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April 3rd, 2008
09:37 AM ET

Continuing to place the puzzle pieces

ALT TEXT
CNN exposes the myths, facts... and new hope for those living with autism.

Today is the first World Autism Awareness Day as designated by the United Nations.  First off, let me say that at CNN we have been preparing for this day for months, and have covered autism stories for years. Since I have been at CNN, I have been covering autism and I have committed myself to this area of reporting and investigation. If you ask most medical reporters, they will tell you the autism beat is sort of the third rail of journalism. It is so rife with controversy and passionate people on different sides of the issue. If you do stories on this topic, you will get criticized. Period.

Still, perhaps because I am a neurosurgeon, I have been fascinated with the new brain imaging that allows us to peer deep inside the brain of a child or adult with autism and see the changes that may explain the mysterious symptoms. I will continue covering these stories. Maybe it is because I am a relatively new parent of two gorgeous little girls who jumps for joy every time they pass a milestone and grows a little concerned if they seem to be a little behind compared with their friends. Maybe it is because families from all over the world have sent their stories to me about their own family members with autism...

I have spent a lot of time as a doctor and a journalist with children that have autism. I have walked into those meetings with an open mind devoid of any preconceived notions about what type of person I was likely to meet and what may have caused his or her autism in the first place. As an individual, I find myself less dogmatic and more willing to listen to all sides. I have taken the time to read in detail the 16 best epidemiological studies that exist, as well as the more limited toxicity studies. I have researched studies from as far away as Portugal looking at the incidence of mitochondrial disease and its possible association with autism. I am a better journalist because of it and a better doctor as well.

Truth of the matter, autism is a spectrum. It is hard to say for sure that someone has “serious” autism or “mild” autism. And, I hate those scales anyway. Truth is, I am not sure my daughter smiled socially at 3 months or she was just happy that I fed her. I am also not sure that her first word came right on schedule. I thought she said “daddy,” my wife said it was “cat.” We don’t even have a cat. Every parent has likely thought about these same things at one point or another.

As a journalist, especially one with my medical background, I feel responsible to keep the attention focused on this topic. I am delighted that CNN is presenting a worldwide investigation today. Besides the medical aspects, we will discuss the financial, the emotional (did you know the divorce rate has been estimated at 80 percent among parents of children with autism?) and the cultural aspects of autism as you see stories from South Africa, Qatar and many other countries. It is called Autism: Unraveling the Mystery, and I know we won’t answer all the questions, but we will make a dogged effort to get at some of the answers – again, with an open mind and with the single purpose of finding the truth.

We would like your help.

Post a note here with your thoughts about how CNN should continue the worldwide investigation.

– Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent

Editor’s Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

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Filed under: Autism • Dr. Sanjay Gupta
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Joe

    Thanks CNN for shedding light on this mysterious affliction. Also cheers for the wal-mart development because of CNN.

    April 3, 2008 at 2:48 pm |
  2. shelley

    To the reader who referred to Autism as a horrible affliction,

    My son is autistic. He reads below grade level, has difficulty in math, and socially does not have a place that he fits in comfortably. He loves to hug me, he refers to himself as a father to his cats, his deep blue eyes are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. He struggles through everyday., with schedules, with peers, with bullying. A big part of his struggles come from a lack of understanding from other people who can not and choose not to recognize differences in every human person. My son does not have a horrible affliction. My son is autistic. His world is different than mine. His thoughts are different than mine.
    I would not describe his life and his autistic traits as a horrible affliction or feel sorry for him. Any sorrow that I have felt has been selfish. He is perfectly fine in his world.

    April 3, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  3. Derrie

    You all did a wonderful day on Autism. Especially the segment on Amanda. So many think Autism ONLY affects males. Thanks again and continue the GREAT REPORTING!!!!

    April 3, 2008 at 1:44 pm |
  4. Lisa

    I was so happy to see CNN do a full day on Autism.
    My son is 8 and was diagnosed at 2 years old.
    The early therapy and intervention has been the key for
    our son. I wish that the media would focus more on the
    treatment and all the professionals working to help our
    children instead of focusing on what cause's this.
    For those of us who fight the daily battle and have limited
    resources and seem to have to fight for every service for
    our children, it can be discouraging to watch some of the
    celebrities dwelling on what cause's this instead of how
    can we help these children and families and make the
    public more aware and possibly have more tolerance
    for them. Some days just having someone out in public
    treat my son with dignity and respect helps him and also
    every family who is struggling daily.

