It is estimated that approximately one in 68 children in the US currently has autism, and that number is on the rise. It is absolutely vital that understanding of the condition continues to increase and that research into the causes of autism and potential treatments becomes a matter of urgency. Scientists are currently employing a number of strategies and studies in an attempt to learn more about autism, but how many of them are close to a breakthrough?
Progression in the fields of science
In recent years, researchers and experts have made huge leaps towards discovering the causes of autism and spectrum disorders, as well as exploring numerous ways to assist those living with the condition. Intervention is absolutely vital for young people growing up with autism and their families as well; it can help them to lead far less stressful and confusing lives. Genetic research, for example, has come leaps and bounds in recent years, allowing scientists to isolate particular genes that may contribute to the development of autism in a child and map a genetic blueprint of the disorder.
This research has been vital in the manufacturing of new drugs to treat autism and has helped researchers discover that the natural hormone oxytocin can actually help children struggling with social interactions. Similarly important was a recent discovery that environmental health factors, such as prenatal exposure to certain air toxins and gestational diabetes, can increase a woman’s risk of birthing a child with autism. In terms of developing treatments, one current train of thought is that cells removed from umbilical cord blood could be used to heal the brains of children with autism; the health benefits of placentas and cord blood have been well-documented, so this field of study is certainly not without its founding.
While scientists may be a way off from discovering the exact causes of autism, its complete genetic blueprint, and the types of intervention that are necessary from an early age, the current status of research has brought medical professionals and families closer than ever to answers. The more we understand autism, the easier it is for medical professionals to diagnose and for parents and family members to understand and accept.
Increasing autism awareness
There is no doubt that awareness of autism and other spectrum disorders is on the increase. In fact, the rise in diagnoses is, in part, due to a wider understanding of such conditions, which may previously have been mistreated or simply swept under the carpet. Autism isn’t on the increase, but our grasp of the disorder is. However, in order for the public to better understand and accept spectrum conditions and those who are affected by them, it is important that we keep talking about autism and encouraging those with questions to come forward to hear the answers. How else can we remove the stigma that surrounds children with autism and their families? Understanding is also vital for helping young people in our own communities and changing people’s perceptions of those we know and love.
Autism is so much more than a brain disorder, and those who have been identified as having any number of spectrum conditions are so much more than their diagnosis. Lindsey Stone is just one of the passionate individuals dedicating her time to raising awareness of autism in young people, and she has made it her mission to support those with spectrum disorders, create networks of support for them and their families, and champion research into the possible causes of and treatments for a wide range of conditions. While children and young people with autism can often slip through the cracks in schools and later in life, Lindsey is working tirelessly to help the public identify those who may need our support; would you know how to treat someone with autism or help them to cope in a stressful situation? It is Lindsey’s dream that one day, all stigma surrounding autism will vanish.
While diagnosed cases of autism and similar spectrum conditions aren’t on the rise, our understanding and acceptance of them is; autism is seen less and less as a mere medical problem, and more as a complex social issue that we all need to understand. Researchers and experts are currently making huge leaps in the fields of diagnosis and treatment, and we now understand more than ever about what could cause autism and how we can treat it. Perhaps one day, we will be able to prevent or cure all spectrum disorders – only time will tell.