97 Percent of Children Are Not Gifted and Do Not Have Autism or Peanut Allergies

97 Percent of Children Are Not Gifted, Do Not Have ADD, Autism or Peanut Allergies

According to numerous studies and expert organizations, only between 2-5% of children are “gifted,” have “autism,” or are afflicted with “ADD” or “ADHD.” Roughly the same number of children suffer from peanut allergies. Isn’t it amazing, then, how it seems that 95% of parents say their child falls into one of these groups? It is nearly impossible to meet a parent today who doesn’t seem to think their child is gifted or needs some sort of special treatment at school due to being “on the autism spectrum,” being “highly gifted,” or having “dangerous allergies.”

Many times, the mental/psychological diagnoses go hand in hand, and it is not uncommon for parents to state that their child has been diagnosed as falling on the autism spectrum and being highly gifted or having ADD/ADHD.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, the diagnosis of ADD/ADHD has risen a whopping 41% in the past decade and the diagnosis of autism has risen an astounding 72% in the last four years alone. Peanut allergies have tripled in the past decade. What accounts for this drastic and enormous upswing in such diagnoses?

When it comes to autism, according to Dr. Allen Francis, the phenomenon is due to extreme over diagnosis, and is occurring simply because it’s popular:

The apparent epidemic of autism is in fact the latest instance of the fads that litter the history of psychiatry. We have a strong urge to find labels for disturbing behaviors; naming things gives us an (often false) feeling that we control them. So, time and again, an obscure diagnosis suddenly comes out of nowhere to achieve great popularity. It seems temporarily to explain a lot of previously confusing behavior — but then suddenly and mysteriously returns to obscurity.

Francis says that half of the children who have been labeled autistic don’t actually meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder. He also says that many diagnoses are handed out by people who don’t have proper training, and who mistake certain behaviors in children as meeting the diagnostic criteria when the behaviors are actually normal. He also explains the problem is caused by “widespread publicity, Internet support and advocacy groups, and the fact that expensive school services are provided only for those who have received the diagnosis.”

Psychiatrist Paul Steinberg says the over diagnosis problem in ADHD is the result of “too little science” and that the phenomenon causes too many bad consequences, such as children who do not have Asperger’s being labeled as being “on the spectrum,” which can lead to low self-esteem and poorer performance in school.

According to a German study, ADHD is over diagnosed in at least 20% of children due to a failure on the part of clinicians to adhere to accepted diagnostic criteria, while Psychology Today reports that the over diagnosis is caused by a large variety of factors including the pushy nature and greed of pharmaceutical companies.

It’s not just the mental/psychological disorders that are being over diagnosed; a recent study showed that peanut allergies are also being over diagnosed. According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, inaccurate blood tests are the main culprit, and after testing the same “allergic” kids on actual food, 84-93% of foods the kids had been avoiding were able to be implemented back into their diets.

Setting all the expert opinion and studies aside for a brief moment, even anecdotally, it seem that a tremendous amount of kids are called “gifted,” “autistic” “ADD” or “allergic” by their parents when in reality, all of these classifications are extraordinarily rare. Experts are in agreement that all of these groups are drastically over diagnosed, so when will parents start to catch on?

Everyone wants to be special in some way, but labeling normal children as gifted, autistic or allergic when they’re actually just expressing normal variations of their personality is not a good way to achieve a “special” status. Similarly, dragging them to the doctor for all sorts of blood tests because they scratched their arm one day after eating peanuts verges on ridiculous.

Does this mean that actual autism, giftedness, ADD and allergies should not be taken seriously? Not at all. There are absolutely very real and authentic cases of all of these catagorizations, and children who really do fall into one of these categories need special consideration. However, the amount of children who can actually be put into one of these groups is about the same amount as people who have Von Willebrand Disease. Never heard of it? That’s because it is incredibly rare. The next time someone says their kid is gifted, has ADD/ADHD, autism or a peanut allergy, take it with a grain of salt.

By: Rebecca Savastio

(op-ed)

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23 Responses to "97 Percent of Children Are Not Gifted and Do Not Have Autism or Peanut Allergies"

  1. Bob   September 9, 2014 at 2:06 am

    the amount of logical fallacy and irony in Fatima’s post of off the charts.

    Reply
  2. Bob   September 9, 2014 at 1:58 am

    Richard, the fact your daughter has an allergy is her burden, not the rest of the world, its your job as parents to protect her, not everyone else, I’m shaking my head the the ridiculous reasoning you put forth that the rest of the world somehow owes you and your daughter any special treatment.

    what about the fact peanut butter is a cheap and nutritious food? and many parents find it economically agreeable to send their child to school with a PB&J sandwhich, are you going to pay to feed their child with ham instead? or should everyone just pay more money because your daughter was born with this problem?