    April 3, 2008 at 12:42 pm |
  5. Sheona

    CNN Rocks!!!! I am a single mother of two and my 5 1/2 yr old has autism. He was diagnosised when I was 21, and have ran myself down trying to come up with possible causes. I do believe it's genitics and as well as vaccines. Now, how I'll explain my reason for autism is this, some people have allergies while others don't. My point is some children are having an allergic reaction to all of the vaccines, which bring out the underlying disorder.
    I am from Canada and I feel in a well developed country, you'd think they would fund our kids. Check out how the Cubans are making great efforts for their ASD children. ( Cuba is an under developed county, and they put Canad to shame.)
    To all the families stuggling to cope, just remember, don't get caught up in trying to make your child "tyipical" , accept them for who they are and you'll have a connection no one can ever express.
    As well as there's no room for guilt in autism.
    Rock on CNN......

    April 3, 2008 at 12:23 pm |
  6. Sue Wentworth

    I think you should do an in depth profile of Temple Grandin. I have heard her speak. She is autistic, and cuts through a lot of the baloney to get to the reality of living with autism.

    April 3, 2008 at 11:40 am |
  7. Jamila. B

    As a mother of 2 it's quite disturbing to see all the vaccines that are given to our children today. The ingredients are scary. Thank God CNN did this special on this problem with the autisim crisis, it's important for everyone to know about these dispute in these current issues.

    April 3, 2008 at 11:21 am |
  8. Dayne

    Dr. Gupta
    Thank you and CNN for all the information on Autism I have found it all very interesting due to the fact that my niece has been diagnoised with Asperger's. In reading some of the traits that Autisic children have they are so similar to her's, how much of a difference is there really between the two?

    Also like most of these families, we think she is just one of the best and brightest. We love and accept her for the person she has been created to be. I hope our society continues to learn about these syndromes, understand more, and becomes more accepting of those who have them.

    April 3, 2008 at 10:43 am |
  9. S.Anderson

    As an American mother of 3 autistic girls living in Italy, I am very glad to know that someone is highlighting the international impact of autism.

    April 3, 2008 at 4:37 am |
  10. Mattie Moore

    Hello, Dr Gupta,

    Thank you for your interest in autism. In particular, your open mind and search for an underlying pathophysiologic cause.

    I have been considered autistic, asocial, antisocial, eccentric, brilliant, one who does not play with others, one in need of socialization, developmentally delayed, brain damaged, depressed, early schizophrenic and plain "crazy". Now, at age 49, I have been given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder with dyslexia, cognitive impairment and synesthesia.

    I don't know what you want to label it or what I am considered to be, the effect on a child's psyche is the same. Even though the child may appear not to be able to, or interested in, interacting with another person, it does not mean that child can't hear and understand what you are saying to and about them.

    It hurts. Period.

    I have excellent hearing and can read your body language, but I prefer not to talk or interact with you. The noise is overwhelming. The smell at times is physically painful. And your physical energy can be assaultive from across the room, even if you are not in any way engaging me.

    The major difficulty is finding a way to communicate. Once I found a way out, through writing, I was able to connect. It's like the circuits are all internal – not able to connect with the outside – and the stimuli keep coming in and in and in and aren’t given a way out. But once the outside connection is made, it can be strengthened and can (hopefully) branch out to other forms of communication.

    You know, like the pressure builds as a balloon gets blown up – but poke it with a pin and the air rushes out. That’s not very good. What I’m trying to say is work on finding a way OUT for the child while you’re trying to figure out what’s going on inside. They may have the same or similar “symptoms” on a spectrum, but each child needs an individual way out, whether it be music, writing, animals, water or just quiet.

    Communication out is the key. One size does not fit all. And the more frustrated you get, the more frustrated the child gets, and the further they retreat inside to stop the noise. Your beingness becomes entirely overwhelming and interruptive and self-preservation prevails.

    I can communicate through writing, but I can’t reach much and don’t understand numbers. I can’t leave my house and have no interest in talking to you in person or on the phone. Your noise and smell and negative energy would overwhelm me. And if you saw me in person, you would most definitely find me odd.

    So, please, help the child to find a way OUT. Don't stop trying – it may be the last thing you try. It may be something as trivial as finding the right time of the day to interact. The middle of the night is the quietest time most everywhere. Then they, themselves, can tell you what is going on. But whatever you do, know that that child can hear what you are saying and can feel your frustration and that the easiest thing is to just ignore you.

