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April 6th, 2011
05:19 PM ET

On the Brain: Inside autism

Welcome to the autism edition of "On the Brain." April is Autism Awareness Month, so naturally there's been a lot of recent discussion of this mysterious developmental disorder.

New research in Pediatrics this week showed that most medications don't work for autism, and it's unclear who will benefit most from early behavioral interventions. The hormone secretin has been shown to be ineffective for addressing the core issues of autism, along with most antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants, stimulants and other medications for hyperactivity. The antipsychotics risperidone and aripiprazole may have some benefit, but have powerful side effects, and more research should be done on them, experts tell CNN.

In the United States, 1 in 110 children have autism, which encompasses impairments in socializing and communication. It seems that , wealthy kids are more likely than poorer children to receive an autism diagnosis, a study in the American Sociological Review found. That means there are most likely many children, especially those who have milder forms of autism spectrum disorders, who are not accounted for, the authors said to HealthDay via U.S. News reports.

People with autism appear to use their brains differently from those who do not have the condition, and researchers at the University of Montreal have found that the autistic brain seems to have more highly developed areas involved in visual information processing, the BBC reported. But that comes at the expense of brain regions controlling decision-making and planning; there is less capacity for those areas in autistic brains, they found.

Mobile apps have also reached the autism community. An iPhone app called MyVoice comes up with words that might be useful based on a person's current location, so that he or  she can communicate easily and quickly. It is currently available for free download, CBC News reports.

Look out for a special CNN Health feature on Friday about the perils of raising a child with autismwho runs away without warning.


soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. Anne McElroy Dachel

    It is hard to understand how CNN can focus on autism, saying that one in every 110 children has the disorder, including one in every 70 boys, and not give us one possible explanation for why this is happening to our children. The average viewer has got to be asking where all the autism is coming from.

    We've had two decades of the press calling autism a mystery, as the numbers reached epidemic levels.

    This discussion didn't call for answers or express any real concern over the jaw-dropping rate of one percent of our children. In the 1970s, the autism rate was one in 10,000 and hardly anyone knew what it was. Today everyone knows someone with an autistic child but officials tell us there's no known cause. Please note that no one has ever been able to find a comparable rate among adults and that simple fact should be scaring us all. Will CNN still be calling the autism rate "striking" when it's one in 10 children?

    Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism

    April 6, 2011 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Happygirl2

      I believe it's a combination of factors, including genetic predisposition, environmental contaminants (pollutants), harmful ingredients in the products we use, and harmful food additives. It may be many different disorders with different causes, all under the same "umbrella." Now, if only they could pinpoint at least SOME of the causes, as they have done with a few types of cancer. You're absolutely right; we need some answers!

      April 7, 2011 at 05:57 | Report abuse |
    • Heather

      I have theories that I would like to see pursued, but I'm just a mom with no medical degree. I am certain that autism is something that a child is born with. I knew something was wrong with my son when I brought him home from the hospital. Less than two days after his birth I had him in the ER – He wouldn't curl his body around mine to nurse and seemed to pull away from my physical contact. Because I'd weened my daughter only 7 or 8 months earlier, I knew what a nursing baby was supposed to feel like. All the attention and money aimed at the immunization angle angers me because it's diverted away from what strikes me as the truth.

      My grandfather displays Aspie tendencies as do my father and his older brother. They are all engineers, brilliant men, what used to be called an absent minded professor. I was an unhealthy child. If it weren't for modern medicine, I wouldn't be alive. My pregnancy with my son was rough. If it weren't for modern medicine, he likely would not be alive. I honestly believe that the reason we are seeing an uptick in autism is twofold – 1) more frequent diagnosis due to awareness (and also many cases which are not true austism) and 2) better medical care is improving the chances for those who are autistic or carry the genes to survive.

      April 7, 2011 at 08:47 | Report abuse |
    • Randall Arnold

      A little research reveals the answer easily. Autism is indeed a genetic condition, and inheritable. In the past autistics were called "eccentric" and rarely married. In recent times, highly-functioning autistics have been drawn to high-tech centers such as Silicon Valley, where they (we, actually, because I am one) meet others and marry. This concentrates the genes involved, often resulting in children at a lower-functioning level. So you're basically seeing the result of people finding mates who in the past (before information age) might not have.

      April 7, 2011 at 09:15 | Report abuse |
    • Mom to 3

      You can hardly blame CNN for not knowing the cause, when most doctors don't even agree. My son is an Aspie, he is a great kid who skipped a grade in school and is on the academic team. His little brother introduced himself to a group of neighbor girls that go to the same school as my Aspie son. My Aspie son's only response was "oh great, now they will talk to me at school". I think it is genetic, because we several just like him in my family. Interestingly enough, the Aspies all have some common physical features as well.

