Read the most advanced science of autism causes here. Bypass the commenterati and go direct to the science. Don't waste your time at the sites which pretend "no-one" knows what causes (or what sometimes cures) autism.
This is a website relating to the unchallenged theory of autism, IQ and genius, Personality and Individual Differences 14:459-482 (1993) by Robin P Clarke (the antiinnatia theory). An update review paper is being prepared for publication. Meanwhile you can download the original 1993 publication (author's reprint) here . (the journal site version is here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0191-8869(93)90316-U, but without added charts of social class and you may have to pay Elsevier $31.)

Autism did not begin only in the 1930s

In two weeks time there will be published a new book:
The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-made Epidemic
By Dan Olmsted, Mark Blaxill

I've not read it (yet) but I can anticipate that I would agree with the authors that autism has increased and involved mercury but would be unpersuaded by their reckoning that vaccinations have been a major factor in the increase.

Here I shall just comment on this first sentence of a preview extract circulated by Safeminds:
"We believe that autism was newly discovered in the 1930s for the simple reason that it was new."
But this first sentence can be shown to be mistaken. Dr Down of Down Syndrome fame had already in the 19th century given good descriptions of both infantile autism and regressive autism.
Reference: Down, J.L. Mental Affections of Childhood and Youth, 1887 originally, re-issued as Classics in Developmental Medicine, No. 5, 1990 Mac Keith Press, London

It was discussed in the 2006 Awares conference. This is a link to the paper by Darrold Treffert.

I also suggest that the concept of the "holy fool" such as portrayed in the play and opera Boris Godunov corresponds with mild autism: a person who speaks the truth that others cannot. And bear in mind that the rare autistic individuals would be likely to have had a hard time surviving in earlier ages; even mildly autisticky people might have had a hard time sufficient to prevent them producing children.

Furthermore, there is the important consideration that a rare condition such as autism pre-1970 would only come to the attention of a person once there is a sufficient level of cosmopolitanism, due to urbanisation and transport, enabling one person to "survey" a sufficiently large sample of people. Down made his observation in 19th century England after the railways were established in the world's first modernised country. Thereafter, the US and Austria started to catch up industrially and so autism came to attention there too. That's not to say that the personal links to mercury stated in the AoA book cannot be also part of the story.

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