Not Born with It

Brian S. Hooker, PH.D., P.E.

Brian S. Hooker, PH.D., P.E.

Guest Contributor | BIO

Recently, the newest U.S. autism prevalence numbers were released by the CDC.  It was not good news.  Among children born in 2004 and 2006, the prevalence of autism had increased from 1 in 68 to 1 in 59, respectively.  Leading the nation in terms of autism prevalence was New Jersey with a rate of 1 in 35 children and 1 in 22 boys.  In other words, nearly 5% of boys in New Jersey have autism spectrum disorder as defined by the new DSM V criteria. Of the children with autism in the U.S., 56% had an evaluated IQ of 85 or less, meaning they possessed intellectual disability, with the majority of those children having an IQ of less than 70.

Many in the scientific community have posited that autism is genetically determined, and researchers have searched the genome looking for the cause of this disorder.  However, the over 400 genes that have been attributed to autism risk were found to contribute to only a fraction of autism cases.  Climbing down this flimsy branch of genetics, researchers and lauding media contrived the phrase “individuals born with autism.”

Looking at prevalence alone, we are seeing a dramatic and chilling increase in numbers of autism cases, especially in the past 18 years since CDC started to officially count autism numbers in the U.S.  In 2000, the prevalence was 1 in 250, then 1 in 133 (2006) followed by 1 in 88 (2012), 1 in 68 (2014) and now 1 in 59.  Historic data also consistently show that the rate of autism in the 1980’s was near 1 in 2000 children.  It is clear that we are in an ever-increasing epidemic of this often profoundly debilitating developmental disorder, where the majority of these children will never be able to live independently throughout their lifetime.

Let’s go back to the “individuals born with autism” phrase that I take issue with.  It is the experience of my family and many, if not most families of children with autism, that these wonderful kids were born normally, developed normally for the first one year to 18 months of life, and then regressed into the isolated, painful and disabling world of autism.  They were not born with it but experienced a significant decline in function after an environmental stressor.

Just prior to the release of the CDC’s autism prevalence numbers, an important paper by Dr. Sally Ozonoff and her colleagues at the prestigious UC Davis MIND Institute was quietly published in the journal Autism Research.  The paper, entitled “Onset Patterns in Autism: Variation across Informants, Methods, and Timing” was the culmination of a prospective study tracking the onset of autistic symptoms as evaluated by special education practitioners and parents.  This was done with the gold standard autism assessment instrument Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), including assessments of frequency and quality of eye contact, shared affect, and overall social engagement by highly trained examiners.

147 infants with a family history of ASD and 83 without such a history were evaluated during 7 extensive practitioner assessments held periodically within the first three years of life.  If these children were born with autism they would have shown signs at the very beginning of life. But they did not.

Among those children diagnosed with autism, 88% showed a decline of function (i.e., regression) from an average to above average performance during the first assessments, as compared to those children who did not end up with an autism diagnosis.  In addition, the examiners saw a higher rate of regression than that reported even by parents (88% compared to 69%, respectively), using assessment instrument findings that were based on parental ratings and interviews.  Also, when retrospective instruments were used for reporting (which are hampered by recall bias), incidence of regression was roughly 40%, much lower than that seen in the arguably more accurate prospective study.

The conclusion of this research, the first of its kind, is critically important for future research and further dialogue about the role of genes vs. environment in autism causation.

Out of a sampling of 230 children followed for the first three years of their lives, fully 88% of those who were diagnosed with autism started at average and above average social engagement scores, and then regressed prior to ultimately being diagnosed with autism.  In other words, nearly all of the children followed in the study who developed autism had regressive autism. They were not born with it.

Resources must be allocated to understanding the environmental stressors that cause regression, and to identify the children most vulnerable to these environmental stressors.  Let’s take this new information and use it wisely: acknowledge that many individuals with autism were not born that way, and work to identify any potential environmental exposures that led to neurological and behavioral regressions and a lifetime of disability for these wonderful children and their families.