      April 7, 2011 at 09:30 | Report abuse |
    • chefdugan

      Unfortunately one reason is parents in denial. They don't understand how widely varied autism symptoms are and don't want to admit their child might be "different".

      April 7, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse |
    • Trisha Sheppard

      I agree with you 100%. I have an autistic son and there is NO DOUBT in my mind it was caused by vaccinations! My son changed overnight after his MMR shot – stopped speaking, making eye contact, etc. My son's life and our family's lives changed in an instant after that day. Sadly, we were told by EVERY doctor – except one – that the vaccination was most definitely the cause. I didn't need verification, I already knew.

      April 7, 2011 at 10:31 | Report abuse |
    • Heather

      Mom to 3, I too see the Aspie/Autistic physical resemblances. My son looks a great deal like a far lower functioning child I grew up with. I can typically spot ASD with ease. Not only are there the delicate elfin features, but the marked lack of flexibility. My son can not even reach his knees bending over which is something considering my husband is so flexible that he can turn his legs backwards and I can do the splits in my mid 30's.

      I know the immunization people hate to hear it, but a shot can't change a person's physical features! There may be a subset of children who have a condition similar to autism that may have been brought on by a reaction, but it's not the same thing.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:09 | Report abuse |
    • Rocksor

      @ heather

      Elfin features? Really? Autism has affected different races around the world, and I highly doubt elfin features are a common characteristic.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse |
    • Rocksor

      @Randall

      Yes autism is a genetic condition. But not all genetic conditions are inherited from parents. Genetic mutations can occur during fetal development, which can be caused by the environment. The parents don't have to thave the autism genes in order for their child to get autism. There is a study on it in the Journal of Nature on it, here's a snippet.

      "Genetic data were collected from 1,000 people with autism spectrum disorder and 1,300 from individuals without ASD. Researchers found those with autism had more genetic insertions and deletions–called copy number variants or CNV–in their genome than those who did not have the disorder. Some of the variants seemed to be inherited while others appeared to be new, meaning they were found only in the affected children, but not their parents."

      April 7, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
    • mother of four

      For what it's worth–and I don't expect this to be the answer for everyone–there's been fairly recent research that indicates a link between autism and oxygen deprivation at birth (interesting reading–google it if you get the chance). In fact, another study demonstrated that 50% percent of children diagnosed with Asperger's suffered from oxygen deprivation at birth. In my son's case, I am confident this is the cause. Sometimes I wish we'd known enough at the time to sue the doctor (who lost his license a few years later due to gross malpractice).

      He is eighteen and doing well (graduating from high school next month with straight As and wants to go to prom this weekend–stag, but he's going). However it's been a long haul and the first twelve to thirteen years were the hardest (irrational melt downs, lifelong food jags, stressed every time something changed, lonely not knowing how to make friends nor accepting advice that would help, obsessing over things that no one else could relate to . . .). Hang in there.

      April 7, 2011 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
    • Randall Arnold

      @Rocksor

      I agree. I was trying to explain the rise. The evidence strongly indicates that as we autistics enjoy a higher opportunity of producing offspring, the result is more autistic children. Should be no surprise to anyone.

      Yes, mutations are another factor, but I believe that the Information Age enabling more of us to be parents is the largest one. I know I'm just one data point, but I would have never married had I not found a compatible geek girl (and produced two autistic children). There are millions more just like me. ;)

      April 7, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse |
    • Father of Autisic 7 year old

      One very important fact that you are missing about the rising number of children with autism is that the definition of what classifies as Autistic spectrum disorder has expanded since 1994. It now includes PPDNOS, Aspergers, High functioning Autism, classical Autism (which was 1 in 10,000). Based on my experience and family history many of my adult relatives would have been classified on the Autistic spectrum but there were no diagnosises back then. Most of these children will adapt just fine to society as they develop and very few traces of the disorder may remain in adulthood. Look up all of the famous and successful people in history that some now believe were autistic.

      April 7, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
    • James

      I believe that it's largely genetic. I fall somewhere on the mild side of the HFA/Aspergers spectrum and I suspect my dad does as well. We're both engineers, and having spent the last 14 years working in tech I can say there are quite a few of us in this field. If I had to guess, I would estimate that 80% of engineers are somewhat autistic, I don't think it's appreciably more common now than it was before, we just have more names for it and diagnose cases that would have been glossed over in the past.

      April 7, 2011 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
    • Sharon Murphy

      @ Heather – regarding the flexibility, many autistic children suffer from Hypotonia, or "loose floppy joints", more than they suffer from Hypertonia, or being rigid. The inability to move the way you do might not be for the reasons you surmise. Perhaps there are motivational issues, scoliosis, vertigo, other health concerns...and surely you and your husbands flexibility was not gained instantly, but through years of exercising and "practice".

