Posted by Lisa Strawbridge - email
TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Autism rates are up 600 percent in 20 years. The latest research is discovering staggering statistics as well as some clues to a cause.
The largest, national autism not-for-profit organization, Autism Speaks, works to fund national research.
Regionally, the Great Lakes Center for Autism pays for the programing of northwest Ohio families affected by autism. The annual campaign "Give Autism the Boot" raises funds for this center.
The WTOL-sponsored "Give Autism the Boot" fundraiser takes place this Friday and Saturday. Look for volunteers collecting donations in boots throughout the community.
The efforts to address the fastest growing disability in the U.S. are starting to make a dent, but a definite cause and cure are far off. One in 110 children will be diagnosed with autism. One in 70 are boys.
Local pediatric and adolescent psychiatrist Dr. Tim Valko treats over 500 patients affected with the disorder. He says the studies indicate the cause of autism is coming down to genetics. Much like families who carry a pre-disposition to a disease like diabetes, autism appears to follow a similar pattern. "There are little, tiny chromosomal changes that if you follow these over generations, you're going to see that there's a pattern," said Dr. Valko.
Environmental toxins is another theory being tested as a possible contributing factor. Though, the genetic component continues to be the constant, which makes a cure years away.
Treatments consist largely of intensive behavioral therapies. "With intervention, you can see some significant gains, but it doesn't mean that they don't have a form of autism anymore," said Dr. Valko.
A difficulty in not knowing the exact cause is that treatments are often not covered by insurance. Opinions surrounding the cause of autism spark emotionally charged debates with insurance companies. There is still a contingent of parents who believe it may be linked to vaccines given to children with Thimerosal, a mercury preservative. However, the doctor who presented that theory has been discredited by the medical field and the preservative long removed from vaccines.
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