The autism rate in the US is now up to 1 in 88. My granddaughter who lives in California was diagnosed shortly before her 3rd birthday. According to my son, she had been regressing for about six months, talking less, not making eye contact and not even responding to her name.
I first met her in May 2011, when she was a year and 9 months old. I was back in New Jersey, trying to sell our house there, since we had moved to Italy. While in the US, I took the opportunity to fly out to visit my son and meet my granddaughter. Now that I think about it, the little girl’s behavior was unusual even then. On the way to a big indoor children’s playground/learning center, she had a screaming fit which could only be stopped by her mother taking her out and walking around in the rain. My son said at that time that she could say about 30 words, but I didn't hear any, except maybe "No!" At the playground, she didn't interact with any other children, just kept walking and walking like a wind-up toy. She was given chicken nuggets and French fries to eat in the car. She screamed to have her new shoes taken off.
She hasn't had any vaccines, fortunately! She’s been physically healthy and has never been on antibiotics or had bowel problems as many autistic children do. She was breast-fed for 2 years. Like most kids, her diet is high in wheat and milk products. I told my son to get her on the gluten and casein-free diet, which Dr Bernard Rimland’s research indicates helps 66% of autistic kids. Many children have greatly improved after having all wheat and dairy products removed from their diet, even though these are often their favorite foods. These children are unable to metabolize gluten and casein proteins down to the basic amino acids. Instead, they are broken down into peptides called gluteomorphin and caseomorphin, which act like opium (morphine) in the brain, making it difficult to respond normally to the environment.
California has recently mandated insurance coverage for behavioral therapy (ABA) for autistic children. Between the diet and the ABA, my granddaughter appears to be improving. We may also have her tested for heavy metals and detox pathways. If there is a genetic component to autism, it may be an inability to detoxify the body from the innumerable chemical assaults that we are all now exposed to.
There is a whole spectrum of autism disorders. The mildest is Asperger's syndrome, which Einstein. Isaac Newton, and many other famous scientists are thought to have had. Aspergians tend to be very intelligent, but have trouble with social relationships.
Many children develop more severe types of autism starting around the age of 18 months, after getting a lot of immunizations at once. They regress and often stop talking and lose other skills. Like many doctors who specialize in treating this, I believe many cases are related to the mercury preservative thimerosal (which has now been removed from most, but not all vaccines.) It is still in the flu shot. It could also be due to other "adjuvants", like aluminum, or just the sheer number of shots overwhelming the immune system.
Some cases may also be related to mercury in the mother's amalgam fillings passing into the fetus, and then into the baby in breast milk. There may also be hereditary factors. Asperger's, in particular seems to be common in children of engineers. (It could be that the fathers had a touch of it, which made them good scientists and engineers.)
I worked with a group of doctors, called DAN (Defeat Autism Now) who specialize in treating and curing autism through natural means. Dr Jim Neubrander, my colleague when I worked at the Princeton Biocenter, went on to specialize in autism and discovered a very useful treatment based on Methyl B12 shots. Some cases have been cured by homeopathy, as described in Impossible Cure, by Amy Lansky. Orthomolecular nutrition also helps, by supplying vitamins and minerals that may be lacking or needed in greater than normal amounts. Although autistic children are often prescribed psychopharmaceuticals, they are rarely beneficial, and may cause further brain damage.