What Causes Autism?

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What causes autism in individuals? It was really not that long ago that the answer to this question would have been “we don’t know.” For the first time, modern research is now delivering answers on autism.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is complex, and through much research we learned there is no one cause of autism. Over the past several years, scientists and researchers have identified a number of rare gene mutations, (or rather changes) that are associated with autism. However, genetic changes happen on a consistent basis during the course of any persons life, and only a small number of these genetic changes have a sufficient amount of data to definitively say that this is the cause of autism alone.

Is Autism Hereditary?

Although a majority of autism cases appear to be caused by a combination of autism “risk genes” and environmental factors influencing early brain development, the clearest evidence we have available to date of factors that can cause autism actually occurs in events before and during birth.

Some of these signs have indicated:

  • Advanced parental age at time of conception (both mom and dad)
  • Maternal (pregnancy) illnesses
  • Certain difficulties during childbirth (particularly those cases involving any kind of oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain)

A growing body of research suggests that a woman can minimize complications during pregnancy by taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid and/or eating a diet rich in folic acid (at least 600 mcg a day) during the months before and after conception. It is important to keep in mind that these factors are not implying the cause autism alone, but rather a combination of genetic predisposition and those events before and during birth have suggested a modestly increased possibility. ASD is highly heritable. Genetic factors are the best studied indicator for ASD that have thus far been identified.

There is No “Cure” For Autism

Although medical professionals and researchers from around the globe are continuously looking at other factors, such as the role of the immune system in autism, there is currently no “cure” for autism. Autistic self-advocates have instead advocated for focusing valuable resources on providing accommodations and supports to improve the daily lives of autistic people. Part of this crucial advocacy is shifting the conversation ‘autism awareness’ to ‘autism acceptance,’ and advocating for inclusion in society.

Celebrating Neurodiversity

Autism is NOT “something to be cured.” Rather it should be viewed as a trait that adds to the neurodiversity of today’s society. Jay Nolan Community Services advocates for the acceptance and inclusion of people with autism. We believe that the individualized support services are the key to making sure all people have the opportunity to pursue their path to happiness and live a valued role in their communities.


Learn More about individualized support services for individuals with autism At JNCS


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