      April 7, 2011 at 17:17 | Report abuse |
    • Brainiac5

      The reason no one can figure out the cause of the autism "epidemic" is likely because there isn't one. It's sad that the media doesn't explore this angle at all, instead choosing to exploit fear inducing statistics that are truly meaningless at the expense of mothers searching for reasons and people to blame for their child's condition. When the diagnosis of autism was changed to the bigger umbrella of "autism spectrum," and include a range of lesser understood diagnoses, it was natural that the rate of diagnosis would increase. Before I was born, there was no such thing as Aspergers, and it was included in the count. That doesn't mean it didn't exist.
      I am 41. I test as high functioning Aspergers – but I've never allowed myself to be diagnosed. I never thought of my behavioral idiosyncrasies as anything abnormal until I was in my mid 30's, when my cousin was diagnosed with more severe autism. The her sister was diagnosed as high functioning Aspergers. She was 14. The her mother, in her 50's. Then my aunt, in her 60's, my uncle, over 70. My grandmother DECEASED. The adults all have college degrees, including MDs and Phds – they NEVER would have been diagnosed as autistic twenty years ago. All of these add to the rate of autism, but aren't actually new cases. And it's pretty easy to see a genetic connection – multi-generational, and some people born and raised before plastics and even vaccinations, in different states.

      There are no doubt environmental factors that can contribute to the development of autism, and those need to be better understood. But overwhelmingly, autism is a genetic disorder. I understand why parents don't want to accept this. There is both the guilt that they may have been able to prevent it, along with the anger that they want to direct at the cause. And the media exploits that fear and anger. But both from my personal experience as well as the evidence I see from the scientific community, it's likely there is nothing to blame but nature.
      I am not a stooge from the pharmaceutical companies. I am not unread on this topic. I am not without personal experience. I do not have an axe to grind. Please consider this when and if you respond to my comment.

      April 9, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
    • dx2718

      They can't tell us what they don't know. They could make up possible reasons, but they'd just be unconfirmed hypotheses, and it's dangerous to speculate in public where lots of people will take the theory as fact and act based on it. Just look at how many parents denied potentially life-saving vaccines to their children because of the "link" with autism that was later proven false. CNN is being careful by not giving information it doesn't have.

      However, I do wonder, given the frequency being higher among "wealthy" families than among poor ones, whether it has anything to do with parents' age. There are far more older parents now than there were in the 70's, especially due to advances in fertility technology. I'd love to see a statistical analysis ruling out parents' age (or showing a correlation) as a potential risk factor for autism.

      April 24, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse |
  2. Kevin Byrne

    I suggest you look at our exposure to electromagneitc radiation as a major cause of autism. Our increased use of wireless tecnology such as cell phones, wi-fi networks and digital cordelss phones and a dirty electrical power supply are all likely culprit.

    April 7, 2011 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • IronCelt

      I'm glad to see someone offering a plausible explanation of a new presence in our lives that corresponds chronologically with the rise in autism. Obviously, multiple factors are involved, and in all likelihood, some people with ASDs may have been more affected by one cause than by another. What is so disheartening is to see some people here denying the existence of an explosive growth in ASDs. Surely the people who in previous generations were merely shy or odd but still functioning just fine have, with the mysterious new environmental factors, become the severely autistic. I see the generational shift in my own extended family.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse |
    • Lasciel

      If you want to talk about correlations, how about poor nutrition. The rise in fast food consumption also mirrors the rise of autism in both wealthy and countries on their way up the economic ladder. There have been studies that show that poor nutrtion (specifically lack of fruits and veg) can cause genetic mutations in the egg and sperm. There is a lot prenatal and preconception focus on women's nutrition, but nothing on the fathers-to-be.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Pirates! That's whats causing the increase in autism! The worldwide increase in pirates has correlated significantly with the increase in the rate of autism. Bingo!

      April 7, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse |
    • Brainiac5

      Electromagnatic radiation HAS been looked at extensively as a health risk. It's not.

      April 9, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse |
  3. Ben

    Let's cite the Beatles "Love is all "They" need". This is not an illness, not a condition. Money hunting labs have tried to convince parents that their kids needs drugs to "cure" autism. This is not true. I have a 14 years old Asperger boy, and they only real treatment he has receives is food related. No wheat, no milk and some others real bad food. That's it. Is my son Normal? no he is not, he is special, but he is not sick.

