In The Politics of Autism, I discuss various ideas about what causes the condition.
Here is just a partial list of correlates, risk factors, and possible causes that have been the subject of serious studies:
• Air pollution and proximity to freeways;
• Maternal thyroid issues;
• Autoimmune disorders;
• Induced labor;
• Preterm birth;
• Birth by cesarean section;
• Maternal and paternal obesity;
• Maternal and paternal age;
• Maternal post-traumatic stress disorder;
• Smoking during pregnancy;
• Antidepressant use during pregnancy;
Another is spacing of pregnancies. From EurekAlert:
Investigators have found a link between the amount of time between pregnancies and Autism Spectrum Disorder in children. The findings are published in Autism Research.
Autism Spectrum Disorder was increased in second and later-born children who were conceived less than 18 months or 60 or more months after the mother's previous birth. Other developmental disabilities were not associated with birth spacing.
"These findings support existing guidelines on pregnancy spacing and further highlight the association between autism and pregnancy health," said lead author Dr. Laura Schieve, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Couples thinking about getting pregnant should discuss pregnancy planning with a trusted doctor or healthcare provider."And back to maternal obesety, also from EurekAlert:
A recent Obesity Reviews analysis of published studies found that, compared with children of normal weight mothers, children whose mothers were overweight or obese prior to pregnancy had 17% and 51% increased risks for compromised neurodevelopmental outcomes, respectively.
Pre-pregnancy obesity was linked with a 62% increased risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a 36% increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder, a 58% increased risk of developmental delay, and a 42% increased risk of emotional/behavioral problems.
"Like avoiding smoking during pregnancy, this review of over 40 articles suggests that maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy may also be important to a child's brain development," said senior author Dr. Bernard Fuemmeler, of the Virginia Commonwealth University.