Recent studies performed by the Institute For People With Disabilities in New York have shown that the previous frequency which had been accepted for many years is now on the low side. The previous frequency figures were that 1 in every 166 children had autism to some degree, but these studies now indicate that the figure is closer to 1 in 150.
There are many possible explanations for this increase. One group suggests that as we are starting to understand autism better, the definition of what autism is has been expanded, and now includes children that would not have been included in the statistics. But even with this broadened definition, many of the children who are now part of that statistic have a very mild form of autism, where it is questionable as to whether or not the line has been crossed from very mild autism or simply a standard case of Aspergers Syndrome.
The root cause of autism or Aspergers is still unknown and there is no conclusive scientific evidence to indicate that there is something very specific that can be linked to causing it. Some thoughts are that there is something in these children which predisposes them to autism, and something happens early in their life which triggers it. Some thoughts indicate the possibility of a viral illness, similar to children who are diagnosed with diabetes at an early age.
While there is not a cure, autism like almost any other affliction, is best treated when it can be diagnosed as early as possible. Parents need to be aware of the symptoms of autism and not be afraid to have their child examined by a medical professional who is familiar with autism and its symptoms. Depending on the diagnosis, there is a broad array of possible treatments, ranging from medications to simple early intervention services. One problem is that a very young child does not yet have a sense of what is normal, so the child may not be aware that something is wrong, making it even more critical that parents are aware of the symptoms of autism and can be watching for it.
Some recent studies have pointed to oxytocin playing a major role in autism. This is a hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland, which appears to play a major role with respect to social behavior. Studies are being done to see the effects of administering oxytocin in various forms, including intravenously.
With the reported number of diagnosed cases of autism growing, more and more studies are being funded to determine the root cause of it. But the best defense at this point in time is being aware of the symptoms of autism and Aspergers, and if those symptoms are showing, to get an early diagnosis.