    April 7, 2011 at 09:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Randall Arnold

      As a highly-functioning autistic (Aspergers) I agree to an extent– but I do sympathize with parents of profoundly autistic kids. Must be hell.

      April 7, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse |
    • questionauthority

      Not sick but maybe injured.

      April 7, 2011 at 12:47 | Report abuse |
    • James

      I've found Aspergers to be largely beneficial at least in terms of my career. It definitely makes relationships with "normal" people difficult though, but that's gotten easier since becoming more aware of how "normal" people think. A friend of mine has severely autistic twins though and it's easy to see the hardship that causes. My obsession with light bulbs and engines has always been a little "weird" but never caused any great problems growing up.

      April 7, 2011 at 16:46 | Report abuse |
  4. Alkes

    Aspie syndrome doesnt exist. It's a creation of the profit-driven American Medicine inorder to put everyone in a disorder category. Not everyone makes friends easily, some people are shy, and some are introverts. Now its fasionable to just put 'disorder' on anyone who doesnt act like an all-american sport jock from an Abercrombie and FInch comercial.

    April 7, 2011 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SmKemp78

      @Alkes...until you've had a child who has been diagnosed with autism, then you have no merit to say that "it's a creation of profit-driven American Medicine." Raising a child who has autism is very hard. Heck, being a parent is hard. Please, do some research and talk to other parents of autistic children before you make a judgement like that.

      April 7, 2011 at 09:58 | Report abuse |
    • Jasons

      People who make such comments obviously don't have a child with Autism; they are ignorant. I have a child born 14 weeks premature who is on the spectrum with PDD-NOS and Sensory Precessing disorder. We have another child who is clearly not on the Autism spectrum. The difference is night and day. Alkes – you truly don't know what you're talking about. Only a parent/relative of a child on the spectrum, or an associated medical/educational professional would understand what it's like. You are speaking out of ignorance and dismissing a real problem out of your own personal cynicism.

      April 7, 2011 at 10:18 | Report abuse |
    • collins61

      @alkes. Aspergers was discovered/diagnosed in 1947 and the findings were ignored until fairly recently. You obviously speak from your tail when you gurgle your made up nonsense. It is also obvious you have no experience what so ever in this arena but that will not stop you from confirming your ignorance. .

      April 7, 2011 at 10:42 | Report abuse |
    • Rocksor

      Hmmm... your either a troll or an ignorant idiot. The characteristics that you described are a simplistic view of Asperger's syndrome and a common fallacy. People with Asperger's syndrome aren't really shy or introverts. The social and communicative areas of their brain work completely differently than a NT. There are brain scans to prove it.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
    • mother of four

      Alkes-Where you eighteen years ago to tell me there was nothing wrong with my son? Where were you when he was eight and silently sobbing because all the noise and sight and sounds at the mall were overwhelming him? When he suffered from periods of depression that I could not resolve? Or when he was ten and he built the most amazing fireworks display that all went off without a hitch–all except one and that's the one he mourned over (for hours)? Dang! I sure wish you'd been there to tell me there was nothing wrong with him when I was laying bed at night feeling like a complete failure as a mother because I could not "fix" him.

      And–for what it's worth–it has nothing to do with indulging him or spoiling him or any of that nonsense. I have three other neurotypical boys. We are strict parents and it shows. Even with the one with Asperger's because we didn't believe we'd be doing him any favors if we made an exception for him. They are all good students, well-behaved and were/are "easy" adolescents.

      April 7, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse |
    • Randall Arnold

      It's certainly easy to be an idiot, as @alkes demonstrates.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:08 | Report abuse |
  5. Raj

    Parents should start to look at alternative treatments, I work for a medical facility that does hyperbaric oxgyen treatment in NY. Google hyperbaric Medine of NY. I t should also be noted Hyperbaric treatment with physical therapy has shown improvements with severe cases of autism. I am sure they can arrarange for you to speak with parents that has seen improvements in their children. There are studies that show how hyperbaric oxygen treatment stimulated the brain to help these patients. You don't have read what I am writing, but atleast investigate this treatment.

