By F. Edward Yazbak, MD, FAAP
Bernard Rimland PhD was a remarkable researcher and a national & international expert on autism. His interest in the subject started very abruptly, three years after he obtained his Doctorate Degree in Experimental Psychology, when his son Mark was diagnosed with “Early Infantile Autism”, at a time when autism was rare.
Bernie’s passion about autism, its causes and its treatment never waned and he remained a fierce campaigner for affected children and their families until his last breath.
We had many long and interesting discussions over the years, in person and by phone and I learned a lot from him. One day, I asked him about“Regressive Autism” and its recent relative increase. He beamed, looked at me over his glasses and started searching among the many papers he usually carried in his brief case. He appeared relieved when he found a graph he had hand-drawn and that was based on thousands of records he had personally reviewed and tabulated for the Autism Research Institute huge database.
That very simple graph was remarkable. It showed two intersecting lines: A dotted line representing the Regressive Autism cases, with onset of symptoms at 18 months, running for years below the Early Onset Autism solid line and suddenly taking off in the late seventies / early eighties and steadily rising until it intersected the solid line by the mid eighties. By the late nineties, the dotted line was much higher than the other line and Regressive Autismcases represented around 80% of the ARI’s total case-load.
Bernie, clearly very pleased with his graph added: “You are a pediatrician so I don’t need to tell you when the MMR vaccine became widely used in the United States.”