How Do You Get Autism

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How Do you get autism
Fig 1: 7 year old little Joerge’s note to his airline co-passengers

Wondering how do you get Autism Spectrum Disorder? Let me guess why. You may have already observed some autistic trends in your child – they might include any abnormal behavior or a sudden regression in your child’s development. Or maybe a teacher in your child’s pre-school has raised some concerns that your child is quite reclusive and neither wants to interact with other kids nor teachers. Or it could be that you already have a history of autism in your family and just checking in before starting one of your own.

If any of the above conditions are true, there might be many questions hovering in your mind. Does my child have autism? How is autism diagnosed? What may be the suspected causes of autism?

Explaining the Autism Spectrum Disorder?

So what is Autism? Autism Spectrum Disorder is a complex neurobehavioral disorder that impairs social, language and behavioral skills. Due to the nature of this disorder, and the wide spectrum that it covers, there is currently no singular medical test to confirm the presence or absence of Autism, rather it could only be inferred through a series of tests like the ones that can be found here.

How do you get Autism?

Let’s step back a little while I explain how you do you get autism. Autism occurs, as specialists explain, due to unexplained processes in the brain during its initial development cycles. Autism is believed to start early as an underlying process that may not show signs or symptoms until your child reaches the age of three. Check out some of these stats below:

Autism fact Sheet

Fig 2: Autism Fact Sheet – Demonstrating a staggering growth rate of Autism over the years!This is what Sue, a social scientist from a reputed university in Texas, had to say about how do you get autism: “To look at it in simple terms, autism is like arthritis. Arthritis grows as the joints decompose over our lifetime causing inflammation that leads to pain as we advance in age. Just as you don’t suddenly get arthritis, similarly you don’t just get Autism one fine morning. It has most likely been existing for a while, but signs of autism would only emerge with age. The only difference here being that arthritis symptoms grow over the lifetime of a person while most Autism symptoms (primarily for classical autism) are usually pretty evident by the time a child is 6 to 8 years old”

Neurologists believe that autism may trigger during infancy (this phenomenon is referred to as infantile autism) due to complications during pregnancy or birth. Usually, when something disrupts the functioning process of the brain, over a period of time the brain tries to compensate for these disruptions.

Excess circuits in Autistic brain
Fig 3: Excess impulses in Autistic brain

However, research is now showing autism may be the result of the brain not adequately compensating for the disruption; even worse, at times even ceasing to compensate at all, thereby causing regression. Some studies have shown a clear difference in electrical impulses produced by a normal vs an autistic brain. Take a look at the following brain-maps:

Involvement of the excess circuitry
Fig 4: Involvement of the excess electrical simulators in Autistic brain
autistic brain functioning
Fig 5: Level of Electrical Activity
autistic brain growth
Fig 6: Heatmap of Brain Activity

A child’s brain adapts more easily to compensation methods. Therefore, it is highly recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to have a routine checkup of your child. This allows doctors plenty of time for any possible autism diagnosis and recommends the correct autism early intervention plan for the child if required. Whether it is a doctor, parent or teacher that recognizes some developmental delay or regression it is imperative to visit a specialist for an initial diagnosis (please refer to How is Autism Diagnosed)  and begin autism treatment on time to realize maximum benefit.

Some of the main Autism causes?

Understanding some of these known causes of autism can provide some answers on how do you get autism:

what cases autism
Fig 7: A quick look at the Etiology of Autism

Genetic Causes

Human DNA
Fig 8: The Human DNA
Is autism genetic
Fig 9: The Genetic Predisposition to Autism
genetic traits in autism
Fig 10: Overlap of Genes and Env

There may be a genetic predisposition to Autism Spectrum Disorder. Especially when there is a history of autism in your immediate family. For more information on the role of heredity, please refer to the article on Is Autism Genetic.

Additionally, the role of a father transmitting the genetic traits of autism is almost 3 times as high as that as the mother’s.

Environmental Factors during Pregnancy

There is a good reason why expecting mums are always recommended to be extra cautious during pregnancy, especially during the first two semesters. It has been observed that there is a strong relationship between mother’s exposure to the following factors and autism:

Infections like German measles (the medical term for this is Rubella) may lead to anomalies in the development of genomes in the unborn child
Consumption of chemicals like  Valproic acid (used as a mood-stabilizing drug)and thalidomide

Exposure to pharmaceuticals Thalidomide (used for the treatment of multiple myeloma and skin lesions)

Pre-natal depression is fairly common for new mums. In case you need to use any anti depressants to see yourself through this phase, it is critical that you consult your obstetrician as some of these drugs are known to have a link with mental disorders in children. This also applies for post natal depression if you are breast feeding your baby.

Age Factors

Fig 11: Mean Probability of ASD With Parent's Age
Fig 11: Mean Probability of ASD With Parent’s Age

Influence of Paternal Age on Autism

A recent study has shown that the probability of a child being autistic may increase with the increase in age of the parents. The risk almost doubles, when it is coupled with the genetic factors (discussed above) i.e. with higher age of the parent who has a history of autism.

Gender Dependencies

Autism Boys Vs Girls
Fig 13: Autism in Boys Vs Girls

Is there a role of gender on how do you get Autism? Well, not really. But it is important to note that autism in boys is 4 times more likely than autism in girls. The reason for this abnormal trend is unexplained till date. However, some have tried to explain that the ‘Y’ chromosome present in Male DNA (typically females have a combination of XX while men have a combination of XY in their DNA) is more susceptible to Autism.

Unexpected Situations during Childbirth

Certain inadvertent situations during childbirth may harm the baby to an extent that he or she grows up to be an autistic child. These factors are beyond human control.

If the child is deprived of oxygen during childbirth for longer than normal, the loss of oxygen causes the brain to reach sharply. Not only can this loss harm a few brain cells, but it might also knock of those neurons that stimulate the compensation for such losses. Hence, the brain never really recovers from the trauma in the impacted areas
Premature babies – this cause is still inconclusive. However, at times premature babies may go through a bit of distress in the uterus which stimulates them to come out of the womb, hence the sudden labor. It is quite possible that the same distress may have caused certain deficits in brain functionalities.

Note that dependency of autism on these factors are still not well established and neurologists continue to argue

How much do we know about Autism causes?

In as many as 85% Autism cases, we still don’t have any answers on how the patients got Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here is what medical professionals have to say about how do you get autism:

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