Explanations of the increasing prevalence of Autistic Spectrum Disorders: ‘lay’ and ‘expert’ perspectives
SpeakersGinny Russell, Egenis PhD Student
University of Exeter,Egenis,Byrne House,St Germans Road,Exeter, EX4 4PJ
Room no: GF7, Byrne House
Time: 3:30 - 5:00 PM
Our study analyzed over 100 unsolicited letters that were received by an epidemiological study looking at autism. Aetiological theories concerning environmental causes of autism were the dominant theme. Almost all letters expressed concern that the hazards of modern life might precipitate autism, and be responsible for its increasing prevalence. This position is in sharp contrast to that of accepted explanations given by the consensus among biomedical experts. Several correspondents carried out their own studies which ranged from utilising highly scientific methods to unstandardised methods. It was hard to judge in many cases whether such studies were ‘science’ or ‘not science’. Many of them presented themselves as people with credible voices in scientific terms. It appears from this study there is no clear line or boundary separating what can be considered science and what can not.Correspondents were a highly heterogeneous group united by their concern about autism, and their sources of evidence were equally mixed. The makeup and varied sources of information of this sample also seems to expose the inadequacy of conventional distinctions between the concepts of ‘lay’ persons and ‘experts’.