What Causes Autism?

A question heard by every doctor when parents learn that their child is Autistic is, “What causes Autism?”  No single definite answer to their question exists.  There are several theories regarding the causes of Autism.  One theory about what causes Autism is that it is primarily genetic.  Many doctors believe that there may be several genes that cause Autism.  These genes have not yet been located, however.  Those who hold to this theory think that the genes cause people to have a predisposition to be Autistic and that some trigger in their environment causes them to actually become Autistic.

Autism is found more commonly in boys than in girls.  A connection between environmental factors and Autism has been found in some studies.  Some people think that pollution and toxins in the air can be a factor in a child having Autism.  Some small towns seem to have higher than normal numbers of cases of Autism.  The one thing that the towns have in common is a large source of pollution.  In most cases the pollution is some sort of factory that releases high levels of toxic chemicals into the air.

Many people believe Autism is caused by the mercury, or Thimersal, used in vaccinations.  Other theories revolve around the thought that underlying health issues cause Autism. Certain diseases, such as conginital Rubella and Fragile X Syndrome, seem to make it more likely that a child will develop Autism.  Still other theories say that metabolic imbalance is the culprit in causing Autism.

Frequently Autism is first diagnosed at about the same time as when vaccinations have been given.  A great deal of research has been done to determine how much of a factor vaccines may be in causing children to become Autistic.  Some of the research has shown that children who were exposed to high Mercury levels were more at risk of having Autism. Critics of this theory point out that most vaccinations today contain very little, if any, mercury or Thimersal. People may be exposed to elevated levels of Mercury by eating a lot of fish or by industrial emissions. Some researchers see a connection between exposure of pregnant women to Mercury and Autism in their children. New studies are underway in which pregnant women are tested to the levels of Mercury in their systems and their babies are tested for mercury levels at birth. Babies with elevated Mercury levels can then be monitored to determine whether problems develop later.

There is a great deal of debate concerning which of these theories is more correct.  Much of the debate centers on whether the evidence suggest that there is a strong connection between the vaccinations a child receives and whether the child becomes Autistic.  The final determination has not been made.  It is certainly possible that there may be greater risks children if they do not have vaccinations.

It was once believed that early emotional trauma caused Autism. Some felt that the blame should be attributed to bad parenting. Some doctors blamed mothers for giving their children too little love and attention. These theories have been shown to be false. Identifying the true causes of Autism will require a lot of additional research.  At this point, no one knows for sure what causes a child to be Autistic. All of the theories are precisely that, theories. Hopefully, doctors will someday understand what causes children to be Autistic.  Then they can give their attention to ways to prevent, or cure Autism.