There is no doubt that “autism” is on the rise. When I started practice nearly 3 decades ago, encountering a child with autism was rare. Today, each day, 2-3 (5-10%) of my patients have an autism-spectrum diagnosis. And despite this alarming picture, the cause(s) for this disorder of neurodevelopment, is essentially unknown.
The Intsitute of Medicine is a non-governmental agency that acts independently and is “hired” through interested foundations to study specific questions. The question of the association of vaccines with autism is an important one and has received a lot of attention. For those of you interested, you can read a short summary of their findings. The full report is 650+ pages and is available to the public.
Environmental factors seem to be most favored as causal; genetic causes are still being considered. Large scale, longitudinal studies such as the EARLI study or the CHARGE study may help sort out this puzzle, but may take a very long time, offering little help to families presently struggling with this disorder.
As a physician who cares for and about many children with autism and their families, I hope you found this brief update helpful.