• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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What Are Risk Factors for Autism?

autism Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neuro-biological condition marked by developmental delays, and deficits in communication, social interaction, and language development. The cause or causes for autism have not been positively identified; however, research shows that there is a number of contributing genetic and environmental factors that can increase the “risk” of autism.


Although there is no “autism” gene, research indicates a strong genetic link to autism. Children born to autistic parents or parents with “autistic-like traits” are more likely to produce autistic offspring. Families with one autistic child, has a 19-32% chance of having a second child with an autism spectrum disorder. It is not uncommon for an autistic child to have one or more siblings also on the spectrum.


Research continues to investigate the possible environmental factors that may increase the risk of autism. Studies show that pregnant women exposed to certain chemicals, like mercury, household insecticides, and air pollution are at a greater risk for their child to develop an autism spectrum disorder. Iron and folic acid supplements during pregnancy may lower these risks; however, it is important to have a physician check iron levels prior to taking any supplementation. Too much iron can cause toxicity. Women who experienced an infection or were exposed to the flu virus during pregnancy, or give birth prematurely may also be at a higher risk.


Some parents claim that their child began to exhibit symptoms of autism after receiving childhood vaccines, namely the MMR vaccine. Although, the vaccine may have exacerbated, or hastened the appearance of autism symptoms, the medical community maintains that there is no proven link between autism and childhood vaccines.

What Other Medical Conditions Puts My Child At Risk for Autism?

There are some [medical conditions commonly associated with autism spectrum disorders Neurogenetic conditions such as Fragile X Syndrome, and Angelman’s Syndrome have been associated with autism. Seizure disorder, gastrointestinal disorders, and pica are a few others. Having these disorders may not put you “at risk” for autism; however, they are commonly seen in conjunction with autism spectrum disorders.


Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.