Here’s the way I see it (plus some information on a recent study on genes).
Let’s approach the question differently.
What does NOT cause autism?
I have long held the belief that the MMR vaccine did NOT cause my son’s autism.
I believe there are over 200 studies that debunk the idea that the MMR vaccine causes autism (sorry, Jenny McCarthy, you backed the wrong horse.)
Above all, there is simply no evidence to support the claim.
What do I think causes it?
First and foremost… genetics.
I look at family members and say…”Huh. That family member has some characteristics that might be considered autism-like.”
In my own family.
And, in my husband’s family.
In other words, I see it now because I raised a child with autism and now a bit of what to look for (let’s be very clear here, I am no expert. Just an Experienced Parent.)
Second… There may be environmental factors in play.
There are studies that show some evidence in this area.
Third…diagnosing autism is an everyday occurrence…these days.
How and why is it better now as opposed to 20 or 30 or 40 years ago?
One reason is we look out for developmental milestones. If a baby does this or that by whatever age is typical for this or that.
Therefore, treatments are sooner. That makes all the difference (IMHO).
However, there’s more to it.
Putting it all together…
I don’t think it’s JUST genetics or JUST environmental factors or JUST the fact that we (parents, professionals, schools, etc.) look for autism these days.
I think it’s a combination of one, two, or all three…with probable trigger in there somewhere.
Yes, there is a trigger. Something that affects that individual into ways in which scientists identify as autism (or on the autism spectrum).
In conclusion, I’m a “NO” to the MMR vaccine being a cause… and a “YES” to genetics and the environment and triggers and science.
In conclusion, this is just my opinion.
What about that study?
I read another study recently (my previous blog looked at a different study) that identified 102 genes associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Let me repeat what was emphasized in this article…”Sussing out what causes autism is crucial for diagnosis and early intervention, and would also help distinguish autism from other conditions it overlaps with.”
In other words, discovering genes that might be connected to an ASD is very helpful.
It was discovered that in this very large group of individuals studied (families with at least one child with autism and families with no autism), “…Some of the genes have a stronger connection to intellectual disability than autism, and vice versa, and that distinction is meaningful.”
47 of the 102 genes discovered have what is termed a “clear line” intellectual disability, while 52 have closer ties to autism, and 3 have close ties to both.
This was the largest study of its kind. It looked at twice as many samples with improved methods of analysis. The study could compare new data points with older data from other studies.
Above all, either my opinion or an actual study done by real scientists, this is great news and congratulations. The progress is exceptional.
(Credit where credit is due…This study was lead by Jack Kosmicki, PhD candidate at Harvard University and Mark J. Daly, PhD, chief of the Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.)
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