    April 7, 2011 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • questionauthority

      My wife and I bought a hard chamber about 2 1/2 years ago and we have concluded that it is probably the most effective treatement so far. Its not a cure but it helped my child in so many areas physically and cognitively. The only bad thing so far is a crummy case of glue ear. It eventually went away. We continue to use it. It was expensive but we do what we can.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:16 | Report abuse |
  6. questionauthority

    Of course its genetic. Most if not all conditions have a genetic component. But you must rember this is an epidemic and there are no genetic epidemics. Genes change like clockwork. You can show this in a map of the genome. but when the occurance in Autism changes from 1 in 10000 to as much as 1-96 in just 30 years you must look for other causes. You cant simply hang your hat on the "more frequent diagnosis" theory it just doesn't fit. For those parents who have Aspie children, please remember that the vast majority of those diagnosed with Autism aren't just quirky. They have serious problems including but not limited to GI, speech, social, motor, decesion making.... the list goes on. I have done my research and quite frankly I feel I am more educated on the subject than many Dr's. Im not an MD but if they gave MD's for Autism I'd have one. So my 2 cents... Autism is an Autoimmune response and has a genetic component. I think Vaccines play a major role weither you believe it or not. Is there a cure? For some.... sure, only a very few tho and even then probably not 100%. Ultimately you must make your child comforatable first then confident, and happy. Autism can make this very difficult. As a parent with an Autistic child I dont care whose toes I step on. I have found that those who violently opposes any "cause" theory is hiding something or trying to protect a particular interest. There is no room for that kind of thinking as far as I am concerned. Wishing the best for all involved in the fight for the truth.

    April 7, 2011 at 10:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kokenki

      The vaccine angle has been debunked over and over, but uneducated non-doctors like yourself are the reason the idea keeps going. You aren't a doctor no matter how much you surf the internet, get over it.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:36 | Report abuse |
    • Rocksor

      @kokenki

      There were only two types of studies pertaining vaccinations and autism.

      1. MMR does not cause autism
      2. Thimersol does not cause autism

      Where did you read that all vaccines were safe and had NO effect on kids with a genetic pre-disposition (aka NT kids)?

      April 7, 2011 at 11:42 | Report abuse |
    • James

      I don't think there has been nearly as great of increase as people suspect. Mostly we just have more names for various personality differences. Looking back, I would bet a lot of big names fit into the autistic spectrum. Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Albert Einstein, Werner Von Braun, read up on them or any other famous scientist or inventor. In almost all cases you find brilliant, eccentric, socially awkward, obsessive, mostly unmarried or a string of failed marriages. Clearly the minds of these people did not function the same as the average folk.

      April 7, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
    • Sharon Murphy

      Genetic – totally agree. My daughter was demonstrating physical movements before birth that are her "autistic" movements today. Before she had vaccinations, or was exposed to any environment but the womb.

      April 23, 2011 at 18:44 | Report abuse |
  7. Trisha Sheppard

    Chefdugan, my comment was in response to Anne McElroy Dachel's comment – not yours – clearly you have no idea what you are talking about.

    April 7, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. collins61

    @chefdugan. Better stick with frying burgers chef. You couldn't be more wrong with your armchair research. Talk about over simplifying, small wonder you're a chef.

    April 7, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Aspie Mom

    Just as some parents have no doubt that vaccinations play a party, I have no doubt that my son's autism is genetic. From the moment he was born I could tell he was different. Every doctor I took him to impatiently explained to me all of the reasons that I was wrong. Well, the "joke" was on them – my son was diagnosed 7 years after my initial appointment asking specifically about autism. For those who think autism isn't real, I'd love for you to spend a day in our shoes.

    April 7, 2011 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • questionauthority

      The assaults on your childs development begins before he/she is born.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:43 | Report abuse |
    • Rocksor

      @question

      Hannah Poling case. She had genetic disorder that brought about autism like symptoms as a result of high fever brought on by vaccinations. Sure, not all children who have autism have her disorder, but there is a possibility that some do.

      April 7, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse |
    • questionauthority

      Dr. Poling is my childs neuro.

      April 7, 2011 at 12:22 | Report abuse |
  10. marshall

    My daughter is austistic like, not otherwise specified....I agree with Randall Arnold about the true cause of autism being specifically related to genetics and even more so agree with the notion that there is a higher probability that people of higher intelligences (people with higher cognitive skills and abilities) are meeting and marrying more frequently in our time then in times past. Because of the higher probability of meeting and coming together, the ratio of 1:10,000 has gone to 1:110. The probability of having an autistic child is even greater when a highly intelligent woman marries and as children. For very smart men or women, it is best to marry someone of lesser intelligence to avoid the possibility of having an autistic child; however, I must say I love my daughter immensely and am glad she is who she is. The fact is, in America, we are free to fall in love with whomever and this freedom has led us down this path. We don't want to change this, but we do need to be more aware and cognizant of how we select a mate. Perhaps someday we will find a genetic cure, until then...the message to those who are considering procreation is to be aware of the consequences and the possibilities. The other day on a show I watched a genius kid age 12 who has been in college 4 years, since age 8 explain higher order math and he was autistic...he was the exception to the autistic rule however. In most cases, autistic children make family life difficult or challenging. God Bless them all.

    April 7, 2011 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rocksor

      Genetic mutations in the right places can cause autism even the most social normal intelligent people to have a child with ASD. There's already been a study to prove that this is occuring (Journal of Nature).