    Thank you for listening,
    Mattie Moore, Chicago, IL

    April 3, 2008 at 12:31 am |
  11. Robin

    I have twin 12 year old boys that are both Autistic. I finally dared to have another child and now I am scared to have my baby vaccinated. His doctor refuses to see him because I haven't had him vaccinated. I am for vaccines as I have travelled extensively in the third world and see the results of no vaccines. I am just scared to have a third autistic kid. Any time anyone questions my decision, I ask them to spend one day at my house to see what it means to live with an autistic person. I wish there was "safe" vaccines. Please keep the light on this issue. As sad as it is to see so many more kids that are sick, at least I don't find myself trying to explain to people what is wrong with my kids as they most likely know other kids with it.

    April 2, 2008 at 10:04 pm |
  12. Pam Bockman

    Hello Dr Gupta,
    I am grateful that CNN is featuring this show on Autism. My son Brandon, now 21, is attending college in oregon through a special program. Through a lot of hard work, llots of love, my own research, and a group of outstanding teachers and professionals, Brandon has grown up to be an outstanding young adult!! When he was young, he was just like all the other stories.......wasn't born with it...it just emerged around 2yr or so. Speech and language, behaviors etc. My heart goes out to all the families who face a new diagnosis. Focus on strengths and challenge "stereo typing". The diagnosis was devastating. The only thing I knew was the movie "rain man". Now there is so much more we know and a lot of support!!

    Thanks so much for this show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 2, 2008 at 10:00 pm |
  13. Kelly Murphy

    When our son(now 15) was diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome at age 10, I was relieved to have medical personnel acknowledge his difference, name it and assure us that we were not at fault as parents for his "odd" behavior. The sad part for us was the complete lack of understanding among the educators in his public school. Our little boy would never fit into the round peg the administrators chose for all students in this high ranking, award winning elementary school. Our son's total absorption in a particular topic and then his ensuing inability to change direction when asked to do so by his teachers was taken as blatant disrespect. Our son lacked the social skills to mix with others his age. He was picked on mercilessly because others knew that he had a level of intensity that would turn into yelling, a tight stance, fisted hands and blank stares. It seemed some youngsters enjoyed the results of their disrespectful, volatile comments. But perhaps our son was safer in those times of isolation during his school day.

    Parents must continue to be their child's biggest cheerleaders. The autistic child is misunderstood to a large degree, no matter where he falls on the spectrum.

    I am all for educating those in the colleges in our country who are preparing to become teachers. Allow these collegiates to learn about the autistic spectrum kids before they leave the university setting. Give them opportunities to be with/teach/learn from such children before meeting them within their own classroom settings.

    Please place teaching tools in the hands of all school districts, as they need desperately to understand the kids in their halls. Counselors should be educating their schools' staffs on the good, the bad and the ugly of autism so that all may be prepared to reach and provide for even the "oddest" of our children.

    Education is essential and I applaud those who are getting the message on Autistic Spectrum Disorders among the lay people as well as the professionals.

    April 2, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  14. Carol costello

    I too just want to take a minute and applaud everyone at CNN for really focusing on autism and its effects on the children, their families and the community affected as a whole. Thank you for not just one day of looking at this important issue but a main focus of your reporting. And Dr. Gupta, thank you for your tireless efforts on this important topic effecting our children. It is mind boggling how prevalent it is and how little we know about it. Your efforts provide comfort to those of us that are scared by our lack of knowledge about this condition and how we might be able to protect or save our children from it. Thank you so much.

    April 2, 2008 at 9:50 pm |
  15. Coralie

    I have watched the people with autism and their families with rapt fascination today. I am often lonely and tired trying to create a happy childhood for my autistic son, but watching all these folks I feel like I am part of a large community that - while peculiar in the extreme - is pretty nice.

    I have been very moved previously by meeting (through your coverage) Amanda. For me, this woman is important simply because she inspires and energizes the tired mommy to stay cheerful, optimistic, and patient. How can my kid, who can make me a pot of coffee and understand everything we say, not answer a single question, or tell me anything on his mind? Why does he turn away? Why can't he sleep? Why does he go into fits of hysterical laughing and then begin to cry? What does he experience when he draws the same picture over and over and over until he has worked his way through a ream of printer paper? It is excruciating. But these adults with their key boards are like huge light houses showing the way. It is thrilling.