    Reply
  3. Sara   September 5, 2014 at 8:25 am

    This article INFURIATES me. How dare you.

    Reply
  4. Richard Dazington   June 4, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    It’s people like you that have caused our daughter, who goes into anaphylactic shock on exposure to even trace elements to peanuts, to visit the ER twice in the past year.

    Please update this article and remove this line “peanut allergy, take it with a grain of salt.” It is because of people like you that I get comments like, “oh, but it’s just peanut butter, it doesn’t have peanuts”, or “I was really careful! I picked all the peanuts off of it before giving it to the kids” about home made food that people bring in for treats for the kids at school.

    You very well could be influencing someone to ignore instructions and wind up killing an adult, child, or toddler. Horribly enough, you possibly already have.

    I’m shaking at anger with this article.

    Reply
  5. Angela   April 4, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    In the past few years, people with food allergies have been granted protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act. So viewing someone’s child with a life-threatening food allergy with skepticism is legally in the same ballpark as viewing someone’s child with limited mobility (e.g., confined to a wheelchair) with skepticism (c’mon kid, stand up).

    I am not aware that you can die from Autism or ADHD (other than maybe having an accident; my nephew with Autism has wandered off before and my son with ADHD has broken a wrist from jumping off the bed), but you sure can die from ingesting a food you are very allergic to. It’s difficult enough to communicate the severity of a child’s food allergy to another child’s parent when you attend a birthday party; these parents do not need something in print making light of this condition.

    Reply
  6. Lily   February 4, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    My mother is the K-12 TAG coordinator of a medium-size school district. She says the administration requires at least 30% of students to be served by the TAG program. This is in a district where most of the families are blue-collar workers with large numbers of low SES immigrant workers. Median standardized test scores in math and reading fall below national 30th percentile. Compostie scores of students identified for TAG are typically in the 60s and low 70s, though there are a few students (less than 2%) who consistently score in the 95th percentile or above. 70% of the students in the district also qualify for special ed. programs according to scores on state-mandated standardized tests. Only about half the kids who qualify for special ed, according to state guidelines, are receiving services due to lack of funding and resources. Now, this is not to imply that brilliant minds can never stem from humble beginnings or that students with learning disabilities can not be very bright. But, intuitively, it seems a lot less likely that 30% of her district’s students are truly gifted than, say, if she were in a district loaded with kids whose parents are engineers and college professors.

    Reply
  7. mia   December 9, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    I am not sure where I stand on this issue. as a new mom of a healthy happy baby, and grown woman who, as a child, was dragged by her mother to innumerable therapists, homeopathic docters and psychiatrists because I was “hyperactive” had candida,anxiety, ADHD, was “borderline autistic” and somehow, at the same time, incredibly brilliant. All of which was completely untrue. my mother was looking for explainations for my behavior that did not include my reaction to hers. and it was terrifying! At the time I was convinced that I was hopelessly messed up and dying and unhealthy. was I hyperactive? yes. was I rebellious? yes. was it a reaction to the grain, cheese, sugar, meat additives or raspberry seeds, pineapple, apple peels, honey and unsprouted beans? or was is a reaction to my mothers hysterical behavior? I know beond a shadow of a doubt that if I ever did have food allergies that caused my “misbehavior” i certainly don’t have them now. After browbeating even experienced doctors into diagnosing me with these things my mother eventually came to the conclusion that it was not food allergies, autism, candida, anxiety, or ADHD, but demonic possession of our house that caused my poor behavior. She asked the leaders and members of her church to come pray over the house and suddenly after 3 years of blood tests,10 different medications, pollen masks every time I stepped outside, and losing half my body weight from my mother’s restrictive diet I was magically cured of all ailments from that day forward. Contrary to what you may believe this is not an isolated incident. I knew other children, their parents friends with my mother, that went through similar experiences. i think that the author of this article stated her point in an insensitive and dangerous manner but her skepticism at heart is REASONABLE. This is not to say that the incidence of allergies and autism are not skyrocketing. They are. And that should be take very seriously. Counless unavoidable pollutants fill our sky, our water, and the earth beneath our feet. Imunizations, antibacterial soaps, poisonous body products, cosmetics, and food additives are now standard and they can be detrimental to the health of our little ones and adults as well. but my mother’s paranoia is the only thing that was detrimental to me. Maybe I was lucky.

    Reply
  8. jillwahl   October 30, 2013 at 8:48 am

    “The next time someone says their kid is gifted, has ADD/ADHD, autism or a peanut allergy, take it with a grain of salt.” Worst statement I have ever heard. If I tell you my kid has a peanut allergy and hand you an Epi-Pen – believe me. You are misinformed if you think for a second a parent would WANT their child to have a food allergy.

