New Research Suggests Risk of Autism Heightens with Older Parents
As we recognize National Autism Awareness Month, it behooves us to take a look at some recent research in regards to this often misunderstood condition. One study suggests that the older you are when you become parents, the higher the risk of having a child on the autism spectrum.
Details of the Study
The study was led by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, or UTHealth and was recently published in the online Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. If correct, these findings add to a growing list of reasons for having children earlier in life.
For the experiments, researchers took 68 pairs of parents who were controlled for age and sex, and studied them in conjunction with other collaborators from the University of the West Indies (UWI). The results showed that the risk of having a child with autism did not necessarily increase by the mother's age or the father’s age independently, but rather that both jointly affect the risk of autism. On average, the researchers discovered that mothers who bore autistic children were usually at least six or seven years older than women who did not have an autistic child, while the men were around six years older.
If further research reproduces the same results, the age of parents at a child’s birth may have a big influence on the development of autism research.
Autism is a developmental disorder that affects the brain and normally appears within the first three years of a child's life. It impedes the brain's ability to develop normal social and communication skills, and is one of the Autism Spectrum Disorders. These Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASDs, are complex neurodevelopmental disorders that are characterized by impaired social interaction and obsessive, repetitive behaviors. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its statistics on autism, and estimates that one child in every 88 children has some type of ASD.
Commonly, autism is believed to be caused by a number of things including the following: a baby's diet, mercury poisoning, inefficient vitamin and mineral processing within the body, and side effects from certain vaccines. In fact, several vaccines used in early life inoculations contain a small amount of mercury that serves as a preservative; however, several exhaustive studies have shown that this is not a cause of autism.
While much is still not known about autism, we do know that it affects boys around four times as often as it does girls, and lifestyle factors such as income and education don't have any effect on it. One type of autism, often considered a “high functioning” level of the disorder, is Asperger syndrome. Oftentimes, the two disorders are mistakenly used interchangeably even though there is a distinct difference.
Perhaps with the increasing attention given to ASDs, we will soon have many more answers in regards to diagnosis and treatment options . . . answers that parents of affected kids are desperately searching for.