Causes of Autism This Emotional Life on PBS

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Autism

		

Who experiences autism?

Autism occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups and is four times more likely to occur in boys than girls.

No two people with autism learn, develop, and experience life the same way. Adults and families with children on the spectrum struggle daily with the challenges of autism spectrum disorder despite not knowing what causes it, knowing there is no cure, and sometimes wondering if it could have been prevented. Many of these families still make time for advocacy, pushing for more funding, more research, and more support. Many also participate in the autism community to try to better understand what they and others are experiencing.

Causes

What are the causes of autism?

No one knows for sure what causes an autism spectrum disorder. Researchers are pursuing the answers, and the body of research is growing, but there is still no clear answer to the question, “How does this happen?”

Autism spectrum disorders are not one disease or disorder but rather a collection of different disorders with many different causes. Research has established that genetic factors play a key role as contributing causes of autism. Other research has show systematic differences in sizes of specific brain structures in people with an ASD.

Researchers also believe that both genetic and environmental factors play a role. Researchers are exploring a wide range of environmental factors, including prenatal factors, toxins, diet, and others, but at this time evidence for these factors is less well established compared to genetic and neurologic factors.

Autism & vaccines

Autism and vaccines

There are many unanswered questions about causes, treatments, therapies, and issues related to autism spectrum disorders. One of the controversial areas of autism research is whether there is a link to vaccinations. Newsweek reported on the controversy with an extensive article in early 2009.

So far, research has not demonstrated a link between vaccines and autism. Researchers continue to explore whether some children might have underlying medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to an adverse reaction to a vaccine.

It is clear that the risk to children of serious illness from skipping immunizations is well documented. For this reason, current recommendations are to vaccinate children.

Find Help

Locate mental health and well-being support organizations in your area.