Friday, November 24, 2006
Inside Autism
Autism is being diagnosed in more children than ever - 1 in 166, according to the CDC. The disorder affects a 1.5 million people, a number that could grow to 4 million in the next decade, according to the Autism Society of America.

Since we first aired our program on autism last summer, a few things have changed. Back then, autism groups had high hopes for more funding to find the disorder's cause. In August, the Senate passed the "Combat Autism Act," which authorized nearly $1 billion over five years for research. The House was expected to take the issue up this fall. That didn't happen. However, the chairman of the committee where the bill got stuck is still hoping for a compromise in December, before congressional leadership changes hands.

In October, researchers from Vanderbilt University reported that a child with two copies of a specific gene mutation is twice as likely to develop autism than one without the mutations. A month earlier, a study from Israel suggested that if a father is over 40 at conception, his child's risk for autism goes up, possibly because sperm from older men may have more genetic defects. These are just a few more parts of the puzzle of autism spectrum disorders. There are still too many pieces missing.

Tune in to House Call this weekend at 8:30 a.m. ET for more on the causes of autism and the tolls it takes on families. Our guest is Dr. Anshu Batra from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California. In addition to specializing in treating children with autism, she's the mother of two autistic children.

Also this weekend at 8 p.m. ET, watch CNN Presents: Autism Is A World, a rare look at autism through the words of a young woman who lives with it.
Anecdotally, every child that I know who has autism has an overweight mother. Has there ever been a study to see of there is a correlation between overweight mothers and autism in their children?
We really resist Dr. Anshu Batra's description of an autism diagnosis as a death sentence. Clearly she was having an emotional response to a question. However, that is not journalism. Our son's diagnosis helped us come up with a strategy to help him through his life. Prior to the diagnosis, we were unable to engage and assist. Finally, I expect CNN to provide depth in its coverage. Discussions of Thimerosol should not be dismissive. The viewing public is intelligent and capable of evaluating the research and making its own decisions. We have not seen one news organization discuss the conflicting opinions on this issue at length and in depth. A vigorous discussion of both sides of this issue is necessary to lay this discussion to rest. We have found no consensus on this issue and key research, like the analysis of domestic control groups not exposed to Thimerosol, is necessary before conclusions can be drawn. That is really the story. Please provide it
My son is 13 years old living with autism. He is a high-functioning autistic child with wonderful talents but at same time he has great challenges. Lately I have noticed that he appears to be regressing in almost all areas. Is this normal due to adolescence or could it be his meds. or maybe a combination?
There are 700 centers around the USA which provide Therapeutic Horseback Riding Programs for children with many disabilities. About 60% of these children have AUTISM as a least part of their diagnosis. Research and parent feedback offer many positive outcomes from this activity. Parents can find information about programs in their area by visiting the website of North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (
Thnaks for this program on CNN
Dr. Gupta,
I watched with great interest your program about Autisim this morning, particularly the interview with the Doctor who spoke the possible link between thimerisol as a preservative in vacinations and autisim. I noticed that after she gave her support to vacinating children, the Doctor you interviewed said "but" and then before she was able to continue, you cut her off and summarized and concluded the interview. I would be very interested in hearing what she would have said if she would been able to continue. I have read information from FDA on thimerisol at and I notice that even though they say it is safe, effort is being put into formulating vacines that do not contain the substance. I also note that thimerisol seems to be used mainly in vacines that address a combination of diseases. I read on the site that FDA has approved individual vacines for most childhood diseases that do not contain thimerisol. I think you should have mentioned this alternative in your presentation.
I hope to see some discussion on behavioral treatment, particularly the Lovaas Method. How its run, why it works, how well it works, its limitations and how parents can go about finding and funding treatment for their child. We see a lot of touching stories and some promising upcoming treatments/findings, but far too little on the only proven treatment available. Lets get practical.
Hello dr. i watched the special on cnn today..on autism.we have a 6 year old with this condishion.We are the only province in Canada with no funding ie Nova Scotia.They will pay 120.000.00 for cancer treatments on termanilly ill cancer patient.But nothing for a healty growing boy or girl with autism..Thats what upsets me so much..
My husband and I are parents of a little boy that was diagnosed autistic at 2 years old.
He is now 5 years old and has yet uttered a single word. We pray every single day for when the day comes to hear him say his first words. We would like to hear any of your daily challenges that you have come across.
Thank you so much for covering Autism more in the news. With such an increase in Autism the impact is huge. We can already see it in the schools. Our school district has Autism specific classes. When in the history of our education system have we had enough kids with a disorder to have their own class? We are a military family having to deal with one child with Autism and a deployment to Iraq. Thanks Again.
I am a parent of 10y.o. boy with Aspergers Syndrome. Occupational therapy was a big key in Corey's development. Also, we have been very careful not jump at every "new" fad that was promised to cure our son. With a wonderful therapist we have brought Corey along to the point that he is independent, contributing member to our family and community. He is a cubscout, learning to play the clarinet, sings in chorus and honors chorus, plays soccer and gets A's and B's in fifth grade. He has is issues, but we have taught him coping mechanisms when he gets stressed, we keep an eye on compulsive behaviors and given we could not leave the house 6 years ago, we live a "normal" life. We are very lucky and thankful for Corey's progress.
Has the combination of the measles mumps and rubella shot been explored as a cause for autism? I believe it is the combination of the shots, not the mercury. My niece has a son who started symptoms after his 18 mo shot of mmr.
mary from Bakersfield, ca
I heard Dr. Gupta imphasize that he has his children immunized and recommends that you get your child immunized, as well. However, the question is, does the Doctor allow his children to be immunized with vaccine containing timerasol?
Dear Dr. Gupta,

