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Understanding Autism

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Think of all of the money, as it probably should, that goes toward research into childhood AIDS, diabetes and cancer. They're terrible diseases. Yet, there is another condition that reportedly affects more children than those three maladies combined, but without the public funding commitment to discover what causes it and how to treat it.

We speak of autism - a condition characterized by impaired social, communicative and behavioral development.

A new study released last week revealed 1 in every 133 Utah children has autism. It's one of the highest rates of autism anywhere in the country. The study also concluded the disorder is 20 times higher in Utah than it was two decades ago.

Such alarming conclusions raise vital questions that scream for answers.

What, specifically, causes autism? Why are so many kids afflicted? Why is the number increasing? Are there environmental factors that may trigger a genetic predisposition to the condition?

The landmark study, which was underwritten by the Centers for Disease Control, has opened an enormous door of awareness. But, as one researcher said, "our understanding of autism can be compared to medical understanding of fever in the 18th century."

In KSL's view, this is a public health crisis that begs for more study, along with the funding required to get valid answers.

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