8 of the dumbest causes of autism I’ve been told about since my son’s diagnosis.


Seriously, I’ve been told so many causes and cures for ASD in the past three months since my son’s diagnosis that I don’t know whether to scream, cry or laugh in people’s faces.

There is no single known cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) but the majority of the medical community seem to accept that it has something to do with abnormalities in brain function or structure. Frustratingly, the lack of knowledge surrounding how autism occurs means there’s no way to prevent it. That means the only option is to treat it once a diagnosis is confirmed.

Sadly, a lack of known cause also leaves the unqualified masses a little too much wiggle room in which to speculate, because that’s a good idea. No harm done, right? It’s just talk.

Except we discover that just after these so-called “causes” of autism are blurted out come the backyard cures.

Here are 8 of my favourites.

1. Diet

“It all starts in the gut”, I was told by a mum who can’t quite admit to herself that her son may be on the autism spectrum. Apparently not having him diagnosed means he’s not autistic. Hey, I get it. I stalled my son’s diagnosis for three years, convincing myself it was anything else. It’s when she told me she’d just sent his poop sample off for analysis that I started trying to wrap up our phone call. I’ve since been told that autism is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in my son’s digestive tract and that it was probably caused by the foods I ate or the environment I was in during gestation.

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So, my fault then.

Dairy has been blamed and gluten, which rules out most processed foods. Those who don’t point at diet as the cause certainly claim it is the cure. Paleo Pete did it. Celebrity Chef Pete Evans made the claim that children with ASD can benefit from a Paleo diet, which I had no choice but to dismiss seeing as my son subsists on bread, fish fingers, chicken nuggets and bananas.

It was the prestigious Harvard Mental Health letter released in 2010 that attempted to dispel this theory, stating that, “Researchers have long disagreed about whether gastrointestinal problems may underlie some symptoms of autism spectrum disorders. This has not stopped some researchers and celebrities from promoting theories and special “autism diets” with no scientific support. Yet these unfounded recommendations might appeal to grieving and vulnerable parents who are heartbroken about a child’s sudden developmental regression.”

Giovanni playing pinball
Playing Pinball causes autism.

2. Circumcision

An “article” claimed that there was a link between autism and circumcision. This would certainly explain why ASD is more than five times more common in boys than it is in girls. That’s something. The Demark study was released early this year and claimed that after closely examining 340,000 boys between 1994 and 2003 researchers found that the “overall risk of developing autism before age 10 was almost 50 percent higher for circumcised boys than uncircumcised boys”.

It was just after thousands of parents unnecessarily cancelled their son’s circumcisions and corresponding get-togethers that Huffington Post helpfully pointed out that study co-author Dr. Morten Frisch has been an “outspoken critic of circumcision” for a number of years. It’s unclear if a past traumatic experience caused him to devote his life to turning parents of the idea of circumcision and we assume his dog is yet to be de-sexed because, cruelty.

It was left to Dr. Douglas S. Diekema, a pediatrician at the University of Washington in Seattle to make the point that this particular study raises “questions for further investigation, but does not provide answers. Correlation does not imply or prove causation,” which is pretty much what we were told after the World Health Organisation announced that processed meats and probably red meat cause cancer. Seconds after my salami, bacon and ham were thrown in the bin I read that other avenues of research needed to be pursued in order to confirm this.

I didn’t get that news in time to save my bacon, so to speak. Also, my son is not circumcised.

3. Vaccines

It’s a conspiracy, didn’t you know? The majority of doctors, nurses, researchers and government officials thought it would benefit the world if millions of children were injected with autism via life-saving vaccinations.

Also, we didn’t walk on the moon.

And for all of you crazy skeptics out there, the reason the entire medical community and our trusted government officials want our children to suffer this debilitating condition (as well as cancer and other illnesses they claim are caused by vaccinations) is because they are in bed with pharmaceutical companies. It’s all about greed and money.

Because the easiest way to get rich is to make a whole bunch of kids sick and then get payments under the table from pharmaceutical companies who are raking it in.

Except ASD doesn’t normally require medication unless there is an associated condition such as ADHD. Normal treatment requires Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy and these services are normally provided by trained clinicians who run their own businesses, and who are not paying the medical community and government officials money to inject kids with autism, thus keeping them in business.

Or are they?!?

That one stupid study that linked autism with vaccinations and has since been refuted a million, trillion times did so much damage. Again, autism isn’t caused by vaccinations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explained that, “Some people have had concerns that ASD might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD. In 2011, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on eight vaccines given to children and adults found that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe.”

Giovanni did so well at his recent Occupational Therapy assessment, until he had to stop playing this ball game. Article continues after this video.

4. Hormones

This is another one we can blame on Demark. A study analysed hormones in amniotic fluid surrounding babies and found that ASD kids had high levels of testosterone and cortisol, explaining once more why boys are more likely than girls to be on the autism spectrum but failing to address the fact that girls can be autistic too.

Hmmm, another opportunity for further study it seems.

Blaming hormones or anything that happens in the womb is pretty much societies way of blaming women because we grow the young-uns. Of course I’ve heard it all before, with my other son’s food allergies being blamed on my decision to live near a main road while pregnant and my failure to eat enough potential allergens (or to many depending on which study you believe).

You’re doing pregnancy wrong, ladies, and your children are being born with ASD. The shame. Also if hormones were the cause, surely there would be a patch for that.

I know that shortly after my pregnancies I suffered a significant drop in estrogen causing “lady problems” I rarely speak of, except to say it took much longer than six weeks for wifely duty to take place. Then again, I had my hands full with a newborn and was yet to realise how I’d ruined my child in untero by being female.

