I'm talking about the claim by the medical community, health officials, educators, and a vast parade of reporters, that the epidemic in kids with autism and related disorders overwhelming our schools, is the result of "greater awareness" and "better diagnosing."
I've been living with the really big lie for years but by now I am totally dumbstruck by the fact that it's still believed. It's not a lie as far as everyone who repeats it. To be fair, while it's a lie for many, it's a fallacy, medical myth, or just wishful thinking for others.
It's a crazy way to rationalize a health care disaster, but it works! I see it everyday in the press, usually backed up by quotes from a CDC official or a doctor. I've rarely, if ever, heard anyone in the mainstream media challenge people who make this pronouncement.
Although I have no proof of my belief, I'm inclined to think that the really big lie was started by some nameless individual deep within the recesses of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, being CDC officials never seem to tire of repeating the really big lie.
When faced with the skyrocketing increase in autism from one in 10,000 children, to one in every 166, including one in every 80 males, in just twenty years, coupled with the knowledge that this happened at the very same time that the CDC dramatically increased the number of mercury-containing vaccines on the childhood immunization schedule, CDC officials had to be desperate.
The CDC's response has been complete denial; after all if there was no real increase in disorders, everyone would be off the hook.
Thus was born the really big lie: There really aren't more children with autism. They've always been out there, we just didn't identify the problem as autism.
Like with all big lies, there must be proof to back it up and the CDC has given us lots of experts, studies, and findings of their own to do just that. I can't imagine the CDC getting away with the really big lie if it were used in attempt to explain away an epidemic of any disease affecting children, but because of the varied symptoms of the autism spectrum disorders, it seems to have worked for autism.
Since my son is almost 20, I've lived with the really big lie almost since its inception. In fact, I was probably among the first to hear it. This gives me a unique perspective and likely caused me to be a bit more skeptical about the really big lie than most people.
When John was three, his talking and interacting with people began to regress. It was so subtle that it's hard to remember when he first wasn't the alert, energetic little toddler he once was. Nobody seemed all that alarmed about it but me.
I enrolled him in a speech therapy class at the university which helped a little, but no one could explain why this was happening. I enrolled John in school at five and the next four years were one long struggle that I'd like to not even think about. No one understood him and his autistic behaviors were viewed as signs of immaturity, defiance, and anxiety.
In the second grade in 1993, John was diagnosed as "possibly autistic" by a psychologist from Minneapolis. I'll never forget how she made the statement that autism was a "rare disorder."
She said that it was doubtful that John would ever be able to live independently or hold a job. It was all rather hopeless and I was left pretty much on my own when it came to finding information on autism. So much was said back then about the rareness of the disorder.