Updated: Apr 28, 2022
In recent years, researchers have made excellent progress in understanding what causes autism as well as finding ways to help children who have the disorder. This research is very important because the number of children born with autism in the United States continues to climb. Currently, one out of every 68 children born in this country has been diagnosed with autism. That’s almost a 30% increase over previous years. The statistical increase is partly due to better screening and awareness. Experts feel there are some promising areas of research that could benefit millions of families in the years to come.
Research is now indicating that the cause of autism could be found in a connection between genetics and the environment. This expanding area of research is known as epigenetics. The approach is promising because there are certain environmental factors that we can control. Research indicates that specific stressors and instigating factors from the environment can trigger certain genes. A recent study suggests that pregnant women who are exposed to the airborne toxins chromium and styrene are prone to having a child with autism. Another study links autism to women who develop diabetes during pregnancy.
Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a therapy that helps professionals understand how behavior works, how learning happens and how the environment affects behavior. The goal of Board Certified Behavior Analysts® is to boost helpful behaviors and eliminate negative behaviors that hinder learning. Demand for BCBA/BCBA-D certified professionals increased approximately 800% from 2010 to 2017. The increase is being seen in most states. This demand is so high because ABA is now being recognized as the gold standard for autism treatment. ABA uses an effective system of rewards and consequences to treat the condition. While there are some critics of ABA, research continues to indicate that it is beneficial to most children with autism.
The organization Autism Speaks recently helped create MSSNG, which is an open-science database that makes 10,000 sequenced autism genomes available to doctors all over the world. (The word is pronounced “missing,” and the letters that have been omitted stand for the information being sought.) This database could help speed up autism research. The genome study has helped dispel the belief that siblings have similar genes for risk of autism. This research is expected to be very beneficial in the coming decade.
Autism continues to affect millions of children each year in the United States. Fortunately, promising research to combat the disorder is being pursued in the areas of epigenetics, ABA and genome study.
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