Thanks for your special report on Autism, we definitely need to learn more.

The speical did state that there is nothing that these children all have in common and unfortunately I believe this is untrue and misleading. Forget the science and just use common sense.

I feel that there just isn't enough being done to understand all the environmental factors. There are too many chemicals, hormones, drugs, and vaccintions in our environment and homes which can lead to autism; maybe not alone but a combination or interaction of these items can lead to the condition. I do have a couple of concerns however:

1 - if the booster shot along with its mercury contents are so beneficial in assisting against things like tetanus for a reported 10 years. Why must I get a booster shot if I step on rusty nail today. Am I to understand that the booster shot initially did nothing. If that is the case why do I not just wait till I step on the nail instead of being vaccinated as a child with an undeveloped immune systm. Something to consider isn't it.

2 - with regards to chemicals, if I had a spray bottle full of water; whether I drink the water or spray the mist in an aerosal form and then breath it in, the water still enters my body through my nose, mouth, and pores of the skin, and subsequently this water will be assimilated into my body. Why am I to believe then that the air fresheners and household chemical aerosols (which are labeled as poisions with skull and crossbones on them, and explicityly told not to ingest); which are sprayed in the air cannot be breathed into our bodies and cause deleterious effects. Could this be a possible cause of autism or other conditions with the label unknown etiology.

These are 2 things they all have in common which your special overlooked and there are probably hundreds more. We have evidence that these household chemicals can cause external symptoms on the skin and mucous membranes so why are we to believe that these do not have any effects on the internal body.

Ultimately we must not just brush off these everyday items and procedures as causes of autism; by saying things like "there is only trace amounts of mercury in the vaccines" does not give me any comfort considering your same program spoke once of how dangerous it is to eat fish due to trace amounts of mercury. The message is so convoluted, don't eat fish it has mercury which can cause nasty effects in your body but it is okay if we inject it in your body or put more than trace amounts in your teeth.

