Who is at Risk for ASD?
No single cause has been identified for the development of autism spectrum
disorder (ASD). Researchers have learned there is most likely a combination
of influences involved, including genetic and environmental factors. Scans
of individuals with ASD show abnormalities in the shape and structure
of the brain. The questions of how, why, and when these irregularities
occur and who is at risk have prompted numerous research studies.
Identifying and Understanding Risk Factors
Why it is not a complete listing, certain risk groups have been identified
for the development of ASD. Researchers continue to look at why these
groups are more vulnerable and how autism originates within them.
Most scientists are in agreement that there is a genetic component involved
in the development of ASD. Risk groups that have been identified include:
- Children who have a sibling with ASD
- Individuals with certain genetic or chromosomal conditions such as untreated
phenylketonuria (PKU) or fragile X syndrome
- Children of mothers who took the prescription drugs valproic acid and thalidomide
Fetal Development and the risk of ASD
One of the avenues currently being investigated seeks to identify when
autism is triggered. Does it occur before, during, or after birth? Some
evidence suggests it may happen during fetal development of the brain.
Recent CDC studies have noticed that mothers with autoimmune disorders
may have an increased risk of having an autistic child. The risk appears to be stronger for mothers who have a prior history of
miscarriages and / or have previously given birth to a child with ASD.
This new line of research is seeking to answer numerous questions regarding
the development of ASD, including:
Dr. Jeffrey Braverman is a leading authority in the field of reproductive immunology and is
currently collecting information in an effort to seek answers to these
questions. Women who have had a prior history of miscarriages and have
a child diagnosed with ASD are encouraged to join the discussion forum.
The Risks Are Increasing
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the
prevalence of autism has more than doubled in the past 10 years and is
fastest growing developmental disability in the United States. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and numerous other national and
international organizations are conducting multi-faceted studies into
the causes of ASD. Identifying the complex risk factors, early diagnosis,
and effective treatment methods continue to be the focus of these investigations.