In response to the question, "What causes autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)?" the writer is sorely tempted to reply, "We don't know," and move on to the next chapter. However, no guide to ASDs would be complete without an attempt at explaining the causes of the most recent epidemic to hit our planet.
What Does Not Cause ASDs?It is infinitely easier to talk about what we know does not cause ASDs. It is known for a fact that ASDs cannot be caught through osmosis, dirty doorknobs, or bad parenting. Other than that, nothing can be said for sure.
Where to Get Updates on the Latest Research
What follows is by no means an exhaustive look at the science behind the causes of autism. The interested reader can follow on a regular basis the latest discoveries and ongoing research. It is best to read the actual study or report than to read summaries and news releases. In order to gain an understanding of this highly controversial topic, the reader is advised to consult a wide variety of websites and journals such as those listed below and form his own opinion:
- The National Library of Medicine Pubmed (www.ncbi.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi): Use the search engine to find abstracts of any research articles you are interested in reading concerning autism. There are tutorials on the site with instructions for more advanced search techniques. Some abstracts will link you to the full article on the website of the journal where it is published. Some journals will provide full text for free, while others require a subscription or fee.
- The Medical Research Council (UK) (www.mrc.ac.uk): Information on current research funded by the MRC is listed on its website. The MRC published the "MRC Review of Autism Research: Epidemiology and Causes" in December 2001.
- The Schafer Autism Report is the largest daily (almost) newspaper on ASDs; edited by Lenny Schafer and available free through the Internet. To subscribe: http://www.sarnet.org. For archives: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AuTeach/messages.
- The Autism Research Institute International Newsletter (www.autismresearchinstitute.com): Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., publishes a quarterly newsletter with summaries of current research. The ARI website has information on some research studies.
- The Autism Society of America (ASA) (www.autism-society.org)often has information about the most important ASD issues being discussed by the media.