Now Reading: Autism Research: The Difference Between “a Link To” VS. “the Cause Of”

Autism Research: The Difference Between “a Link To” VS. “the Cause Of”

So in the past month there’s been two new “links” to autism.

And every time these research articles linking autism to other things come out many in the autism community come out to ridicule the studies.  I’ve been guilty of it myself over the years.  I once posted a humorous blog post about all the autism links that you can read HERE.

So many people assume that I am anti-research and/or against all these studies.  

In fact, a few years back there was research linking older dads to an increased risk of autism, and many asked my opinion, and at that time I said that it didn’t bother me because being an older dad might be one of 10 links that might’ve cause a kid to have autism.  
That’s because I get the HUGE difference between a “link” to autism vs a “cause” of autism. 
Many moms & dads get offended or frustrated with research like this because it makes them feel guilty about something they may have done to cause their kid’s autism, during pregnancy for example.  
There was 2 different studies a few years back, one linking antidepressants during pregnancy to an increased risk of autism and one linking obesity during pregnancy to an increased risk of autism.  But if you were on antidepressants or obese while pregnant and had an autistic kid that’s probably not the sole cause.  No one is saying that.  They are saying that your kid probably may have had a predisposition to being autistic and obesity, antidepressants, or any number of other things or a combo of all those things came together to unfortunately make your kid autistic.  
It’s kinda like what I mean when I wrote in a previous blog post (READ) that

Autism Is Like A Cough….
What I mean by that is, there’s probably 20 things that make you cough (cold, flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, etc).  And each of those 20 things have a different treatment, a different way to make that cough disappear. 

In the same vein I think there may be 20+ things that bring on autism, or autistic symptoms or whatever you want to call it.  And there may be 20 different ways of treating that autism.  

So even though I’ve joked about some of the research over the years, especially the more ludicrous studies, I’m not bothered by it. I’m glad they’re doing lots of research to find links and causes. I appreciate the research on causation & links mostly because it will work towards a cure for future generations.  It might not help my son, but if they figure out what the links or causes are it may help future parents.  And also sometimes the research finds similarities between autism and other neurological disorders (like Parkinson’s or cerebral palsy) which may lead to possible medicine advancements for autism.  So I’m not bothered by most of the research.
What I am bothered by is them releasing the findings from these studies prematurely and/or the mainstream media picking up on them and simplifying them and scaring people. Every week there’s a new link. Mothers weight, father’s age, living near a highway, etc, etc, etc. If you read that every other week it just seems ludicrous.
That’s it.  A short blog post to clarify the difference between “a link to” and ” the cause of”

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Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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5 People Replies to “Autism Research: The Difference Between “a Link To” VS. “the Cause Of””

  1. While correlation is not causation, I do think the research on circumcision and autism is significant. In recent decades those who circumcise often but not always provide the baby with Acetaminophen (Tylenol) to reduce pain. Other studies have found Acetaminophen use is much more common in babies who later develop autism (see: and other studies have found countries that have greater acetaminophen use have higher rates of autism. See (
    In addition as autism frequently features sulfation and methylation deficits and acetaminophen requires suflation and methylation for minimally disruptive metabolism, I think it makes sense that acetaminophen use could be particularly problematic in those with a vulnerability to autism. Of course this doesn't mean that all or even most cases of autism are do to acetaminophen use. It suggests to me at least that it is a real risk factor and the widespread use of acetaminophen in infants and children should be stopped.

  2. Some folks view my post as spam but I feel I have a duty to share what I know if it can help anyone just a little. There is dietary help and Dr. Gerald Edwards explains how he has helped his son.

  3. Anonymous

    Some of these studies are useful, like the sulforaphane study at Johns Hopkins. The problem is that it will takes a few decades before this reaches your doctor. If you spend some time reading about it, you can take advantage now. No DAN doctor needed. No safety risks. No big expense, just some time.

  4. Anonymous

    Thanks for a very refreshing post. Every time these questions come up at our house, my husband reminds me that it is pointless to assign blame to ourselves. We do our utmost every day to be the best parents possible to our little one and help him achieve his highest potential. Looking over our shoulder at the past is not productive for our family. Thanks for the reminder that every study published doesn't change the universe. LOL

  5. Lol I felt like I fell into every "link" that they have come around with. Having a son and nephew that fall into the severe "category" of ASD, we definitely have not been without a plethora of reasons as to what may have caused this. It's been our life for 15 years and in 6 years we will experience the big transition. The yellow bus has come to our door every school day since E's 3rd birthday. I try to think what life might be like at whatever point we move to him to a residential group home. It brings tears to my eyes just to think about it. Anyway, well written article once again. Thank you you for sharing you life experiences with the king.