Brian S. Hooker, PH.D., P.E.

Guest Contributor

Brian has been a member of the Focus for Health Team since 2012 and has more recently joined the Board. He is an Associate Professor of Biology at Simpson University in Redding, California, where he specializes in chemistry and biology coursework. Additionally, Hooker was a Senior Process Consultant at ARES Corporation until 2013, where he worked closely on process design for the environment restoration industry. His design efforts focus on industrial biotechnology and chemical engineering principles. He has a teenage son with autism and has been active in the autism community since 2004.


Michael Delez

The Wild proliferation of childhood vaccination that contemporary children are subjected to should not be overlooked as a primary cause of the ongoing explosion of Autism among young children! These vaccines,now given much more than ever before, in early childhood, contain Mercury and Aluminum,and other health damaging excipients! The whole theory of vaccines as a disease preventative is tremendously exaggerated to bolster profits for the Medical establishment! So imagine the horrid new world we will have as vaccine damage promotes autism to a vast majority of children,as lifelong victims of a gullible society buying Big Pharma and Mainstream Medicos bullshit! Very sad,indeed! Come on ,people;let’s push back and stop this Big Pharma Medical Madness! Victimizing young children by putting damaging toxins into their bloodstream is the worst crime ever! How utterly immoral and STUPID!


I couldn’t say it better. Sadly, I believe as you appear to that Big Pharma has either brainwashed or more likely bought off those making policy. It’s a very scary world we live in where profit is worth more then a child’s life!

Tom Woolf

I agree regarding time to push back. I believe that a revealing confession is to be found in the vaccine safety insert. In the adverse reactions section they invariably mention encephalopathy (autism). The vast majority of medical professionals have not read the inserts, neither have members of the press or members of the legislature. When giving testimony to the Hawaii legislature in April 2018 I mentioned my confusion and asked for clarification of the fact that the public is constantly barraged with “news” of the fact that there is NO link between vaccines and autism yet here it is in print, from the manufacturer no less, that indeed there IS a link. The members of the legislature looked like deer in the headlights and the state director of health looked like she wanted to crawl under a rock.
So now we have the basis for a definitive lawsuit that can include anyone and everyone who is a negligent participant in this most heinous of atrocities commited on our innocent youth for no other reason that pure profit.
It is time to quit pretending who the enemy is and start letting some heads roll. Many people need to be locked away for the rest of their lives. And remember, if you are a paricipant, you can run but you cannot hide.

Beka Martinez

How many of you are aware that fetal tissue from aborted babies has been – and still is being – used in the manufacture of vaccines?

Pamela Dillon

Very good article. I follow your work Dr Hooker.

I would like to be involved in this lawsuit exposing big Pharma and the CDC. How can I be more involved please? I am a single mother of a 12 year old boy with autism. Thank you 🙏🏻

Mike Robbins

Bored, want something useful to do?
Imagine how many parents would be woken up to there legal right’s if all of a sudden on sidewalks and telephone poles etc.. Right as it is is time for enrollment signs appeared saying things like..
Safe, Legal, free.
No shot No School
Is a LIE !!

Find out when Enrollment is at schools in your area and do what’s Right! Please spread this message far and wide let’s make this year count.

Mariska de Wild-Scholten

Among children born in 2004 and 2006, the prevalence of autism had increased from 1 in 68 to 1 in 59. –> Replace 2004 with 2014 and 2006 with 2016. Thanks for your great work!

Michael J Nass

“Among children born in 2004 and 2006, the prevalence of autism had increased from 1 in 68 to 1 in 59, respectively. ”

Is this supposed to be 2014 and 2016? The rest of the data in the article indicates those are the accurate dates as those rates don’t seem to correspond with the earlier period.

