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lack of autism in Amish culture

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  • lack of autism in Amish culture

    I've seen a few references to the debate about vaccinations and their relationship to autism around the forum and I saw this article.

    http://healthwyze.org/index.php/the-...8214b26b4c%2C0

    It is interesting to me that they are ONLY looking at the lack of vaccinations in the Amish culture here as the result of low occurrence of autism and not really following up on the fact that there is no processed foods at all, that all their meat and vegetables are organic and that although they eat grain it is not to the portion that most North Americans consume it.
    I do like this one paragraph :

    When the Amish are simply left alone, to live free of chemical toxins found in our medicines and foods, they are not plagued with diseases, learning disabilities, or autism. They are categorically more intelligent, with the exception of advanced (college-level) writing skills, which is explainable by the fact that English is not their primary language. Could it be those same Amish 'super genes' at work again? Society could learn greatly from their example, if we would only stop poisoning ourselves, and our children on a routine basis.
    I think I could happily live an Amish lifestyle... but I would miss the easy access of information that the internet is.
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  • #2
    The Amish don't test for autism and have a very different schooling system in place. Any other argument made about the Amish and autism after you learn that fact is kinda ridiculous.
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    • #3
      They are also exposed to much less EMF radiation.
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      • #4
        Also, they have a limited genetic pool to draw from as well. I think that autism in general is a whole big house of cards and factors that come into play, and all it takes is the placement of one thing to set it all in motion.
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        • #5
          high autism rates also correlate to parents who are older. In a culture where people tend to marry young and start families young, that's yet another factor to consider, in addition to all other radically different lifestyle factors.

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          • #6
            I have a friend who works with autistic kids and teens, she tells me of a family that has 4 severely autistic children, and that most families don’t typically have just one autistic child, so some genetics are definitely at play here. There’s history of mentally challenged individuals in my family, not sure if either case is autistic though. One of my dad’s brothers is mentally challenged, but didn’t receive proper education which further stumped his development. My sister is as well (both look “normal” if anybody was wondering, so it’s not down syndrome) but she went to school, regular school at first until her teachers noticed she was a little slower intellectually (but a social butterfly) so she went to special school after that and is therefore more capable than my dad’s brother is. I think my sister might have asperger's but hasn't been diagnosed with it, I just theorize that from what I've read about it and her behavior.

            Still, back to back instances of a similar issue kind of makes you think. However, my dad is one of 8 children and 6 of them have kids of their own as well but my sister is the only one that was born that way so I guess I shouldn’t be as quick to say that it could be a family gene. I literally have over 20 cousins from my dad’s brothers and sisters.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by iniQuity View Post
              I have a friend who works with autistic kids and teens, she tells me of a family that has 4 severely autistic children, and that most families don’t typically have just one autistic child, so some genetics are definitely at play here.
              There have been some statistical studies on twins that show a strong likelihood of genetic involvement but families also tend to share the same environment and have similar diets so that could also play a part. Maybe it's one of those epigenetic changes brought on by environment. If identical twins have an 82% chance of both being autistic (according to a study cited here: http://www.actionbioscience.org/genomic/dougherty.html), that means there's a reason the other 18% aren't. The rate for fraternal twins is 10% according to that, and siblings are 3-6% which is still higher than the general population.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Leanne View Post
                It is interesting to me that they are ONLY looking at the lack of vaccinations in the Amish culture here as the result of low occurrence of autism and not really following up on the fact that there is no processed foods at all, that all their meat and vegetables are organic and that although they eat grain it is not to the portion that most North Americans consume it.

                I think I could happily live an Amish lifestyle... but I would miss the easy access of information that the internet is.
                We have a lot of Amish here. They're my parents' closest neighbors and they have become fantastic friends with a spread of the community. It's basically a shared town between the regular folks and the Amish. I'm not sure what communities they studied but in both NY and Indiana where have lived around the Amish, they do enjoy (sadly) a fair amount of processed foods. The kids are just as hooked to Mountain Dew and pizza as any other group of teenagers. The adults consume processed foods as well and it's not uncommon to see a buggy at the local gas station/Pudgies pizza. Likewise, they do eat a lot of pastries and breads, and MOST of the time their foods are organic but not always. It's getting expensive and some of the neighbors use the cheapest chicken feed, which may or may not be organic.

                The lifestyle is hard, that's for sure. In some ways I'm not sure I'd mind it, so long as I had access to the internet, but they're far from Primal when it comes to meals. The older women are nearly always overweight.

                It might not be the lack of vaccinations that keep autism at bay in Amish communities, or it may be. They certainly get plenty of vitamin D, which is also thought to be linked to autism. But to think that Amish live pure, uncorrupted, unpolluted lives is a myth.

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                • #9
                  I agree that autism, though a complex problem with a broad spectrum, simply must have environmental influences, including food but other things as well. Why else has it increased so much in the last 10-15 years? The Amish do eat much cleaner than most Americans, though shoo-fly pie (yum) and sticky buns are far from primal.

                  Side note -- how is English not their primary knowledge? I know about Pennsylvania Dutch (German) and all that, as my mom is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania which is full of Amish. But today? Their primary language is English.