    Now I have to go give my son his sedative, help him brush his teeth, watch him find his pajamas and put them on with an adeptness his older brothers still lack, and read him a story while ignoring his garbled re-enactments of videos, and kiss his beautiful head while he falls asleep.

    I am going to sleep myself, marveling at the vast heterogeneity of people fitting the "autism" diagnosis." It is no wonder research into causes and treatments has been so slow. Please let CNN viewers know that the Interactive Autism Network Project is collecting information from every single person with autism so that researchers can break "autism" up into its parts. The more people that join and share information about their children, the faster research can progress. (Ianproject.org) I don't want him different than he is, but I do want him safe and happy.

    April 2, 2008 at 9:23 pm |
  16. Minou, New York City

    Hi Dr Gupta,
    I love the enthusiasm you bring to your work! I appreciate your hard work and your eagerness to share your expertise with us viewers, and making it all easily understandable.

    I was shocked when I heard on Larry King a while back that 1 out of 100 children has autism. That should make everyone put their money and effort into finding out what causes this dramatic increase!!!! It makes me afraid to have kids...I know I shouldn't say that, but I'm worried about what causes autism. Is it the chemicals that are in the vaccines? I'm convinced it's a cause. Also, all the toxic chemicals they put into and onto everything from foods to toys to fabrics etc.
    The increase in autism is just simply to huge not to seriously explore the cause .
    Thank you, and thanks to CNN for talking about this terrible condition.

    April 2, 2008 at 7:48 pm |
  17. Tammy

    I have taught kids with autism in the past. The toughest thing is getting the other kids to accept them for who they are. I wish you would explore programs that teach peer acceptance of those with autism and ways we can help these kids advocate for themselves with those who don't understand this disorder. Autism is real. And a group of teachers and parents and counselors and administrators banging the drums supporting these students isn't enough to help them find a friend at recess or be invited to sit at a table with the "normal" kids at lunch. A while back I had a student with autism in my English class. And the other kids would pick mercilessly. Every time I'd write up the kids who did this and correct them, the school administration would look the other way because they were the "star" athletes and their parents were big supporters at the school. Finally I told this boy's mom to go to the principal and complain because my complaints were being ignored. This little boy deserved more. He deserved respect and a defender. Instead, he had to switch from this Roman Catholic school to the public system. I understand things were a little better. But none of this should have happened. No one wanted to understand autism. I see it over and over again. These kids are different, their differences cause problems because the other kids won't accept them, and the administration doesn't want to have to deal with harassment of a child with a disability. It's about education. Please teach the kids and adults about this so that no other kid has to switch schools to survive high school. Sell DVD's for teacher in-services and classroom presentations. Put info on the website like you did for Planet in Peril. We have nothing. These kids should have more than something. The adults in the schools should, too.

    April 2, 2008 at 7:32 pm |
  18. Jackie

    Autism has been in my life for almost 40 years...that's how old my autistic brother is. My son is 11 and also autistic. I was there when no one knew what autism was, when no one wanted to know... and even though it saddens me and blows my mind how widespread autism is today.....to me 1 in 150 is a good thing because finally everyone is talking about it and I just hope this will continue until every child is helped....thank you for what you're doing today and bless you.. if you continue.

    April 2, 2008 at 7:09 pm |
  19. Linda

    Thank you so much for covering this topic so well. I am just baffled that we aren't more agressively pursuing the cause and frankly a cure. I am so amazed at the epidemic it has become and that it is largely ignored. I've been motivated to go back to school for training to work with these kids . Please keep covering this topic at the level you have been doing. We can't keep ignoring it.

    April 2, 2008 at 7:00 pm |
  20. Terri

    Hi Dr. Sanjay~
    I am so glad that you are helping to spread the awareness of Autism. I am so fortunate that my children are not having to suffer with this horrible affliction. They are normal, healthy kids 16,13 and 9. Last year I decided to do find a small job-something that was on the same schedule as my kids. I started working at our local elementary school as an Educatonal assistant in the special needs preschool(ECE) At that time we only had 4-5 kids with autism. We now have 13! All but one are boys and most have pretty bad behavior issues. We also have children with other learning disabilities as well as "peer models"
    Obviously as a district employee you don't get paid much and for me it's okay because I am not really in it for the money. I am rewarded when one of these sweet kids acheives a success no matter how small it is–things I probably took for granted with my own kids. The best part is when parents thank us for all we have done for their child and how pleased they are with his progress. And of course you can't help feel great when you see them step of the school bus in the morning with a huge smile and run towards you for a hug!!
    There are so many stories I could tell you but I mainly wanted to say thank-you to you and CNN for continuing to educate the world about Autism and the devistating affects it can have on a family finacially and emotionally. I see it everyday!

