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April 4, 2008

What Is Causing the Sharp Increase In Autism Cases?

Autism is a mysterious disease that seems to be greatly increasing in numbers. There are many theories about why Autism is increasing but it seems that no one can really put their finger on the exact cause. A few years ago I was going to take a job as a teacher in a school in Massachusetts that specialized in treating Autistic children. I was fresh out of college and had once been a special education major. At the time I was familiar with Autism but at the time, it was not nearly as common. Nowadays Autism is more common than many of the other diseases that effect children. I can’t help but wonder why we are seeing such a spike in cases.

I do not have any children but I would like to have them one day. I know that pregnancy can hold so many surprises and that nothing is promised, even when a pregnancy is uneventful. However, I would like to have some clue as to why Autism is suddenly popping up all over the place.

As always, I have tried to do some research on the subject and some of the information I read was informative but the questions that I wonder about were not answered. I am curious about what areas of the world have the highest instances of Autism. I wonder if the environments in which these children are bred and born into are contributing to Autism. One of the things that I worry the most about is water. Since we know that fish and other marine life are affected by the chemicals from pharmaceuticals that are in the water supply, what does that do to unborn children? When my sister was pregnant she was told to be sure that she drank plenty of water, and of course she did. My nephews were all born healthy and did not develop any disorders or diseases, but water is something I worry about. I am by no means saying that Autism is cause by the contaminated water supply, but I still wonder….

The extreme spectrum of Autism is another aspect that mystifies me. I briefly worked with children that had Autism when I was an undergraduate. The spectrum and varying degrees of the manifestations of the disease were extremely broad. This makes me wonder if the numbers of Autism have increased, in part because the definition has been broadened. Are there children diagnosed with Autism today that would not have been ten years ago? I know that Autism is real and I don’t mean to discount the diagnosis of professionals, but I am leery of the over labeling that goes on in the world. I can remember when ADD and ADHD began to be the label of choice for children and how that label, and subsequent medication was handed down to scores of children. I guess that I wonder about self fulfilling prophecies. If you are told that your child is Autistic do you begin to treat them in the manner that you are instructed to treat an Autistic child?

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