These days, nearly everyone is familiar with autism. The movie Rain Man, the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and celebrity spokespeople such as Temple Grandin have all helped contribute to the public’s understanding of the condition. Unfortunately, what we don’t have at the moment is a cure for autism – but there’s hope that state of affairs may yet change.
Because people with autism have difficulties with communicating and relating to others, autism itself is classed as a developmental disorder. So far, however, no single cause for autism has been found; instead, the condition is thought to be brought on by a mix of hereditary and environmental factors. Furthermore, the likelihood of a child being born with the disorder increases if the mother suffers from rubella during gestation or if she drinks or uses cocaine while pregnant.
There have also been many controversial theories surrounding what causes autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For example, specific phenols, various foods and some pesticides have all been implicated without hard evidence. More damagingly, it was claimed that certain vaccines can cause the disorder, and despite this theory being proved completely false, some continue to believe this assertion.