Autism catastrophe

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It is heart-warming to learn of the Innes family's positive experience in taking their autistic child to the Options Institute in Massachusetts (your report, 21 November). Many UK families have had to raise funds and make considerable personal sacrifices to seek out remedies for this previously rare childhood developmental condition, which has become increasingly common since 1990.

The most recent government study confirmed that the rate of autism in the UK now stands at one child in 88, with the rate for boys, who are most likely to be affected, around one in 58. Make no mistake, this is a public health catastrophe.

As a result of parental demand, Autism Treatment Trust opened a clinic in Edinburgh in 2006 and to date has arranged comprehensive testing and commenced treatments for more than 300 autistic children. The results of the tests have been striking and a remarkable pattern is emerging: gastrointestinal issues are common, particularly inflammation; food intolerances and allergies feature regularly, as do immune abnormalities and heavy metal toxicity. Many of these children are very ill. All are treatable.

The belief that autism is solely genetic in origin is unsustainable; environmental factors must be at play. You do not get genetic epidemics.

BILL WELSH

President, Autism Treatment Trust

Stafford Street

Edinburgh

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