What causes autism?
There is still no scientific cause of autism. But, it is known to be genetically transferred, meaning that genes play a role. Research is being conducted to see if infections at birth or the surrounding environment such as exposure to certain chemicals (not the emotional environment) have a role to play. Some genetic links to autism include the development of tuberous sclerosis, a disease which is occurs due to the mutation of the TSC2 gene and causes benign tumours in the brain and other vital organs as well as and fragile X syndrome, a condition that causes a range of developmental issues affecting one’s learning abilities and causes cognitive impairment.
At one time, the administration of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine in childhood as well as the use of thimerosal, a preservative found in some vaccines, received worldwide coverage as a possible link to autism. However, both epidemiological and biological studies conducted over the years do not support these claims.
Are there certain risk factors associated with autism?
There are certain risk factors that may increase a child’s risk of autism:
- It is believed that if the mother or father is older than the normal child bearing age as directed by their doctor, this could increase their child’s risk of autism.
- If a pregnant woman is exposed to chemicals or specific drugs, her child may be more likely to have autism. This includes consuming alcohol while pregnant, as well as having a metabolic condition such as diabetes or obesity.