First: “autism” is not a diagnosis, but a term used to describe the wide spectrum of autistic disorders, ranging from Autistic Disorder, to Asperger’s, to Pervasive Developmental Disorder NOS.
Second: children with “autism” are, far more often than not, loving, affectionate, and empathic (to one degree or another) especially with their family members.
Third: These children are typically not mentally retarded but, rather, intelligent. However, their language deficits often interfere with learning.
Fourth: the “epidemic” is among the higher functioning types of autism. The rates of children with ‘Autistic Disorder’ have always been, and remain, at about 1-2% of the population. The reason for the increase in rates for these ‘higher functioning’ kiddos (often those diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Asperger’s) may be due to some environmental toxin and that practitioners are now diagnosing children who would have ‘slipped through the cracks’ years ago.
Finally: we don’t know what causes autism, but there is growing evidence that vaccinations don’t. Hope that helps to clear things up. Lets hear your response. God bless.