‘Autism epidemic’ in Silicon Valley: Looking back

image taken from Wikapedia

image taken from Wikapedia

San Francisco — It was 15 years ago when Wired journalist Steve Silberman wrote about a supposed ‘autism epidemic’ in Silicon Valley.

What drove Silberman to write about the supposed epidemic was an encounter with a total stranger in a local cafe— who overheard him talk to his friend about a couple he knew whose child was diagnosed with autism.

In a scene reminiscent of that of a Hollywood movie, the stranger butted in:

“There’s an epidemic of autism in Silicon Valley. Something terrible is happening to our children.”

After that strange encounter, Silberman decided to write ‘The Geek Syndrome’, which Wired later on published in 2001.

Silberman discussed in ‘The Geek Syndrome’ the different possible theories that he believed may have played a significant role in what the stranger in the local cafe summed up as an ‘autism epidemic’.

Silberman noted that many of the computer geeks in Silicon Valley exhibited traits either similar or identical to that of those diagnosed with autism— and while noting that these computer geeks married each other, and supposing that these traits were hereditary, he concluded that their reproduction may be directly responsible for the growing number of children affected by autism in the region at that time.

Another possible reason behind the supposed ‘autism epidemic’ that Silberman explored was that the increased and better knowledge and diagnosis of the behavior only made the number of those affected with the disorder appear to go up— and that the developmental condition might have been nothing new.

The third reason behind the so-called ‘autism epidemic’ that Silberman had thought of was the possibility that autism might be something new, its impact on the human population potentially caused by the presence of poison toxins in the environment.

Today, after hundreds upon hundreds of researches about the possible cause of autism were made, it appears that the scientists’ findings coincide with Silberman’s theories— 15 years after ‘The Geek Syndrome’ was published.

Source: Jenny Turner: Genetic Literacy Project: Was there really an ‘autism epidemic’ in Silicon Valley?