Friday, October 7, 2011

Controversial Causes of Autism

While the definition of Autism is basically clear, the causes aren't. Autism is a developmental disorder that starts either at birth or during the first years of childhood. Treating Autism is crucial in order for a child to develop the ability to interact normally with other people. Autism is about 20 times more common than experts initially thought that it was. However, there is no clear consensus among them about the actual cause(s) of Autism. That said, there are various (debatable) theories about what causes the disorder. Here are some of them:

1. Genes

It is unquestionable that genetics is a major factor of Autism. However, the composition of the genes that result in Autism is quite complex, and medical researchers aren't 100% certain about which genes result in the disorder. Recently, scientists uncovered the first important connection between Autism and a person's DNA. The study involved about 1,000 autistic people, and 1,200 non-autistic people. It revealed that autistic children typically have about 20% more Copy Number Variations (CNVs) in their DNA makeup, than non-autistic children do. This discovery could result in the improved diagnosis and treatment of Autism. For example, by understanding how the nervous systems of autistic children develop differently than usual, the hope is that new and better treatments will be available for them. While this new development in promising, researchers admit that they'll need several more years to understand fully the link between CNVs and Autism.

2. Joint Attention

This involves a person's using gazes or pointing gestures when observing a particular object or event. It's important to note that different Joint Attention behaviors are observed in different children with Autism. One theory is that autistic children use Joint Attention as often as non-autistic children do, although via different methods.

3. Mental Retardation

Another controversy involving the causes of Autism are related to mental retardation. A commonly held belief is that the majority of autistic people are also meet the clinical definition of mental retardation. However, that perception is somewhat questionable. Studies show that the percentage of autistic people who are mentally retarded can range from about one-fourth or three-fourths. The reason for the large variance is due to the challenge of evaluating the intelligence of people with Autism. Some experts suggest that standard intelligence tests are heavily language-based, and that those tests that evaluate one's ability for abstract reasoning are better at gauging the intelligence of autistic individuals.

4. Vaccines

There is some strong clinical evidence indicating that vaccines could be one of the primary factors that have caused rates of Autism to increase 1000% in the USA since the year 1990. For example, a study in the USA indicated that children who received a particular type of vaccine (with a preservative called thimerosal that's extremely high in mercury) were about 200% more likely to develop Autism, than children who didn't receive the vaccine. Thimerosal has also been linked to learning disabilities that have resulted from Autism. Many researchers also point out the number of vaccines for children has increased significantly during recent decades. They note that certain substances in them could be having an adverse impact on a child's immune system, thus resulting in higher rates of disorders such as Autism.

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