Why research into autism is vital

researchStatistics tell us that in twenty years’ time one in every two of every children born in the USA will fall somewhere upon the autism spectrum. The spectrum is so huge and varied in diagnosis at the moment, it’s difficult to determine who is and who isn’t placed somewhere on it.

Millions of dollars annually are spent on researching autism, with few answers to determine the exact cause which remains at the moment a mystery. But in recent years we have made some huge leaps in understanding and these milestones have undoubtedly come from scientific research. Gene mapping is proving significantly revealing as to what happens within the brain at specific points in time during development of a foetus in utero, and a number of research papers hint as to the underlying factors which cause autism itself.

This research in itself is proving invaluable not only for dispelling long standing myths – for example, in the late 1950’s it was suggested that autism was caused by lazy or bad parenting, a phenomenon dubbed refrigerator mothering. It was thought that the lack of emotion shown by the mother towards the child could cause autism. With the power of science, and a bit of common sense, it was found that bad parenting has nothing to do with changing the brain and effecting it in a way as to cause autism.

Another more recent finding, the myth about taking anti-depressants during pregnancy was also dispelled recently, when research found against previous scientific inquiry by Harvard medical university that SSRI’s effect the percentage of children born autistic.

At a  recent 12-day hearing into theories that vaccines cause autism, the link between the disorder and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine came across as shaky at best. As for the mercury-containing preservative thimerosal, which was used in other vaccines, witnesses showed that in all known cases of actual mercury poisoning (none of which caused autism), the dose was hundreds or thousands of times higher than what kids got during the 1990s. Powerful population studies showed no link to either MMR or thimerosal-containing shots.

Research both historical and ongoing is paving the way to a rounder understanding of autism and some of the root causes, but more valuable than that it is enlightening some common misconceptions and changing the way that society as a whole approach autism and autistic people, and seeing not just the diagnosis but the whole of the individual who just happens to have a diagnosis.

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