In 1998, a study was published in the journal Lancet that claimed to have found a link between autism and the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. Naturally, the link between a potentially life-saving vaccine and a sometimes debilitating condition left many parents the world over in a panic. Some even refused to get their children vaccinated for fear of triggering autism and leaving their child potentially disabled for life.
In recent years, the idea that vaccines might cause autism gained national attention when Jenny McCarthy, an actress and former Playmate, began speaking about her own experiences and concerns that her son developed autism because of childhood vaccines. Following McCarthy's concerns, some parents to this day are refusing vaccinations because they believe it might lead to autism.
But is this fear founded? Scientist now say no. That's because, after doing a number of scientific studies over the last decade or so, researchers have been unable to find a link between the MMR vaccine and any type of autism spectrum disorder. Even though these new scientific studies have effectively debunked the 1998 study, people across the United States continue to debate over which side is true and which side is not.
According to a 2013 National Geographic article, it's not clear at this time what really causes autism spectrum disorders to develop in one child versus another. As the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia explains, genes are the best and most likely trigger for autism. Just like with Down syndrome, some studies believe that a parent's age might play a role in the likelihood that a child will be born with this sometimes disabling condition.
What is known is that depending on the severity of the condition, autism can have a huge impact on a child's life. In some cases, the disorder can leave them permanently disabled and unable to perform day-to-day tasks without help from someone else. For parents of autistic children, it may be necessary to seek disability benefits to help provide for their child. In some cases, a lawyer may necessary in order to achieve this goal.
Source: The Centers for Disease Control, "Concerns about Autism," Accessed Jan. 28, 2015