published thinking about antiinnatia there. The idea is that moderately-high levels of antiinnatia (the causal factor in autism and high IQ) suppress certain innnatons (innate tendencies) which increase biological advantageousness but impair intellectual functioning. For instance conformity, pretentiousness, superficiality, presentmindedness, wishfulthinking, stereotyping. These exist in neurotypicals because the brain is not evolved for superior thinking but for surviving.

    Since the antiinnatia theory was published there has indeed been finding that rationality is less reduced by gut instinct in autism. And less kneejerk stereotyping by von economo neurons.

    • Sullivan October 19, 2011 at 04:14 #

      Robin,

      I was being polite. In this instance “strange thought” meant “insulting way to say something which is wrong”

      Your response does nothing to change my view of your comment.

    • Sullivan October 19, 2011 at 16:56 #

      Well – I was speeding over a whole load of not-yet-published thinking about antiinnatia there.

      Sounds impressive…until one takes a closer look. The term “antiinnatia” is unfamiliar to me, so I looked it up. It appears to be one of your own. “Not-yet-published” appears to be a nice way to phrase, “already rejected manuscript” as you claimed it was already in process in 2010.

      What was quite illuminating in that search was this segment of your comment (found here)

      I congratulate Nature on this week featuring the distinguished name of Peter Duesberg in its columns, along with the far too [in]frequently aired words that “there is as yet no proof that HIV causes AIDS”. I hope this marks the beginning of a recognition that there is a problem to be addressed. Namely that putatively authoritative scientific journals are increasingly becoming viewed as bastions of corporate charlatanism, containing only sham science while the genuine science is only to be found on youtube (such as the aids hoax video).

      Sir: I find aids denialists to be disgusting and loathsome. Call this an ad-hominem attack if you will. I don’t care. It is an honest statement of my opinion. HIV/AIDS denialists have caused more damage than vaccine fear mongers (which is saying a great deal given the resurgence of polio in West Africa due to fear of the vaccine).

      Add to that your claim that YouTube is the place where “genuine science” can be found while journals are the home of “sham science”.

      I’m glad I never wasted my time trying to read your website.

  32. Chris October 19, 2011 at 00:47 #

    Except, I present evidence from those who do have education, and I actually understand it. I am not writing books or papers expecting people to believe what I have written. I am just a parent with an engineering background whose child was injured by a real disease (not autistic, but exhibits similar characteristics).

    I am just curious why we should think that Mr. Clarke’s and Ms. Vandergrift’s ideas on autism should be taken more seriously than the researchers in the STAART network. I can see reading Ms. Vandergrift’s memoirs on dealing with an institutionalized child in the early 1960s, but not on her theories about the psychology of autism. I am sorry, but Mr. Clarke has only referenced his own papers that he published years ago on his own.

    I am also a bit more interested in the opinions of Sullivan and Science Mom because they explain it clearly, and do post actual scientific evidence. Which if you read the almost two year old article above, you will see it is a prime example of Sullivan explaining a scientific paper with actual evidence.

  33. Chris October 19, 2011 at 01:01 #

    Sorry, I misspelled Ms. Vandegrift’s name. As an Army brat who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, I do think that a memoir of those days with a disabled child would be interesting, since those children were not allowed in public schools until 1975. I think though you might be interested in reading the writings of former military wife with three autistic children:
    http://kwomblescountering.blogspot.com/

  34. Berthajane Vandegrift October 19, 2011 at 01:58 #

    I am only an authority on one autistic child, and I suspect they are all different. I believe I was caught up in a huge scientific research project. Frankly, my motive for working to make the story interesting was a desire to slip in some philosophical speculations. I’m more than happy for everyone to reach their own conclusion about those speculations. But I do insist that everyone is their own “authority” when it comes to philosophical speculations. There can be no official “scientific” position. As for my speculations about autism – they are also just speculations. I am delighted for people to consider them, and then either entertain or reject them.

    A Few Questions about Autism, Freudianism, and Materialism

    http://30145.myauthorsite.com/

  35. Chris October 19, 2011 at 02:37 #

    And does your stories have anything to do with the subject of this article? Mainly the variations of the number of children diagnosed with autism based on which California service district there were in? Mainly the kids who are from wealthier families had more resources to get the services than the kids who probably needed free services?

