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Autism: A Dr. Oz Primer

Autism: A Dr. Oz Primer

Throughout our lives as parents, we’ll serve many roles—everything from feeder to teacher, from chef to chauffeur, from buddy to banker. Ultimately—no matter what we do day-to-day (or minute-to-minute)—we see our primary role as protector. We’ll do anything we need to do to shield our kids from the world’s dangers. And that’s why our latest health crisis—autism—hits us so hard. We really don’t know how to protect our children, because, as of now, we don’t know why we’re seeing such an increase in a disorder that can change the lives of children, and their entire families as well. Here, a quick look at the major issues, obstacles, and action steps.

The Basics

Simply, autism is a neurological disorder that robs a child of his or her emotional foundation, making it difficult for the child to communicate, even smile. That’s because there’s an issue with certain connections in the brain from neuron to neuron. It’s often associated with repetitive motor movements or obsessive behaviors.

The Stats

About 1 in 110 children born today are autistic (1 in 70 boys are). In 1980, it was 1 in 5,000.

The Cause

Nobody knows exactly why we’re seeing an increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism. Some of it has to do with the fact that we have a broader definition of what’s on the spectrum of autism disorders than we did, but that’s not the only reason. Today, there are three main theories as to what has contributed to the increase. They are:

    • Vaccines: There are studies showing there are no links between vaccine and autism, though a minority medical professionals also believe that the evidence isn’t conclusive.


    • Environmental factors: The theory is that a variety of things could play a role, such as exposure to pesticides and car toxins.


  • Age of parents: Studies have shown that with all other factors being equal, the risk of autism is greater when either parent is older. We’re not sure of a reason, but it could be due to hormones or even changes to the egg or sperm.

If You’re Thinking of Getting Pregnant

    • Start taking a multivitamin containing 400 mg of folic acid, which has been shown to reduce the risk of having a child with autism. B vitamins help improve neural connections.


  • Try to avoid polluted communities and environments.

How to Identify Autism

Each child on the autism spectrum is unique, so every child cannot expect to be exactly like another autistic child you may know. Nevertheless, parents often notice that their child doesn’t make eye contact or doesn’t respond to his or her name. Many parents don’t notice issues until after the one-year milestone, when there may language or other developmental delays. A professional with experience in evaluating children should look at intellectual function, speech-language, hearing, behavioral history, as well as use direct observation.

Early Intervention

If you do have an autistic child, it’s recommended that you get early intervention with an educational-behavioral specialist. One-on-one therapies and “floor time,” which focuses on engaging young children in social interactions, may help. Some also advocate a gluten-free diet. More information

A New York Times #1 best-selling author and host of The Dr. Oz Show, Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. is also professor and vice chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian-Columbia University and the director of the Heart Institute. For more from Dr. Oz, check out You: Raising Your Child and You: Having a Baby, both co-authored with Michael F. Roizen, M.D.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

