The causes of autism are still being looked into. Many experts believe that there isn't one specific 'cause', and that there are genetic factors. We are always looking to understand more about autism, and welcome any research in this area.
There is strong evidence to suggest that autism can be caused by a variety of physical factors, all of which affect brain development – it is not due to emotional deprivation or the way a person has been brought up. Evidence suggests that autism may be genetic. Scientists have been attempting to identify which genes might be implicated in autism for some years. Autism is likely to have multiple genes responsible rather than a single gene.
Is there a 'cure' for autism?
There is no known 'cure' for autism. We also believe that autism does not need a 'cure' and should be seen as a difference, not a disadvantage. We also warn people about fake cures and potentially harmful interventions here.
This does not mean that autistic people do not face challenges, but with the right support in place, they are more than capable of living fulfilling and happy lives.
Because autism is a 'spectrum' condition it affects different people in different ways. It is therefore very difficult to generalise about how an autistic person will develop over time. Each person is different, and an intervention or coping strategy which works well with one person may not be appropriate or effective with another.
The characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations. Two people with the same diagnosis can have a very different profile of needs and skills.
There is a growing movement among autistic adults who don't think in terms of 'curing' a disorder but instead of celebrating diversity. This is not to suggest that autistic people or those with other diagnoses do not find life challenging, but that they see it as a different way of communicating, thinking, and interacting.
What autistic people have to say
Through our Stories from the Spectrum series, we’ve spoken to several autistic people, who have shared their thoughts on this topic, what being autistic is like for them, and some of the positive aspects of being autistic.
"I just seem to see and think about people and the world in a different way. It's part of who I am."
John Clark, autistic filmmaker, told us:"I just seem to see and think about people and the world in a different way. For instance, I am both confused and fascinated by idioms. It’s part of who I am. I used to be very self-conscious about people liking and accepting me, but now, I just think, “take me or leave me”. We’re all different. Some people seem to find ‘live and let live’ a difficult mantra to grasp though."
Patrick Samuel, autistic artist and musician, said: "My autism makes it easy for me to do things a lot of non-autistic people may struggle with. I work intensely when I’m painting, writing, composing or doing anything creative. I think being autistic also contributes to my aptitude in problem solving and pattern recognition, which can help me research a highly specialised subject and give talks on it."
Harri Wilson, autistic junior doctor, said:"I always notice lots of details other people miss and this can be really important in making the right diagnosis at work, or picking up that a patient is deteriorating. I also have an excellent memory, which really helps in my job. I can’t really recognise or remember faces though – this can make things tricky when many of my colleagues wear the same uniforms!"