By BENISON O’RIELLY
Why does my child have autism?
It’s the difficult question that thousands of parents have asked. And it’s one with no easy answers.
But tell that to a celebrity “health expert”.
Lacking the knowledge to know what they don’t know, these people confidently —and with monotonous regularity — wade in with their opinions on incredibly complex health conditions, spouting simplistic theories, offering hokey solutions and causing no end of mischief.
The latest: Pete Evans, celebrity chef from Channel 7’s My Kitchen Rules and self-appointed Paleo diet expert. In a recent Facebook rant against the Heart Foundation and the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), reported earlier by Mamamia, Mr Evans said this:
Why has our rate of autism jumped from 1 in 10000 children in 1974, to 1 in 50 in 2014, where do you think it will be in another 40 years if it is escalating at this rate? This has grown rapidly since the guidelines have been in place!
Oh, so that explains why my son has autism. It’s all due to his diet. I wonder why the thousands of autism researchers around the world didn’t think of that? Who knew they’d all been wasting their time with their genetic studies and brain imaging and early intervention when all they had to do was ask a celebrity chef.
The quote Pete posted on Facebook
Do you detect sarcasm? Well, Mr Evans, here are the facts about autism as we know them:
Autism is strongly genetic: if you have one child with autism you have much higher chance of having another, somewhere in the range of 10%, as opposed to 1% for the general population. However, it is not completely genetic. It may be that a child has a genetic predisposition to autism but it may not develop unless something else tips them over the edge.
Here are some ‘tip’ factors that can slightly increase your risk of having a child with autism — either you or your partner being over 40, an infection during pregnancy, obesity in pregnancy, extreme stress while pregnant (there was a spike in autism cases in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina), gestational diabetes, premature babies, twins, birth complications, having two babies close together and, possibly, exposure to environmental pollution.