Most researchers agree that people are born with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While research does shows some possible risk factors for the condition, most cases of ASD have no known cause.
According to recent estimates, about
However, this increase is more likely due to greater awareness, a better understanding of the condition, and better diagnostic tools.
According to the
The term “risk factors”
This article refers to “risk factors” in relation to available research about ASD. However, it’s important to note that this term may have a negative connotation as many autistic people do not view being autistic as a disability, as a negative, or as something that needs to be cured.
Learn more about ASD.
Are sex and gender the same thing?
People often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, but they have different meanings:
- “Sex” refers to the physical characteristics that differentiate male, female, and intersex bodies.
- “Gender” refers to a person’s identity and how they feel inside. Examples include man, woman, nonbinary, agender, bigender, genderfluid, pangender, and trans. A person’s gender identity may differ from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Research suggests that around
If you have an autistic brother, sister, twin, or parent, you’re more likely to be autistic as well. For example, if one identical twin receives a diagnosis of ASD, the chance that the other twin is also autistic is
Examples of genetic conditions that
- pre-term birth, or very low birth weight
- fragile X syndrome
- phenylketonuria (PKU)
Some prescription drugs that may be used in pregnancy have also been linked to ASD. These include valproic acid and certain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
That said, the research on whether SSRIs contribute to autism during pregnancy is inconclusive. Research has also found
- air pollution, such as might occur living near a freeway
- gestational diabetes
- obesity during pregnancy
- fever during pregnancy
- antibodies that interfere with the baby’s brain development
- exposure to pesticides during pregnancy
- poor nutrition during pregnancy
A pregnant person’s diet is also an essential factor, as it
Sufficient research has shown that ASD develops before birth from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. But some misconceptions about ASD still remain.
Common symptoms in children, such as challenges with social communication or restrictive behaviors, can begin to be noticeable in early childhood. But the belief that something can cause ASD after birth may be related to the fact that not everyone is diagnosed during childhood.
Since ASD is a spectrum of conditions with wide-ranging symptoms, some autistic people are not identified as autistic until they are adults, especially autistic females.
Many autistic adults may also be masking their symptoms. In addition,
Things that some may believe are risk factors but are not include:
Contrary to popular belief, your style of parenting cannot cause your child to become autistic.
That said, it can be challenging to understand and support your autistic child. If you experience anxiety or frustration, this could affect your interactions with your child and contribute to the intensity of their symptoms.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to prioritize your self-care so that you can parent with sensitivity and support your child as they grow.
Read more about available resources for parents of autistic children and adolescents.
The idea that vaccines cause ASD is one of the most widespread myths related to the condition.
Some people have suggested that the MMR vaccine, specifically, may cause ASD. However, many scientific articles have
Vaccines are safe, effective, and critical to
As previously stated, people are born autistic. Therefore, your diet cannot cause you to be autistic.
While a pregnant person’s diet
While it is
Ultimately, nutrition and diet are
What is the leading cause of autism?
No single cause or risk factor for ASD has been determined. Researchers agree that you are born autistic, but the reasons for this are complex and not fully understood.
Is screen time associated with ASD?
What foods can cause autism during pregnancy?
No particular food or food group is associated with ASD. One
What increases the risk of autism in pregnancy?
In addition to the factors already discussed in this article,
How can I reduce my risk of autism during pregnancy?
Since the causes of autism are complex, it is difficult to account for every possible risk factor. Certainly, leading a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy can help protect the health of the baby. That said, current medical thinking is that ASD is not a condition that needs to be prevented or cured. For autistic children or adults who need it, support is available.
Learn more about resources for living with ASD.
ASD is a spectrum of neurological conditions. Autistic people are born autistic and remain autistic for their entire lives. ASD is not a disease, and it has no cure. Some genetic and environmental risk factors may be involved in developing ASD before birth.
While there has been an increase in the number of people diagnosed with ASD over the past few decades, this is not because ASD is becoming more frequent but because our understanding of ASD has developed over time, as has our ability to diagnose it. Because of this, there are more options for support than ever.