                  Sorry, I know that's off the topic. The occasional cocaine busts and puppy mill problem seen regularly in Lancaster news are also interesting.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Angieh View Post
                    Why else has it increased so much in the last 10-15 years?
                    I think the *diagnosis* of autism has increased in the last few decades due to several factors such as better/earlier identification, parents less concerned of the "stigma" of the label so going ahead with diagnosis, recognition of coexisting conditions so a child who in the past would have simply had a diagnosis of "learning difficulties" or "ADHD" or some other diagnosis will now have a more accurate dual diagnosis to include autism, recognition that some old diagnosis were incorrect and are better fitted under the autistic spectrum, adult realising they have many of the same traits as their child when their child receives a diagnosis and therefore seeking a diagnosis themselves....

                    For my own family, my son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at age 4. Not that many years ago he would have been "naughty" or "odd" or maybe "stupid". In fact, both the professionals working with him and we as his parents recognised that his brain simply works in a different way to that of a neurotypical person and so he was able to receive the correct diagnosis, avoid damaging labelling and with the right supports in place is thriving. As part of his diagnostic process, genetic testing was done which showed an abnormality which upon further investigation he inherited from my husband. The geneticists are not able to tell at this stage if this abnormality is in any way involved with his Aspergers or just a random quirk. What is interesting to me though is that my husband shows many similar personality traits and thought processes to my son and had a dreadful time at school. On a quick online test, he falls within the autistic spectrum but has chosen not to pursue formal diagnosis as he has a full, happy and productive life and doesn't feel there is any benefit to him of a diagnosis at this stage in his life. If he were feeling more affected by it, maybe he would be another adult swelling the numbers of people diagnosed with autism??

                    And for what it's worth, I don't believe my son has been damaged by vaccines, environment , food or anything else. He was born the way he is and it is just part of who he is and how he functions. It makes life a little harder for him (and for us!) at times but he isn't damaged.
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                    • #11
                      I believe a lot of the difference is indeed in diagnosis. People not familiar with autism intimately tend to think of only the most severe cases. But a large % of autistic kids are completely mainstreamed and you would not know. You might just think them shy or odd.

                      20, even 10 years ago most of the milder cases and many of the moderate to severe would NOT have been diagnosed and I suspect they still would not be in the Amish community. At times, I wonder if my own husband in todays world would have been diagnosed mild Aspergers.

                      And yes, I grew up in Lancaster, they eat plenty of crap.
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                      • #12
                        Here in Ohio, its more or less the Mennonites you see that eat more crap. For those that don't know, Mennonite is a sect of the Amish that live with some modern conveniences such as vehicles, electricity and even the internet. I'm about 40 miles from "Amish country" in any direction but I have drove out to an area to get meat and some dairy and will continue to do so. Good stuff.
                        Georgette

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                        • #13
                          Of course autistic rates correlate to parents who conceive at a later age. If you're developmentally disabled in some sense (autism) then it's going to take you on average a lot longer to do "normal" human life stuff like marrying and having children. Seeing as how autism has a genetic component to it then it only stand to figure that these developmentally disabled folks who don't have kids until later on in their years end up having a higher rate of autistic kids.

                          Another fun tidbit: Gluten intolerance can damage the same part of the brain that is found damaged in autistic and schizophrenic patients.
                          "You can demonstrate the purpose and limits of human digestion with a simple experiment: eat a steak with some whole corn kernels, and see what comes out the other end. It won’t be the steak."
                          -J.Stanton

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Leanne View Post
                            I've seen a few references to the debate about vaccinations and their relationship to autism around the forum and I saw this article.

                            http://healthwyze.org/index.php/the-...8214b26b4c%2C0
                            This is total crap. The Amish absolutely have autistic kids. And terrible health in general....heart disease, diabetes etc. But because they operate mostly outside the boundaries of typical medical and social service systems that are in place, their rates of disease aren't factored in. I have many midwife friends that work in Amish communities. It's not all peaches and cream.

                            And vaccines don't cause autism. Period. It's been looked and at looked at and looked at. But 10 infants in Cali did die because their parents believed the anti-vaccine rhetoric spewed by Jenny McCarthy and her ilk and didn't vaccinate their children.


                            ]It is interesting to me that they are ONLY looking at the lack of vaccinations in the Amish culture here as the result of low occurrence of autism and not really following up on the fact that there is no processed foods at all, that all their meat and vegetables are organic and that although they eat grain it is not to the portion that most North Americans consume it.
                            They eat a ton of grain, sugar and salt. A ton. Veggies and meat are not typically organic. Though they have been in trouble multiple times for mislabeling as such. There was always some bruhaha going on with the Amish population in Indiana when I was living in Michigan regarding horrible farming practices being advertised as 'free range' or 'organic'.
                            Last edited by cillakat; 01-26-2011, 05:36 PM.



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                            • #15
                              I also think we should keep in mind that autism is the name for a general set of symptoms for which there are likely multiple causes (genetic, environmental, and otherwise) and is a constructed category for a group of behaviours. Also, it's not a sentence to failure. Lots of people on the spectrum have jobs, get married, have kids, and all the rest. I have two siblings on the AS spectrum, and they're both great young men who have pretty normal lives. Yes, some people with autism need quite a bit of help relating to the rest of the world, but we're talking about a broad range of conditions and symptoms here.

                              I would guess that in an Amish community, someone we might call autistic might fall under an entirely different social category.
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