At the Children's' Treatment Center we are actively engaged in research into the etiology (causes) of autism and related disorders. Below is a summary of research that we presented several years ago. Keep in mind that these are statistical studies and that mothers with these predictors deliver normal babies.


Etiological Factors in Children Diagnosed with Autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder *Poster session II Human Behavior and Evolution Society Conference. June 1-4, 2005. Austin, Texas

Gary E. Brown, Angie S. MacKewn, Sherry D. Jones, & Esther J. Plank
The purpose of the current study was to develop a predictive model of more frequently occurring pre and postnatal etiological factors in children diagnosed with autism. A survey of biological mothers of children diagnosed with autism or PDD and of children without developmental delays were matched on gender (n=134 males and 56 females) and age (M=6.54 years, SD=2.78 in autistic); (M=6.23 years, SD= 2.90 in controls). The developmental survey asked several questions including, pregnancy food cravings and aversions, childhood ear infection, presence of tubes, vomiting and nausea patterns, and speech development. A logistic regression equation found that not vomiting in the first trimester, the mother having an infection while pregnant, and the child having over 7 ear infections, were significant predictors of whether a child was diagnosed with autism or not. Of mothers of autistic children, 40% vomited in the first trimester compared to 53% of the control mothers. The “embryo protection hypothesis” suggests that morning sickness has an evolutionary basis and protects the embryo from teratogens by causing pregnant women to purge (Profet, 1992).

In 2008 we published a second study in the journal, Psychological Reports:

An Exploration of Possible Pre- and Postnatal Correlates of Autism: A Pilot Survey
Gary E. Brown, Sherry D. Jones, Angie S. Mackewn, & Ester J. Plank

Biological mothers of children diagnosed with autism or pervasive developmental disorder and biological mothers of children without developmental delays, matched on age and gender, were surveyed about a number of possible pre- and post-natal correlates of autism or pervasive developmental disorder. A regression analyses on male children revealed that the mother not vomiting in the first trimester, the mother not having smell aversions during the pregnancy, and the mother having an infection while pregnant significantly predicted a later diagnosis of autism or a pervasive developmental disorder. Not craving sweets while pregnant also significantly predicted a diagnosis of autism or a pervasive developmental disorder in male children. Mothers of male children later diagnosed with autism also reported fewer aversions than mothers of normally developing children. Not vomiting in the first trimester was the only significant predictor of a diagnosis of autism or a pervasive developmental disorder in females.

In 2010 we presented this study at the American Psychological Society in Boston

Sex Differences in Etiological Predictors of Autism

Gary E. Brown, Denise Jones, & Angie MacKewn
Children’s Treatment Center* & University of Tennessee at Martin**       

Mothers of male children with autism were more likely to be older, have birth complications, live within 20 miles from power lines, not have meat aversions, and have eaten fish during the first trimester.   Except for not having meat aversions, the same variables also predicted autism in females.  Mothers smoking during pregnancy also predicted autism in females. 



The following websites contain information on Autism and other Neuropsychological Disorders. Details about how each disorder is diagnosed, a list of the most common symptoms, the types of treatments available, tips for parents, caregivers, and teachers that can aid in caring for and dealing with children with disabilities. Many of these sites contain personal stories from parents and encourage other parents to share their stories as well. They also include valuable resources and links to other helpful websites.


Medical Information:
The Core Blood Center

Other Neurological Disorders:

Fragile X Syndrome

Mental Retardation

Learning Disorders

Language Delays

Williams Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Feeding and Eating Disorders of Infancy and Childhood

Tic Disorders

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Elimination Disorders

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Crack Babies

Failure to Thrive Syndrome

Down Syndrome

Traumatic Brain Injury

Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome

Prader-Willi Syndrome\

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Cerebral Palsy

Angelman Syndrome

Tuberous Sclerosis

Sleep Disorders

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