How long can this go on? (Or, where’s my hockey stick?)

 Yesterday, fellow Mayborn winner Dan Burns asked a provocative question on his Facebook page:


1. There is no autism epidemic.
2. Autism is genetic and has always been with us.
3. Autism is nothing to worry about. It is just another way of being.
4. The belief that vaccines cause autism has been thoroughly debunked.
5. Those who claim to know otherwise are frauds or nutjobs. Best to ignore them.

These lies, when repeated by those who believe them, are symptoms of ignorance, shock, and denial in the face of a medical catastrophe. At the current rate of increase, the annual cost of caring for Americans with autism spectrum disorder — including health services, residential care, special education, transportation, and employment support — could reach $500 billion or more by 2025 (Paul Leigh, Ph.D. Center for Healthcare Policy and Research at UC Davis). Struggling families need help now. Since Representative Posey’s June 29th revelations on corruption and coverup on the CDC, ignorance is no excuse. How long can this go on?

Although there is an oblique suggestion that vaccines cause autism (I’m not convinced there is any good science to support that claim), the rest of the information underscores an important point. The burden that comes from this alarming rise in the incidence rate is not sustainable.

My youngest sister left physical therapy to earn her master’s degree in health administration. Now, she’s one of those people who try to help health care improve, and be accountable, by watching the science and the outcomes data. She said when a graph looks like a hockey stick, there’s real trouble: Autism Incidence Rate(Citation here)

I don’t have an MHA. But I played field hockey in school. I’d call that a hockey stick.

I have tried to explain this alarming rise in conversations with friends and colleagues. They seem to understand, but I can tell it doesn’t sink in.

One time I think I got close. I told people that when Sam was born, the cost to care for him would be borne by more than 10,000 people because he was one in 10,000 or more. Today, it seems 1 in 66 babies will have autism. That means the burden 10,000 used to bear now goes to just 66 of us.

It isn’t just a communication problem. We are bombarded with so much information every day. People throw around big numbers in science stories all the time. We feel small. And powerless. We send money to Comedy Central’s Night of Too Many Stars and hope that helps.

It’s just not acceptable. Something horrible is happening and we have to make it stop.

I think I’m going to start carrying around a hockey stick.


  1. jacob on August 30, 2015 at 2:18 am

    I agree that people are not taking this seriously. probably cause companies are making money from it!

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