George H. Barbehenn

‘Autism’ now has physiological explanation, miswiring of some areas of layers 5 and/or 6 of the neocortex. This is certainly present at birth, even if its origin cannot be traced directly to genetic causes at this time.
Many neurological diseases of genetic origin, are not detectable at birth or even for years after birth, such as Pelizaeus-Merzbacher, largely because the transition from fetal to independent life involves the silencing of some genes, and the activation of others. If the ‘fetal’ genes are not compromised, but the ‘adult’ genes are, then the result may not be detectable early in life. Or the gene could interact with perfectly normal environmental conditions with unfortunate consequences, such as phenylketonuria. Some genetic variations result in the cells poisoning themselves with their own metabolites, and this make take years, or even decades, to express. Likely Lewis body and Alzheimer’s dementias are in this category.
But the above genetic baggage, and there are many more like them, involve detectable changes in the brain, and perhaps peripheral nervous system, that are not present at birth. This is *not* the case for autism.
The exception to this is Aspergers, which in my opinion is not autism, or anything like it. The distribution of Aspergers coincides with the distribution of Homo Sapiens Neantherthalis genes, in the population. The consensus is the primary difference between Neantherthal and Sapiens Sapiens society was the number of individuals in the clan. Neantherthal clans where typically 10 ~ 15 people, approximately two families. Whereas Sapiens Sapiens clans where were typically 150 ~ 200 people. The reason for this is unknown, but it seems reasonable to say that Neatherthal’s social skills, E.Q. if you will, were poor compared to Sapiens Sapiens. Exactly the description of Aspergers today.
I’m not aware of any verification of the changes in layers 5 and/or 6 of the neocortex in Asperger positive individuals, it merits investigation. But it is also interesting that Autism, as opposed to Aspergers, has a very different distribution, peaking in Eastern Asia. Denisovian genes?
The higher incidence in boys, between 4 and 16 times more prevalent than in girls, is easily explainable genetically, but very difficult to explain as environmental in origin. The vaccination rate and environmental stressors are shared equally between boys and girls. On the other hand, females are inherently more valuable. genetically. than males. This is simple fact of the definition of female, the gender that puts the most energy into offspring. This definition is unassailable in mammals. So, there is much more more dynamism in the Y chromosome, as mutations, on the Y chromosome, that are disadvantageous have an imperceptible effect on the continuity of the species. AND, advantageous mutations on the Y chromosome, are distributed throughout the population very quickly. Just do the math, a male with a strongly advantageous mutation can easily have hundreds of offspring. Alleles often swap between chromosomes in the same pair, like the X and Y chromosomes.
A single Sickle Cell Anemia gene confers immunity to Malaria, as does a single Thalassimmia gene, but two causes painful and even fatal consequences. Perhaps, a single Autism gene provides a competitive advantage, we don’t yet understand, *at the expense* of individuals who inherit two genes?
Autism affects the perception of the world around us, hence the attempt to include Aspergers in Autism. People and social interactions are part or the world around us. But, I’m struck by some persons perception of the world around us. From Beethoven, to enologists, to ‘noses’ in the scent industry there are persons with much more sophisticated perception, than the norm. These 6 or 8 sigma skills are often extremely narrowly focused. Single ‘autism’ gene?
We need to accept that our genome is *not* the product of intelligent design, but rather the result of ‘the most good, for the majority of individuals’ and that this process ‘accepts’ (that is it doesn’t select against) occasional unfortunate combinations
There is no downside to continuing to consider environmental interactions, but given the physiological basis for Autism, perhaps a bit more emphasis on pre-natal interactions.

Alexis Keiser

Your lengthy explanation doesn’t provide an explanation for one simple fact: Were autism a single gene trait we would not see an exponential increase in cases, especially when expression of the trait drastically reduces fitness for reproduction.

