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• Parental autoimmune disease, such as diabetes and rheumatic fever.

• Premature births.

• “Increased levels of cytokines,” or small molecules secreted by the immune system, in children with ASD.

• “Autism risk” genes.

Promising treatments include “early enrichment” for young children; “inhaling” the hormone oxytocin; a new “friendship” social training program for children; a treatment for brain neurons using the induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells; melatonin treatments to encourage good sleep habits; and treatments aimed at correcting mitochondrial dysfunction in the cells, Ms. Dawson wrote in her year-in-review report.

I mention these things not because I understand them, but because they surely show the depth and breadth of the scientific hunt to vanquish this terrible illness.

I am also heartened by Ms. Dawson’s words and hope anyone distressed by the BMJ articles will be, too: After decades working in the field of autism as a scientist and clinician, she said, “I’ve never been more optimistic about the scientific breakthroughs that we will witness in the upcoming years.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at