What is Autism?
Autism is known as a complex developmental disability. Experts believe that autism presents itself during the first three years of a person’s life. The condition is the result of a neurological disorder that has an effect on normal brain function, affecting development of the person’s communication and social interaction skills.
People with autism have issues with non-verbal communication, a wide range of social interactions, and activities that include an element of play and/or banter.
What Causes Autism?
Not long ago, the answer to this question would have been “we have no idea.” Research is now delivering the answer. First and foremost, we now know that there is no one cause of autism just as there is no one type of autism. Over the last five years, scientist has identified a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism. A small number of these are sufficient to cause autism by them. Most cases of autism, however, appear to be caused by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors influencing early brain development.
In the presence of a genetic predisposition to autism, a number of non-genetic, or “environmental,” stresses appear to further increase a child’s risk. The clearest evidence of these autism risk factors involves events before and during birth. They include advanced parental age at time of conception (both mom and dad), maternal illness during pregnancy and certain difficulties during birth, particularly those involving periods of oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain. It is important to keep in mind that these factors, by themselves, do not cause autism. Rather, in combination with genetic risk factors, they appear to modestly increase risk.