Q: The month of April is Autism Awareness Month. In the continued research into ways of preventing or recognizing autism, I understand there is a new research study published this month.
A: The potential for your child to be diagnosed with Autism is a frightening prospect for most parents, and it is understandable that many people search for answers as to why it becomes evident in some children. On the mild end of the spectrum, these are children that grow to lead full, rich lives. In its severe form, it is a life-altering diagnosis both for the child but also the whole family. Due to a paper published by a British gastroenterologist in 1998 that suggested a link between live-type measles and Autism, vaccines became a topic of research. This paper was later disproven as incorrect, but it became such a hot topic, that many people to this day still link the two ideas. This month in the Journal Pediatrics a new study funded by the Centers for Disease Control compared a group of children who received the full recommended schedule of vaccines to children who were incompletely vaccinated or received shots on an ‘alternate' vaccine schedule. The results confirmed another study in 2010 that had the same results.
Q: What were the findings?
A: The groups of children were evaluated for the number of diagnoses of autism, tic disorders, speech delays or disorders, stuttering, and low IQ. No differences were found between the two groups. In other words, the recommended vaccine shot series gives no increased risk for any of these neurodevelopmental disorders.
Q: It seems there are so many more shots for children these days, than in the past.
A: We do have more vaccines as part of the standard childhood recommended schedule, but thankfully they are smarter than ever. One very interesting thing to keep in mind is the total number of antigens, or active particles, your child receives. In the current schedule, by the time they are two, your child is exposed to only 315 antigens for all the vaccines put together. That is compared to 3,000 antigens in a single shot of the old form of the diptheria-pertussis-tetanus shot!
Q: What do you say to parents when they ask about risks of autism and vaccines?
A: Autistic spectrum disorders, particularly milder forms, are clearly more common than we once believed, but not an epidemic. There is no consensus on why autism occurs, and no evidence so far of a single environmental cause. There have been questions over the years about the role of immunizations. This latest study is just one of dozens and dozens of reputable, well-constructed research that shows no proof of a connection to immunization.
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/ : The CDC autism center website
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/autism/detail_autism.htm : National Institute of Neurologic Disorders fact sheet