What Causes Autism? What Are the Risk Factors?


As a parent, you want your child to be as healthy as possible. Finding out that they’re on the autism spectrum can leave you wondering about the type of life they’ll lead and whether they’ll be able to fit the vision of the future you’d created in your mind. Autism is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is something you should work to understand. For most parents, the first question on their minds is “what causes autism?” Science still isn’t sure, but there are a few risk factors that most cases have in common.


Autism seems to run in families. This means there are likely some genetic risk factors that contribute to the diagnosis. Unfortunately, the research behind what causes autism is still in its infancy and we’re not sure which genetic markers contribute to an increase in risk. Further, the genes that increase risk of autism may not result in fully-developed autism when your child is born. But if your child does develop autism, don’t worry, you’re not alone. There’s numerous options for treatment for autism, as well as therapists who specialize in working with autistic individuals and families.

There Are Environmental Risks

Genetics alone aren’t what causes autism, though they are an important factor in the diagnosis rate. There are also environmental risks that can influence whether your child falls somewhere on the autism spectrum.
Here are some of the more common risk factors:

Parents’ Age

The older you are when you have a child, the higher risk your child is at. This is in addition to the other complications that come with being an older parent. Again, there is no guarantee that autism will develop—just an increased risk.

Premature Birth

Premature babies are at risk for many different health conditions, autism included. This could be due to the fact that they’re not able to develop fully in the womb. But research is still being done to determine what causes autism in premature births.

What You Can Do

Though what causes autism isn’t known for certain, there are a few things you can do to keep your child healthy in the long-term. Start taking prenatal vitamins rich in folic acid when trying to get pregnant until well after giving birth. Also make sure to get your child vaccinated. There are tons of rumors and myths claiming that vaccines cause autism. They don’t. They do, however, keep your child healthy and prevent many serious communicable diseases from spreading throughout the community.

If Your Child Gets Diagnosed

We may not know what causes autism, but we know how to help autistic children and their families navigate the challenges associated with the condition. The key is in getting regular treatment for autism, such as ABA therapy, and finding what works for your child.

Schedule an Appointment
At Emerge Professionals, our family therapy service helps parents and siblings adjust and learn how to help their loved one live life to its fullest. The sooner you get started, the better prepared you’ll be to help your child. Don’t let stigma keep you from getting the help you need. Schedule an appointment with our therapists today.