KTTU "In Focus," Sunday, 4/4/10, 10:30 AM

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

Host Bob Lee interviews Jennifer Davis, President, Autism Society, Pima County Chapter. Autism affects as many as 1 in every 110 children in the U.S. 

Davis says the rate is even higher in Arizona, 1 out of every 82 children has the disorder.  She says autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders.  She says it is a “spectrum” disorder, in that there are a spectrum of psychological conditions characterized by widespread abnormalities of social interactions and communication, as well as severely restricted interests and highly repetitive behavior.

Davis says the cause of autism is unknown, but there are probably multiple causes. She says scientific evidence points such things as multiple genetic components that may cause autism on their own or possibly when combined with exposure to as yet undetermined environmental factors. She says it remains unclear if Thimerosal, a preservative used in vaccines, is a definite cause. She says there’s been a limited amount of research focusing on what’s causing autism or how best to treat it. She says autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases. 

Davis says treatment usually involves some form of therapy to address behavioral, developmental, and/or educational goals. She says she spent hours each week in sessions with her son, who has autism.  The therapy, she says, involved work on speaking, motor skills and behavior.  She says other families have tried dietary supplements, including gluten-free diets, with some success.