    April 2, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  21. Slater

    As a person in the legal field scores of these cases have come across my desk – people who claim inoculations are related to autism.

    Unfortunately, the legal field is not based on speculation, it is based on legal merit. And attorneys who file cases minus legal merit get sanctioned by the Court and sometimes lose their license.

    My hope is that a clear and concise answer reveals itself about this debilitating disease. Meanwhile, answers will not be found in the Courts. I hope that CNN keeps this in mind when they do their research on this matter.

    April 2, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  22. Katie in Saline

    Sanjay- As the mother of a profoundly autistic 10 year old child, I would love to see more information about how parents can get assistance, if there are federal aids for which they qualify, and why there is such disparity in treatments, aids, and schools. After spending years trying to find the right path for our child, my husband and I are drained-financially and emotionally. We have spent years having professionals tell us there was no way to predict the trajectory of his disability, therefore we may or may not qualify for different aids. It would be so incredible if information was readily given to parents, rather than making parents do footwork that often seems impossible to navigate. And, while I am so happy for families like John Dear who have found an intense school center at Emory, why, why, why does it come down to whether you can pay $24,000 a year to help your child?!?!

    April 2, 2008 at 4:05 pm |
  23. Aruna, Minneapolis

    Dr. Gupta, this is fantastic! We've continually seen various topics and stories on autism covered on CNN and they never cease to amaze me.

    My question is how has the definition of autism changed over the course of decades of research and understanding of the topic? Are the various degrees of autism designated by standardized thresholds?
    Can society reach a point where people with such brilliant minds won't have to worry about a seemingly negative stigma associated to being autistic?

    I believe so.

    April 2, 2008 at 4:00 pm |
  24. Rosemarie

    As the mother of a child diagnosed with autism at age 2 who is now 11 and developmentally "normal," I am very familiar with the controversy surrounding the various treatments for autism. Controversy aside, any discussion of autism helps to bring the topic more to the forefront. When my daughter was diagnosed, resources were pitiful, and our family made decisions based on what seemed to be working to draw our daughter into engaging with others. We have since found that our 2 older boys are also on the spectrum of autism with Asperger's syndrome, and we have participated in the Family Study of Autism at the University of Washington. There are many questions to be answered; unfortunately, people often argue positions without any factual basis, confusing the issues even more. Although I applaud Jenny McCarthy for bringing publicity to the cause, I can't help but feel badly for the mothers who followed the gluten-free/casein-free diet with their own children and had no such results. As human beings, we become emotionally invested in our beliefs and stop listening to others who are not in agreement. We need to get past this to solve the puzzles of autism. I believe the science that shows no link to the vaccines, but my superstitious side always requests the thimerosol-free flu shot for my kids! Science is not infallible, but it's the best we've got.

    April 2, 2008 at 2:38 pm |
  25. Sarah

    Sanjay.....

    I hope to see more about the high-functioning aspect of the autistic spectrum. As an autistic person, I can tell you that many of us are extremely iintellegent, but our autism has us face special challenges.

    April 2, 2008 at 1:53 pm |
  26. Josh Keck

    First, just wanted to say that I'm 18 and I work in a health food store in Barboursville, WV, have been for a year and a half. I see a lot of autistic children coming in with their parents and the number keeps rising as the months go by. At our store, we sell gluten-free food and DHA supplements(from fish oil, flax oil, you name an oil and we've got it). It seems to me that the majority of autistic children coming in have to eat foods without gluten, and sometimes without any allergens at all, such as milk sugars, soy, tree nuts, eggs, etc. I was wondering why something in the digestive system would affect something in the brain. Perhaps I misunderstand the effects of eating a food that your body rejects, but if you could maybe explore the effects of a non-allergen diet on autistic children, I think that could help non-autistic people understand autism and how to treat autism a little better.

    I was also wondering if you could shed some light on the connection between the rising number of children with autism and the rising number of people with Celiac disease (digestive disorder in which people have allergic reactions to wheat protein, or gluten). I don't know if there is a connection there, but if there is, I would geuss it involves the nutritional content of our foods. Wheat is now the number #1 grain in terms of production, and likely has been for a long time. With all of the factory farming techniques, the nutritional content of non-organic wheat is practically minimal.