      April 7, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse |
  11. Randall Arnold

    One mistake being made here is a common one: the confusion between causation and correlation. The number of lightweight pop songs has been increasing, too, but don't cause autism. ;)

    April 7, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. autism mom

    I would vote for a genetic cause for autism. My son was obviously different almost from birth. He is now mid-functioning autistic, very verbal but with a lot of self-stimming behaviors.

    My husband and I definitely have aspie traits, as does my husband's father. My brother has very pronounced aspie traits.

    My mother's parents were first cousins to each other. They lived in a rural area of the U.S. and it was not uncommon for relatives in the country to marry one another because the pool for future spouses was not very big. My mother was on the shy side and then my brother and I were both aspies. Then I married someone with Aspergers, and we have a son who is PDD-NOS.

    My theory is that in the early part of the 20th century, and earlier than that, there was a fair amount of marriage between relatives, especially in rural areas. Their children may have been relatively normal, but by the time the next generation came around, Aspergers was showing up, and in the following generation, full-blown autism.

    Remember, years ago, much (or most) of the U.S. was rural, people lived in greater isolation, and marriage between relatives was more common.

    Also, as earlier posters have noted, we now have a lot of Aspies marrying other Aspies, which frequently results in autistic children.

    Studies have shown a higher degree of autism in various ethnic groups that have been somewhat isolated and have married relatives.

    I am not saying genetics is the only cause, but I think it is a huge one.

    April 7, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Aspie mom of 3

      I think that may be a very small part of some of some peoples picture. But I am into genealogy & have gone back many lines several hundreds of years. And don't find alot of too closely related persons breeding together. It may be what narrowed down the genes therefore making them more prevalent in your case, but I don't think this is what "causes" autism. My oldest had a very violent reaction to MMR & so then the Navy wanted to see the reaction for themselves & insisted on giving him more MMR.. stupid young 1st time mom let them..(ME). He has various diagnosis & bipolar is 1 also. My other 2 kid R over 10yrs younger than 1st & have different father, & we have my youngest who is a very sensitive aspie

      April 7, 2011 at 15:22 | Report abuse |
  13. Gina

    I have a 14-yr old son with Asperger's and he also has flexibility issues, but has recently joined the Track team at his High School this year and has also been taking guitar lessons. He has no friends, he's been a victim of bullying, Asperger's makes him different than the other 'normal' kids, I think THAT'S what we need to cure. Is the 'normal' people of the world learning to accept & appreciate people who are different. I think the majority of people in history who've made positive impacts in our world were people who were different. He doesn't seem to have any 'genius' abilities, but he tries hard at the things he does. I also believe Autism is genetic and not caused by vaccinations (that would be too easy). But how do you cure something genetic? But I don't think Autistic people need a cure like the 'normal' people do.

    April 7, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Randall Arnold

      Agreed! Acceptance is the first step.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:06 | Report abuse |
    • Aspie mom of 3

      I have 24 yr old boy, about to turn 11 yr old girl, & 9 3/4 boy. My 2 boys have disgraphia (small motor delay, handwriting processing issues, I believe I had that too). My youngest son has flexibility issues as well as large motor delays. He still can't hop, skip, ride a bike (w/ or w/ out training wheels), jump rope, runs but it just looks funny. etc. He also doesn't color or due crafts do to the difficulties. Yet this young man maxes out testing tests so is smart just has alot of issues. He also has alot of meltdowns, is overly into his stuffed animals & baby dolls etc. He is on zoloft, risperdone & many drugs for his autoimmune stomach issues.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
  14. Karen Delaney

    I would love a cure for autism and I hate the fact that my son has it – I hate it that he hits his head until he bleeds and puts holes in the sheetrock. I hate it that he's never asked one single question in his whole life. I hate it that he's never had a friend, never been invited to a birthday party at at 13 years of age – he's never had a girlfriend. I hate it that I can't leave him alone and that he doesn't sleep through the night. Many people lately are fighting and arguing about autism as if everyone with autism is quite high functioning. Try getting accepted in a teen group when you are severely impacted by autism and may hit other children or the adults....I need services, I need medications and I need some step towards a cure and yes! I want future cases like my son's to be prevented. It's not all that it's cracked up to be in my view!

    April 7, 2011 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marie

      Karen Delaney – God bless you. I have a little boy with autism, and I am grateful every day for the small things that he does that parents of "typical" children take for granted. Your post is proof in my mind that not only does there need to be help for our children, but for the parents and siblings too. Society can be very judgmental of situations like ours, that they couldn't possibly understand unless they lived a day in our lives. This can leave us feeling isolated and alone. And it comes from so many directions – it's difficult financially (I live in a state where insurance companies leave you on your own for therapy), emotionally, it strains a marriage....know that you are not alone.

