The Amish anomaly

Monday, April 25th, 2005

From The Age of Autism: The Amish anomaly:

The mainstream scientific consensus says autism is a complex genetic disorder, one that has been around for millennia at roughly the same prevalence. That prevalence is now considered to be 1 in every 166 children born in the United States.

Applying that model to Lancaster County, there ought to be 130 Amish men, women and children here with Autism Spectrum Disorder. [...] That means upwards of 50 Amish people of all ages should be living in Lancaster County with full-syndrome autism, the “classic autism” first described in 1943 by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner at Johns Hopkins University. The full-syndrome disorder is hard to miss, characterized by “markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests,” according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Our reporter could only find three Amish children with full-blown autism: one adopted from China (by Asian-American converts to the Amish-Mennonite religion), one who received a vaccination at the request of federal health officials (and went into her own world almost immediately thereafter), and one more who isn’t described.

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