What Causes Autism?
The causes of autism are still unclear, but it is generally accepted that there is no single cause of autism. A number of genes have been identified that contribute to the risk of developing autism. Abnormalities in various brain structures, including the cerebellum, frontal lobes, hippocampus and amygdala, have also been found in individuals with autism, along with an increase in the total brain volume. Communication between different brain areas may also be impaired in individuals with autism. As you can gather from this list, the causes are complex and not well understood, but a lot of research is taking place on the subject so that we may be able to better understand autism one day.
Theories on the causes of autism that have been discredited are that autism is caused by lack of parental involvement, and that mercury in vaccines can cause autism (see The MMR Vaccine and Autism).
There is no cure for autism. However, several behavioural and pharmacological treatments have been shown to be effective in reducing autism symptoms and associated problems. Areas of intervention that are focused on are developing language and social skills and reducing problem behaviours.