This year saw the publication of the most important study of autism and hyperbaric oxygen therapy in my memory, namely, Dr. Rossignol’s double-blind study, which reported that the patients treated with hyperbaric oxygen showed decisive improvements in language, social interactions and other measurable areas compared to the controls. His study results reinforced my clinical experience treating autistic kids with hyperbaric oxygen at Atlanta Hyperbaric. About two months ago, I blogged about a government study reporting an increased rate of autism based on a survey of parents. Now the Centers for Disease Control, my former employer, have reported confirmation of this increase of autistic kids.
CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disorders Monitoring (ADDM) Network reported from 11 sites in the U.S. that autism spectrum disorder prevalence in 2006 ranged from about one out of 80 children to one out of every 240 children, with an overall prevalence of one in 111 youngsters. This overall estimate is slightly lower than that from a study using data from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health — one in every 91 children — that I blogged about in October. Ten of the ADDM sites reported data from both 2002 and 2006, showing an average 57% increase in ASD prevalence. So, looking at both studies together, roughly one percent of all children have autism and the rates are getting higher.
According to the authors, some of the increased rate of autism is likely due to better detection, particularly among children who may not have come to attention in the past, including girls, Hispanic children, and children without cognitive impairment, however, a simple explanation is not apparent and a true increase in risk cannot be ruled out. The authors were also cautious to report the limitations of their study.
We are in a highly charged political environment for health care, so it was not surprising that a prominent autism advocacy group wants to lay the economic responsibility of autism on the government. “Now that the government has confirmed that one percent of American children have autism, the question becomes what it will take to get our elected leaders to wake up and take on this crisis in an appropriate way,” one of the group’s founders said.
Here we go again. Now, if the government were to fund hyperbaric oxygen therapy for autistic kids, Atlanta Hyperbaric could make a lot of money, and I would be foolish to turn the business away. But, I do not see the justification of using the coercive police powers of government to take even more money from the beleaguered taxpayer in order to benefit these seriously challenged kids. Think about it for a minute. You work hard to meet your family’s needs. You may have a child who shows a lot of potential and perhaps you would like to send him to a private school where he will enjoy smaller class sizes and superior facilities. You scrimp and save and maybe work a second job so you can afford the tuition. Then government comes around and takes some of your “extra” money in order to give it to one of your neighbors who have an autistic kid so that he can get hyperbaric oxygen therapy. You now may have to work even harder to send your child to private school–or abandon your hope altogether. Here is Ronald Reagan in 1961, with Medicare on the horizon, speaking out about the chilling loss of freedom that socialized medicine would cause. Too bad we didn’t listen to him.