Autism spectrum disorder is a broad range of conditions. It is characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, verbal and nonverbal communication. Scientists are still trying to pin down the primary cause. Because the origin of the condition exists in a grey area, it has allowed people to develop their own causes of autism based on nothing but hearsay.
In this post, we will help you understand the difference between the actual causes of autism and the myths. This will help you to decide if it’s time to contact a birth injury solicitor if you believe this was the cause of your child’s autism. It’ll also help you to avoid falling victim to believing the common myths surrounding the topic. Take a look.
What Are the Myths Around the Causes of Autism?
We’re going to start with the mythical causes of autism before explaining the actual scientifically theorized ones. Some of these, you might have heard along the grapevine over the years, but it’s time to bust them…
Myth #1: Vaccines Cause Autism
Probably the most wide-spread myth on the root cause of autism is that childhood vaccines have a direct link. This rumor has convinced countless parents to withhold life-saving vaccines from their children, making it the most important one to debunk.
The myth began in 1998 when Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a paper stating that the MMR vaccine caused autism. The study looked at a very small sample of children, 12 in total. The large publicity came due to the rapid increase in autism diagnoses at the same time.
Since that paper was published, at least 12 follow-up studies have been done. None of those studies found any evidence that the MMR vaccine caused autism. An investigation into the 1998 study itself uncovered several problems with how it was conducted. This lead to the journal that published the paper retracting it. Wakefield lost his medical license, but the damage was already done. This myth has continued for over twenty years now.
Myth #2: Autism is caused by bad parenting
The ‘bad parenting causes autism’ theory is an old one that was debunked back in the 1960s. This theory was based solely on the fact that cold, uncaring mothers impeded a child’s ability to learn social skills, which developed into autism.
Research has now proven that parenting is not to blame. For the longest time, mothers were blamed for their child’s autism. The damage done by this myth is unimaginable.
Studies are currently being funded to help parents with their autistic children. It proves that parents can improve their already autistic child’s communication skills but that bad parenting itself is not the root cause of autism.
Myth #3: Autism is caused by nutrition
Our third and final global autism myth is that poor nutrition is one of the causes of autism. Many parents put their children on a gluten-free/casein-free (GFCF) diet to prevent their child from developing autism.
While there is no evidence whatsoever that a GFCF diet can prevent autism, there is anecdotal evidence from parents who have tried the diet to help them manage their child’s symptoms.
What Are the Actual Causes of Autism?
Now that we have an idea of what myths surround the topic, it’s time to dig into the actual science and see the more likely causes.
Unfortunately, there is no known single cause for autism spectrum disorder. However, there is a general trend in people with abnormalities in brain structure or function. There are several prevailing theories as to why autistic brains are different, including:
- Genetic vulnerability
- Medical problems
Cause #1: Hereditary
Many families have a pattern of autism or similar disabilities, which gives credence to the idea that autism is hereditary. Scientists haven’t been able to identify one gene as the cause of autism, but they are currently searching for irregular segments of genetic code.
Some children are thought to be born with a susceptibility to autism, but researchers haven’t identified a single ‘trigger’ yet. Other researchers are investigating gene clusters that may interfere with brain development and cause autism.
So, is autism hereditary? Unfortunately, the jury is out until more research has been done.
Cause #2: Genetic Vulnerability
Some links between autism and other conditions suggest a propensity for developing it if you have one. Other conditions linked to the causes of autism include:
- Fragile X syndrome
- Tuberous sclerosis
- Congenital rubella syndrome
- Untreated phenylketonuria (PKU)
Some studies have found all the conditions above to increase the likelihood of a child having autism.
Fragile X accounts for approximately two to four percent of autism spectrum disorder diagnoses. It is identifiable through a blood test (unlike autism) and has similar intellectual symptoms to autism.
Phenylketonuria is a disorder in which the body can’t break down phenylalanine, an amino acid found in most body proteins. This means the levels of the amino acid build-up and can eventually cause structural brain damage.
Cause #3: Birth Injury
Despite the three myths, we laid out in the first section of this post. There are some environmental causes of autism, namely birth injuries.
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in American children, but it’s not the only form of birth injury. A study examining the records of nearly 600,000 births found that complications during childbirth could increase the risk of autism development by 10 percent.
Once demographic factors had been adjusted, the study found that birth asphyxia and preeclampsia seemed to increase the child’s risk of developing autism. There were also links found between the increased chance of autism and:
- Perinatal complications
- Fetal Dystocia
- Umbilical cord prolapse
This study, and others like it, are more than enough reason for parents who had birthing complications caused by medical professionals to seek birth injury compensation if their child was then born with autism.
How Did my Child Develop Autism?
Scientists haven’t isolated one specific root cause of autism. There are several scientific causes including genetics, hereditary, and possibly birth injuries.