Autism Research
Autism a Growing Disorder

Autism spectrum disorders are growing rapidly in prevalence. Autism spectrum disorders have become among the
most common developmental disabilities facing children and therefore future generations of adults in the United
States today. Statistics show 1 in 150 young children may now be affected by a neurological condition on the
spectrum (which includes autism, pervasive development disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome). Early intervention
services for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have become much more essential.

Due to early diagnosis along with treatment children with ASD are learning to speak, and going to school, in
significant and increasing numbers. We are also now seeing many adolescents that, while not cured in the precisely
but, are in many cases no longer exhibiting the types and the severity of symptoms that led to their diagnosis in the
first place. Even those children who are more severely challenged can make marked strides in cautiously
understanding their potential. A cure remains inaccessible.

Autism a Lifelong Disorder

ASDs are lifelong developmental disabilities characterized by repetitive behaviors and social and communication
problems. ASD includes autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS,
including atypical autism), and Asperger syndrome. People with ASD have significant impairments in social and
communication skills, and unusual behaviors or interests. Many people with ASD also have unusual ways of
learning, paying attention, or reacting to different sensations. ASD can be diagnosed as early as 18 months and lasts
throughout a person's life. Autism is a complex disorder usually not diagnosed in children until after age 3.
Symptoms can include repetitive behaviors such as head-banging, avoiding physical or eye contact with others, and
communicating with gestures rather than words.

Federal Funds Search for a Cause

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is initiating a multi-state collaborative study to help identify
factors that may put children at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other developmental disabilities.
Approximately 2,700 children, ages 2 to 5, and their parents will be part of this study.

We hope this national study will help us learn more about the characteristics of children with ASDs, factors
associated with developmental delays, and how genes and the environment may affect child development,” said Dr.
José F. Cordero, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and
Developmental Disabilities.

In this five-year study, The National CADDRE Study: Child Development and Autism, a number of factors will be
studied for their potential association with ASDs, including:


•        infections or abnormal responses to infections in the child, mother or father
•        genetic factors in the child, mother and father
•        mother's reproductive history
•        abnormal hormone function in the child, mother or father
•        gastrointestinal problems in the child
•        family history of medical and developmental problems
•        smoking, alcohol and drug use in pregnancy, and
•        parent’s occupation and other socio-demographic factors.

The information will be obtained by conducting interviews and exams, reviewing medical records, collecting cheek
swabs, and blood and hair sampling.

“By conducting the study in six different geographic areas across the country with diverse populations and by
identifying children from multiple sources in each community, we hope to have a study sample that more closely
represents children with ASDs, other developmental problems, and typical development across the country,” added
Cordero.

The CADDRE Network was established following the Children’s Health Act of 2000 that directed CDC to establish
regional centers of excellence for ASD and other developmental disabilities.

In 2000, Congress directed federal health officials to increase research into autism. The law prompted a series of
CDC studies, including prevalence research released in May that found 300,000 U.S. children have been diagnosed
with autism.

The new study will recruit 900 children diagnosed with autism, 900 with undefined or other developmental
problems, and 900 randomly selected youngsters.
Those studied will be ages 2 to 5, in part because health records and memories will be more complete, Schendel
said.

That decision will limit the study’s ability to assess the past impact of vaccinations that contain the mercury-based
preservative thimerosal, she acknowledged. Since 2001, thimerosal has been removed from shots recommended for
young children.
Fournier’s group suspects that ingredient is a leading cause of the disorder, although past research suggests it is not.

Researchers will examine the medical records of the children and their parents, and will take cheek swabs and
blood and hair samples, Schendel said.

The CDC awarded the other participating institutions $5.9 million for the study.

Until this announcement, the largest federal study to focus specifically on autism’s causes was research sponsored
by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, looking at 1,000 California children ages 2 to 5. That
study is still in progress.
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