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Trump Calls Autism Rates 'a Horrible Thing to Watch'

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In a roundtable meeting with educators and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday, President Donald Trump remarked that the “tremendous increase” in autism rates is “a horrible thing to watch,” a statement that is both false and harmful.

During the introduction portion of the meeting, Trump asked a principal for students with disabilities in Virginia if she’s noticed an increase in autism rates. The principal replied that she has, to which Trump asked, “So what’s going on with autism? When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really — it’s such an incredible — it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase. Do you have any idea? And you’re seeing it in the school?”

While the principal correctly answered Trump’s question, saying approximately 1 in 68 people are diagnosed with autism, it’s important to note a higher rate of autism doesn’t necessarily mean more children are on the spectrum. It means more children are being diagnosed – something the medical community is able to do better now than it could decades ago when autism rates were reportedly lower. Trump saying an increase is “a horrible thing to watch,” also demeans the autism community, implying that having more people on the autism spectrum is a horrible thing.

This is not the first time Trump has shared his opinions regarding autism. In January, Trump supposedly appointed Robert F. Kennedy, a known vaccine critic, to chair a vaccine safety commission. Trump has also tweeted and made false statements about vaccines and autism, a connection which has been disproven repeatedly.

You can watch Trump’s comments below (starting at 5:38). 

Originally published: February 15, 2017
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