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ANTC68 WINTER 2013 Week # 11: The Rhetoric of Science and Statistics in Claims of an Autism Epidemic by Victor Perez Abstract  Purpose: examine the rhetorical use of scientific medical evidence and diagnoses statistics in claim making of childhood autism spectrum disorder  Qualitative study of content and dissemination of claims for social problems construction via popular media, peer reviewed scientific literature and the Internet  Rhetorical use of etiological evidence positing a causal link between medical interventions, environmental toxins and autism  Elucidates how the medicalization of childhood developmental disabilities and increased lay involvemenet in the social problems process were vital for the proliferation of attention and resources directed to autism presently  Lay social movement proceeds even with lack of scientific evidence Introduction  Conterversy over possible links to vaccines and other environmental toxins – propelled the autism “epidemic”  Claims transcend and interact with familial, political, educational, legal, medical/scientific and other fields for social problem construction  Some suggest that the increased prevalence of ASD is linked to methodological changes in definition, measured and identification leading to increased incidence compared to past years o Expanded diagnostic continumm – broader range of conditions than the past in the DSM for childhood ASD and related disorders  Increased medicalization of childhood learning and development disabilities and idiosyncrancies o Impropriety of childhood behavior has been constrained now under the jurisdiction of medicine  Social problems are created through the process of social construction and influence by various claims making activities that try to compete with other issues to garner public attention  As the social constructionist approach to social problems elucidates, a condition or experience in society does not inherently have qualities or attributes that makes it a social problem  The focus of this paper will be on the rhetorical quality of key claims and counterclaims involving scientific medical evidence and diagnosis statistics  Claimsamkers use scientific info as basis for their claims and also to persuade therefore it is a intergral part of the childhood ASD claimsmaking process in evaluation of the validity of claims Claims and Counterclaims  Two primary rhetorical components o The variety of statistics concerning vaccines and ASD prevalence trends and how these numeric estimates convey scientific objectivity and causality and the generation, dissemination and interpretation of medical scientific evidence concerning a causal link between vaccines and ASD The Rhetoric of Statistics – “Autism is Increasing Rapidly and Is Not Rare”  ASD diagnosis rose in 1980s - 10x increase in US, 3-4X in world o Rigours identification of ASD is presenting as a surge when it might be better and more diagnoses of previously ignored cases o Shows that it is no longer rare and it is increasing rapidly – 1 in 150 o Example – Wakefield trial o Linking increased autism rates with toxins or thimersol has democratized the risk as something anyone can have, leading to less stigmatization o Leading to dramatic effect of issue by utilizing the highest estimates and broadening the base of potential victims of the condition ANTC68 WINTER 2013 Causality from Trend Statistics: Something Must be Causing the Increase  Rise in diagnoses of childhood ASD is the result of several identification i
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