Tony Williams remembers the moment when he found out his baby Tony Jr. had autism.
“It was just heartbreaking. I sat in the room and cried.”
That was a year and a half ago. Tony Jr. is now almost 3-years-old, but even with early intervention he barely speaks and is prone to tantrums.
His mother Daureena Williams says there are times when she feels lost not knowing what to do.
“There are days when you wake up and he’s just screaming at the top of his lungs from the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed.”
The Williamses say they’ll do whatever they can to improve the life of their son. A new groundbreaking study may give them that opportunity.
Over the years there have been many theories but nothing definitive about what causes autism, a developmental disorder that affects one in 150 children in the United States. Now researchers are about to embark on one of the largest and most comprehensive studies aimed at finding a cure. The National Institutes of Health and the advocacy group Autism Speaks will fund the study.
Researchers plan to study 1200 pregnant women who already have a child with autism. After the mother gives birth, researchers will then turn their attention to the first three years of the child’s life. Professor Craig Newschaffer of Drexel University is heading up the study.
“These are families that we know are at higher risk of autism by virtue of the fact that there is already an affected child in the family.”
The 10-year study will look at possible environmental and genetic links to autism. Researchers will study factors including the types of toiletries used, household cleaning products and medications. Professor Newschaffer says they will also have the mothers keep diaries.
“We're collecting in real time, comprehensive information. Things that the mom is exposed to in pregnancy and things that the baby is exposed to in early life.”
Daureena Williams is pregnant again, making her a candidate for the study.
“It makes me feel better knowing that I am helping my son and anybody else’s child. Even though he’s only two years old he is going to be a man some day and we just want him to have a nice life. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just a nice life where he can function on his own.”