An engineer who knew children with autism once told me: “If one in 100 smartphones didn’t work properly, the production line would be studied systematically, and the problem would be eliminated in a month. We need to respond to autism in the same way: find the source of its dramatic increase and eliminate it—and give our children a better chance.”

In the mid-1960s, one in 10,000 U.S. children was diagnosed with autism. By 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that one in 88 children had the disease. Two years later, the CDC found a nearly 30% increase: in 2014, one in 68 U.S. children had autism.

In 2021, one in 44 eight-year-old U.S. children (2.3%) have been identified with autism. In California, one in 26 (3.9%) has autism. Boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with the disease.

One pediatrician’s story

In 2006, California pediatrician Dr. Toril Jelter observed that a two-year-old boy who had been in her practice since birth had delayed speech, high-pitched screaming and anxious behavior. During office visits, he hid under Dr. Jelter’s exam table and would not make eye contact. He was eventually diagnosed with autism. An indirect test suggested that mercury was an issue—perhaps because the mother had eaten lots of mercury-laden fish during her pregnancy. (She’d hoped that the fish oil would make her baby smarter.)

As a treatment for the child’s autistic behavior, a biochemist proposed chelating (eliminating) mercury. The parents asked Dr. Jelter to monitor their son during this treatment. She declined: she’d never heard of such a treatment. Current standard of care recommends speech therapy and reinforcing good behavior.

The family left Dr. Jelter’s practice and found another pediatrician who was willing to monitor their son during chelation.

Three years later, the family visited Dr. Jelter again. To her astonishment, the boy—then five years old—made fantastic eye contact with her and spoke normally. He had friends and performed above average in his classroom without an aide. “If one child can recover from autism,” Dr. Jelter thought, “so can many more.”

Starting with a call to the biochemist, Andrew Hall Cutler, Dr. Jelter began researching environmental and integrative medicine. She learned that exposure to electromagnetic radiation (EMR) from wireless technologies can impair a person’s ability to expel toxic metals. In environments with less EMR, children with autism excrete greater amounts of mercury.

Dr. Jelter reviewed hundreds of scientific studies and found that symptoms of heavy metal toxicity are similar to symptoms of EMR exposure. She also saw an overlap between pathology found in children with autism and pathology caused by EMR exposure. Scientists can get curious with an overlap of one biological dysfunction. She saw an overlap of fifty—including genetic alterations, retina optic damage, increased inflammatory reactions, immune shifts, genotoxicity, increased oxidative stress, altered fetal development and increased auto-immune risks—clear signs that more research is warranted.

As first-line therapy for families with a child with autism or ADD, Dr. Jelter developed an EMR-reduction protocol and began offering it to families in her practice.

Dr. Toril Jelter’s two-week Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR) Reduction protocol:

  1. Turn off the Wi-Fi router at night for at least 12 hours. For Internet access, use a CAT 5 or 6 ethernet cable.
  2. Unplug all cordless (DECT) phones. Keep all mobile devices at least six feet from children and off in the car. (If both parents agree, do not expose children to any wireless technologies for two weeks.)
  3. Turn off the electricity to your child’s bedroom at night at the breaker box if you can do so safely. Keep a flashlight beside your child’s bed. (Note: if your home has a “smart” digital, transmitting utility meter, avoid being near it for prolonged periods. If your state’s regulations allow, request a mechanical-analog meter—not a digital one.)

Before beginning the trial, parents need to evaluate their child’s sleep quality, behavior, mood and speech. Find a checklist at the Autism Research Institute’s website.

For a simpler evaluation, name three of your child’s biggest problems, and rate them from zero to ten. (Zero means no problem; ten means the worst imaginable.)

After the two-week trial, evaluate your child’s behaviors again, then compare the two lists. If parents do not notice an improvement in behavior, Dr. Jelter suggests that the family return to their original electronics usage, and again rate the child’s three main problems from zero to ten. If no effect is observed, EMR may not be contributing to the child’s illness. Or, the home’s EMR exposure may be so high that moving to an area with less EMR may be the only way to calm behavior. Consider hiring a certified EMF consultant or building biologist to assess EMR exposure at home, school and in the car.

Of course, diet also plays a key part in children’s health. An incorrect diet can increase a child’s vulnerability to environmental exposures. Optimal nutrition can increase a child’s resistance to such exposures. The supplement to 2010 Journal of Pediatrics reports that 40-80% of children with autism have difficult-to-diagnose gastro-intestinal problems.

Andrew Goldsworthy, Ph.D., retired lecturer in biology, Imperial College, UK explains EMR exposure’s impacts on children’s brain development. Some genetic forms of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) can be accounted for by known mutations in genetic coding for ion channels that result in an increased concentration of calcium in neurons. This can lead to neuronal hyperactivity and the formation of sometimes inappropriate synapses, which in turn may lead to autistic behaviors.1

Just after birth, a child’s brain goes through an intense period of becoming aware of new sensory input, like recognizing his or her mother’s face, her expressions, and eventually other people and their relationships.2 During this process, the neurons in the brain make countless new connections, and the brain stores what the child learns. Connections that are rarely used are pruned. The patterns that remain could become fixed into the child’s brain. This pruning process is completed by the time of sexual maturation.3

If the child is exposed to radiofrequency (RF) fields during this pruning process, the production of too many and often spurious signals will generate frequent random connections. These will not be pruned, even though they may not make sense. Because the pruning process in children exposed to RF fields may be more random, these children—who may have more brain cells than the rest of us—may lack the mindset for normal patterns of social interaction. This may then contribute to the various autistic behaviors.

