La génération autiste

SAN DIEGO – L’autisme faisait partie, jusqu’à il y a peu, des maladies extrêmement rares, frappant un enfant sur 2000 à 5000. Cette situation a profondément évolué en 1994 avec la publication du DSM IV (le manuel des diagnostiques des troubles psychiatriques, largement utilisé dans le monde). Rapidement, les données ont explosé pour atteindre 1 sur 100. Et plus récemment, une importante étude en Corée du Sud indique un bond supplémentaire de 1 sur 38 – ce qui étonnement signifierait que 3% de la population a été diagnostiquée comme autiste. Quelles sont les causes de cette épidémie et où va-t-on ?

La réaction naturelle à toute épidémie est la panique. Les parents craignent désormais que tout retard de langage ou de socialisation soit le présage d’une forme d’autisme. Les couples sans enfants décident de ne pas en avoir. Les parents dont les enfants sont autistes sont désespérés et déterminés à en trouver la cause.

La théorie de la vaccination du médecin britannique Andrew Wakefield est devenue extrêmement populaire auprès des parents, et nombre d’entre eux ont interrompu toute vaccination (soumettant leurs enfants et ceux des autres à des maladies parfaitement évitables, et souvent graves.) La vaccination semblait une cause plausible du fait de la corrélation fortuite entre l’injection du vaccin et le début des symptômes. Le travail de Wakefield a depuis été largement relégué dans la catégorie des sciences incorrectes et malhonnêtes. Mais la crainte de l’autisme est si grande, et les réactions si irrationnelles, que Wakefield continue d’être vénéré dans certains cercles tel un faux prophète.

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