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Myths and Facts About Autism

The numbers are undeniably alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has increased steadily since 2002. Today, about 1 in 59 children have been diagnosed with ASD. While researchers say no single factor can explain these statistics, one thing is certain: Parents can best help their children by understanding the myths—and facts—about this disease.

Myth: All people with autism are alike.

Fact: ASDs make up a group of developmental disabilities that affect social, communication, and behavioral abilities. They are called “spectrum disorders” because they affect each person in a different way, and symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Myth: Autism is caused by poor parenting, unloving mothers, vaccines ....

Fact: Researchers don’t know exactly what causes ASDs. They do know it has nothing to do with how a child is raised, however.

Some people may worry that vaccines cause ASD, but research has disproved this theory. There is no connection between getting vaccinated and developing ASD. In addition, research shows that individual vaccine ingredients, such as thimerosal, do not cause ASD.

So what do experts think might cause ASDs? Scientists believe that environmental, biologic, and genetic factors may all play a role. Research has exposed some risk factors. For example, children with a sibling with an ASD are at higher risk. So are boys, children with certain genetic disorders, and those born to older parents. But researchers continue to search for answers, and they are looking at pregnancy, behavioral, genetic, and environmental factors.

Myth: Autism can be cured.

Fact: Currently there is no cure for ASDs, but early intervention can greatly improve a child’s development. That’s why all children should be screened for ASDs at both 18 and 24 months.

ASD can be difficult to diagnose, especially before 18 months of age. By age 2, pediatricians can make a reliable diagnosis, but many children aren’t diagnosed until they are much older.

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