Mission of the Environmental Health Initiative

Mission Statement:

To improve the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by fostering an understanding of environmental contributors to the onset and severity of neurodevelopmental disabilities and other health issues.

Background:
The following suggests that the face of autism is changing:

Large and growing numbers of autism diagnoses suggest an increasing impact of environmental triggers upon genetic vulnerability.
Body symptoms in autism, particularly involving immune and gastrointestinal symptoms, suggest that autism goes beyond the brain.
Recovery of some children suggests that autism is treatable.

The old model of autism as an “incurable, hard-wired genetic brain disorder” needs to make way for a more inclusive view of autism as a set of treatable, whole-body illnesses that have environmental contributors. This new model could orient research and treatments toward finding new ways to predict autism in infants, prevent autism from occurring in high-risk children and offer treatments that can reverse some or all of the symptoms of ASD. Advances in understanding both genetic and environmental causes of autism will provide more rapid and tangible strategies to help many people today and in the future.

Project Goals:
The Autism Society’s Environmental Health Project aims to lay the groundwork for addressing needed legislative and policy reform through educational outreach and advocacy. Our overarching goals for this program include:

1. Expanding awareness about the broad range of environmental contributors to ASD, especially as they relate to genetic susceptibilities;
2. Collaborating with other groups to address the links between environmental exposures and health problems involving neurological, immunological and gastrointestinal disorders;
3. Catalyzing new initiatives with other learning and developmental disabilities groups to inform policymakers about legislation that will better protect children and those who have ASD from harmful toxicants;
4. Empowering grassroots efforts through local Autism Society affiliates to stimulate awareness and accelerate state initiatives that address the issues of environmental illness;
5. Encouraging responsible media coverage regarding environmental toxicants as they relate to pediatric health;
6. Working toward developing treatment strategies, including limiting harmful exposures, that will improve the quality of life for those with ASD;
7. Promoting medical and educational policy initiatives for equitably delivering effective, affordable and reimbursable autism care; and
8.Encouraging the government and scientific communities to increase funding for research pertinent to the prediction, prevention and reversal of ASD.