Autism is a complex developmental disability that generally involves problems of social interaction and communication. Often referred to as a “spectrum” disorder, Autism is better characterized as a group of disorders that have similar features. All of the causes of Autism are not known, but most scientists agree that genetic factors play a role (See the CDC link below for more information on causes). As of yet there is no cure for Autism, but there are a number of treatment options that can help minimize the symptoms.
Autism is a growing source of concern among the American public. Recent figures suggest that as many as 1 in 88 children have the disorder. Parents face costs ranging from $3.5 million to $5 million to care for an Autistic child according to the Autism Society (http://www.autism-society.org/). Researchers believe that growing rates of Autism do not necessarily reflect an expansion of the disorder, but rather better detection and diagnosis on the part of health care providers.
No doubt due to frustrating gaps in the understanding of Autism, there is wide-spread speculation about its causes. Perhaps the most popular belief is a link between Autism and vaccines. The Center for Disease control has reviewed the issue and concludes that there is not an association between vaccine use, in particular the vaccine preservative thimerosal, and Autism. Read more at: (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Concerns/Autism/Index.html).
A good place to get an overview of the disorder is the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/autism.html) and the National Institute of Health (http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/asd.cfm). For data on prevalence and other background information, see the Center for Disease Control website (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/index.html).
The Health Sciences Library also offers books about the diagnosis, treatment and research of Autism.
[Ben Harnke, Reference Librarian]