      April 7, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse |
  15. Tina

    In response to the comment about "why is this happening to our kids?" : There IS no outbreak of autism. There have ALWAYS been that percentage – or higher – of people with autism in the population. Autism afflicts just as many ADULTS as it does children. A mission needs to be taken, to count and help these adults. Many adults on the autism spectrum, such as my sister who was diagnosed at age 37, have not had the luxury of getting a diagnosis as children, but they definitely exist.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. dr2mom

    I find that Dr. Doris Rapp's theory might be on the right track. She is a highly respected doctor who some years ago was able to connect children's behavior with environmental allergens and other environmental causes. All those who are pregnant or are considering getting pregnant should take a look at this.http://drrapp.blogspot.com/2009/07/prevent-autism-in-your-unborn-child.html

    April 7, 2011 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tina

    Autism is a matter of brain wiring, not environment., and there is NO "outbreak". Look in the engineering and tech fields. There are just as many adults with autism spectrum disorders as there are children with it.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. orange_ct

    I can see why rich people are more likely to have their kids get and autism dx. My daughter is highly fuctioning with Asperger's and I had to jump through hoops to get a diagnosis. In order to get into the clinic for the doctor to see I had to pay them $3000 up front and it wasn't covered by our health insurance. By the time I saved up the money she was already 18 years old. She really wanted to know why she was so different, she said she had always felt that way so I pursued it. Now we have our diagnosis which is great but since she was already an adult there wasn't much help to be had as we found all the programs target younger children to give them coping tools. She had developed these all on her own. In hindsight I see that both my ex-husb and I display some mild Aspergers symptoms and I guess that she just got a " double dose" .

    April 7, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Discerning Mom

    Karen D.-my heart goes out to your son, yourself and your family. No one could ever understand your life until they've walked in your shoes. Your post illustrates that point-there's been a lot of debate here, but a clear understanding of how to help-and-prevent-is desperately needed. I wish you and your son the best.

    April 7, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Linda

    The etiology of autism is still unknown and is not a genetic condition. I have an 18 year old son who was diagnosed when he was 6 years old as a High Functioning Autistic w/ intellect intact and Aspergers. He presented all the symptoms of Autism and Aspergers when he was 3 years old. We took him to several doctors when he was 3-5 years old, and doctors want him to take medication. We refused to put my son on a medication. My late husband was an OB & GYN doctor,and we finally took our child at Texas Children Hospital for a thorough medical study, evaluation and treatment when he was 6.The medical director performed DNA studies, chromosomal studies,X- factor studies, blood work, MRI and , psychological, neurological studies etc...very thorough. Both parents were negative for abnormality in our genes. We never give medication to our son, but part of the intervention was the Occupational and Physical therapy. The occupational therapy helped my son to improve his motor skills, social skills, emotional, psychological difficulties etc...Now, my son is doing very well and continues to attend the adult therapy. He is a computer genius.

    April 7, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Sharon Murphy

    As well as “Silicon Valley Syndrome”, better medical care ensuring the survival of children born with autism and the many co-morbid diseases that seem to go with it, there are also many other causes for the perceived increase in diagnosis rates.

    A diagnosis of autism in your child, even 20 years ago, carried with it the stigma of being a bad parent. It was widely believed that autism was caused by parental, specifically maternal, rejection. It was much easier to bear a diagnosis of “retarded”, and be treated like it was something he was born with, than “autism” and be treated like it was something you caused.

    We are less likely to shunt off an autistic child into a home and pretend they never existed to our family, a la Rainman, nowadays. Proper diagnosis goes a log way to proper treatment. Autism is not misdiagnosed as schizophrenia or mental retardation or a host of other things as often anymore, though it can certainly occur alongside these conditions. Today, we are more likely to embrace the differences that make a child autistic, and learn how to teach them to succeed.

    Have you ever considered that it’s an evolutionary step? Many many people with autism are savants. So many in fact, that it has become a stereotype of autism. You can’t say; “My child is autistic” without someone asking what their Savant Talent is. Not every child with autism is a savant, but a significant enough number to create a stereotype. That’s impressive. Many other people state that their autistic friend or family member, or self is a genius at a particular thing, whether it be computers or math or something else, because the autism lets them see things in a different way. Perhaps autism is an evolutionary step in specialization. I do not think it is something that should be “CURED”. What an awful thought. I would not wish to cure Motzart, Ghandi, Pascal, or Galileo of their genius, either. Theirs was a new way of thinking. As is autism.