  36. stanley seigler October 19, 2011 at 04:47 #

    LBRB,

    the below submitted …NOT posted…pls advise.

    stanley seigler

    THE BELOW

    chris say] be sure to you have the references on hand for any claim you make.

    references not necessary for the obvious…besides i didnt make any claim just ask a rhetorical question…didn’t expect your response or any response

    as seems to be chris’ SOP; the goal post moved several times…and we have now moved to a discussion (without addressing the original rhetorical) of “nefarious behavior of the tobacco scientists and big pharma’s ethical science.”

    [chris say] “It [tobacco science] is nothing like what pharmaceutical companies [BP] have done…”

    does chris say BP more egregious…probably not. perhaps tobacco more egregious than BP…however they are a lot a like…may want to read: “Agnotology [the making & unmaking of ignorance]” (proctor).

    stanley seigler

  37. stanley seigler October 19, 2011 at 05:05 #

    [cris say] Okay, Mr. Clarke: what are your academic and research credentials? why should we care what you think?

    perhaps clarke is a parent…the publish or perish crew give too much credit to credentials vice parents and those who have been there…eg, bettelhiem had credentials…weel maybe not…

    stanley seigler

  38. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 08:29 #

    @Sullivan:

    I was being polite. In this instance “strange thought” meant “insulting way to say something which is wrong”
    Your response does nothing to change my view of your comment.

    This is what you claim to be “insulting”:
    “Up to a certain low level of severity autisticness is a worthy freedom from neurotypical flaws.’
    How is that (significantly) insulting? Unflattering perhaps, but then many true statements are. Your assertion that I was insulting there (whereas you were being “polite”) can be considered insulting itself.

    I was not really expecting anything from you. That was a non direct way of pointing out that you made a baseless statement. Clearly you can’t back it up. I knew it. You know it.

    I already answered that point and pD above indicated that s/he appreciated that. No I do not “know it” and clearly nor does pD. And how was that for an “insulting” remark from yourself there, accusing me of dishonesty here.

    Sadly I again see regulars of this site living down to their usual level, rapidly living down to my prediction above here:

    (Now let’s have a little bet that this “has to be” replied to with some display of yet more etc….)

  39. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 09:44 #

    @Chris:

    I am just curious why we should think that Mr. Clarke’s and Ms. Vandergrift’s ideas on autism should be taken more seriously than the researchers in the STAART network.

    More to the point why should they not be taken as seriously. Let’s look at some relevant facts shall we?

    The antiinnatia theory was published in a peer-reviewed journal, accepted for publication by the notoriously critical most-ever-cited scientist Hans Eysenck (who wrote that it was “well worth publishing”), apparently the only theory ever published in that journal besides Hendrickson’s one. It had nearly 100 supporting references though far more papers had been studied in the background. The most famous autism researcher Rimland wrote that it was “excellent” “fine work” and “Robin P Clarke is one of those rare souls…”.

    In all the subsequent years not a single fault of reasoning or evidence has been raised by any of the thousands of autism professors etc around the world. That is an outstanding record for any theory, let alone one of such breadth and depth.

    I am not writing books or papers expecting people to believe what I have written.

    Nor am I. You don’t have to just believe what I wrote, you just have to note that all the data is taken from others (unlike for instance Simon B-C citing his own/group’s studies as the only support of his ideas). And note that the reasoning has not been faulted.

    Meanwhile, grand institutional groups such as Chris mentions do have some merits in that they can carry out big projects and have a lot of time and money on their hands. And yet history tells us strongly that such grand institutions (and their career professional inhabitants) commonly have severe flaws, being compromised by preoccupations with profits and careerism and professional egos and rigid inability to consider new ideas. Above all they tend to be in hostile denial of actual solutions and treatments because that would make their gravy train redundant. A whole culture of falsehood can develop as can be seen in the Lysenskoism regime and also in the official charlatanism about mercury which is laid bare at these two links here (and more to come). Basically these “experts” have reckoned to deceive their victims but I saw through their deceits and they are stumped for any answer:

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/why_chronic_mercury_poisoning_is

    http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/why_swbhnhst_uses_well_known_use

    Some people dismiss anything from the prestigious big institutional sphere out of hand as being corrupt lies. I don’t, but I don’t give it any higher credibility either. You have to carefully weed out the sense from the nonsense using sound independent judgement, which sound judgement is quite a rare pheonomenon in my experience of others’ work. As Rimland said, “a rare soul”. I wish I wasn’t.

  40. Chris October 19, 2011 at 15:08 #

    Mr. Clarke, how is your lawsuit going?

