Autism is a developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. There is no known single cause for autism
Is Autism vaccine related?
JUST as the dispute over whether vaccines cause autism was dying down at last, a US government decision has added fresh fuel to the fire. Lately, it emerged that the federal government is to compensate a couple who say that the regular childhood vaccines, given to their baby daughter in 2000, caused her to develop autism. Damages have not yet been set, but could exceed $1 million.
Significantly, the government's decision says nothing about whether vaccines cause autism. Instead, government lawyers concluded only that vaccines aggravated a pre-existing cellular disorder in the child, causing brain damage that included features of autism.
Autism experts say it is unclear why compensation is being paid.
It transpired that the child's mitochondria, the powerhouses that provide cells with energy, were not working normally, and tests revealed a mutation in a gene linked to mitochondrial function. After studying her medical history, officials concluded that the vaccines had "significantly aggravated an underlying mitochondrial disorder, which predisposed her to deficits in energy metabolism", causing brain damage with "features of autism spectrum disorder".
Autism runs in families and some of the genes thought to be involved play a role in mitochondrial function.
Experts say these links do nothing to prove that autism originates in the mitochondria. It's not surprising that mitochondrial function is abnormal. With neurodegenerative disorders almost any marker of cell health will be worse than in controls. Without more research, it is impossible to say whether the mitochondrial problems are the cause of the disease or its by-product.
Further complications stem from confusion over the role vaccines played in the child's condition. Severe inflammatory reactions are a rare but established side effect of vaccines, and they can damage the brain in many different ways, some of which produce symptoms similar to those seen in autism. The mitochondrial disorder might have prevented the child from dealing with her inflammation, but it is also possible that the child's mitochondrial problems caused the inflammation and that the vaccines she received were irrelevant. Parents should not be dissuaded from getting their children vaccinated just because of a court case.
Numerous scientific studies have addressed the question, and all concluded that there is no link.
So, we shouldn’t stop vaccinating our children, and leave them at the risk of developing many killing diseases, just because there is a probability - that is not scientifically proved – autism is triggered or aggravated by vaccination.
About half of parents of children with autism notice their child's unusual behaviors by age 18 months, and about four-fifths notice by age 24 months. As postponing treatment may affect long-term outcome, any of the following signs is reason to have a child evaluated by a specialist without delay:
- No babbling by 12 months.
- No gesturing (pointing, waving goodbye, etc.) by 12 months.
- No single words by 16 months.
- No two-word spontaneous phrases (not including echolalia) by 24 months.
- Any loss of any language or social skills, at any age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for autism at the 18- and 24-month well-child doctor visits, using autism-specific formal screening tests. Screening tools designed for one culture's norms for behaviors like eye contact may be inappropriate for a different culture. Genetic screening for autism is generally still impractical.
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