Of all the medical mysteries that exist today, perhaps one of the most painful to witness is the effect on families and children that a diagnosis along the autism spectrum brings.
It’s not any physical discomfort that brings this opinion, but the pain of the confusion and the misunderstanding that spreads through a family and community as people cope with the condition.
April is national Autism Awareness Month, and maybe more than any other condition, autism needs awareness. Simply, its roots and causes are still unknown.
While researchers seem to uncover more information every day, there is still so much that is unknown, making the national autism symbol — a puzzle piece — appropriate as doctors and scientists attempt to piece together information, hoping to find that link between genetics and environment that may eventually unlock a cure or prevention.
For now, though, there is no cure, no early-warning detection system, no definitive answers as to why autism occurs, who it affects and how it will manifest itself.
What there is, however, are more cases being diagnosed every year. The Centers for Disease Control reported that autism affected 1 in every 110 births a few years ago. Recently, the CDC has upped that number to 1 in 88 births.
This week, one of the nation’s most prestigious autism research centers and think tanks, the University of California, Davis’ MIND Institute, published a report drawing a new link between children born with autism to obese mothers. The research found that obese moms were 70 percent more likely to have children born with autism and twice as likely to have a child with other developmental delays than moms of normal weight.
Studies like these are far from conclusive, but they attempt to put the pieces together to tell the story and to find new ways to prevent a condition that in the last two decades has seen exponential diagnoses growth.
The study makes a case for maintaining healthy weights and lifestyles, but weight is by no means the only factor causing autism. Those discoveries will come with time and research.
One of those men on the leading edge of autism research, Dr. David Amoral of the MIND Institute, will speak in Calexico on April 26. His visit here for the autism community of educators and parents is akin to having a bona fide rock star touch down in the Valley.
Men like Amarol will be the ones who eventually crack the code with enough time and funding to do the research.
The federal government has increased autism research funding dramatically in the last decade, with the National Institutes of Health putting up around $170 million in annual funding. Autism foundations and advocacy groups have augmented that amount in recent years by as much as $300 million, with a third of that looking into the causes.
It sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t if one considers how many cases there are out there vs. all the facts known. More is needed — time, money and awareness.
April is Autism Awareness Month.
Disease is frustrating mfor lack of hard info.
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