JuanitaMcKay JuanitaMcKay 6 years
well i have a nephew that almost seems like he autistic. but his parents dont have the patience for him what so ever. they get very frustrated with him very easy and they dont take the time to work with him like they do with the other twin. i just think that they are gunna have alot more problems with him in the future if they dont start working with him.
AleciaDerouin AleciaDerouin 6 years
i pray that i never have a child that is not able to get vaccinated bcuz we no longer have herd immunity in some places and its really taking a toll. i grew up with hundred's of kids that were completely vaccinated on time and not a single one was diagnosed with any form of autism....some are a bit odd and maybe today if they were born they would be put "on the spectrum", but everyone was fine. i feel that anyone spreading rumors about "dangerous" vaccines are the ones causing danger. not to say that there might not be a link btwn a gene and how a vaccine affects u, as seems evidenced by moms who have multiple kids with autism, but they have NEVER affected ANYONE that i know and i will vaccinate my children that way they cant come to harm from a disease that should be erridacted. i know that if some 3 yr old gave my newborn pertussis at the Dr's office, i would be livid..and if they died, i would take legal action is possible. and i love Dr Oz and think he is a wonderful man who is just trying to help ppl.
ErinLabor ErinLabor 6 years
I thought, and I am pretty sure, there were articles stating that vaccines ARE related to Autism.
SherrySmith23089 SherrySmith23089 6 years
This article is informative. I have 2 grandchildren--both autistic. One is mild to moderate and the youngest unfortunately at the severe end. I love them both dearly and they certainly have their own autistic personality traits. Autistic children take a lot of work by the family and lots of intervention. I do bellieve that autistic children do show signs from birth. My grandson was born staring at the overhead light in the delivery room and to this day constantly looks into lights etc where ever he finds any. My cousin is mentally challenged because he got measles before there were vacines readily available. His temp was so high that is what caused the damage. All we can do is love them, hope to find resources to help (it is a tiring business raising these children), and some understanding in a difficult world. I do believe that they can become productive persons. Does anyone else wonder if Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory protrays a Aspergers person. The show always gives me a good laugh when Im exhausted from helping at the end of the day. Keep smiling.
NicoleSteelhammer NicoleSteelhammer 6 years
I have four children, two girls and two boys. Only one has PDD-NOS. He is also learning delayed and has sensory issues. He is my third child and I was only 25 when I had him. He is 2 1/2 years younger than my second daughter. We lived in a small country town. He did run high fevers when he got sick. He still rarely gets sick. He did have a bad reaction to his shots one time. Both legs got raised hot bumbs at the shot sights. He didn't walk till he was 18 months, he also has speach problems. My husband is only one year older than me. I am not sure why he is the way he is but God gave me a great son and knew that I would be a great mom to him.
CoreenLynchKennard CoreenLynchKennard 6 years
I had a perfect pregnancy, I was 35, and not even the slightest reaction to a single vaccine I fed him organic food and he was nursed the first year.There waas 15 years between he and his older brother. I did however work in a major home retailer managing the highest chemical area of the store. Also being anemic my doctor told me to eat a red meat and leafy vegetables to keep my iron levels up naturally. My son was diagnosed PDD NOS last year. I saw he was "off" from the start. He didn't smile early on, he watched the ceiling fan often, and eventually we sought help when he didn't speak. I have been a long believer it has to be environmental. Between the steroids and pesticides in our food and chemicals in our home and work place wihich is just common place now a days. Years ago we didn't have the extensive products that are around now, We didn't pump our cows and chickens and their feed full of chemicals just to make more money off them. And in the end our children are suffering. I have a beautiful little boy that has taught me to be the best person I can be and how to love completely, to be patient and kind always but we need to look into our own lives and what we bring to our worlds to make life " easier" and think maybe it is doing more harm than good.
AndreaTropeaParrish AndreaTropeaParrish 6 years
I choose not to do the vaccine schedule the government requires. And I'm happy I did. Everyday I'm seeing more reports on vaccine injuries (not just autism). He has only had 1 shot so far & that was his tetanus when he turned 2. He will be getting 1 shot every 6 to 12 months and I will be going to the state to get MMR separately. If they refuse to separate then into months he won't be getting them. If the school won't let him in I'll be homeschooling or moving to a state that will allow it. Recently article I just read
MelissaFitzgerald MelissaFitzgerald 6 years
This is an on going debate and a frustrating one. My almost 6 year old was diagnosed in December of 2009. Before that a developmental delay diagnosis.Before he turned 3, he received so much support from local services that proved to be extremely beneficial. Now, the support is minimal at best (none as of January 2011 in Washington state - he doesn't even have a designated case worker). The issue now is not just where Autism comes from but what are we going to do about it now. There are few states that offer assistance regarless of financial bracket. If you are not in the "poverty bracket" when you start treatment for a child with Autism, you soon will be. Families need support now. The focus should be shift to the now and not as much on the what happened!
AnnetteWalker AnnetteWalker 6 years
I feel its NOT increased.... its the doctors awareness of the disability that makes it diagnosed more frequently.... most children with Asperger's would be fluffed off ... my husband was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was in his 40's... they suspect people like Albert Einstein also had it... My daughter has Rett Syndrome... the past she would have been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy or profound mental disability... but today the gene is found and the diagnoses is made. Autistic children were always out there in great numbers... they just were NOT diagosed.
TerriHolliday TerriHolliday 6 years
