Our kids are ill.

The world faces a rising tide of disorders in children and adults - autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, OCD, chronic fatigue, and others. These problems must be correctly identified and treated as complex medical conditions, not genetic or mental disorders.

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Visit a school today, and you will find children who are impulsive and easily distracted. Kids who visit the nurse each day to take their medications. Peanut free zones. These are not the schools that many of us grew up in. Our kids are sick and struggling to learn and behave. And adults are struggling, too. What is going on?

An Epidemic

On May 16, 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published Mental Health Surveillance Among Children —United States, 2005–2011. This report combines the research of several federal partners, and the findings are sobering:

These disorders are an important public health issue in the United States because of their prevalence, early onset, and impact on the child, family, and community, with an estimated total annual cost of $247 billion. A total of 13%–20% of children living in the United States experience a mental disorder in a given year, and surveillance during 1994–2011 has shown the prevalence of these conditions to be increasing. Mental Health Surveillance Among Children —United States, 2005–2011, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

With so many families affected, and with such a high financial cost, we are already in the midst of a medical, social, and financial crisis. And that crisis is deepening as the numbers grow with each passing year. The same report details that the National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) shows a 21.8% increase in ADHD during 2003–2007. And the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicates "a nearly fourfold increase in autism from 1997–1999 to 2006–2008."

An epidemic of this severity demands a coordinated, worldwide response. The world has done this before for childhood epidemics like polio, measles, whooping cough, scarlet fever, and others. Responding to the current epidemic won't be as simple, because these new conditions have complex causes that aren't fully understood. But the need for understanding and treatment options is dire.

Are These Mental Disorders?

Researchers have known for years that kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have an elevated risk for a host of other problems, including neuroinflammation and immune disorders, gastrointestinal problems, motor issues (clumsiness), seizures, and sensory problems. Indeed, neuroimmune issues seem to be a common thread within many conditions that have been on the rise in recent years:

Over the same period of time, other immune disorders like allergies and asthma have become much more common. Many patients are diagnosed with more than one of these problems, and the medical test results share many similarities. A growing number of researchers are finding that these conditions may all be related to inflammation and immune system dysregulation.

So if all of these children and adults are ill, why do we continue to diagnose autism based on behavioral characteristics listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is authored by the American Psychiatric Association (APA)? The ICD-9, which is used to file insurance claims, places Autistic disorder (299.0) in the Mental Disorders category (290-319). But Alzheimer's disease, which certainly causes mental problems, falls under Diseases of the Nervous System and Sense Organs (320-389). Why the inconsistency? Psychologists and psychiatrists may be able to help many of these people, but medical problems demand treatment from medical doctors.

Our Goal

The goal of this website is to shift thinking about autism, ADHD, chronic fatigue, and other neuroimmune disorders. Doctors, researchers, government officials, and parents need to stop looking at these conditions as developmental or mental disorders. These children and adults are not "miswired." They are ill. Many are already improving or recovering with medical treatment. It is past time to begin a major healthcare initiative aimed at understanding and treating these neuroimmune problems. Help this issue get the attention it deserves by signing the petition.

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Signer Comments

My son has severe non-verbal autism. He was verbal until a series of viral infections crashed his immune system and stopped talking. I've pursued multiple courses of medical interventions involving pediatricians, neurologists and immunologists. They all scratch their heads and say, yes he's sick, but there's nothing we can do. It's his autism. He's not sick because he has autism, he has autism because he's sick! Address the illness, alleviate the autism. Why is this so hard? Jaime Unterthiner - Carpinteria, California
I have a grandson who was diagnosed as profoundly autistic three years ago. His recovery has been nothing short of remarkable, and was a product of treating the real medical conditions causing the symptoms - neural inflammation, severe food sensitivities, inflammatory issues with the gut. A month from now, he is entering public school as a functioning student, something we, and the majority of the medical community, would never have believed possible. These kids are sick and we do them a grave injustice by making that a life sentence. Gerry Geoffrey Dewinton - Alberta, Canada