Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental impairment which affects communication, behavior, and interpersonal interaction. Research is still being done to learn more about this condition, but causes can be both hereditary and environmental. Risk factors include the age of a child’s parents, if the child came to term before birth and the sex of the baby. If you believe your child may have autism spectrum disorder, keep reading to learn more about this condition.


Autism spectrum disorder includes several conditions which were previously separated. These include Asperger’s syndrome, autism, childhood disintegrative disorder and an unspecified type of pervasive developmental disorder. Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, commences early in childhood and results in difficulty functioning in society, for example, at work, in school and socially.


Signs of autism spectrum disorder vary greatly and include:

  • Little to no eye contact

  • Resistance to change

  • Difficulties socializing

  • Over-sensitivity or under-sensitivity to sensations

  • Preference for solitary activities

  • Unusual play or purposeless, repetitive behaviors

  • Obsessive attachment to objects

  • Repetition of phrases or words when speaking


Due to either enhanced detection and reporting, an actual increase in the number of cases of autism or both, the number of children diagnosed with ASD is rising. Factors which increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder in a child include sex, the ages of parents, preterm birth, family history, and other disorders.


Boys are approximately four times as likely as girls to be diagnosed with autism.

Parents’ Ages

The older the parents of a child are, the greater the likelihood he or she will be diagnosed with autism.

Pre-term Birth

Extreme preterm birth, or birth that occurs fewer than 26 weeks into gestation, is one of the largest risk factors of a child being diagnosed with autism.

Family History and Other Disorders

Parents who have one child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder are significantly more likely to have another child diagnosed with the same condition. It is also common for the relatives or parents of a child with ASD to have slight issues with social or communication skills. They also may engage in some behaviors which are indicative of the disorder.


There is no single known cause associated with autism or autism spectrum disorder. The complexity of the disorder, in combination with the fact that both the symptoms and the severity of the condition vary, lends itself to the idea that there are probably several causes. In fact, both genetics and environment may play a role.


There are a number of genes which appear to have an affect on autism spectrum disorder. For example, fragile X or Rett syndrome are known to increase the risk of a child having autism. Furthermore, genes affecting the intercellular communication in the brain and brain development can affect the severity of the autism. Mutations also play a role in autism spectrum disorder.

Environmental Factors

There is not currently enough research to say one way or another that environmental factors cause autism. However, experts are researching environmental factors including air pollutants, complications or particular medications taken during pregnancy, or viral infections can increase the risk of an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that if a child is diagnosed by three years old and receives early intervention treatment, he or she can enjoy a relatively normal life. Treatment options include medication, diet, teaching critical communication skills, and sensory integration therapy. Schedule a consultation with a speech therapist, occupational therapist, or psychiatrist to see what he or she can do for your child if your child has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.


For more information on autism spectrum disorder, autism, or any of our other services, please call 800-Novomed (800-6686633) today. We are here to help. Our Psychiatry and Neurology’s Child Assessment and Rehab department includes psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational and speech therapists, paediatricians, physiotherapists and case managers.