Autism has no cure. Sure, an individual’s condition can be improved, and if he or she is high-functioning, the disorder could be managed so well that observers barely detect it. Yet, on the long list of modern treatments, no magical remedy appears.
This is due, in large part, to the ongoing mystery of autism’s cause. It’s hard to cure something when you have no idea what you’re treating. As a result, those affected often are left treating behaviors and symptoms rather than treating the disorder as a whole.
So do we have any idea what causes autism? Though they search tirelessly for answers, researchers can only speculate about whether the cause is genetic, biological or environmental. Most probably, the answer lies in multiple causes or a mixture of factors that lead to onset.
Nearly everyone in the autism community holds varying opinions about the cause, and nearly every correlation discovered applies only to a small subset of individuals with autism. Please keep this in mind while reading the following list of possible causes.
- Genetics – families with one autistic child are 5 percent more likely to have a second autistic child.1
- Brain development – abnormalities in timing of the growth of the brain and brain structure have been found in some individuals with autism.
- Toxic exposures – researchers estimate 3 percent of all neurobehavioral disorders are caused by toxic exposure, and 25 percent are caused by interactions between environmental and genetic factors.2
- Prenatal conditions – infections during pregnancy, prenatal exposure to certain medications, low birth weight, lack of oxygen at birth and closely spaced pregnancies have all been found to correlate with autism.
- Genetic mutations – 15-20 percent of children with autism have some sort of genetic mutation.3
- Biological conditions – chemical imbalances and irregularities in neurotransmitters, metabolism, antioxidants, or the immune system have been found to correlate with autism.
- Vaccines – due to a scare from the vaccine for measles/mumps/rubella, and the timing of onset in early years, many people believe vaccines are to blame. However, no convincing evidence has been found to support this.
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