  41. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 15:58 #

    How my lawsuit is going is rather off the point of this page. And I am rather busy with it right now. However I can say that just as the NHS is exposed as a scam of lies, and ditto the DH (as per
    http://www.amalgamlegal.blogspot.com/) it shouldn’t take much of a paradigm shift to imagine the same sort of thing in the legal system. And indeed, one may ask why the defendants and the judge were so insistent on not allowing me to make a recording of my own case hearing. Really so shy?

    Anyway, here I’ll paste in just one illustration of what passes for thinking in the top level of the law lords. You might just about see their claptrap for what it is.

    3. The judgment erred in law in mis-reading false meanings into the words in Limitation Act 1980 s.14.
    4. The words in a statute must be given their plain, ordinary and literal meaning (Sussex Peerage Case 1844). Section 14 of the Limitation Act is headed “Definition of date of knowledge….”, so one would expect its authors to be even more careful in their choice of words.
    5. Dictionaries do not even suggest that “knowledge” could mean mere “suspicion” or “belief”. See attached excerpts and likewise with all six legal dictionaries found in Waterstones. Nothing in the Limitation Act suggests an intention to mean mere suspicion or belief. The wording is “….the date on which he first had knowledge of the following facts— (b) that the injury was attributable to.…”. “Knowledge” does not mean “belief” or “suspicion”, “facts” does not mean “possibility” or “conjecture”, and “was” does not mean “could be”, “might be” or “was possibly”.
    6. Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary states that “attributable to” means “caused by”. A dictionary of law (appended) makes this even clearer. The only other meaning, namely “capable of being attributed to”, would render the statute illogical, because it would mean a person could have simultaneous “knowledge” of incompatible “facts”. This Claimant xx decades ago (mis-)attributed his mental deterioration to error of his own thinking or lifestyle. He was thus “capable of attributing” it to a factor in the absence of any real knowledge.
    7. And crucially, that false representation of the statute leads to irrationally-generated inaccessibilities of effective remedies, and thus to breaches of HRA Art. 6. It would be an absurd legal system that required claimants to file claims before they had adequate knowledge of causation and negligence. Yet that adequate knowledge may only become available to a claimant more than three years after his transiently expressing a mere belief or suspicion, however strong. Any “interpretation” of s.14 thus rendering all such claims impossible to win at any filing date (because either too late for limitation or too early for proof) would be irrational, unjust, breaching HRA 6, and rewarding of malfeasant obstruction.
    8. Such absurdities are avoided by the literal meaning of s.14, with the “knowledge” for limitation being no less than the “knowledge” required for proof of injuries, negligence and causation. The legislators drafted s.14 to make simple, logical, and just sense, and there is no need to impose on it meanings which substitute illogicality and injustice instead.
    9. This proper understanding of the statute is also in concurrence with the 2010 Federal Appeals Court ruling (Reply 46), in terms of which the date of knowledge has not yet even occurred in this case.

  42. Chris October 19, 2011 at 16:56 #

    How my lawsuit is going is rather off the point of this page.

    So when did you move to California and start working with their Department on Developmental Services to address the disparity of services between wealthy and poor districts?

    • Sullivan October 19, 2011 at 17:57 #

      Chris,

      we wouldn’t want to go off point, now, would we? What with Robin P Clarke making such a great example of staying on point. (yes, that’s sarcasm)

  43. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 18:53 #

    @Sullivan:

    Sir: I find aids denialists to be disgusting and loathsome. Call this an ad-hominem attack if you will. I don’t care.

    You clearly have no shame about your double standards there. You don’t care — quite.

    “I find aids denialists to be disgusting and loathsome.”

    So what? I could with far better reason say that those who support the mega-profiteering hiv>aids scam are disgusting and loathsome. But I don’t. I stick to the science. You can easily find the aids hoax video which makes clear that the subject is just a scam of the crudest pseudoscience. Even Montagnier now admits that “it” can be “cured” by mere nutrition. You can easily verify that its defenders go to great lengths to prevent critical scientific debate, even post-censoring published papers for no reason. You can’t cite a single paper proving the hiv>aids hypothesis here but so what, you are so superior to me that the fact that millions have been killed or devastated by this scam counts for nothing in your supposed justification of using wantonly insulting language to shout down any critical thinking about the subject.

    PS -about my example of staying on the point, I was merely answering the question raised by Chris.

