Since Kanner’s first autism report in 1943, there have been several theories as to what causes autism, some causing a fair amount of controversy.
For a long time it was said that autism was caused by “refrigerator mothers” who did not give their children enough love and attention. This theory is false, parents of children with autism or with pervasive developmental disorder are in all respects similar to those of normal children.
The exact cause of autism is still not known, but research on this topic is currently focusing on two possibilities: the genetic origin of autism and autism triggered by toxins in the environment.
Much progress has been made in the last ten years on the genetics side. However, there is no longer any talk of a direct link between autism and genetics. Researchers have identified certain chromosomal regions that may make children more likely to develop autism.
We have also been talking for about ten years about environmental causes of autism, that is to say that the child would be normal at birth but one or more elements would trigger autism in him. Among the elements accused are certain viral infections, metabolic imbalance and vaccines. There is a growing body of evidence against thimerosal, a preservative that is used in vaccines. This product is made largely from mercury, an element known for its neurotoxicity. Autistic people would have been exposed to doses of mercury well above the norms allowed for children of their age. Their bodies cannot excrete this mercury, which causes developmental problems.
If the history of autism has taught us anything, it is that there are no easy answers. Every autistic child is different, he is born or becomes autistic because of a conjunction of genetic and environmental factors.