Can any child be afflicted with autism ?

Autism is a serious disease that can affect any child regardless of race or gender. It is most often diagnosed by the age of 3 years old, but there have been cases in which autism was first diagnosed in teenagers and even adults. In the cases of the teens and adults, it was determined that they had previously suffered from herpes encephalitis, and that this was the probable cause of their disorder. However, this shows that autism is not one of the usual developmental disorders. 

More than a decade ago, there was a theory proposed that mercury contained within vaccines in the form of Thimerosal was the primary cause of autism. However, many studies in both the U.S. and Europe showed that even when Thimerosal was removed from a vaccine, autism still occurred. Thimerosal is still used as a preservative in some adult vaccines. It began to be removed from vaccines for children in 1999, and as of mid-2000, vaccines that are recommended for universal use in infants and young children are available in versions that have none or only trace amounts of Thimerosal.

Research has shown that autism is triggered by at least one of four currently known causes. These are:  
  1. a genetic abnormality 
  2. a reaction to environmental toxicity 
  3. a viral infection 
  4. a defect during pregnancy in blood flow to the developing fetus (baby)   
Of these four, the common opinion among researchers is that genetic mutation either before or after birth is most often the underlying cause. This genetic abnormality may not be a birth defect and instead occurs after birth, as the result of some foreign body affecting the genes of the child. However, all of the above have in common the fact that they result in some form of a swelling of the brain.  It is this inflammation of brain cells that appears to bring the onset of autism's symptoms.

Autism is a member of the group of disorders called "Autism Spectrum Disorders" (ASD),  and each person affected with autism may react somewhat differently. However, autism most often leads to identifiable difficulties in communicating with others, with interacting socially and with controlling behavior.

Boys are much more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls, because of autism's relationship to gene mutations. These mutations occur on the X chromosome.  Since boys have only one X chromosome, while girls have two, they have a greater probability of being affected by autism.

Autism affect's each child in their own unique way, and can be displayed via symptoms that appear as mild to severe. However, the vast majority of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders usually have one or more of the same symptoms, such as problems with social interaction or behavior control. The differences are most often shown in each child's unique combination of when the symptoms start, which symptoms are expressed,  their level of severity, and the exact cause of the disorder.

Autism diagnosis has been increasing among children at alarming rates in the last few decades. Even seemingly healthy children can suddenly begin to show symptoms of autism within the first three years of their life. When first identified in the mid-20th century, the prevalence of autism was 1 in 2000 children. That has changed over the last few decades by staggering proportions. In just the last decade alone, the rate has risen by 78% !  The prevalence of autism is now 1 in 88 children in the United States, with boys having an even greater risk of autism, with 1 in 54 boys affected by this disorder. These statistics are shocking, sad and frightening for any parent, grandparent, or concerned individual to contemplate.   But why this huge increase?

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