Research tells us that there is not just one cause of autism. Thanks to science we now know that there are multiple genetic, non-genetic, and environmental influences that can cause autism. These influences do not necessarily cause autism but do increase the risk that a child with develop autism. For example, some gene mutations often associated with autism spectrum disorder can also be found in people who don't have autism. Likewise, not everyone exposed to an environmental risk factor for the disorder will develop autism.
Autism, more often than not tends to run in families. Alterations in specific genes increase the risk that a child will develop autism. Changes in these specific genes increase the risk that they may get passed to a child and the child will develop the disorder, even if the parent themselves does not have autism. Other times, genetic changes arise during early development such as when the sperm and/or egg combine to create the embryo.
It is important to remember, however, that the majority of these genes mutations do not cause autism by themselves. They merely increase the risk for developing the disorder.
There are certain environmental factors that increase or even potentially reduce autism risk in kids for those who are genetically predisposed to the disorder. Nonetheless, these risk factors are negligible compared to genetic risk factors. Some factors that do not cause autism but increase the risk that a child develops autism includes:
Environmental risk factors that can decrease the chance of a child developing autism include:
Research from The American Academy of Pediatrics has made this abundantly clear: vaccines do not cause autism or even increase the risk of developing autism.
Many of these risk factors do not cause autism but do increase the risk that a child will develop autism. The factors—both environmental and genetic risk factors outlined above appear to affect many crucial aspects of early brain development. For instance, certain risk factors appear to impact how neurons (brain cells) communicate with one another. Whereas others may affect entire regions of the brain.
Studies continue to explore these differences and search to find treatments that can not only support individuals with autism both also improve quality of life. There are genetic and environmental risk factors that do not cause autism on there own, but do these environmental and genetic risk factors do increase the risk of developing the disorder. For more information on autism and helpful tips and resources be sure to visit our understanding autism page.
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