Science of Autism

Autism is complex. Each person diagnosed with autism is different, so what is true for one person may not be so for another. People living with autism and the professionals providing services often have more questions than answers. Slowly but surely, science is validating some facts about autism.

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Autism Speaks, founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a child with autism, has grown into the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. The web address is

Recently, Autism Speaks invited the public to submit questions to their science team about autism research. They received over 3,000 questions in a short period of time, making it impossible to answer every single question. But they did combine the question topics and provided answers to seven most frequently asked questions. I encourage you to click on this link to see the answers the science team at Autism Speaks provided on their website:

The questions addressed by Autism Speaks in this link are:
1. Are you finding that autism is increasing at the same/similar pace worldwide?
2. Is there empirical evidence that parental age is a contributing factor to giving birth to a child with autism?
3. Has the rate of autism truly increased in the last 50 years or so or is it just that the classification of autism has gotten broader and as such the prevalence seems larger?
4. Any link between vaccines and autism? Put this issue to rest once and for all, one way or the other.
5. How can families participate in research studies?
6. Are you aware of any research being done on diet and its affect on children w/ autism? If so, what has been learned?
7. Why is autism more common in boys?

As you read information from Autism Speaks and other respected sources of data-based information about autism, remember the opening sentence of this podcast: “Autism is complex.” Given that complexity, it is literally impossible to apply the findings of any research study to every single individual with autism. But, scientific research does uncover evidence and discover trends that can be helpful to all of us as we strive to improve the quality of life of our friends with autism.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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