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What Are Possible Causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Understanding autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be complicated and difficult.

Many seek to find what was the exact cause of their autism. They may look for answers in places that are irrational or based on emotion.

The reality is that science doesn’t have a clear-cut answer as to what causes autism. However, we do know where to look for when it comes to better understanding the potential for developing autism.

And if someone is diagnosed with ASD (usually in childhood), there are many intervention and treatment strategies available.

Looking to Genetics

The best way to know about the potential for an autism spectrum disorder is by looking at your family tree. Genetics does play a significant role in how likely one might be born with ASD.

Some example in particular include:

  • Having a parent or immediate biological family member who also has an autism spectrum disorder
  • A genetic mutation or disorder such as fragile-X syndrome which can cause a variety of developmental issues
  • Being born to parents who were older (some say perhaps older than 35)

It is still not known why these genetic issues occur. However, genetics is the best place to look when considering whether or not someone might have autism.

Other Potential Factors for Autism

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is some research investigating whether autism spectrum disorders might be caused by other factors.

For example:

  • Environmental pollution
  • Viral infections
  • Complications during pregnancy

Still, it’s important to note that aside from inherited genetic traits there is still no known cause for autism spectrum disorders.

The Controversy with ASD and Vaccines

In recent years, there has been speculation about whether childhood vaccines might cause autism. It’s very important to realize that this has been completely debunked in the scientific literature. Vaccines do not cause autism!

This speculation began in the late 1990s when a paper was published in the Lancet. In that paper, the authors attributed the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) to potentially being the cause of children developing autism. The study was deeply flawed, and follow-up research discounted the study.

In 2010, the Lancet issued a retraction. Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has published a statement explaining clearly that vaccines are not the cause of autism.

What to Do about an Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis

For most people, an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis occurs during childhood. Parents who know that they have a history of ASD in their family tree should be on the lookout for potential signs in their children.

For example:

  • Rocking back and forth constantly and other repetitious movements
  • Sensitive to loud noises, being touched, and other sensory issues
  • Has trouble making eye-contact
  • Being a very picky eater
  • Coordination issues
  • Performing rituals or being attached to routines
  • Struggling with change

Again, the Mayo Clinic advises certain benchmarks to be aware of for childhood development. For instance, if by six months a newborn doesn’t respond to their parent by smiling or has a happy expression on their face, that could be a problem. Or if by nine months, they are not mimicking your facial expressions or sounds. Moreover, if by the time they are 16 months, your child is not saying individual words, that too could be a sign something is wrong.

It’s important, though, to get a diagnosis from a clinician and not get too wrapped up in assumptions.

Researchers still don’t know why exactly autism spectrum disorders occur. However, it’s important to remember that just because someone has an autism spectrum disorder that doesn’t mean they can’t live a full and productive life. This is especially true if a diagnosis is made early and intervention measures are taken.

And if you have a child who has ASD, there are many resources and treatments available. If you are considering professional counseling for both your child and yourself, please contact us, we would be happy to provide information on our approach.

AuthorJoshua Howell, MS, LPC, NCC, AADC, ICAADC, SAP, SAE

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