Definition

A developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior.

Types

From 1994 – 2013, the autism spectrum included five different diagnoses: Asperger’s Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, Autistic Disorder, and Childhood Disintegrative Syndrome.

Since 2013, all of these diagnoses have been included in the diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Causes

There is no one cause of autism. Research suggests that it could be a combination of genetics and the environment.

Statistics

In 2020, the CDC reported that about 1 in 54 children have a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder (1 in 34 boys, and 1 in 144 girls), or about 1%.

Risk Factors

Because there is no known cause, there are no known true risk factors for autism. However, the following have been shown to increase the risk of having a child who develops autism:

  • Age of parent (risk increases with increasing age)
  • Birth complications (extreme (<26 weeks) prematurity, low birth weight, multiples)
  • Family History
  • Gender (boys are 4x as likely to be diagnosed)

Prevention

There is no real way to “prevent” autism, however:

  • Prenatal vitamins (increasing folic acid intake) have been associated with a decreased risk of language delay, and improved neurodevelopmental outcomes in children

Vaccinations

There is no evidence that vaccines increase the risk of or cause autism., and getting vaccinated is an important step in staying healthy.

The CDC recommends all adults receive:

  • Influenza – recommended every year, age 6 months and older
  • Tdap – (if an adult did not receive it as an adolescent to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years.

Talk to your doctor about which other vaccines are right for you.

COVID-19 and Autism Spectrum Disorders

People with autism spectrum disorders are no more likely than anyone else to contract COVID-19, however patients with ASD often function better with set routines. These routines are likely to have been disrupted during the pandemic, with stay-at-home orders; virtual learning; and disruption of services. Here are some resources for this time.

Resources

Support Groups