The cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is unknown, although
unproven theories abound. Autism is a complicated disorder, and
most likely a set of disorders for which easy answers to the
cause are not likely to be found. It is now clearly
understood that it is not an emotional disorder as some of the
early clinicans believed (e.g., Kanner, Bettelheim). The one
theory that does have strong scientific evidence is that genetics
can contribute to the occurrence of ASD. Studies shows the
concordance rate for identical twins is much higher than for
fraternal twins and ongoing research is beginning to identify
genes that may put an individual at risk.
In the last decade, there has been increased theorizing about the
role of environmental toxins and vaccinations, but there is
no convincing evidence that ASD is caused by either of these.
With or without the use of the preservative thimerosal, there are
numerous scientific studies showing no association between
vaccines and ASD. Moreover, there is not one scientific study
that has shown a causal link. Adherence to these speculative
beliefs is tragic because many more children are harmed by not
receiving life-saving vaccines. Not surprisingly we are seeing
increases in these illnesses that can be prevented through
Finding the answer will require long-term, painstaking, rigorous,
and sophisticated scientific investigation. Professional
responsibility and ethics demand that care be taken not to
over-speculate, misrepresent nor present mere hypotheses as
facts, about the causes of autism.
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