The Autism Panic!

panicThe sky is falling!  The sky is falling!

Wait, what?

Oh, sorry. 

The sky is rising! The sky is rising!

Wait, sorry.  What now?

Oh, okay. 

The autism rates are rising!  The autism rates are rising!

Alright kids, let’s go over this again.  Autism rates, really the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) rates, are on the increase.  You’ve heard the new 1 in 100 number quoted, right?  I’m not saying that’s inaccurate.  It’s just that there is no real increase represented.  How can that be? Clearly something (or someone) must be to blame for this terrible condition.  Who can we hang?  Quick, after them!

There were two recent studies concerning the prevalence of autism in the US that have attracted a lot of attention.  One study conducted by the CDC (not yet published) reports that the new prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is now estimated at 1% or 100 in 10,000 children. This is an increase over the last few years. In 2002 the prevalence was estimated to be 66 per 10,000 (0.66%).

The second study published in the journal Pediatrics was a telephone survey of parents where they asked if they had any children who had ever been diagnosed with an ASD.  This non-clinician scored study estimated ASD point-prevalence at 110 per 10,000.  These are slightly higher numbers than the CDC data but that is to be expected, since diagnoses from the phone survey were not confirmed by a doctor.

There is no argument that the number of ASD diagnoses has been steadily increasing for the last 20 years. The real question is whether or not the increase is  a true increase in the disorder or an artifact of increased surveillance and an expanded diagnosis.  Without a doubt, the evidence strongly supports the conclusion that the increasing autism prevalence is due to increased efforts to make the diagnosis and a broadening of the definition of autism. The evidence is not sufficient to conclude that there is not also a real increase in ASD incidence, but nor is there data to support this conclusion.

Recently, more data have come out of the National Health Service (UK) that looked at a very interesting statistic.  They looked a the prevalence of ASD in adults.  See, if there is a true rise in autism, the adult population should have a lower number of cases than the current children.  Guess what?  1% across the board.  Kids and grown-ups.  Oops.  Sorry conspiracy theorists, move it along…nothing to see here. 

What can be concluded is that 1% is likely close to the true prevalence of ASD in the population.  And, the strong evidence points to the lack of an increase ASD rates.  Let’s continue to use good science to get to the bottom of ASD and not sheer panic and anti-vaccination finger pointing.


Dr. Brett L. Kinsler is a chiropractor in Rochester, NY who blogs at

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Get CE Credit for Reading This Blog?


You’re one of the hundreds of fine and intelligent people who have been reading my blog.  Thanks!!  I truly appreciate you reading my ramblings and especially relish your comments and private emails.  But, if you are a chiropractor, PT, OT or certified hand therapist I know what you’re thinking.

It’s probably one of two thoughts.

The first is, wow, that RochesterChiro writes some funny and poignant stuff but I can’t waste so much time reading his blog without getting continuing education credits for it.  What’s in it for me?

The second thing you’re thinking is, I wonder if the doctor who writes this blog has a voice that sounds just like the I use one in my head when I read his funny, poignant stuff.

Well, dear reader, I have solved both of your problems at the same time!!

You may know that I write online continuing education courses for the best Online CE provider in the world! also known as offers online continuing education courses for Chiropractors, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Certified Hand Therapists, Massage Therapists, Athletic Trainers and Aromatherapists.

I have a bunch of very good courses in the Pediatrics, Emergency Procedures and Physical Diagnosis sections (you can search instructor name Kinsler if you want) which you can take for credit.  But I have just posted a new course in a new format that I am really excited about.  In it, the chirogoddess Dr. Elliott and I discuss the newest research concerning Autism and Vaccinations (See course Peds 113) in a one hour course complete with slides and an audio presentation.  It is the first one we have done in this format and we would appreciate any feedback you have.  It sort of felt like doing a podcast — an idea I have been toying with as well.  You should check it out.

