Causes of Autism

No one knows what causes autism. The number of children diagnosed with the disorder has increased significantly over the past decade or so, but experts are not sure whether that reflects an improvement in diagnostic awareness or a true increase in prevalence.

Recent evidence suggests that the disorder may be caused by random genetic mutations, as it is associated with advanced maternal and/or paternal age at conception. That would account for the great variability of impairment and neural systems involved.

There is also evidence that the disorder may be caused by failure of embryonic brain cells to undergo normal patterns of migration during early development, affecting later brain structure and wiring of nerve-cell circuits that control social, language, movement, and other abilities.

A sex imbalance in the number of affected children (four times more males than females) suggests the disorder may also be related to fetal exposure to abnormally high levels of testosterone in utero; many of the traits of autism are said to reflect male cognitive and behavioral preferences, such as orientation to detail rather than the big picture, affinity for things rather than social experience, facility for math and numbers, and even linguistic impairment; autistic children can accumulate a large vocabulary without being able to sustain a conversation.

A belief that autism is caused by standard childhood immunization with mercury-containing vaccines persists despite many studies discrediting the link and retraction of the original paper linking autism to immunization.

Recent posts on Autism

Let's Eliminate Physical Restraints in Group Homes

By Robert T Muller Ph.D. on September 06, 2017 in Talking About Trauma
Physical restraints place children and youth at serious risk.

All Autistic Behavior is Not Communication

By Amy S.F. Lutz on September 05, 2017 in Inspectrum
Parents and providers need to recognize when aggression and/or self-injury is driven by biological factors that can be medically treated.

Neurodiversity and Autism in College

Another way to look at autism, neurodiversity, and how we face diversity as a society and as individuals.

Voices: Overheard in Psychosis But Underheard in Autism

As predicted by the diametric model, auditory symptoms in psychosis are opposite to those in autism, and both are extensions of normality.

Six Ways to Be More Supportive to Those Closest to You

When the people you care about the most are in need of support, are you ready to be there for them? Based on new research, these 6 tips will help you help them.

What Causes What?

By Paul Thagard Ph.D. on August 24, 2017 in Hot Thought
Deciding whether something causes a spike in disease or a pattern like global warming requires careful inferences.

Male Risk of Autism: No One Expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Stigmatizing autism research as "sexist" for finding a gender difference in risk is not going to help us discover the truth about it.

John Elder Robison’s “Switched On”

This latest book recounts Robison's participation in an early transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) study that hoped would help people with ASD better read emotions in others.

To Say "I" Means To Be Alone

By Elena Bezzubova on August 12, 2017 in The Search for Self
Loneliness seems a transient step to self identity that could include depersonalization-like feelings of detachment and autism/introversion-like feelings of isolation.

Why Advertising Falls Flat in Individuals With Autism

Individuals with autism may be impervious to misleading marketing. Mental differences are often considered weaknesses, but autism may not be entirely a disability.
Arren Aljfe/ Flickr

MRI Scans are Transforming Autism Detection and Treatment

What are the benefits of earlier autism detection? It can allow the most appropriate treatment to be delivered at a time when a child could benefit the most.

An Answer To Your ASD Teen's Tantrums.

"A meltdown can last in the upwards of fifteen minutes plus, and there is very little a parent can do to console their child. The promise of consequences doesn’t work".

Gulliver’s Travels: Another Classic Portrayal of Autism

Gulliver’s Travels can be read as an autistic’s satire on a society into which he does not fit: neither physically nor mentally.
"Signage 55 speed limit"/David Lofink/CC BY 2.0

Can We Teach the Rules for Breaking the Rules?

By Barb Cohen on July 27, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
If I take a box of pens from a store without paying, I commit shoplifting. But suppose I take a box of pens from the office where I work. Will my coworkers judge me a thief?

The New Science of Using Eye Movements as a Test for Autism

Neuroscientists have identified a radical new way to test for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) by monitoring rapid eye movements.

Why Your ASD Teen Gets Bullied

The ASD Teen, struggles with picking up on nonverbal cues, this is problematic in social situations especially with young people.

Matter- but Not Mind-blind—and Vice Versa

A pioneering study shows mentalism to vary inversely with mechanistic cognition as predicted by the diametric model.

The Question of Contact

By David Kyle Johnson Ph.D. on July 10, 2017 in Plato on Pop
Can personal experience ever be used to justifiably override scientific evidence or argument?

The ABC of the Diametric Model, Twenty Years On

Twenty years after it was first published, the diametric model can be seen as a striking co-discovery like so many others in the history of science.

Theory of Mind: Understanding Others in a Social World

When do we develop an understanding of the beliefs, emotions, and intentions of others? How does this understanding set us up for success in other areas of life?
BBC

Tips to Spot Bad Apples Online: Volume One

Do you have the skills to recognize when you are being duped?

There Is a New Link Between Screen-Time and Autism

Don’t expect boys to “grow out of” their obsession with screens.

The Arts as an Opportunity for Psychological Research

All children, all over the world, engage in dance, music, dramatic pretend play, and art. How can psychologists use this opportunity to study child development in the real world?

What Older Dads Need To Know

Are geeks taking over the world? The sons of older fathers are more geeky, and do better academically in success-predicting academics. The "Geek Index" helps us study geekiness.
"Stoop Storytelling"/Leah Miller/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Why We Share Our Private Stories

By Barb Cohen on June 22, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
How do we find our place in the world? By standing up and telling the stories in which we play the starring role.

The Para-professional–Student Relationship

Para-professionals wield tremendous power over their charges. After reading “My Paraprofessional Was Supposed to Help me; instead, she Bullied me” I went looking for an interview.

Why Is ASD Often Associated with Social Anxiety?

"We can say that all, if not most people diagnosed with ASD have remarkable issues with social interactions, however not all people on the spectrum end up with social anxiety."
Pixabay

Helping Your Child with Autism Improve Social Skills

As a parent of a child with autism, do you wonder how you can help him approach social situations with confidence, rather than anxiety? These strategies can help you help him.
"Sewing Machine"/Steffen Zahn/CC BY 2.0

How Does Parenting Work When the Instruction Manual Fails?

By Barb Cohen on June 12, 2017 in Mom, Am I Disabled?
Maybe x is the problem, maybe x is part of the problem, or maybe x is irrelevant to the problem. With regard to sewing machines, much like my children, I will never know.

Co-Parenting Tips If You Have Asperger's/Autism

By Eva A. Mendes LMHC on June 05, 2017 in The Heart of Autism
I’m currently working with a wonderful father who has Asperger’s, and he’s been doing a wonderful job navigation the co-parenting situation.