Flickr Creative Commons // BLW Photography
Chances are, you know someone who has autism. And if you do not know someone with autism, you probably will in the future. Recent studies have shown that more children are being born with autism than they ever were in the past — one in 88 children in the United States has either autism or a related disorder. Since 2006, autism rates have grown 25 percent higher. Scientists all over the world are trying to understand why the rates have increased, and they’re also working to find the cure for autism.
Autism is a disorder characterized by multiple symptoms, such as difficulties with social interaction, performing one task repeatedly, having a narrow range of interests, among others. Autism is a “spectrum” disorder, which means that no two children with autism have the exact same symptoms, nor do they have the same severity of symptoms. Cases of autism range from extremely high-functioning, where it is difficult to tell that a child has autism at all, to low-functioning, where a child is severely disabled.
There is no precise cause for autism, although the age of the parents, obesity of the mother, childhood vaccines, and genetics, have been pinned down as factors. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has theorized that one reason autism rates may be increasing over the past few years because there is more awareness of autism, and doctors have been finding ways to better detect the disorder.
Strangely enough, Utah is reported to have the highest rate of autism in the United States. One of the culprits said to cause autism is high levels of mercury, which can be found in childhood vaccines. The Great Salt Lake in Utah reportedly has the highest concentration of mercury of any body of water in the United States. Dry beaches around the Great Salt Lake also contribute to the presence of heavy metals in the environment. Incidentally, Utah also has the highest use of antidepressant drugs in the nation — and women who take antidepressants while they’re pregnant run the risk of their child having autism.
Pregnant women have to be more watchful than ever of what they put into their bodies. It’s a dangerous world out there these days. The concentration of chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we consume has led to many more birth defects than in years past ultimately leading to increased diagnoses of autism.
April is National Autism Awareness Month, and it would do well for us to think about those individuals and their families who struggle with autism on a daily basis. As in all other situations, we can choose to have a kind and caring spirit in order to understand and help these people and their families as best as we can. It helps tocelebrate those with autism; those individuals have gifts and talents just as the rest of us do, and many of their families have chosen to embrace autism as what makes their child special and unique. Wear blue to show your support. Donate to worthy causes. But most of all, remember Plato’s famous saying: “Be kind to everyone, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”