Assault on Autism

Scientists target drugs and other environmental agents that may play a role

11:01am, November 9, 2004

Beth Crowell remembers the day in 1989 when her triplets, Casey, Andrew, and Erin, were about 15 months old. Crowell put Erin down on the floor to crawl. "But she just sat there, fixated on the red shag carpeting," says the Housatonic, Mass., mother of four. The toddlers were often sick, and "none of them made eye contact," Crowell recalls. A medical evaluation was devastating: All three babies had autism. Children with autism typically have trouble communicating, interacting socially, and controlling their behavior. Those most severely affected seem to live in a world of their own. Various treatments sometimes reduce symptoms, especially if children are diagnosed early. But there is no cure for autism, which has baffled the medical community since the disorder was first described in 1943.

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