    Reply
  9. Jon   August 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm

    Rebecca,
    I am curious what the purpose of writing this post was, and I’m curious what training you may have regarding any of these areas (I’m not saying you don’t, I’m just curious because you don’t make any such representation). It seems like you wrote it because you are “fed up” with hearing parents say their child has a certain issue. However, trying to correlate all of these types of diagnoses into the statement “next time someone says their kid is gifted, has ADD/ADHD, autism or a peanut allergy, take it with a grain of salt,” is irresponsible journalism at best, and truly indefensible.

    For one thing, saying each diagnosis involves 2-5% of children and then failing to add those percentages for your apparent thesis is just sloppy. Second, I’m not sure where you got your facts, but the latest I’ve seen say 1 in 13 kids under 18 have food allergies. There are more than 2.25 million kids (under 18) in the U.S. There are more than 300,000 ER visits per year by children solely for food allergy reactions, according to the CDC. Food allergies are the leading cause of anaphylaxis. I cannot speak to experience with AD/HD or autism, but I know parents of kids who have these afflictions, and the last thing I would do is chalk it up to “misdiagnosis.” They’ve been through a lot of pain and hard work to help their child. I feel relatively certain that’s more than you have done.

    As the parent of a child who has numerous allergies, including being anaphylactic to five different foods (including peanuts), your article displays a gross lack of understanding of the seriousness of the condition. Until you have experienced an ER visit where a doctor is discussing possible intubation of your grade schooler, or until you’ve had to stick your young child with an Epi-pen as they try to scream from the pain (if they can breathe enough to be able to scream), you do not have any reasonable perspective to tell everyone to “take it with a grain of salt.” Whether it is your intention or not (and I hope it is not), telling other parents not to believe a parent who says their child is allergic could actually cause a child to die. It’s that simple. And tacking on a hurried comment that “hey, there are some kids who really have these conditions, and they should be taken seriously” just makes the rest of the post seem worse. You’re saying (1) take the “real ones” seriously, but (2) you shouldn’t believe any parents who say their kids are the “real ones” because you chose a couple of studies that show they might be misdiagnosed.

    I do not know you. I have nothing against you personally. I do have a problem with an uninformed post with sloppy logic possibly convincing someone not to believe me when I tell them that my daughter could stop breathing if she touches a peanut (or an eggshell, or milk, or bread), particularly when it has happened 5 times in 9 years despite being as vigilant as humanly possible. This is why you have touched a nerve with those commenting, particularly on the allergy issue. Your article is not only not helpful, it is directly hurtful for those of us trying to keep our children alive.

    Reply
  10. Kendra Tiedemann   August 23, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I agree with the author’s concern regarding over- and improper diagnosis for all of the conditions listed. However, I strongly object to the closing suggestion that the announcement of a child having one or more of the diagnoses with a grain of salt. Should physicians looks closely to determine proper diagnose? Absolutely! But outside of a physician’s office, this suggestion is insensitive and potentially dangerous.

    Given the author’s lack of credentials, I think that I will choose to believe parents and leave the doubting to physicians that have access to medical records for each child in question.

    Reply
  11. Cara   August 23, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    We must be specialy blessed or cursed or just very rare. My oldest not only has a peanut allergy (diagnosed by 2 allergist and through many reactions to cross contamination) but also has ADHD and is gifted (both diagnosed by a physiatrist after testing). Honestly, I don’t know why anyone would say their kid is any of the above just for show. Having a kid with any of the above isn’t fun and not something people just do.

    You do realize 1 in 88 children have autisim right? 1 in 17 have food allergies (includes all food). And that both have tripled in rates in the last 10 years. Something’s going on, we just haven’t figured out why all of these kids are getting sick – is it enviorment, chemicals in our food / air / life, our overuse of antibacterical products? Who knows, but yeah not something most parents fake.

    Reply
  12. Lolly Gaggins (@LushusLolly)   August 23, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    Thanks for making my job as the mother of a child with a severe peanut allergy, MUCH more difficult. Comparing an allergy that can kill in a matter of minutes to a behavioral disorder like autism or ADHD is beyond ludicrous! Is that shy, special needs, or overactive kid going to DIE from accidentally coming in contact with a food that is everywhere? Next time I’m in the hospital parking lot, waiting for the Benadryl to kick in, the hives to start to dissipate, and debating whether to inject him with his Epi-pen while I’m running him into the ER…I’m going to blame YOU Rebecca, because its your way of thinking that makes being a severe allergy parent infuriating! Now anyone that reads this is going to think the parent is just being overprotective and will risk exposing my son because they “read some article that said we just want our kids to be…special” I have no doubt that peanut allergies have tripled in less than a decade thanks to GMO’s and vaccines. Until you have to hold down your baby so an allergist can put 20 or more holes in your kids back, just to confirm they have a deadly allergy you already knew about, I suggest you keep your generalized judgements to yourself.

