Since Kanner’s first report on autism in 1943, many theories have been formulated to pinpoint the cause of the disorder. Some of these theories have stirred a lot of controversy.
It was said for a long time that autism was caused by «refrigerator mothers» that did not provide enough love and attention to their children. This theory is false however as parents of children living with autism or PDD are exactly the same as those of normal children.
We still don’t know the exact cause of autism, but research is focusing on two possibilities: genetics and environmental toxins.
A lot of progress has been made on the genetic side, but it emerges that there would not be a direct link between genetics and autism. Indeed, researchers have identified chromosomal regions that would make some children more susceptible to autism.
There is also been a lot of talk in the past ten years of the link between environmental toxins and autism. The child would be normal at birth and one or more environmental elements would trigger the autism. Among the suspects are certain viral infections, metabolic imbalances and vaccines. The burden seems to fall more and more on thimerosal, a preservative found in vaccines. It is mostly made of mercury, a substance known for its neurotoxicity. It is possible that autistic children have been exposed to mercury amounts that greatly exceed the permitted level for children their age. Their body cannot excrete the ingested mercury, thus causing developmental disorders.
If the history of autism has taught us one thing, it’s that there are no easy answers. Every autistic child is different: some are born with the disorder, others develop it later on after a combination of genetic and environmental triggering factors.