But many parents are not convinced. Some believe there could be environmental factors, perhaps not present in previous generations, that are causing the rise.
For example, some parents have expressed concerns that autism might be linked to the vaccines children receive. One vaccine ingredient in particular – thimerosal – emerged as a suspect during the 1990s. It's a preservative that was commonly used in many childhood vaccines.
However, in 2001 thimerosal was removed or reduced to trace amounts in all childhood vaccines except for one type of influenza vaccine. The CDC says “several studies examining trends in vaccine use and changes in autism frequency do not support such an association between thimerosal and autism.”
Some suspect things like exposure to mercury and diet play a role. At this point, research continues and parents wait.
What to do
If you suspect your child has a developmental problem that could be a form of autism, your first step should be an examination by the child's pediatrician. A health care provider experienced in diagnosing and treating autism is usually needed to make the actual diagnosis.
According to NIH, an early, intensive, appropriate treatment program will greatly improve the outlook for most young children with autism. Treatment is most successful when it is geared toward the child's particular needs.
Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.