What is autism?
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a brain development disorder that is characterized by various social, communication, and behavioral challenges. The keyword within the name of the disorder is 'spectrum'. Every individual with autism experiences different sets of challenges, each with varying severity. ASD also includes Asperger's syndrome, child disintegrative disorder, and other unspecified pervasive disorders. Asperger's syndrome is now generally known to be the "milder" end of the autism spectrum (1).
The disorder is diagnosable in early childhood and can cause some challenges when interacting in social environments. It is common for children to show symptoms of autism in their first year. Even though there is no cure, early therapy/treatment plans can make a large difference in many children (1).
What are some factors that may cause autism?
Genetics: Many different research studies have shown that certain genes seem to be related to autism. Also, ASD can be related to some other genetic disorders like Rhett syndrome. Some genetic mutations that affect how brain cells communicate can also lead to the disorder
Environment: Some research has shown that air pollution and viral infections during pregnancy can play a role in triggering ASD.
Vaccines are NOT linked to autism
The topic of whether or not vaccines are linked to autism has been debated heavily in many autism resource centers. However, no "reliable study has shown a link between autism spectrum disorder and any vaccines" (1). According to Dr. Claire McCarthy, a health editor at Harvard University, avoiding vaccines can cause individuals to be more at risk for different types of diseases.
What are some symptoms of autism?
Below is a brief list of some symptoms of autism:
Repetitive movements such as rocking and spinning
Strong resistance to change of regular routines
Sensitive to light and certain sounds
Does not engage in make-believe play
Has trouble reading emotions
Makes limited eye contact
For more information about autism, symptoms, and when to see a doctor, please visit the following resources below.
“Autism Spectrum Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Jan. 2018,
McCarthy, Claire. “Why We Need to Make It Harder for Parents to Refuse Vaccines.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard
University, 6 Sept. 2016, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-we-need-to-make-it-harder-for-parents-to-refuse-
“Minnesota Autism Resource Portal.” Minnesota Autism Portal, Minnesota, 6 June 2019, mn.gov/autism/.
“What Are the Symptoms of Autism?” Autism Speaks, Autism Speaks, www.autismspeaks.org/what-are-symptoms-autism.