    Anyway, just some things that I've been wondering about. Thansks ^_^

    April 2, 2008 at 1:50 pm |
  27. Tina

    I agree with you on levels of Autism. It seems it varies amoung kids.

    Most parents with autistic children are not going to let a study be done on them, so I don't know. Like you said, people are not ready to listen.

    On a positive note, you could just keep talking about it and maybe some people will come forward or aleast start talking about in their own communities.

    April 2, 2008 at 1:41 pm |
  28. Sunset

    It is interesting that initially that Autism was referred to as "childhood psychosis." Then ,as researched continued the scientific community began to unravel the mysteries of the iiless. Sadly ,we are no where closer to finding the cause or a cure. However, eye tracking technology has enabled us to discover that children with Autism tend to focus on the speakers mouth and get easily fixated missing the "bigger picture". Much reasearch was done in Britain and there are grown people with Autism who have revealed what goes on in their minds "Behind the dark curtain of Autism". Many times it is fustration with the inability to express themselves and an uncontrolabled need to keep everything "just the way it is" Sad ,in a ever changing world or maybe is a a case of "The more things change is the more they stay the same."

    April 2, 2008 at 1:34 pm |
  29. William Courtland, Waterford, Ontario

    True Autism and Asbestos

    We can inhale asbestos fiber but can not so easily flush what is absorbed into the body. A female will flush it through menstruation while a male will only manage this through what it feeds to its sperm.

    These other related disorders can be caused by lack of proper coupled conception, pharmaceuticals in either consummating parent, or other unclean environmental issues.

    The cure for true autism is a difficult path, true no REM coma might be the only solution but this will require the ability to answer cravings while remaining in or cycling through a comatose state explaining the head banging.

    April 2, 2008 at 1:30 pm |
  30. Jennifer NC

    Hi Sanjay,
    I am a Special Ed teacher who works with several autistic students.I have been really excited about CNN's coverage of Autism over the last year or so. Thank you for devoting so much time to reporting on it.
    I think people need to be continuinally educated about Autism. A lot of people don't really understand the vastness of the spectrum. So many people still hear the word and associate it only with kids who have very limited communication and a lot of behavioral issues. The other end of the spectrum tends to be overlooked . Autism really is fascinating. The kids I happen to work with are mostly high functioning but each one is very different in some ways from the others. Thanks again for your reporting on this topic.

    April 2, 2008 at 1:23 pm |
  31. Michael, NC

    I have skipped two college classes today to watch CNN's continued coverage on Autism. I believe you guys are going in the right direction with this. I have looked into the possibilities of some vaccines such as MMR's or the presence of ethylmercury in vaccines causing deficiencies in the patient. I believe genetics are definitely at play, some experts state that somewhere between 5 to 20 genes may be linked to causing autism. The presence of autism in one of a parent's children heightens the chances of having another, and I have heard that twins with autism are both likely to bear the burden. I don't know much about spontaneous mutations and how they occur, but have heard that they play a large role as well.
    My question is what is causing the sharp increase of rates in our world? They are saying 1 in 150 children will be diagnosed with autism...that is alarmingly high. I have heard of links to pesticides, flame retardants, and pre-natal and post-natal viruses. And since many meds containing thimerosal were pulled from shelves in 1999, why are the rates still climbing?
    I believe there is a lot of research to be done before we can even come close to pinpointing a cause, but I hope it comes soon, and I believe the folks at CNN are already helping the cause by spreading the word to their viewers, making it known that this is a condition worth more attention than it receives now.

    April 2, 2008 at 1:19 pm |
  32. Cindy

    Sanjay,
    Thanks for your tireless efforts to keep the public up to date on autism. I think more channels need someone like you to keep the public aware of this terrible disease, I guess you'd call it?

    I think that CNN should do more stories on parents with children that have autism so that the preconceived notions about this can be done away with. I loved the piece that you did on Amanda, I think was her name...I 'd like to see more of those types of reports. It really put to rest a lot of things that people thought about autistic people not being able to function or live on their own.

    And I'd like to hear more of a real discussion about immunizations causing autism. The pros and cons you know.

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    April 2, 2008 at 1:07 pm |
  33. Megan O. Toronto, ON, Canada

    Sanjay

    I just wanted to take a minute and applaud everyone at CNN for really focusing on autism and its effects on the children, their families and the community affected as a whole. This is truly what CNN does best. Thank you for not just one day of looking at this important issue but a main focus of your reporting

    April 2, 2008 at 12:59 pm |