Enough Awareness Already

Autism Awareness Day kicks-off the start of an annual month-long effort to increase global awareness of autism spectrum disorders. With US parents now reporting that 1-in-50 of their children are affected, and 1-in-33 boys, SafeMinds says: “Enough awareness already – we need to know why this happens!

We now know that autism spectrum disorders result from a convergence of genetic traits and/or environmental exposures. Current research spending on the genetic relationship to ASD outpaces spending on environmental factors by an inexcusable 12:1 ratio, and gene/environment interactions received only one-third the amount of genetics. Until we focus more energy and resources on fully understanding the environmental components of autism, we will never be able to identify its causes, provide the best treatments possible, or finally begin targeted efforts at its prevention.

SafeMinds urges lawmakers and other officials to recognize that now is the time for investing resources that will provide the greatest return in terms of results – namely, identifying the environmental triggers behind this devastating disorder.
The continuing downward slide in our neurological public health demands the immediate identification of its causes, and remedies to exposures that affect neurodevelopment. Even before conception, parents’ toxic chemical exposures can create genetic damage impacting post-conception health of their family, and other environmental factors can continue to take their neurological toll during pre-natal development, and in post-natal maturation of the immune and nervous systems.
We need timely, concrete actions. President Obama must appoint a White House Autism Coordinator, as promised five years ago during the 2008 campaign, to bring greater efficiency and set targeted, result-achieving research priorities, by funding both genetic and environmental factors. President (then candidate) Obama also promised to vastly expand support for families affected by ASD.
Autism research will not only benefit those families, however. Much as AIDS research opened new doors of understanding about immunology and retroviruses, solving the mysteries of autism will lead to further insights on diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s and ALS. It may also lead to an understanding about the toll that toxic exposures take on all individuals throughout the course of their lives.
The time for action is long overdue. We cannot and must not allow the numbers of diagnosed children to continue rising in this unchecked epidemic, leaving in its wake a growing army of families who desperately need more government services. For their sake, and the nation’s, we need far more targeted spending to provide the additional care and attention this national emergency demands.
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SafeMinds.org will hold the first in a series of Congressional Autism Educational Forums on Moving from Awareness to Action. Forum 1, “Environmental Factors – What Are They and Why Do They Matter?” will be held from 10 to 11 am on Friday April 12, 2013 in Room 2325 of the Rayburn House Office Bldg. Guest speakers include Dr. Richard Deth, Pharmacology Professor from Northeastern University and Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Professor & Deputy Director, Center for Children’s Environmental Health M.I.N.D. Institute (Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) University of California – Davis.

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