Genetics of Autism

Q: “My sister’s son is autistic. Will my children be autistic, too?”

A: Autism does appear to have a genetic component, at least in some cases. Siblings of children with autism are more likely to be autistic; studies estimate that families with one child with ASD have up to a 20% chance of having a child with ASD in each subsequent pregnancy.

Having a nephew with autism means that your children will have a slightly higher risk than the general population.

The causes of autism are still not well understood. Most researchers believe that genetics is only one part of the story and that environmental factors also play a role. Much research still needs to be done.

While the risk is small, pay attention to your child’s key developmental milestones, particularly in the areas of social skills and communication, such as smiling, gestures, pointing, answering to his or her name, speech development and understanding, and using eye contact.

If you have concerns, speak with your child’s healthcare provider.

This service is not intended to provide medical advice about your individual condition, which should only be obtained directly from a qualified physician or healthcare professional. Your personal information will never be used for any purpose other than to help educate and support you. You may opt out, with no effect on the delivery of your care or health benefits, at any time.

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