    Reply
  13. Karla   August 22, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    You are clueless. My child has allergies. I have to carry an Epi-pen every where I go because he can have an allergic reaction just from his body temperature getting over heated! Do you understand how powerless a parent feels in a situation like that! I do not wish it upon my worst enemy. Allergies are complex some children out grow them some don’t. Please do some research before you misinform others.

    Reply
  14. Pud   August 19, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Plain and simple, why is someone as ignorant as her given a public forum like this?

    Reply
  15. Fatima   August 16, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Btw, all my kids are off the charts gifted! Carnegie Hall composers, athletes training with olympians and regional spelling bee champs! So there!

    Reply
  16. Fatima   August 16, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Rebecca, you’re obviously sick and tired of being told you’re the worst possible sort of friend. Instead of spewing your venom on the Internet and failing to back up any of your insane claims (in addition to the FACT that you’re not a licensed medical practitioner or scientist), leave your ranting and raving at home where no one can see your bad behavior.

    I hope your child never needs medical help. Just because it inconveniences you to not send a sandwich slabbed with peanut butter in a plastic pouch, why should other allergic kids suffer? Lazy women like you need to learn to cook to feed their families. Only then will you know what it means to actually care!

    My child HAS Autism, Peanut Allergies AND Von Willebrands. SO DO I. Would you like my menstrual details? Do you even know what an Epi-pen is? Have you ever missed an hour’s sleep in your over-indulgent life?

    Insensitive morons like you affect our lives everyday, and it’s people like you who live with their heads in the clouds with disgusting self-serving attitudes who are the biggest threats to our children’s lives, not their afflictions. People can survive anaphylaxis IF murderers like you aren’t around to ignore their choking to death.

    REBECCA – Just because you can access a keyboard doesn’t give you the right to ruin lives with misinformation. Shame on you!

    Reply
  17. JP   August 16, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    http://templegrandin.com/

    Reply
  18. Rebecca Savastio   August 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Dawn, I think I have a rather clear understanding of the fact that it seems every parent today has a child who is gifted, has autism or some sort of problem that requires special attention. It is impossible for every parent to have a child with one of these issues when 97% of their children actually don’t. If anything, the outrage should be directed at those who cry wolf and not the people who point out this phenomenon.

    Reply
  19. Rebecca Savastio   August 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    Sometimes as a writer, certain comments make me wonder whether the person has actually read what they are commenting about. This is one of those times. “Does this mean that actual autism, giftedness, ADD and allergies should not be taken seriously? Not at all. There are absolutely very real and authentic cases of all of these categorizations, and children who really do fall into one of these categories need special consideration.”

    Reply
    • Dawn   August 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      “The next time someone says their kid is gifted, has ADD/ADHD, autism or a peanut allergy, take it with a grain of salt.” Hard to misread or misinterpret this conclusion.

      Rephrasing to clarify the idiom: The next time a parent claims their child is advanced, or has a serious, life-altering disability, first view that claim with skepticism and doubt their truthfulness.

      Real helpful advice there to those millions of families who have children with “authentic cases”. Sometimes as a reader, it makes me wonder if the writer even understands the subject they are opining.

      Reply
  20. Dawn   August 12, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I don’t know that I’d call 1 in 88 kids “rare”, exactly…. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

    No parent of a child with autism WANTS their child to be on the spectrum. Instead of blaming parents …yet again – can we say STIGMATIZE??… for their child’s diagnosis, why not look to pesticides, vaccinations, GMO, and all the other government approved chemicals Americans put into their bodies? We’d better damn well take the current EPIDEMIC of autism, ADHD, developmental disabilities and allergies seriously. I’m not even sure what the point of this article was. Waving it all off as some mostly parentally-labeled “fad” is doing a HUGE disservice to our diagnosed children who suffer greatly without support. Shame on you.

    Reply
  21. Susan   August 12, 2013 at 6:43 am

    UM…thanks for telling people to take my child’s LIFE THREATENING anaphylaxis (big word-look it up!) “with a grain of salt”. Your clueless and your sources are out dated and useless. I’ve watched my child suffer in the ER from her multiple life threatening allergies. People like you make our lives THAT much more challenging. 1 bite could kill my child-be grateful you’re one of the few who don’t have to live with.

    Reply

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