This really is the loaded question, isn’t it? What, exactly, causes autism? Well, the theories are many and some are more wacky than others.
Here are some of the recent things I’ve stumbled across in the news as being the “cause” of autism:
- Circumcision (seriously)
- Poor maternal bonding
- Advanced parental age
- Non-stick cookware
And so on.
Let me say this here, now, and loudly: THERE IS NO CURRENT EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER THAT SHOWS THAT VACCINES OR COMPONENTS IN VACCINES CAUSE AUTISM.
I was recently asked at a birthday party if I thought getting Simon vaccinated caused his autism. The question wasn’t asked with malice or judgement, I don’t think; the person was just genuinely curious as to my thought on the subject. My understanding is that she has some friends with kids on the spectrum who believe vaccines caused it. My answer, unequivocably, was ‘No’. Vaccines did not cause Simon’s autism.
I’m sure everyone is aware of the controversy surrounding vaccines and autism. If you’re not, then feel free to google Dr Wakefield and his fraudulent study from 1998. It was shoddy science and it caused untold damage to untold numbers over the years. Because this study initially caused a panic amongst parents and was also being spouted by certain celebrities (*cough* Jenny McCarthy *cough*) as gospel, many parents refused to vaccinate their children and still, to this day, will not vaccinate for a long list of reasons. I am not going to use this platform to debate vaccinations, except to say that I have vaccinated all my children on the schedule recommended by their pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatrics and will continue to do so. I know people whose children have had severe reactions to vaccines, are allergic to vaccine ingredients, or are immunocompromised and, as such, cannot receive vaccines. I understand that, as with any medical treatment, vaccines are not without some risk. Autism is not one of those risks.
Once again, let me say, I do not believe that vaccines caused Simon’s autism.
So what DOES cause autism?
Well, no one knows for sure. Current research seems to point to a genetic predisposition towards autism and an environmental trigger. There are studies that show that brain changes may happen well before birth. Autism also tends to run in families. The CDC shows that in the case of identical twins, if one is autistic then the other runs a 36-95% risk of also having autism. For fraternal twins, that’s true up to 31% of the time. Families with one autistic child have a 2-18% chance of having a second child with an ASD. (I’ll repeat these statistics in a different post, so no judgement there, okay?)
Anyway, this recent blog sums all this up far more eloquently than I ever could.
“He’s exactly the way he’s supposed to be.”