  44. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 19:07 #

    @Sullivan re antiinnatia:

    so I looked it up. It appears to be one of your own. “Not-yet-published”

    “One of my own” and “not yet published”, so what?, the antiinnnatia concept was published in the peer-reviewed journal, highly praised by the world’s top scientists in the respective fields, Eysenck and Rimland, and with absolute zero fault ever found in reasoning or evidence and so on as detailed in my previous comment above.

    Instead of writing the above trivial ad hom chat, why don’t you actually present some scientific reasoning or evidence about the merits of the concept? Why don’t you present an actual proper review of it here?

    You appear to have had training only in extreme spin doctoring propaganda misleading rather than anything remotely like objective scientific reviewing. The habitually nasty and grossly biased responses here achieve the remarkable feat of making even AgeOfAutism seem like absolute sanity and civility by comparison.

  45. passionlessDrone October 19, 2011 at 19:18 #

    Hi Sullivan –

    We might be (?) talking about different things here, I’m not sure. . . Anyway, lets start at where this particular piece of the discussion started:

    RC stated:

    In all cases (both normal variation and pathology) there is contribution of genetics and of environment to greater or lesser extent.

    I think this is an accurate statement. No gene product does anything within a system unaffected by the environment.

    Here is the way I would look at it; I do not believe there are any children, or adults, with autism who could not benifit from one therapy or another; say the ‘approved’ therapies speech, behavioral, or OT. That is, I argue that there are no individuals for whom any and all of these therapies would provide no help. But if we have helped that person, we have modified the variation (or pathology) through environmental intervention. If the individual in question had a dozen, or a hundred alleles increasing the risk factor for autism, we have still changed outcome by modifying the environment. Does this mean we have changed ‘destiny’?

    You have something to back that up, ‘in all cases’?

    The only case in which it cannot be backed up is the situation in which genetics operate without inputs from the environment. There are no such cases.

    seriously, you found that analogy good? Aside from the fact that all analogies are inaccurate, I found this to be a rather simple dodge.

    Hm. Well, analogies are frequently necessary and often clumsy. It did make me think of a fascinating discussion I watched happen elsewhere, and one respondent indicated his favorite analogy for DNA was the ingredient list of a recipe, something I like a bit better than the common blueprint analogy. If anything, I’d think a better analogy would be, genes are the ingredients, and the rest, how much sifting and stirring you did, the temperature of the oven, the type of pan, your altitude, ect are the rest of the recipe, the environment. Maybe the problem is that I had a different view of ‘environment’ than you did in this discussion. (?)

    It doesn’t address the simple question of how Mr. Clarke can make a statement without

    I think you lost some text here, so I’ll wait to respond.

    It isn’t about the individual, it is about whether the individual is autistic.

    The problem with what I read from you above is that the fact that an individual has a diagnosis of autism tells us almost nothing about how that individual is affected; how have the variances piled up? Hannah Poling and Ari Neeman both have a diagnosis on the spectrum.

    The devil is in the details, as they say, and my take was that Mr. Clarke’s context was strikingly similar to that of a common neurodiverse theme, autism is variances from normal. And variances, small differences that add up, are all jostled by the environment, no matter what ingredient list you start with in your DNA. I am more and more of the opinion that everything matters, and in critical developmental timeframes, small changes can manifest into significant outcomes.

    Can you (or anyone) say that there are no cases where fertilized egg with a given genetic makeup is destined to be an autistic, no matter what the environmental influences come into play?

    I think the onus is on you on this one; your question is akin to proving a negative; ‘prove every person with autism had at least one environmental influence’. The vast, overwhelming majority of genetic risk factors do not drastically increase the rist of autism. I can think of one, (that I cannot find), that involved a roughly 100 fold increase, but on the whole, genetic risk is far, far more subtle.

    If so, please present the evidence. As in, submit a paper to Science or Nature, as you have broken new ground.

    Wouldn’t your study design involve me having a complete understanding of what genetic makeups comprise risk factors for autism, how they interact with one another, and how their interactions are immutable from outside interactions? I’m surprised by this request from you, frankly.

    I could give counterexamples within the framework of the cooking analogy, but why? It’s silly and incorrect.

    Well, try one anyways, if you’d like. (?)

    – pD

  46. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 19:40 #

    @Sullivan:

    Can you (or anyone) say that there are no cases where fertilized egg with a given genetic makeup is destined to be an autistic, no matter what the environmental influences come into play? If so, please present the evidence.

