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Did I cause my child's autism?

The cause(s) of autism are unknown, so you as a parent definitely did NOT cause your child's autism. As the neurology, child behavior, and science experts learn more about it, it is becoming increasingly clear that like all complex behavioral traits, autism is not caused by a single gene mutation or a single environmental exposure. It is the product of genetic, environmental, and many unknown factors that combine in the "wrong" way. This is a vague explanation because even the experts in the field do not yet have answers. You did not cause your child to be autistic.

William Stillman
Health Education Specialist

While it might be tempting for you, or a spouse or a partner, to place blame on one or the other in the heat of a moment of frustration, there is no evidence to support the notion that autism was "caused" by a deliberate or benignly-ignorant act. In fact, decades ago, that autism was induced by parents was the prevalent theory at a time when autism was considered rare. It even had a name, "The Refrigerator Mother," implying that a mother's failure to bond with her baby led to the social and emotional detachment of that child. What remains unclear is if environmental or genetic factors contribute to the manifestation of autism.

Chantal Sicile-Kira
Mental Retardation & Developmental Disabilities Specialist

A common pattern among moms is to wonder what they did wrong: drinking or taking medications during pregnancy, exercising too much, allowing the child to be vaccinated? This guilt add to an already stressful situation. Please don’t feel guilty about your child's condition. You did not cause his autism and you have done the best you can at any given time.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.