Diagnosed Cases of Autism on the Rise

The CDC estimates today that one in 150 children at the age of eight has ASD, or autism spectrum disorder, which includes not only Autism but Asperger’s Syndrome and other developmental conditions. California has reported an eightfold increase in the number of cases in the state. Rhode Island is likewise reporting a sharp increase in cases as are many other parts of the country.

The cause of autism is still unknown, though some factors have been “ruled out” by scientific research and study, such as the widely, publicized criticism by some parent groups of vaccines laced with a mercury-based preservative as being the cause. Others suggest that perhaps artifacts (or indirect issues) are responsible for the rise in cases of autism reported in the country. One such artifact would be the education and number of parents who are aware of the disease compared to previous years. Twenty years ago, very few people had even heard of autism, let alone thought to have their kids tested for it, now it seems every parent has a critical eye on their child’s development for any signs of the disease. Another artifact that is attributed by some as being at least partly responsible is the widening of the definition of autism. In either case, you would expect to see an increase in the number of cases but then a leveling off, but that is not what the statistics are showing. Autism has been on the rise drastically and the increase shows no sign of slowing. So while some cases can be attributed to these artifacts, not all of them…not even half of them can.

Tracking Down the Cause

Aside from cancer, there are few diseases which beat autism for the sheer number of studies, and amount of medical research being conducted to find the cause. Environmental factors are pointed to as being the most likely culprit, but that does not rule out the possibility of genetics. Tackling the environmental causes is a very large order since there are so many things in a child’s environment from the womb to three or four years old when autism is often first diagnosed that were not present twenty years ago, and some environmental factors that were present but are no longer. The sheer number of possibilities and combinations is staggering on a simple, mathematical scale, from the medicines people take to the food we eat, to the shampoos we use, to the number of radio waves floating through the air from the exponential growth of the Internet and wireless phone service.

The research to find the cause (and then hopefully a vaccine or cure) for autism is well under way and you can expect to see the results of this research being made public in a steady stream on a regular basis from here on out until the answer is reached, but you don’t want to hold your breath waiting for a response tomorrow. Yes autism cases are on the rise, but humanity is doing a decent job of stepping up the response to try to counter it.

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