|Many of these questions have been raised in the scientific and popular literature, and are summarized here for ease of reference.
The main points of this FAQ can be summarized as:
- Many common ideas about autism have been researched and either confirmed or refuted.
- Wikipedia:Neutral point of view requires that minority views not be given undue emphasis.
- Therefore it is against Wikipedia policy for views without scientific support, such as the belief that autism is caused by vaccination, to be presented as a controversy in a science article like autism.
Q1: Why doesn't this article discuss the association between vaccination and autism?
: This association has been researched, and is mentioned in the page - specifically with some variant of the statement "there is no convincing evidence that vaccination causes autism and an association between the two is considered biologically implausible". Despite strong feelings by parents and advocates, to the point of leaving children unvaccinated against serious, sometimes deadly diseases, there is simply no scientific evidence to demonstrate a link between the two. Among the organizations that have reviewed the evidence between vaccination and autism are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(United States), Institute of Medicine
(United States), National Institutes of Health
(United States), American Medical Association
, the Cochrane Collaboration
(British/international), British Medical Association
(Britain), National Health Service
(United Kingdom), Health Canada
(Canada) and the World Health Organization
(international). The scientific community took this issue seriously, investigated the hypothesis, designed and published many studies involving millions of children, and they all converged on a lack of association between autism and vaccination. Given the large number of children involved, the statistical power
of these studies was such that any association, even an extremely weak one, would have been revealed. Continuing to press the issue causes unnecessary anguish for parents and places their children, and other children at risk of deadly diseases (that disproportionately harm the unvaccinated).
: Thiomersal has also been investigated and no association is found between the two. Vaccines are heavily reviewed for safety beforehand, and since they are given to millions of people each year, even rare complications or problems should become readily apparent. The amount of these additives in each vaccine is minuscule, and not associated with significant side effects in the doses given. Though many parents have advocated for and claimed harm from these additives, without a plausible reason to expect harm, or demonstrated association between autism and vaccination, following these avenues wastes scarce research resources that could be better put to use investigating more promising avenues of research or determining treatments or quality-of-life improving interventions for the good of parents and children.
Specifically regarding "toxins", these substances are often unnamed and only vaguely alluded to - a practice that results in moving the goalpost
. Once it is demonstrated that an ingredient is not in fact harmful, advocates will insist that their real concern is with another
ingredient. This cycle perpetuates indefinitely, since the assumption is generally a priori
that vaccines are harmful, and no possible level of evidence is sufficient to convince the advocate otherwise.
Q3: Why doesn't this article discuss X treatment for autism?
: For one thing, X may be discussed in the autism therapies
section. Though Wikipedia is not paper
and each article can theoretically expand indefinitely, in practice articles have restrictions in length
due to reader fatigue. Accordingly, the main interventions for autism are dealt with in summary style
while minor or unproven interventions are left to the sub-article.
Q4: My child was helped by Y; I would like to include a section discussing Y, so other parents can similarly help their children.
: Wikipedia is not a soapbox
; despite how important or effective an intervention may seem to be, ultimately it must be verified
in reliable, secondary sources
that meet the guidelines for medical articles
. Personal testimonials are primary sources
and can only be synthesized through inappropriate original research
. If the intervention is genuinely helpful for large numbers of people, it is worth discussing it with a researcher, so it can be studied, researched, published and replicated. When that happens, Wikipedia can report the results as scientific consensus
indicates the intervention is ethical, effective, widely-used and widely accepted. Wikipedia is not a crystal ball
and can not be used to predict or promote promising interventions that lack evidence of efficacy. Without extensive testing, Wikipedia runs the risk of promoting theories and interventions that are either invalid (the Refrigerator mother
hypothesis), disproven (secretin
and facilitated communication
or dangerous (chelation therapy
, which resulted in the death of a child in 2005).
Q5: Why doesn't this article discuss Z cause of autism? Particularly since there is this
study discussing it!
: No ultimate cause has been found for autism. All indications are that it is a primarily genetic condition with a complex etiology
that has to date eluded discovery. With thousands of articles published every year on autism, it is very easy to find at least one article supporting nearly any theory. Accordingly, we must limit the page to only the most well-supported theories, as demonstrated in the most recent, reliable, high-impact factor
sources as a proxy for what is most accepted within the community.
Q6: Why does/doesn't the article use the disease-based/person-first terminology? It is disrespectful because it presents people-with-autism as flawed.
A6: This aspect of autism is controversial within the autistic community. Many consider autism to be a type of neurological difference rather than a deficit. Accordingly, there is no one preferred terminology. This article uses the terms found in the specific references.
Q7: Why doesn't the article emphasize the savant-like abilities of autistic children in math/memory/pattern recognition/etc.? This shows that autistic children aren't just disabled.
: Savant syndrome
is still pretty rare, and nonrepresentative of most of those on the autistic spectrum. Research has indicated that most autistic children actually have average math skills.
- ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2008). "Outbreak of measles--San Diego, California, January-February 2008" (Full free text). MMWR. Morbidity and mortality weekly report. 57 (8): 203–206. PMID 18305451.
- ^ Parker, A. A.; Staggs, W.; Dayan, G. H.; Ortega-Sánchez, I. R.; Rota, P. A.; Lowe, L.; Boardman, P.; Teclaw, R.; Graves, C.; Lebaron, C. W. (2006). "Implications of a 2005 Measles Outbreak in Indiana for Sustained Elimination of Measles in the United States". New England Journal of Medicine. 355 (5): 447–455. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa060775. PMID 16885548.
- ^ Glanz, J. M.; McClure, D. L.; Magid, D. J.; Daley, M. F.; France, E. K.; Salmon, D. A.; Hambidge, S. J. (2009). "Parental Refusal of Pertussis Vaccination is Associated with an Increased Risk of Pertussis Infection in Children". Pediatrics. 123 (6): 1446–1451. doi:10.1542/peds.2008-2150. PMID 19482753.
- ^ Williams, K.; Wray, J. A.; Wheeler, D. M. (2012). Williams, Katrina, ed. "Intravenous secretin for autism spectrum disorders (ASD)". The Cochrane Library. 4: CD003495. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003495.pub3. PMID 22513913.
- ^ Brown, M. J.; Willis, T.; Omalu, B.; Leiker, R. (2006). "Deaths Resulting from Hypocalcemia After Administration of Edetate Disodium: 2003-2005" (Full free text). Pediatrics. 118 (2): e534. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-0858. PMID 16882789.
- ^ Chiang, H. -M.; Lin, Y. -H. (2007). "Mathematical ability of students with Asperger syndrome and high-functioning autism: A review of literature" (Full free text). Autism. 11 (6): 547–56. doi:10.1177/1362361307083259. PMID 17947290.
For further information, see the numerous past discussions on these topics in the archives of Talk:Autism: