What Are The Causes Of ASD? Can It Be Prevented?
In 1943, American child psychiatrist Leo Kanner studied 11 children who faced difficulties in areas such as:
Sensitivity to sound, taste, light, and touch
Allergies specific to certain foods
These children were also observed to have a habit of repeating words or sentences and seemed to lack spontaneity. Many scientists, such as Hans Asperger and Ivar Lovaas, later started their individual research on Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD (formerly known as Autism). To this day, it continues to be researched and studied extensively across the world.
Before we embark on the discussion of how to address symptoms of ASD, it is first important to understand what are possible causes ASD.
What causes ASD?
Although research on ASD has been going on for a while now, the exact cause for it has yet to be found. This is because there are several types of ASD and hence several possible causes for it, followed by different treatments. Also, no two children with ASD will have the exact same symptoms that are triggered by the same cause. Each child is unique as is their experience with ASD.
However, what we know today is that there are several factors that may cause ASD
Prenatal and Perinatal issues
Genes play an important role in determining whether a child is born with ASD or not. Studies have found that the pervasiveness of ASD in siblings of children with ASD is 15-30 times higher than in neurotypical populations. No single gene could be the cause for ASD. Alternatively, it is recorded that multiple genes are involved and each of them could be a risk factor for ASD.
Few hazardous substances ingested during pregnancy could be associated with a higher risk of ASD. Individuals with medical conditions like Phenylketonuria, tuberous sclerosis, etc. are often at risks of having symptoms of ASD.
Research has identified over 100 ASD risk genes. In around 15% of cases, a specific genetic cause of a person’s ASD can be identified.
Hereditary factors include patterns of genes related to ASD or genetic mutations in many families. Research stipulates that genetic factors predominate and scientists are yet to find the gene which contributes to ASD’s vulnerability.
Prenatal and Perinatal Factors:
There are several prenatal and perinatal complications which have been reported to be a possible risk factor for ASD. Although research is not conclusive on the relation of these factors to ASD, each of the factors was identified more frequently in children with ASD as compared to their siblings. Also, low levels of vitamin D in early development has been speculated as a risk factor for ASD.
Here are a few tips to lower the risk of ASD in your offspring:
It is highly recommended to follow an exercise regime and a healthy balanced diet when you’re pregnant. Make sure you eat high quality and preferably organic food, along with the supplements prescribed by your doctor. Avoid unnecessary ultrasounds. All alcoholic beverages should also be avoided during pregnancy.
If you are diagnosed for a medical condition, it is suggested to continue taking the medication during pregnancy, especially if you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or PKU - Phenylketonuria. Take required vaccines like German measles vaccine before pregnancy to prevent rubella-associated ASD.
Relation between Vitamin D and ASD Prevention:
A recent study led by QBI researcher Prof. John McGrath and Dr. Henning Tiemeier from the Erasmus Medical Centre in The Netherlands, has found out that ASD traits can be prevented during pregnancy with an adequate dosage of Vitamin D.
Pregnant women with low Vitamin D levels at 20 weeks’ gestation were more likely to have a child with autistic traits by the age of six.
Source: Queensland Brain Institute
At Stepping Stones Center, we gather information about your child, determine a detailed assessment process and develop a research- and evidence-based treatment plan. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to know more about ASD.