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Don't Worry, These Things Do NOT Cause Autism!

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Updated January 23, 2014

What Doesn't Cause Autism:

It seems that every day something new is implicated as a possible cause of autism. Even so, and even with the controversy over just what DOES cause autism, we know for sure that certain things didn't (and won't) cause autism in your child.

Autism Is Not Contagious:

Even if your child is constantly in contact with a child on the autism spectrum, he or she cannot "catch" autism. You may notice a typically developing child copying the mannerisms of an autistic peer, but no one can become autistic as a result of physical proximity.

Tantrums Don't Cause Autism:

A reader wondered whether allowing her autistic grandchild to "cry it out" when he was an infant could have caused his autism. The answer is no: The tantrums could well have been a result of the autism, but there is no way that the autism was caused by the tantrums!

Junk Food Doesn't Cause Autism:

Many parents have put their children with autism on gluten and casein-free diets (and other special diets) with good results. That does not mean that they "caused" their children's autism by feeding them wheat or dairy (or French fries or soda). And, while symptoms may improve, the likelihood of actually "curing" accurately diagnosed autism with diet or any other treatment is very, very slim.

"Bad" Parenting Doesn't Cause Autism:

A few decades ago, Bruno Bettelheim infamously influenced the medical profession with his theory that autism is caused by cold, "refrigerator" mothers. Bruno Bettelheim was wrong.

Television Doesn't Cause Autism:

About a year ago, a study came out that suggested the idea that, since cable TV and autism increased in popularity at the same time, there might be a connection. There is no actual evidence to support the idea that allowing your child to watch a lot of television could possibly cause autism. On the other hand, once your child is diagnosed, it's a good idea to limit screen time in favor of more interactive pursuits.

Cell Phones Don't Cause Autism:

In recent months and years, the media has reported on theories that electromagnetic radiation created by cell phones and wi-fi networks are behind a rise in autism. There is research to support the idea that ER does have an impact on the brain - but so far no credible connection has been made between ER and autism. Certainly parents are not causing autism in their children by using their cell phones.

Difficult Family Situations Don't Cause Autism:

One parent was told her son was autistic because "he had too many siblings." This is nonsense. Children cope with divorce, fatal illness, constant moves and much more - and while there may be psychological implications, such experiences cannot cause autism.

Spanking Doesn't Cause Autism:

Blows to the head, lack of oxygen, and other physical trauma can certainly cause brain damage. Brain damaged children may have behaviors similar to those of autistic children, or even be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. But a swift whack to the rear end, while it may be a controversial appproach to child rearing, cannot cause autism in a toddler.
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