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Autism: a Growing Disorder

Autism spectrum disorders are growing rapidly in prevalence. Autism spectrum disorders have become among the most
common developmental disabilities facing children and therefore future generations of adults in the United States today.
Statistics show 1 in 100 young children may now be affected by a neurological condition on the spectrum (which includes
autism, pervasive development disorder, and Asperger’s syndrome). Early intervention services for autism spectrum disorders
(ASD) have become much more essential.

Due to early diagnosis along with treatment children with ASD are learning to speak, and going to school, in significant and
increasing numbers. We are also now seeing many adolescents that, while not cured in the precisely but, are in many cases no
longer exhibiting the types and the severity of symptoms that led to their diagnosis in the first place. Even those children who
are more severely challenged can make marked strides in cautiously understanding their potential. A cure remains inaccessible.

Autism: a Lifelong Disorder

ASDs are lifelong developmental disabilities characterized by repetitive behaviors and social and communication problems.
ASD includes autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS, including atypical
autism), and Asperger syndrome. People with ASD have significant impairments in social and communication skills, and
unusual behaviors or interests. Many people with ASD also have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, or reacting to
different sensations. ASD can be diagnosed as early as 18 months and lasts throughout a person's life. Autism is a complex
disorder usually not diagnosed in children until after age 3. Symptoms can include repetitive behaviors such as head-banging,
avoiding physical or eye contact with others, and communicating with gestures rather than words.

Federal Funds Search for a Cause

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is initiating a multi-state collaborative study to help identify factors
that may put children at risk for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and other developmental disabilities. Approximately 2,700
children, ages 2 to 5, and their parents will be part of this study.

We hope this national study will help us learn more about the characteristics of children with ASDs, factors associated with
developmental delays, and how genes and the environment may affect child development,” said Dr. José F. Cordero, assistant
surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

In this five-year study, The National CADDRE Study: Child Development and Autism, a number of factors will be studied for
their potential association with ASDs, including:

•        infections or abnormal responses to infections in the child, mother or father
•        genetic factors in the child, mother and father
•        mother's reproductive history
•        abnormal hormone function in the child, mother or father
•        gastrointestinal problems in the child
•        family history of medical and developmental problems
•        smoking, alcohol and drug use in pregnancy, and
•        parent’s occupation and other socio-demographic factors.

The information will be obtained by conducting interviews and exams, reviewing medical records, collecting cheek swabs,
and blood and hair sampling.

“By conducting the study in six different geographic areas across the country with diverse populations and by identifying
children from multiple sources in each community, we hope to have a study sample that more closely represents children with
ASDs, other developmental problems, and typical development across the country,” added Cordero.

The CADDRE Network was established following the Children’s Health Act of 2000 that directed CDC to establish regional
centers of excellence for ASD and other developmental disabilities.

In 2000, Congress directed federal health officials to increase research into autism. The law prompted a series of CDC
studies, including prevalence research released in May that found 300,000 U.S. children have been diagnosed with autism.

The new study will recruit 900 children diagnosed with autism, 900 with undefined or other developmental problems, and 900
randomly selected youngsters.
Those studied will be ages 2 to 5, in part because health records and memories will be more complete, Schendel said.

That decision will limit the study’s ability to assess the past impact of vaccinations that contain the mercury-based
preservative thimerosal, she acknowledged. Since 2001, thimerosal has been removed from shots recommended for young
Fournier’s group suspects that ingredient is a leading cause of the disorder, although past research suggests it is not.

Researchers will examine the medical records of the children and their parents, and will take cheek swabs and blood and hair
samples, Schendel said.

The CDC awarded the other participating institutions $5.9 million for the study.

Until this announcement, the largest federal study to focus specifically on autism’s causes was research sponsored by the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, looking at 1,000 California children ages 2 to 5. That study is still in
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