April is Autism Awareness Month, but autism is a topic we discuss often as parents. Many of us have theories on what causes autism, and none come with as much weight as the thoughts from moms who have children on the spectrum.
Could it be things passed in the mother's womb, the environment, vaccines, genetic predisposition? The answers vary, but most moms felt something wasn't right. Learn their thoughts on the cause of autism.
The cause of autism could be environmental, could be vaccines, or could be genetic. All I know is something stole my child's brain, and I want to know why and -- most important -- how to fix it. -- Carole, mother to 14-year-old Jackie
Here's my somewhat educated theory in a nutshell. Every family line has distinct genetic vulnerabilities, each blood type has vulnerabilities, the male and female sex each have their own vulnerabilities, etc. Environmental exposures will exploit each genetic vulnerability. Environmental triggers would include the following: things that are in our food, things that are in the air, things passed from the mother in the womb, EMFs, words that are spoken, thoughts and intentions, the way in which we do immunizations, etc. These factors all come together to create "the perfect storm." What manifests as autism in one individual may very well manifest as diabetes, Crohn's, asthma, or cancer in another individual. We must stop treating symptoms and start addressing root issues. -- Christa Proctor, mother of Danielle (age 9, with autism), Sophia (age 7, with autism), Victoria (age 4), and Annalise (age 1)
As a mom of an autistic child, I often feel bombarded by well-meaning people who think that by trying to tell me where the autism came from, they're somehow improving my life. It's my opinion that autism is a combo deal -- a collection of genetic tendencies that are for whatever reason exacerbated by additional factors.The problem with trying to pick a single culprit is that those additional factors take many forms. In some kids, it's an unusual response to a food allergy; for others, it's an extended illness or a reaction to a medication; for kids like Tommy, it's seizures. And for some, there are just too many genetic tendencies to begin with. I don't think that we'll ever find the magical single cause that so many people keep claiming that they've found. -- Jaderica, mother of 4 including Tommy, 7-year-old with autism
I really have no idea. My best un-scientific guess is something environmental. To be honest, I'm more interested in celebrating and embracing the person Simon is -- helping him to be the best “Simon” he can be -- rather than spending too much time questioning the how or why. -- Ali, mother of Simon, 8, with autism, and Anna, age 1
I suspect a syndrome that hasn't yet been identified. I keep encountering people whose faces look uncannily like his -- regardless of race or age -- and who have similar autism symptoms. I suspect these people have a chromosomal disorder similar to Fragile X -- which itself was part of the general "developmental delay" pool until scientists identified consistent chromosomal defects in kids with similar appearances and symptoms sets in the mid-'80s. I also think autism can be inherited. Kids with autism often have parents and relatives who are fairly quirky -- sometimes an official diagnosis, sometimes a smattering of traits. As for those whose autism doesn't qualify as chromosomal or inherited -- I don't believe vaccines cause autism, but I wouldn't be surprised if environmental chemicals have been affecting development. Either that, or they live really close to someone else who has autism. -- Shannon, mother of three including Leo with autism
In our minds, he certainly wasn't born this way because he was hitting all his milestones alongside his twin sister, and then it just sort of happened to him. I think the reason a lot of parents think that there's any connection [to vaccinations] is because around the time autism presents itself, in a lot of cases, not all, is around the time there are certain shots associated with this checkup. So do I know what caused our son's autism? I haven't a clue. But I do know that I became fearful after the experiences we had and his responses to these vaccines. I'd never tell any parent to not get their kid vaccinated. It's a personal decision between you and your doctor. It's important that you get all the research and look at your child's specific physiology and figure that out. I do feel that in some cases, in our case especially, that there was a toxic overload for RJ that specific day. Now did that trigger his autism, did that bring it on? I swear, I just don't know. I'm not a scientist. I don't know. -- Holly Robinson Peete, mother of RJ, 12, with autism, and daughter Ryan, 12, Robinson, age 7; and son Roman, age 5
What does cause it? Who knows? Personally, I wonder if it is genetic with an environmental trigger. Could it be vaccines? The current research has said a resounding NO, but really who knows? Listen, I ate tuna when I was pregnant. No one told me that it might not be a good idea back then. I used my cell phone. I stood in the rain. I petted a dolphin. If there is a conspiracy about what causes Autism, I've probably done it. -- Dawn, mother of autistic son Jon, 11
I definitely think there is a genetic predisposition, which is triggered by environmental factors. It just seems like there HAS TO BE, or else everyone that got vaccinations would have autism or everyone exposed to mercury would have autism. There has to be something already in place that is triggered when very very young. -- Liz, mother of autistic Zachary, 8, and Liberty, 5
I think it's an environmental thing. I know that, in my son's case, it was not from the vaccines (though some may be). He was always a little off. -- Krystal, mother of autistic son Brandon, 2
What do you think causes autism?
Image via Briles Takes Pictures/Flickr