About Autism What causes autism? Autism is caused by differences in how our brains are 'wired', but there seem to be a number of factors which may influence this 'wiring'. Autism is strongly linked to genetic factors. As our understanding of the human genome increases, we are able to identify genetic markers which may result in autism. For different conditions – for example cystic fibrosis – the genetic markers are clear. With autism, there seems to be a range of genetic markers which may produce autism, but which do not invariably produce autism. As an example, there are cases of identical twins where one twin has autism and the other does not. Common thinking is that autism is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as seizure activity, pregnancy or birth complications, or infection / illness. Autism is lifelong, and people will be autistic from birth or very early infancy, even if it does not become apparant until later on in life. People can NOT become autistic because of parenting styles or how they are raised. When autism was first identified, one of the ideas was that it may be caused by cold and distant mothers (a theory called the “refrigerator mother hypothesis”). This theory was thoroughly disproven in the 1970s when the first studies showed that autism has a strong genetic component. In the late 90s and early 2000s, Andrew Wakefield made claims through press conferences and research studies that there may be a link between autism and the MMR jab. These claims were found to be false, the original journal article was retracted and Andrew Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register. A large number of studies from around the world have shown no association between autism and the MMR vaccine. Despite the evidence that there is no link, there was for many years substantial media coverage of Wakefield’s position which caused a reduction in the uptake of the MMR jab. This in turn has caused an increase in the incidence of very dangerous diseases like measles.