We must begin to ask hard questions even if it causes profit losses at multi-billion dollar corporations; I think they're rich enough, now let's start helping the people. But I doubt your pharmaceutically sponsored channel would ever talk about this.
Is autism more common in certain groups or in certain geographical areas. For instance, race and culture, jobs and lifestyle, working moms, education levels, parents age, economic background etc. Does autism strike evenly across all cultures and lifestyles? I never hear this discussed.
Dr. Gupta,

I saw the House Call segment on autism this morning. I would suggest that you read David Kirby's book Evidence of Harm. I read this book by accident, thinking that it was a new murder mystery. I am not an activist, nor has anyone in my family been diagnosed with autism. Just read the book. Maybe you'll do a second segment on autism.
Hello, This coment is about Autism:

I came up with a conclusion about that horrible desease. I could be wrong, but there is also the possibility that I could be right about my assumption that perhaps, the cause of Autism could be in the ULTRASOUND that pregnant women go trough to determine the sex of the fetus? If the SONAR, can cause so much damage to the wells in the ocean, why couln't the ultrasound do similar damage to the fetus?
my 23 year old son is autistic and it is a challenge but as time procveeds we were working thru it thanks
Dr. Gupta,

I was shocked after watching your segment with Dr. Anshu Batra. Unless I missed it, there was no mention of speech-language therapy services for individuals with autism. It is a well known fact that speech-language pathologists (or "speech therapists" depending on the region) focus on language and social skills specific to the needs of people with autism. Our services are critical for the success of a person with autism in a world based on communication and social interaction.

In future segments, please consider covering the impact speech-language pathologists are able to make in the lives of those touched by autism.

Thank you so much for airing the Autism world.My 4 year old son is Autistic and he is very smart..he cannot talk yet but he is gesturing more each day.Once in awhile my family and I will hear a few clear words.Thank you CNN and thank you God for yuor blessings.
thank you for the information shared with dr.Batra. too many questions with little answers but just to see other parents coping with thier children's autism encourages us to keep forward.
hope that one day there be a cure.
Autism is such a devastating disorder, it should be one of the top "diseases" researched and financed. It is growing in epidemic proportions as far as I am concerned. My son has Asperger's, a form of high functioning autism. He is bright, outgoing, social. He has a great memory. Yet, he will never hold a part time job, drive a car, has 2 friends, and is lonely. We see him (he lives in a semi-independent environment)often, but it is very difficult being around him, because he obsesses constantly about weird things, interrupts continuously and does not listen to reason at all about any subject, because he cannot. These and others are reasons he will never work (it has been tried several times). He has excellent communication skills for an autistic. We had hoped for more help from social services, the educational system, ARC services, etc., but other than basic needs, they simply do not have or know what to do with these individuals. Neither do we. He is on quite a bit of medication, and if he is not, then things get really bad. So please, support whatever funding and research that is available to help these people.
There should be one location for all of us affected by autism (or a like disease) that we can report what occurred at the onset of this disease. Many of us believe it's environmental poisonings. At least it could provide some info that we could piece together.

My guess is that it's often a combination of many environmental pollutants.

My Vet recently told me in Vet school she was warned about using a self'cleaning oven with a bird in the room - the bird will die.

Let's suppose a mother unwittingly consumes mercury ladden fish during her pregnancy. Her baby is born appearing normal. The child is in the room when the selfcleaning oven is run, has a combination of vaccines that day or a flu vaccine (which still contains mercury). That night Mom gives baby sword fish for dinner. Get the picture??
We are being poisoned in a variety of ways, causing a multitude of illnesses, including autism. We are being sickened or killed by far more such poisons than terrorists. The enemy is here, within our homes, in our backyards, in our food. It is time for all of us to wake up & take action.
My grandson has Autism. It is always a fight in our school district to get him the help he needs. The doctors around our community does not know how to work with autism. If you ask them to do a test of what what metals they might have in there bnody they act like your nuts. If they have a medical card from the welfare you will not be able to have any test done. To try a nd find services to help you is almost impossible. I can go on and on
I do not think in our son's case that vaccines, pollution, or mother's weight (120 lbs) is a factor. My husband and husband's parents have, or had as children, similar developmental delays as our son.

Many of our son's issues are sensory, and when he receives occupational therapy (swinging, crashing, etc.), his symptoms are greatly reduced or eliminated.

I believe that it is overstimulation in the environment that is causing sensitive children's brains to shut themselves down to protect them from all the noise-making, light-flashing toys, and over-stimulating activities that we do with them all day long.

Has anybody ever looked at the timing of the rise in autism and the introduction of all these annoying toys on the market?
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