What causes Autism?

April is Autism Awareness Month, which is a great time to debunk some myths about autism. Autism is caused by a perfect storm of genetic and environmental risk factors. Parents can reduce this risk by regularly taking Prenatal vitamins containing folic acid, before and at conception and through pregnancy.

Babies are at increased risk for ASD if:

  • Advanced parent age (either parent)

  • Pregnancy and birth complications (e.g. extreme prematurity [before 26 weeks], low birth weight, multiple pregnancies [twin, triplet, etc.])

  • Pregnancies spaced less than one year apart



MYTH: Vaccinations cause Autism.

FACT: ONLY the risk factors listed above are scientifically proven to put someone at risk for developing Autism. Read the most current research about vaccinations here.


MYTH: Symptoms of Autism look the same for every child.

FACT: Symptom presentation can vary drastically along the Autism Spectrum. This may include more severe symptoms like communication and behavioral challenges (e.g., nonverbal, flapping arms, meltdowns), or more mild symptoms like heightened anxiety and discomfort with changes to routines.


MYTH: Children with Autism cannot function independently.

FACT: Many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) develop skills to live independently, depending on the severity of their symptoms. Check out these highly successful individuals with ASD.


Common Signs of ASD:

By 6 months

Few or no big smiles or other warm, joyful and engaging expressions.

Limited or no eye contact.

By 9 months

Little or no back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles or other facial expressions

By 12 months

Little or no babblingLittle or no back-and-forth gestures such as pointing, showing, reaching or wavingLittle or no response to name.

By 16 months

Very few or no words.

By 24 months

Very few or no meaningful, two-word phrases (not including imitating or repeating)

At any age

Loss of previously acquired speech, babbling or social skills

Avoidance of eye contact

Persistent preference for solitude

Difficulty understanding other people’s feelings

Delayed language development

Persistent repetition of words or phrases (echolalia)

Resistance to minor changes in routine or surroundings

Restricted interests

Repetitive behaviors (flapping, rocking, spinning, etc.)

Unusual and intense reactions to sounds, smells, tastes, textures, lights and/or colors


Unsure if your child has ASD? Get screened and talk to your doctor.

Professional evaluation is necessary to accurately diagnose ASD and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Early intervention will determine much of the prognosis for ASD.


ASD Support

Family, caregivers, teachers, and community members can access support for ASD through these online resources and community organizations:


THRIVE is committed to helping individuals and their families attain their personal goals. If you need help navigating the world of ASD, we are here to help.

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