The exact causes of autism are unknown. Research suggests that there may be several different autism causes. Theories about possible autism causes include genetics, environmental toxins, infections, and even vaccinations. Current research suggests that autism may result from a combination of causes.Genetic Causes of Autism
Autism runs in families, so genetic causes have long been suspected. A number of genetic markers have been linked to autism, such as Fragile X syndrome (a genetic marker carried on the X chromosome) and Angelman’s Syndrome (a genetic marker of chromosome 15).
Clear genetic causes of autism are, however, not present. Instead, it appears that genetic markers increase the chances of autism. External causes, such as infection or environmental toxins, may “trigger” the disorder in genetically susceptible individuals.
Rubella and Others Infections
Infections during pregnancy, or in the first years of life, have also been suggested as autism causes. Congenital rubella, HIV, and herpes simplex have all been suggested as possible autism causes. While the number of cases in which direct connections have been made between autism and infections is small, enough cases have been reported that infection is considered a possible cause, especially when combined with genetic markers.
Environmental autism causes include a number of chemicals and toxins. The sheer number of possible environmental toxins makes research into possible environmental causes an arduous project. As with infections and genetic markers, no one environmental toxin can be found that explains all autism cases.
The Vaccination Debate
Adverse reactions to vaccination have been suggested as a possible cause of autism. Proponents of the vaccination theory claim that the rising incidence of autism is due to vaccination programs. Several clinical trials have investigated a link between vaccination and autism. To date, no concrete evidence establishes a connection between the two. However, vaccination has not been ruled out as a possible cause for a very small number of autism cases.
The Cold Mother Myth
Over the years, a number of possible autism causes have been disproven. Chief amongst these is the “Cold Mother” theory. For many years, autism was blamed on a lack of nurturing and love on the part of the child’s parents. Mothers were prescribed therapy to get to the root of their supposed resentment and “hate” for their child. The theory caused many parents untold pain, and completely neglected treatment for the child. Sadly, many people still believe this outdated theory.