Posts Tagged ‘Autism’

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

October 15, 2009

Here’s a “tweet” that’s been retweeted (copied and passed on) a lot lately:

Downs Syndrome: 1 in 1000 births, Autism: 1 in 100, Congenital Heart Defects: 1 in 85. Which one have you heard the most about?

Say what?

Well, first things first, I can tell you that the incidence of Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) is not 1 in 85. It affects 1 live birth per every 125, and has stayed at that rate for quite a few years. A jump to 1 in 85 would be a 32% increase, Cardiologists would freak out and the news media would be talking about a “Heart Defect Epidemic!” That’s not happening.

But what has happened is the rate of Autism occurrence has changed: from 1 out of 150 children up to about 1 in 91. That’s a huge percentage change, too: 39%. When you see a huge jump in a number such as this, the first thing you do is ask, What’s changed?

What has changed may not really be an increase in the number of cases of Autism, but rather a better understanding of the disease. Autism is an extremely complicated disease probably (it is not certain) caused by changes that occur at the cellular level.

Relatively speaking, Heart Defects are easy to identify: There is only one basic heart design, and any variation can be considered a defect, even if it has no effect on the body. Thirty-five different Congenital Heart Defects have been identified, though it is not unheard of to have more than one. With Autism no one seems to know how it occurs, exactly what occurs to cause it, and it can manifest itself in many different ways.

But researchers have now identified another possible “key” to the Autism puzzle, and the general understanding of how the brain develops is improving.

But that really doesn’t address what is so irritating about that “tweet” that keeps going around. I’d really like to know where that “1 in 85 have a CHD” statistic came from, because it just doesn’t make sense. There has been no trend that shows that kind of increase.

Changing the numbers to highlight “your” cause doesn’t help, and is embarrassing when that fake number bumps into the facts. Both Autism and Heart Defects are debilitating illnesses, and campaigning for more research into either is a worthy cause. Don’t cheapen either one by playing fast and loose with the numbers.

Swine Flu Update: October 10

October 9, 2009

The H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine is starting to be distributed nationwide, and just in time, it seems. Pregnant women have been hit especially hard by this bug and they are one of the priority groups that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Children are also being hit hard – 19 have died this week.

Do you have the Swine Flu? Microsoft and Emory University have teamed up to create an online Flu Quiz – answer a series of questions, and your computer will compare your answers to a list of known symptoms and then inform you of the possibility that you have the flu. I answered the questions last night and the computerized doctor told me I was OK! But if someone in your home does have the Flu, here is the CDC’s informational guide for taking care of them while hopefully avoiding catching it yourself.  (If you live with someone who has the Flu and you are in a high risk group, you need to stay six feet away from the patient. Sounds like a good time to hire a Home Health Nurse.)

There have been questions raised about the safety of the vaccine, and here is the CDC’s web page addressing those issues. Also, there has been no link shown between vaccine and Autism. There was a research report from England published 10 years ago that seemingly linked the Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine with increased occurrences of Autism; but further research call those results into question. Most of the authors of that original research have since said that their research didn’t seem to hold up.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have taken the vaccinations that have been recommended to me over the years, and there have been no side effects other than occasional soreness at the injection site. And with my heart defect, I feel that I would have been more suceptable to any adverse reaction.

When we all sing the same song

July 6, 2009

On Disability Awareness Day 2007 at Boston’s Fenway Park, a young man with Autism was chosen to sing the National Anthem. (He’s standing at the microphone behind the catcher, the camera will focus on him in just a moment.) Halfway through the song, his nerves got the better of him and he broke out in a case of nervous laughter. Rather than boo him back to his seat, the 30,000 fans join in and help him finish the song!

When we all pull together, we can move the world.