Like mobile phone signals, Wi-Fi signals can also cause cell membranes to leak and calcium ions to flow through them in a relatively uncontrolled manner.4 In the classroom, this may result in children’s brains losing the ability to concentrate.

Further, EMR from Wi-Fi, cell phones and antennas may affect the body like electric night-lighting—and inhibit melatonin production. Melatonin is a sleep hormone and a powerful antioxidant. It can reverse oxidative stress that results from radiation.5

While scientists explore further how EMR exposure reduces melatonin production and study whether EMR-induced oxidative stress contributes to autism—along with many other questions—we ought to first, do no harm to our children. Consider Wi-Fi an impediment to learning, rather than an aid. Also, Wi-Fi may be particularly hazardous to pregnant teachers, since exposing a fetus or a very young child to EMR may prevent normal brain development.6

Because of genetic and environmental variability, not everyone will suffer the same symptoms. Some may not suffer at all. For the sake of those who do suffer, Wi-Fi is not a good idea in schools—or anywhere else for that matter. For a healthier choice, choose wired Internet access.

Case studies

One of the first families to try Dr. Jelter’s EMR-Reduction Protocol had a four-year-old boy with autism who had slept poorly for two years. At night, he climbed into his parents’ bed. So, his parents had not slept well for two years, either. Within the first week of their EMR reduction trial, the boy slept through the night in his own bed. (Because wireless radiation can lower melatonin, the sleep hormone, it can disrupt sleep.)

After two weeks, the pediatrician prescribed this child a multi-vitamin and pharmaceutical-grade, molecularly-distilled fish oil. His appetite improved, and his bowel movements became regular. Dr. Jelter thought this was most likely the result of lowering EMR exposure, since it usually takes longer than two weeks for supplements to result in significant change. Or, the combination of reduced EMR-exposure and supplements may have improved his health.

Later, the boy’s poor sleep returned, and he climbed into his parents’ bed again. His mother thought he’d eaten too much sugar for Halloween. Then she learned that her older child had re-activated their Wi-Fi router. Once the Wi-Fi router was turned back off, the four-year-old’s sleep improved again, and his behavior calmed. Within two months of reduced EMR-exposure and taking the supplements, the boy’s cognitive abilities improved two grade levels.

Another family had an aggressive, non-verbal ten-year-old boy with autism. Every night, he ran around the house, screaming from 10 pm until 3 am. His mother suffered from a seizure disorder. Because this family lived on a military base with high levels of background EMR, Dr. Jelter doubted that the protocol would help. But the parents decided to try part of the protocol. At night, they eliminated their Wi-Fi router and unplugged their cordless phones.

Within three days, the boy’s aggressive behaviors decreased; and for the first time, he spoke a complete sentence.

Motivated, the family eliminated all of their wireless technologies 24/7. Dr. Jelter also prescribed pharmaceutical-grade, molecularly-distilled fish oil for this boy. After three weeks, his nightly screaming stopped. His speech, digestion and sleep continued to improve. His anxiety—and his mother’s seizure disorder—both decreased.

We can all be researchers

“As researchers explore possible environmental contributors to autism,” Dr. Jelter says, “they’ would be remiss not to include EMR exposure. Our children’s agitated behaviors signal that we need to use technology more safely. Meanwhile—as many telecom providers add 5G, another layer of wireless radiation throughout our schools and neighborhoods—there’s no harm in a two-week EMR-reduction trial.”


1 Hawley, T. and M. Gunner, How early experiences affect brain development, (2000).
2 Huttenlocher, P.R. and A. S. Dabholkar, Regional differences in synaprogenesis in human cerebral cortex, J. of Comparative Neurology, vol. 387, no. 2 (1997): 167-178.
3 Egglias, J. et al, Dynamics of Pruning in Simulated Large-Scale Spiking Neural Networks, BioSystems, Vol. 79 (9); 2005.
4 Pall, Martin, Electromagnetic fields act via activation of voltage-gated calcium channels to produce beneficial or adverse effects, Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, 6-26-2013.
5 Lerchi, A. et. al (1991), Pineal gland ‘magnetosensitivity’ to static magnetic fields is a consequence of induced electric currents (eddy currents), J. of Pineal Research, 10: 1009-116.
6 Krey, J. F., Molecular mechanisms of autism: A possible role for Ca2+ signaling, Current Opinion in Neurobiology, vol. 17, no. 1 (2007); 112-119.


“Autism and EMF? Plausibility of a pathophysiological link—Parts 1 and 2” by Dr. Martha Herbert (pediatric neurologist at Harvard Medical School) and Cindy Sage (co-editor of BioInitiative Reports) in Pathophysiology, 2013. has a brief video with Yale Medical School ob/gyn Dr. Hugh Taylor about the effects of in-utero cell phone exposure on children’s behavior.
Buie, T., Evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of GI disorders in individuals with ASDs: A Consensus Report, Pediatrics, 2009-1878c.
Dunckley, Victoria, MD, Reset Your Child’s Brain: A Four-Week Plan to End Meltdowns, Raise Grades and Boost Social Skills by Reversing the Effects of Electronic Screen-Time, New World Library, 2015.
Mallery-Blythe, Erica, MD, Children, Radiation and Health, Excellent talk from a British MD.
For a Spanish translation of this article, see Como tranquilizar a los niños con autismo e hiperactividad.
At Zone'in, Canadian occupational therapist Cris Rowan has resources developed for children to balance tech time with movement and time in nature.
Simonson, Stewart D., Evidence for increased autism due to electromagnetic pollution from high power high gain microwave antennas, 4/15/18, Revision 5.
Singer, Katie, Inviting Discussion about Safer Tech Use in Schools, 2.7.17.