According to a government study, more children in the U.S. are being diagnosed with autism, a wide-ranging disorder that affects more boys than girls.
Four years ago, data showed that one in 88 kids was diagnosed with autism. Today, the study reports one in 50 kids are diagnosed with it. While some may think it’s due to a growing environmental problem, many experts have said the rise in cases is due to better detection and a broadening definition of autism.
Autism is called a spectrum disorder because there is a range of severity. A mild form is referred to as Asperger's.
"These children have difficulty connecting with their environment," pediatrician Manny Cirenza said.
The cause of autism has been the center of recent controversy. Some blame the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, which is given as a combined shot, but most doctors disagree.
"Study after study continues to show us that vaccines do not cause autism," Cirenza said.
Other theories have linked vaccines containing mercury as the cause, but mercury was removed in the 1990s. The rate of autism has continued increasing, and many people are still blaming vaccines. Some even suspect that giving three vaccines to a child all at once is too much for the child’s immune system to manage.
As a result, a number of parents request the measles, mumps and rubella shots be given separately. This is a concern for many doctors, as delaying the shots may have very serious consequences.
In fact, that is exactly what happened in Ireland. Because of the fear that the vaccine caused autism, thousands of children were not immunized.
"Unfortunately the sad result was that autism rates were not affected by people not doing the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine,” Cirenza said. “Sadly, many, many children came down with measles, mumps and rubella and suffered the brain damage and death and other disabilities that go along.”