Autism spectrum disorders can be observed in children younger than three-years old. The symptoms present themselves as impaired social interaction and repetitive behaviors. There are no known biological markers for autism, which makes diagnosis very challenging. While it is known that genetics and the environment both play a role in the onset and progress of autism, it is not clear how these factors work together.
The latest prevalence report from the CDC states that about 1 in 88 children has an autism spectrum disorder. This number is a dramatic 78 percent increase in the rate of autism from their 2007 report. Scientists are trying to find out what is behind this dramatic increase in the rise in autism rates. Part of the increase in the number of children suffering from autism spectrum disorder could be an increase in awareness and improved diagnostics over the last few years. However, this does not explain the rapid increase in number of autism spectrum cases reported. The CDC report also states that the many pregnancy and birth factors including in the study report were unlikely to cause autism. Also, there is no evidence that thimerosal, the compound found in vaccines, causes autism spectrum disorders.
Scientists remain stumped by what is causing this dramatic increase in the rates of autism among children today. The role of genetics and the environment are being studied very carefully by scientists. All the known factors together explain only about 50 percent of the increase.
Many researchers believe that there are previously unresearched environmental factors that may trigger the onset of autism in children. Ongoing studies are trying to identify such causes and shift the focus from the increase in the number of cases of autism to the causes underlying the condition. The hope remains that identifying a cause will bring us closer to developing a cure.
What do you think is responsible for the dramatic increase in the rate of autism? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.