As we roll into the second week of April, when the birds are chirping and the sun is shining, it’s important to also recognize that it’s the second week of the National Autism Awareness Month. Autism is most commonly known as a complex developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others due to various disorders of early brain development. There is no one specific cause for autism, but a recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health has discovered that women who grew up experiencing abuse were at the highest risk- 3 ½ times more than women not abused- of having a child born with autism.
This article brings to light the impacts and harms childhood abuse has on not only the person who experiences it, but also on future generations that are put at an increased risk for brain disorders like autism. Not only does this study help identify a new risk factor for autism, but it also helps to identify future preventable risk factors. Results of this study concluded that no matter what level of abuse a woman may have been exposed to, the risk of having a child with autism increased based on any level, ranging from moderate to severe, compared to women that were not exposed to any level of abuse during childhood. Although further research is required in order to weed out the mechanisms involved in maternal childhood abuse-autism, authors of the study believe that women’s biological systems experience long-lasting effects from all types of abuse, which plays a crucial role in a future mother’s childbearing abilities and the type of stress that can be put on the fetus.
Even though there may be no cure for autism, through various studies, such as this one, there can be increased efforts to prevent childhood abuse, which can furthermore lower the rate of babies being born with autism. Recently I was given the opportunity to volunteer for the Autism Speaks 5k run/3k walk where I realized that autism is becoming a very prevalent disorder among our future generations, and with the sad truth of there being no cure, studies such as this one shine light into some hope for preventing more children being born with this disorder and maybe even eventually finding a cure. Not only does this type of research have the opportunity to decrease rates of childhood abuse, but it also opens the door into an array of discoveries on the mechanisms and biology that drives autism.
Gabrielle Wertheim (3)
Link to Photo: http://www.amchp.org/programsandtopics/CYSHCN/projects/spharc/resources/Pages/AutismAwarenessMonth.aspx