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 presently the 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.

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