Besides, where else are you going to get an hour of university sponsored, state approved CE credits for like twenty bucks?  You can even wear those torn sweatpants and bunny slippers and not leave your house! And, you know the instructor so it’s not exactly a crap shoot.  One hour, five easy quiz questions and you can print your certificate!  How cool is that?

You’re already reading my stuff, you might as well get credit for it.  With the latest landmark decisions in vaccine court, you should have the information to make informed recommendations to your patients.  This course will definitely help with that.  Enjoy and let me know what you think!


Dr. Brett L. Kinsler writes the RochesterChiro blog and post graduate continuing education for

Jewish Autistic Astronauts Fake Moon Landing

Not really…but I thought you might like to see the Anti-Vaccination quote of the day:

“Many doctors now argue that reporters should treat the antivaccine lobby with the same indifference they do Holocaust deniers, AIDS deniers and those claiming to have proof that NASA faked the Moon landings. ”

Read this article on the lack of a link between autism and vaccination in the New York Times, see the link below:

Cold Laser Treatment for Autism?

autism-19Dear Dr. Kinsler.

Can cold laser therapy help autism?

Y.G. Denver, CO

Are you kidding me?  Do I really need to write a post on this?  No.  There is not a scrap of evidence that application of cold laser therapy can improve autism.

Save your money, save your time and save your sanity.

Cold laser treatment is a really nice therapy that is showing some promise for musculoskeletal problems.  Neurological issues, not so much.

I am sick and tired of seeing people rip off desperate patients in the name of healthcare…and especially in the name of chiropractic.  Cut it out!

We have plenty of treatments that work and lots of people with spinal problems that require our help.  We don’t need to make up treatments for illnesses that we cannot help and water down our profession even further.


Dr. Brett Kinsler is a chiropractor in Rochester, NY who will not treat people for autism using chiropractic, cold laser or by flinging marshmallows at them since none of these things will actually work to improve autism.

Is It Raining Autism? Another Fact or Crap Article.


This has got to be fake, right? Could children living in high-precipitation areas be more likely to have autism? Sure, like people living near volcanoes are more likely to be bald. Oh, I see the connection….not. There couldn’t possibly be a link. Or could there be?

According to preliminary study results from an article published in November (2008) Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine there appears to be a connection between the wet stuff and the disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and unusual, repetitive, or severely limited activities and interests.

The study performed by Cornell University researchers focused on California, Washington, and Oregon. They obtained autism prevalence rates for children born between 1987 and 1999 and calculated average annual precipitation by county. They also computed the autism rates in relation to the average annual precipitation in the counties when the children were younger than 3.

Counties that received relatively large amounts of precipitation had a relatively high rate of autism. For example, counties with four times as much precipitation had an autism rate that was twice as high as other counties in the region even after correcting for other factors like socioeconomic status.

Of course the findings may have nothing to do with the rainfall or snow itself, but rather factors associated with the precipitation, such as the need to stay indoors more.   Environmental possibilities related to spending more time indoors include chemical exposure to cleaning products, TV viewing, or vitamin D deficiency from too little sunlight.

In the past 30 years, the rates of autism have increased from about one in 2,500 children to one in 150. Some of the increase is attributed to a broadened definition of autism and the autistic spectrum, and an increased sensitivity in the ability to make the diagnosis. Linkages of autism to vaccination have failed to stand up to scientific scrutiny.  The possibility still exists that autism involves an interaction of genetics and environmental factors and luckily, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a long-term study to find the causes of autism and other childhood conditions.

Could it be that chemicals in the atmosphere are transported to the surface by the rain and fall to the Earth affecting our children?  Sure.  But by no means should the findings of this study be taken as a reason to skip town with autistic kids in tow heading for a new life in the desert. The results are not definitive evidence of a precipitation-autism link or any other link for that matter. They are, however, consistent with a hypothesis, and further research focused on establishing whether a connection exists is warranted.

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