My son had shown signs of sensory from first shot... but had Mini Seizures after DTAP shot.. it was stopped /delayed for 6 months in that time he was doing better no seizures.. but as soon as it started again.. Seizures started.. stopped talking.. and yes Autism was DXed and well Ya.... I took folic acid, took my vits and Ya know I was told By a developmental dr Yes my son has autism from his shots... I know the truth.. so ya.. They can all denie it all they want.. I know what happen.. no more shots!!
CoMMember13627105292175 CoMMember13627105292175 6 years
wow! hot topic! Just to reconfirm that Dr Oz (in THIS blog) merely said "•Vaccines: There are studies showing there are no links between vaccine and autism, though a minority medical professionals also believe that the evidence isn’t conclusive." I don't think that that statement in any way even mildly suggests that vaccines cause autism...but clearly we cant all agree on why is it so hard to believe that all medical professionals cant agree on it (even though there are no studies to prove a link). There are lots of things my doctor says that I take with a grain of salt. We are very lucky to live in an internet age. The evidence to distinguish between fact and fiction is out there if people choose to look at it.
ShondaPotter ShondaPotter 6 years
I was 19 1/2, 22, 241/2... not an older mom, no polluted city, I live in small town. took my vitimines. 2 of the 3 of mine were jaundiced after birth. I have 2 boys deffinately with aspergers & my 8 month old baby girl is showing signs of austim... she is really delayed. my oldest had high fevers when he was teething like 103.9+ so short circuited? IDK... the boys were on time with milestones, my oldest didnt crawl he scooted. my youngest little girl JUST NOW like within the past few days started sitting up by herself. I believe its the vaccines.. just my personal oppinion. my little girl was "normal" hitting ALL her milestones until her 6 month shots & now it just seems like we r stuck in a rut & can't get anywhere with her.
AmyHauer AmyHauer 6 years
This doesn't surprise me! You can find a study to credit or discredit anything you want to hear! My study, over the last 20 years, Moms know their children best, and are the most creditable when it comes to their children and what they experience. There are enough of us out there that went through vaccine reactions with our children to testify, that... there is absolutely a link between toxins/vaccines and social and/or cognitive abilities! Too bad, I kinda liked Dr Oz. Oh well.....
GlennaHass GlennaHass 6 years
I think that for any one, especially a well-respected doctor, to continue to say that autism could even possibly be caused by vaccines after all the studies proving that they are NOT the cause of autism is irresponsible and reckless and a flat out lie. The only study that ever linked autism to vaccination was determined to be done biasedly so as to confirm their own personal interests and all of the doctors in the study have withdrawn their support of the stated outcome of that study. I have lost some respect for you as a professional, Doctor Oz.
BarbaraSellix BarbaraSellix 6 years
Instead of saying vaccines "cause" autism why don't they say that in our kids vaccines caused some kind of metobolic reaction and that reaction caused autism. There is something there within their brains that seem to be kicked off by these shots. If shots by themselves caused autism every kid would be autistic. I have a daughter with severe autism and I know the shot caused something. My point is let them look into why the shots, possibly the way they are manufactured, can trigger autism in certain populations of children/babies and try to research more which ones will be the ones affected so we can prevent this from happening. It really makes me crazy!
VeraBennett VeraBennett 6 years
Please please please. Everyone should read Paul Offit's latest book Deadly Choices. It is very clear that there is no evidence linking autism to vaccines. A lot of the increase is in the definition. Asperger's children used to just be quirky, now they are on the spectrum. There has also been a genetic link established - the quirkier the parents, the more apt the child is to be autistic.
MicheleBrooks46547 MicheleBrooks46547 6 years
Sorry Jane & Karen. Do not believe the vacinations harmed my know 10 year old who was diagnosed with aspergers 4 years ago. He never had high temperatures after vaccines never cried when they gave him needles, I truly believe it was an imbalance during my pregnancy as i was in hospital on drips because I threw up the whole 10 months. I had a yucky pregnancy with my 3 year old and he has had his vaccines and is a very smart child cimpletly different to my first so blaming vaccines is not correct, I understand autism is a neurolgical disorder in your womb and is not easy to diagnose because each child is different in development.
DianeHancock23624 DianeHancock23624 6 years
My son was autistic from the word go. He never cuddled, he never looked at us. He didnt seem to get any comfort from a cuddle from his mummy. It was not the vaccines. A new theory is that autism is more likely in a child if they are very close in age to the next oldest child. My children are 12 months apart, the youngest is autistic and I was 41 when I had him. So maybe there is something to it. I had a hard pregnancy, so he had a hard time, and I was very ill with gastro when he was born, which he then caught. Maybe it was my age, maybe that he was born so close to his sister, maybe it was the gastro. Perhaps it is things that affect brain chemistry, such as gastro, or anaesthetic, or even something in some vaccines, and so there are various things that cause it, but all affect brain receptors or function.
KarenStrauhal KarenStrauhal 6 years
US government ruled my son was injured by his vaccine awarded him care for life, He is braindamaged and autistic. National Vaccine act provides compensation for those injured by vaccines. Take your head out of the sand, dr. oz.
PamelaBlackie PamelaBlackie 6 years
Funny you say your son got such high temps my son used to get temps of 42! and occasionally have a seizer he was also on AB's for over 6 weeks when he was 20 months old ! he is not on the spectrum but they did think he was for a long time He is 3 now and has MERLD ( mixed expressive and receptive language disorder) he is also sensory seeking and avoiding oh and also used to toe walk.. So many professionals were willing to diagnosed Cameron with Autism or Id hear them say he is not Autistic but he is on the spectrum but not sure where. I personally think the diagnoses going up is more to do with understanding Autism and being able to spot it in extremely high functioning kids but also due to alot of professional NOT understanding it well enough and diagnosing Children with other Quirks ! and in QLD it all to do with Funding ! nearly 1 in 60 kids is diagnosed!
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