The Latest On Autism: “An Epidemic In The US”

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As parents, we know how important it is to stay up to date on health news – the good, the bad and the ugly.

So as we ring in the new year, let’s look at 2012′s findings on the latest childhood “epidemic.”

In March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new figures on autism spectrum disorder in the United States — and they were up.

One in 88 children is now believed to have autism, compared to the previous estimate of 1 in 110.

“Autism is now officially becoming an epidemic in the United States,” Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks stated.

But health experts attribute much of the increase to better screening and diagnosis.

For decades, the diagnosis was only given to children with severe language, intellectual and social impairments paired with unusual, repetitious behaviors. But the definition of the disorder has evolved over time, and now includes milder, related conditions, including Asperger’s syndrome.

Science says genetics play a role. Another study suggests environmental factors contribute significantly.

And some people blame childhood vaccinations, however study after study refutes this connection.

Some of our favorite high-profile moms have weighed in on this controversial topic.

  • Amanda Peet says parents who do not vaccinate their children are “parasites”

Actress Amanda Peet thrust herself into the world of public controversy when she addressed the hot topic of childhood vaccinations. The Saving Silverman star said, “I buy 99 percent organic food for Frankie, and I don’t like to give her medicine or put sunscreen on her.” She then commented on immunizations with Cookie magazine: “Now that I’ve done my research, vaccines do not concern me.”

And then the fightin’ words emerged.

“Frankly, I feel that parents who don’t vaccinate their children are parasites,” Amanda said. When questioned about the severity of this last statement, she said, “I have a side that’s practical and into statistical evidence. I’m not a casual person.”

A week later, Peet addressed her controversial comment. “I still believe that the decision not to vaccinate our children bodes for a dangerous future. Vast reductions in immunization will lead to a resurgence of deadly viruses. This is as indisputable as global warming.”

  • Jenny McCarthy says vaccinations “stole” her child

On the flip side of Peet’s thoughts on the hot topic, Jenny McCarthy believes childhood vaccinations can be very harmful. The Playboy model has said that vaccinations “stole” her child and caused his autism.

“Before the vaccination, he was huggy, lovey, snuggly,” Jenny said. “Then it was like someone came down and stole him.”

Jenny told Celebrity Baby Scoop that her unofficial role as the celebrity spokesperson on the topic is nothing short of a blessing.

“Anytime you can do something that serves the greater good and make a difference, you should act,” the mom-of-one said. “So, what I thought was a hardship in my life, I now see as a blessing because I can reach so many people.”

Jenny’s son Evan, now 10, was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 ½-years-old. The single mom has publicly spoken about the possible link between childhood vaccinations and autism. She is also well-known for saying that children can “recover” from autism.

“I look at autism like a bus accident, and you don’t become cured from a bus accident, but you can recover,” Jenny said.

Has the community embraced her since Evan’s recovery — and her controversial statement?

“My story of Evan’s recovery is not unique, there are thousands of parents before me whose shoulders I stand on today,” Jenny said. “I’m just as active today as when Evan recovered from autism. I still travel the country lecturing on autism, am the president and board member of Generation Rescue and actively fundraise throughout the country for the foundation. My journey now is for the other parents whose voice hasn’t been heard.”

One thing most people can agree on is the importance of early intervention.

“So much can depend on how good that parent is at advocating for the child,” says Rahil Briggs, assistant professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Where do you stand on the debate? What do you think causes autism?

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