Autism, Autism and Mercury

Autistic in the 1930’s. Playing Golf Today

There is an excellent series of articles on Science Daily looking at the question of do we have an autism epidemic? Instead of studying claim and counter claim by statisticians, the article looks back at the beginning of autism.
"The first person to diagnose autism … was Leo Kanner … a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. … [B]y 1958 — 15 years after he first created the diagnosis — he had seen just 150 autism cases. Another doctor who became the European authority on the disorder saw only 10 cases in the decade after his first paper was published; a third ‘found only one true case of infantile autism in 36,500 clinical cases,’ … No matter how you slice or dice the diagnostic categories, something doesn’t compute — how can there be half a million children with Autism Spectrum Disorders living in the United States today, when the man who identified the disorder could only find 150 in the first 15 years?"
This a supposition as the medical and education services worked differently then. People saw the doctor less, education wasn’t as universal as it is now. Autistic children may of been more prone to childhood diseases prevalent at the time and never survived long enough to be diagnosed. However it is a point worth exploring and certainly raises the question what happened in the 1930’s to either cause autism or enable it to be diagnosed.
The second part, in an excellent piece of journalism, the writer tracks down patient zero Donald T., the first person to be diagnosed with autism, who is alive, well and thriving. In fact the person described seems barely autistic. Two key events are credited with this recovery. Donald was placed with a family on rural farm where his repetitive behavior was put to good use in a caring and quiet environment and at the age 12 he became ill and was treated with gold salts. Mercury and gold have a natural affinity and will bind together which is why mercury was used to help extract gold in mining operations.
Now Donald T.’s recovery could be either down to the behavioral therapy he gained from the safe, loving and peaceful environment of the farm or from the gold salts treatment. Or both. The articles however decide to focus on the gold treatment in parts three and four.
See also: Autism and the Amish