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Do We Finally Know What Causes Autism? Researchers Have Made a Major Breakthrough

The cause of autism has long been researched — and debated. The sensory processing disorder has been wrongly linked to everything from vaccinations to brain deficiencies and bad parenting. However, scientists now believe they know what causes autism or, at that very least, contributes to it.

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found genetics play a major role.

Of course, researchers have known there was a genetic component to autism, or ASD, for some time. However, the size and duration of this study proves just how impactful it can be. The most recent report looked at the medical histories of more than two million children between 1998 and 2012.

“The current study results provide the strongest evidence to our knowledge to date that the majority of risk for autism spectrum disorders is from genetic factors,” study author Sven Sandin, a statistician and epidemiologist with the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, told HuffPost.

Sardin admits additional research is necessary. “This does not mean that we can completely ignore the environmental risk factors and their interaction with the genetic risk factors. There is a lot of work that still needs to be done.” However, for parents and 1 in 59 children, it is a huge step in the direction.

It also gives parents with a family history of autism something to consider discussing with a genetic counselor and/or their child’s pediatrician, especially since research shows early intervention can help improve one’s physical, emotional and communicative skills.

“On some level, I feel like we should feel comforted by [these findings],” Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician with the Seattle Children’s Hospital who did not work on the study told HuffPost, “because it’s almost like autism is explained… it’s not because of what a parent is doing right or wrong. It is largely based on a child’s genetic makeup.”

That said, “we still do not know which specific genes contribute to [an increased] risk,” Sandin said. “We have, so far, only been scratching the surface.”

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