    You’re asking me to prove a negative there, not usually considered a reasonable demand. However in this case it’s my fault as I did make that statement purporting to be a known proven negative so the burden rightly falls on myself. However, that sentence was just a quick thought hastily typed in not as one of my definitive revelations but as just roughly illustrating how I see things as reasonably likely.

    I am very deficient at writing, regularly having to spend many hours before I can get my thoughts accurately stated. This in no way means my actual understanding is equally deficient.

    I wrote:
    “In all cases (both “normal” variation and “pathology”) there is contribution of genetics and of environment to greater or lesser extent.”

    but in retrospect would better have written:
    “Probably in all cases” or “In all or most cases”. You are quite correct that I cannot rule out the possibility of zero-environmental cases (or zero-genetic). I would think however that the vast majority of scientists would consider such cases to be very much in the minority and possibly non-existent altogether. I certainly don’t see any evidence that they do exist. ((By the way, it’s very rare for me to make such a mistake, but even when I do it is only in a context of hastily replying and even then I am capable of seeing my error – AND the error in question being rather academic to be frank! Which is in great contrast to the many who persist in serious errors of major practical import (mercury denialism here, vaccine-caused autism increase delusions over at AoA) and are incapable of getting beyond them even when persistently challenged.))

    A remarkable thing is that a person can be highly intelligent as demonstrated by Sullivan’s correct objection to my cake analogy, and yet still be severely intellectually challenged by his gross bias which deploys that intelligence only in one direction and never in the other. In my experience there are many such individuals (and otherwise all the high iq people would agree about everything!).

    • Sullivan October 19, 2011 at 23:03 #

      “You’re asking me to prove a negative there”

      I’m asking you to back up what you stated previously. You can’t. Instead you come up with strange, inaccurate analogies.

      Now we are supposed to discuss your, what, 18 year old paper that no one really cared about? Go write about it on your own website.

      I’ve pointed out your AIDS denialism, but I’m not getting baited into following your discussion into HIV/AIDS denialism. You’re a denialist. You and your ilk have caused a great deal of harm in the world. You think YouTube is a better source of information than the peer reviewed literature. In a few cases I would agree. Starting with your paper.

      You’ve done your job as a troll. You’ve gotten your attention. Worse than that, some of your recent comments are nonsensical. Seriously.

  47. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 20:02 #

    pD, the point is not that my statement could be correct, but that I was definitely incorrect in making the statement which none of us can show to be correct (as it would entail proving a negative). I think the most important thing about it was that it is a trivial issue such as philosophers bore others to death with, which just excited ‘Sullivan’ here due to his Holy Grail visions (I jest) of zero-percent environmental autism (but with no equivalent visions of possible zero-percent genetic).

    PS pD – I think if you study the textbooks a bit more you’ll find that DNA is definitely more like a blueprint than a recipe.

  48. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 20:14 #

    @Sullivan:

    HIV/AIDS denialists have caused more damage than vaccine fear mongers (which is saying a great deal given the resurgence of polio in West Africa due to fear of the vaccine).

    Do you have any peer-reviewed (or whatever) studies in support of that whopping very serious assertion? After all, that’s the standard you demand of everyone else here. What’s your answer to Duesberg’s debunking of that allegation concept (“retracted” by the publishers of med hyp but there’s a download link on Henry Baur’s site)?

    Add to that your claim that YouTube is the place where “genuine science” can be found while journals are the home of “sham science”.

    Again,do you have any peer-reviewed (or whatever) studies in support of that whopping assertion? The concept that the med establishment could be captivated by something akin to Lysenko psuedoscience and only fringe media get round the censorship – is that really impossible or somehow disproven in this case? I think you’ll find you are one of a dying breed, with increasing millions now considering the “prestigious” to be the profit-obsessed emperor without clothes instead. I’d be sad to see you the last left standing on that ideological Titanic.

  49. Robin P Clarke October 19, 2011 at 20:15 #

    Correction, Henry Bauer with an e

  50. Prometheus October 19, 2011 at 20:50 #

    Mr. Clarke,

    “…the antiinnnatia concept was published in the peer-reviewed journal, highly praised by the world’s top scientists in the respective fields, Eysenck and Rimland, and with absolute zero fault ever found in reasoning or evidence and so on as detailed in my previous comment above.”

    I’ve been looking for your article on “anti-innatia” but I haven’t been able to find it. I’ve searched under your name and even the term “anti-innatia” and I’ve had no success. Could you possibly give the title of the journal and the title of your article? I’d like to read more about this interesting concept of yours.

    Prometheus

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