Tom Woolf

If I understand you correctly………….
1. You are comparing Asperger people to Neanderthals? How elegant.
2. Stop the autism onslaught with more “emphasis on prenatal interactions”? Whatever that means.
3. You seem very caught up with the gene thing.
Lets get a couple things straight. First is we are in the midsts of a raging undeclared autism epidemic. As such that indicates some drastic environmental factor, manmade no doubt. By trying to tie any epidemic to some anomally in the world of genetics is quite remarkable. Never in the history of life on this planet has there ever been an epidemic of bad genes. Genetic changes happen over a long period of time. Autism has been very sudden and neatly coincides with the sudden onslaught of a myriad of vaccinations none of which existed a short time ago. None of which have been proven effective or safe. We are being used and lied to in a giant open field test without our knowledge or consent. This is in direct opposition to the Nuremberg Code of medical ethics resulting in a criminal onslaught against not just mankind but our weakest, most defenseless and innocent segment of our society, our children! And anyone who tries to steer us away from the truth is not part of the solution but a part of the problem. The day of reckoning is closing in fast as more and more people get educated. The full confession of the manufacturers is already in print in the form of the vaccine safety insert. Anyone in government, the media and especially the medical community who continues with the lie of insisting there Is no link between autism and vaccines is going to be held liable. And not just for autism but for a host of other ailments that are all listed on the inserts that have also spiked off the charts since the mid eighties as well. Rest assured, this is the biggest most horrific crime since the Nazi Holocaust. Heads are going to roll and many many people are going to live out their remaining years behind bars. The insanity is going to end very soon or we as a species are very soon doomed.

Jan Woods

Could it be that for all his in depth thinking about autism’s origins, George is unaware of the likely reason for the prevalence of autism in boys over girls? Two main reasons actually. One–the blood-brain barrier is much weaker in boys which allows toxic heavy metals entry to the brain more quickly and completely in boys than in girls, and two–the presence of testosterone increases the effects of those same heavy metals, especially mercury.


A lot of interesting info. Was looking where you mention sickle cell gene and thalmaessmia. I have sickle cell my son with autism has thalassemia and scleoderma. Was told thalassemia was a hereditary blood disorder. Interested to hear your views along with “cross sword ” effect overuse of antioxidants


Even if there is miswiring in the neocortex, the dramatic manifestation of autism still occurs most times after a toxic event. I have had many mothers tell me of how dramatic it is after medication. Autism is a collection of symptoms. It is not yet defined as a predisposition. From what I can gather there are predisposing factors. One of which is the MTHFR gene ( supposedly) which makes it difficult for some people to detox from heavy metals. If we are extra careful to protect those with predisposing factors, such as you are talking about, they neednt manifest with autism. Another alternative could be that what you are talking about could be connected to the unaccounted for 12%. This is why there needs to be honost dialogue. Too many people and their experiences feel like they inconvenience the official “line” and ther profits.


Wow … This is all so interesting! Thank you so much for your calm and gentle and careful explanaition! I love that you are prepared to discuss this explosive topic in this manner.

You make so many good points and you have given me pause for thought, but as I read I realised that conclusions based on certain things that are in themselves opinions rather than fact is where we all seem to be missing each other.

I would be very grateful if you were willing to dig deeper?

George H. Barbehenn

I agree, you’re right, my comments are laced with opinions. But some are facts as well, and in this world of post-truth:
Article on neocortex developmental abnormalities in persons on the autism spectrum:
Articles on distribution and genetic origin of autism: (this website)

The information on phenylketonuria, Alzheimer’s & Lewis body dementias, sickle cell anemia and Thalassimmia are well documented.