    April 7, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. TheLeftCoast

    There's a great book called The Fabric of Autism by Judith Bluestone, who pioneered a whole protocol of treatment for autistic kids.

    April 7, 2011 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Jean

    I agree that there is a genetic component to autism. You have to be ignorant not to see the connection. However genetics alone does not solve the puzzle or is it completely the answer. I have learned in my long life, 72 years, that in nature the answer is often times much simpler than this. When my grandson was diagnosed with autism eight years ago, I began a reading crusade to find out why this was all happening.
    I wish I could tell you I had found the answers for the dramatic increase, but I have not. I have found that it is not an increase in the accuracy of diagnosis. That is just hogwash. Something real is happening, a real increase. The best I can offer is this. Back in 2006, I read the best explanation for an increase in autism. The writer stated that in our efforts to decrease spina bifida we were actually increasing autism. That the folic acid supplementation in our cereals and prenatal vitamins was causing accelerated memory in the fetus and then this was not nature’s intention. This then began a host of problems for the fetus. This learning was not supposed to occur in the womb, so those with autism develop differently. Not wrongly, just differently. The writers name was Doug Arone, but I can’t remember the name of his book. This made the most sense to me.
    One more thing. All this bickering and putting another down is not what this forum is for. Age has taught me to respect the views of other, whether you agree or disagree.

    April 7, 2011 at 17:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Tina

    Contrary to some people's misconceptions, the incidence of autism spectrum disorders has NOT increased. What HAS increased is the number of people being diagnosed with it because diagnostics has gotten better. There have ALWAYS been a high number of autistics and Aspies around. It just wasn't known until fairly recently because the diagnostics were not there until the 1990s. Think about it. Every day, wherever you go, and whether you know it or not, you are encountering adult Aspies. It is the truth.

    April 8, 2011 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. TH

    Autism absolutely IS genetic. There have been autistic / Aspergers people in THREE generations of my family.

    April 8, 2011 at 10:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Teresa

    We do know what causes "Autism". If you look simply at the symptoms-and research what causes those symptoms, you'll come up with a very long list of known substances in our food, water, air, cosmetics, drugs, etc. (Among other environmental factors.) So there is that big clue. A real probability; more a certainty. So then why are "we" so resistant to the very real possibility that there are environmental poisons causing brain malfunctions such as Autism and whole spectrum of symptoms it entails? Not only that but Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, Schizophrenia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Depression, Attention Deficit Disorder?

    Well for one thing 10 to 20 times more $$ are spent trying to find a genetic cause rather than an environmental one. Let's think about that. Drug companies stand to make millions if not billions if they can develop a drug to treat a genetic disorder. What do people think CAUSES genetic disorders? How did that come about? Accident?

    What if the solution to so much of this sickness doesn't really require millions of dollars in research, animal testing and all that expense and ugliness? What if dug companies really don't even need to get involved, well meaning as they obviously are? What if we can do what only hippies used to do? The "D" word: DETOX. Remove known substances from the body known to cause BRAIN disease? There are numerous proven ways to do just that; zeolite clay being just one of them.

    And remove them BEFORE pregnancy. So the next generation is born without brain addling chemicals, as it's been proven to occur. These neurological poisons are passed from the mother to the baby via the umbilical cord. Check this out with an open mind: http://www.ewg.org/kid-safe-chemicals-act-blog/kid-safe-chemicals-act-10-americans-video/.

    The real reason so many don't even think of it? They're too toxic to see their own toxicity. Since I personally have done a lot of detoxing, it's much easier to see the effects of toxins in other people.

    April 10, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Daniel Haszard

    Schizophrenia drugs like Olanzapine are risky and are frequently give *off label* I was prescribed Eli Lilly Zyprexa for PTSD and suffered permanent health damage.

    Eli Lilly's #1 cash cow Zyprexa drug sale $38 billion dollars to date has a greater risk of causing type 2 diabetes over the non-user of Zyprexa. So,here we have a conflict of interest that this same company also is a big profiteer of diabetes treatment.
    -
    Daniel Haszard Zyprexa victim activist

    May 3, 2011 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Lori

    My 14 yo son is an "aspie" and is doing well thanks to the anti-psychotic drugs. He was on risperidone and is now on aripiprazole due to the long term side effects of risperidone. He will tell you that he can communicate better and think more clearly while on medications. He is also on Zoloft for anxiety/depression and ADD medication. He's an A and B student and doing well. Without the drugs he would not be able to function normally.

    As a parent I had to weigh my options on whether or not to medicate. It was a very, very hard decision to make. I encourage other parents to weigh their options carefully and always do what is best for your child. Just like every child is different, every case of autism is different.

    May 8, 2011 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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