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New Research on Autism Raises More Questions

By: Lindsey Ward Email
By: Lindsey Ward Email

February 14, 2008

What causes autism is a question that still looms among doctors and experts, but this latest report has created more insight into this mysterious disorder.

We sat down with an autism expert for these emerging details.

In a flood of new studies closely looking at autism, the latest has confirmed what many parents have told Doctor Ken Norwood for years, that a fever can temporarily unlock autism's grip on a child.

“It suggests that there may be something about what is going on in fever that could be affecting how the brain is working,” said Dr. Norwood, an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Developmental Pediatrics at UVa’s Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center.

The study examined 30 children between the ages of 2 and 18. Researchers found a temperature of 100 caused the most predominant symptoms of autism to weaken, briefly freeing children from their developmental disorders.

“They found that there was decreased hyper activity and irritability in the children who had fever, which sort of makes sense. Kids get more lethargic, maybe aren't as active, but what was really interesting is that they seem to have less unusual speech,” explained Norwood.

Doctor Norwood added, if indeed fever can normalize autistic behavior, it suggests the neuro pathways that are necessary for the child to act typically may be intact.

“That’s very exciting, because that then suggests that maybe we can come up with ways to make those neuro path ways to work like they are supposed to.” Norwood said.

Although the study is another chapter in autism research, it opens up a whole new book of questions

Norwood says it's very important more studies are conducted on the topic. This was the first research looking at fever and autistic behavior.

It is believed that one out of every 166 kids is diagnosed with autism.

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