Most of my opinion/speculation is related to Asperger’s, with which I have a great deal of personal experience. The genetic or gene/normally benign environmental origin of autism is pretty clear and not speculation. If there is a link to vaccines it is of gene/normally benign environmental origin and prenatal. So, maybe the antibodies from the mom’s vaccinations?
Like for phenylketonuria, identifying such an interaction has value, but unlike phenylketonuria, the damage is done at birth, so the effort should be directed at prenatal causes. Also, why would such an environmental interaction produce 4 to 16 the incidence rate in boys vs. girls? That pattern is closely associated with X linked genetic defects, such as leukodystrophies, where lyonization protects girls from the effects of a single gene.
As for the “what the genes taketh, the genes giveth” argument, I can tell you from extensive personal experience that I believe this to be true. Many, perhaps the greater majority of people with aspergers share an uncommon ability to extract patterns from even the noisiest dataset. An almost purely intuitive, and hence error prone, skill that is at the core of human success. Einstein may have used deductive reasoning to pose his mental experiments, but he used intuitive reasoning to postulate his answers. Intuitive reasoning uses the pattern to complete the dataset. Deductive reasoning is stuck without enough information. The price is that if the pattern is not as identified, or the wrong pattern is identified, the dataset may be ‘extended’ incorrectly. For example, prosody in aspergers is almost invariably because the word’s accent doesn’t follow the pattern, People with aspergers need the word to follow the pattern, and mispronounce it.
This is a complex subject, but I think the evidence supports that autism genetic is in origin, or perhaps a gene/normally benign environmental interaction prenatally.
I believe that autism is probably caused by two or more genes, as it has characteristics of both X linked and homozygous inheritance.
I believe that aspergers is distinct from autism. That autism is a perceptual disturbance, while aspergers seems to be a trade off between using considerable resources for facial pattern recognition, and using those same resources for generalized pattern recognition.

That’s as much detail as I’m wiling to go into, on a public forum. And clearly the majority of my points are opinions, so take them for whatever value they may give you (and the usual dose of salt). But the proverbial sports metaphor of ‘giving 110%’ will not solve this mystery. It is well to remember that people are exceedingly complex, and that such complex problems are solved by careful understanding, not by jumping to conclusions.
And, likely such complex problems won’t be solved soon, so revel in your talents, but remember your faults before passing thinking less of others for theirs.

Alexis Keiser

I think what you are missing is the effect of sex hormones on development and response to certain toxicities. Prenatal exposures to many things can up the risk of autism in the offspring such as maternal vaccination and other immune provocation. That the stage is set to some degree doesn’t mean that regression at 12-18 months isn’t occurring in a majority of cases. That it happens more often to boys is not evidence of X linkage in this case total cases are increasing exponentially!


I’ve always thought Aspergers was distinct. Not in origin. Manifestation. I’m sorry but: “It’s autism just without the speech delay”? Nono nooooo. Same origin, though.

Genetic? Sure. A Multifactorial genetic condition. Immune mediated. Not prenatal, with the exception of maternal haemophilus B exposure.

It’s not the MMR. Autism prevalence appears to correlate with the MMR but realistically, it’s about a decade off. I think it is the 1st dose of the MMR, namely the “R”, if coinciding with either last dose of HepB or Hib dose 3-4. Autism correlated with HepB & Hib more so then MMR.

HepB is confounding the vaccinated:unvaccinated data. Most parents will say “not vaccinated” before knowing that HepB is part of the standing orders in birth centers.

Synaptic pruning makes sense. I am ASD with 2 savant skills; atypical Hyperlexia & perfect pitch. I am not “smarter” but I may have 6 pathways for the written word compared to neurotypicals 1 pathway. Same for auditory processing.

My 14 year old son is severe ASD with perfect pitch. Some sounds (whistling) are painful to him. Schizophrenia = too much pruning. When I think of synaptic pruning I think of gardens.

The NT garden is an elegant & maintained garden of colors balanced with non-invasive leafy greens.

The garden of Autism is the dense & tangled yet blooming briars that shrouded Sleeping Beauty’s castle for 100 years.

The garden of Schizophrenia is the hedge maze pictured in Stephen Kings “The Shining”.

The garden of Alzheimer’s is the kapok tree root covering Ta Phrom Temple (Angkor Wat Cambodia).

Autism is not a Pharma conspiracy anymore than vaccines are a Pharma commodity. Vaccines are a government-owned biologic.


You are born with autism, it does not develop after birth. The *symptoms* develop, the disease does not. This article is assuming a lot, especially about the regressive symptoms. That is how autism works. Just because they dont show signs in the first year doesnt mean they didnt have autism, it just means that their symptoms hadnt begun to show yet.

Completely unscientific garbage, probably written by an antivax moron.


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