It was Richard Sharpe at the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at Edinburgh University who pointed out that this conclusion might be a bit of a stretch, telling The Guardian“We now know that subtle variations in foetal development are an important determinant of later disease, which may be lifelong. Researching this in humans is incredibly difficult because of the obvious limitations in accessing what is happening in the foetus inside the womb,” he said.

5. Inattentive mums

Inattentive mums, also known as Refrigerator Mums (a term coined by Leo Kanner as early as 1943) are apparently to blame for their children developing ASD. These women are cold and withhold affection, causing their children to be autistic. Considering the fact that millions of autistic children have doting, loving mothers who subsequently picked up on their children’s condition early must be ignored when discussing this particular theory.

I must admit I didn’t give my son as much attention as I felt he deserved due to my poor decision to have his sister just 16 months after his birth.

Still he had a lot of attention from his dad and big brother while I was nursing. He may be one of those anomalies. I can see the headline now. “Doted on middle child develops ASD, shocking the medical community.”

Research does show that children regularly robbed of affection do experience developmental delays however developmental delays are just one symptom of ASD. There are so many other symptoms, each of which can be explained away, until you put together all the puzzle pieces and are left with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

This Refrigerator Mum theory doesn’t explain our children’s high IQs, tendency to mimic, anxiety, poor hygiene, narrow eating, visual language or ability to talk for hours on end about one particular topic. Another theory that ignores the complexity of autism and mum-blames. Gee, thanks, we weren’t feeling crappy enough.

The doctor responsible for this theory making the rounds, Dr. Gabor Mate, told the Albany Union Times that parental stress could be the cause of developmental disabilities in kids however then goes on to say that he is yet to prove a link between autism and parental stress, adding that this must be the cause because “nothing else makes sense”. I know, our minds are blown by that logic.

He also said depression could be the cause.

Or environmental factors.

Or unicorns.

Mum and Giovanni looking at rocks
Holding rocks can cause autism.

6. Traffic

Scientist have warned that living near a main road can double the incidence of ASD. The claim is that exposure to air pollution in the womb or during the first year are to blame, with researchers pointing out that children who live near main roads have double the chance of being autistic.

Then they took a single breath and said that while their findings are important they don’t “prove that traffic pollutants could affect brain development”. So this is pretty much what they’ve said:

Living near a main road increases your child’s risk of developing ASD.

Or, not.

Wow, thanks. Can we go now?

California-based scientist Dr Heather Volk headed up the research, telling the Daily Mail, “We’ve known for a long time that air pollution is bad for lungs, and especially for children. We’re now beginning to understand how air pollution may affect the brain.”

However experts urged caution when considering air pollution as the single cause of autism, saying it is more likely to be more than once cause rather that something as simple as living near a main road. Also air pollution has been blamed for a myriad of other ailments including food allergies and this isn’t widely accepted.

The theory is that particles in air pollution enter a pregnant woman’s blood stream and cause abnormalities in unborn children. So obviously there must be enormous clusters of autistic kids all the way down every motorway in Australia.

Except, there isn’t. But hey, I’m no scientist.

7. Other poisons

Vinyl flooring can cause ASD. So can carpet. Also plastic water bottles (those dreaded BPAs). How about pesticides. How about everything.

Seriously, if vinyl flooring and carpet cause autism then we must all be on the spectrum somewhere. In fact, that is another theory. We are all on the spectrum, it’s just that some of us are so mild we are undetectable.

Plastic water bottles and the microwaving of plastic containers are also considered to be potential causes of autism (and cancer) and then pesticides. Yes mum, yes dad, you gave your child autism by not buying organic produce. The countless studies pointing to flooring, drinking and eating as potential causes for ASD pretty much prove my theory that everything causes autism. Ev-ery-thing.And it’s all the fault of the ignorant masses who refuse to listen to the latest study, latest claim, latest headline.

If we simply lived in caves and fed off wild leaves we’d be autism-free, cancer-free, depression-free, just free.

I do love it when cleaning products are to blame for anything, being a reluctant cleaner at the best of times. My family never laughs so hard as when cleaning products are linked to autism and food allergies because I have one of each and detest cleaning. Obviously if I do ever learn how to clean my home properly it will be with white vinegar and baking soda. You’ll literally be able to lick my floors.

While none of the studies covering “everything else” as a potential cause of autism actually prove a direct link, they do make a very important point, which is that it is best to avoid “everything”, just in case.

Dr. Philip Landrigan of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, told Fox News, “Lastly, I talk with parents about what to buy and even in the case of chemicals where evidence for toxicity is not yet solid, like phthalates and BPA, it makes sense to buy products free of chemicals.  I say to people, ‘Why take a chance? Why risk your health and your child’s health with exposure to a chemical [with] at least some toxicity when there are safe alternatives available?’”

Makes, total, sense.

Kids and Sadie
Having pets causes autism.

8. God

One person said this to me. They told me that God had given me Giovanni and had given Giovanni autism as a gift. Autism is a gift. Okay, I see what they are getting at. I wouldn’t change anything about Giovanni (except his constant struggle to fit into daily life) and it is a gift in regard to the fact that I love him just as he is and never want him to change (except to be able to complete school work and make friends).

God also doesn’t, “give you anything you aren’t strong enough to handle”.

I’m going to get into trouble for saying this but does God give us all ailments and illnesses? Does God give us STDs too? I’m just asking.

In conclusion and just to be completely clear, you, dear parents, did not give your child ASD. Your child’s ASD was most likely caused by several complex genetic and environmental factors.

It’s not your fault.

Autism is just one of those things.

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