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What causes Aspergers and HFA?

Scientists don't know the exact causes of Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism (HFA), but research suggests that both genes and environment play important roles. In identical twins who share the exact same genetic code, if one has Aspergers, the other twin also has Aspergers in nearly 9 out of 10 cases. If one sibling has Aspergers, the other siblings have 35 times the normal risk of also developing the disorder. Researchers are starting to identify particular genes that may increase the risk for Aspergers. Still, scientists have only had some success in finding exactly which genes are involved.

Most people who develop Aspergers have no reported family history of autism, suggesting that random, rare, and possibly many gene mutations are likely to affect a person's risk. Any change to normal genetic information is called a mutation. Mutations can be inherited, but some arise for no reason. Mutations can be helpful, harmful, or have no effect.

Having increased genetic risk does not mean a youngster will definitely develop Aspergers. Many researchers are focusing on how various genes interact with each other and environmental factors to better understand how they increase the risk of this disorder.

In medicine, "environment" refers to anything outside of the body that can affect health. This includes the air we breathe, the water we drink and bathe in, the food we eat, the medicines we take, and many other things that our bodies may come in contact with. Environment also includes our surroundings in the womb, when our mother's health directly affects our growth and earliest development.

Researchers are studying many environmental factors such as family medical conditions, parental age and other demographic factors, exposure to toxins, and complications during birth or pregnancy.

As with genes, it's likely that more than one environmental factor is involved in increasing risk for Aspergers. And, like genes, any one of these risk factors raises the risk by only a small amount. Most people who have been exposed to environmental risk factors do not develop Aspergers. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is also conducting research in this area.

Scientists are studying how certain environmental factors may affect certain genes—turning them on or off, or increasing or decreasing their normal activity. This process is called epigenetics and is providing researchers with many new ways to study how disorders like Aspergers develop and possibly change over time.

Health experts recommend that kids receive a number of vaccines early in life to protect against dangerous, infectious diseases, such as measles. Since pediatricians in the United States started giving these vaccines during regular checkups, the number of kids getting sick, becoming disabled, or dying from these diseases has dropped to almost zero.

Kids in the United States receive several vaccines during their first 2 years of life, around the same age that Aspergers symptoms often appear or become noticeable. A minority of moms and dads suspect that vaccines are somehow related to their youngster's disorder. Some may be concerned about these vaccines due to the unproven theory that Aspergers may be caused by thimerosal. Thimerosal is a mercury-based chemical once added to some, but not all, vaccines to help extend their shelf life. However, except for some flu vaccines, no vaccine routinely given to preschool aged kids in the United States has contained thimerosal since 2001. Despite this change, the rate of kids diagnosed with Aspergers has continued to rise.

Other moms and dads believe their youngster's illness might be linked to vaccines designed to protect against more than one disease, such as the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, which never contained thimerosal.

Many studies have been conducted to try to determine if vaccines are a possible cause of autism. As of 2010, none of the studies has linked autism and vaccines.

Following extensive hearings, a special court of Federal judges ruled against several test cases that tried to prove that vaccines containing thimerosal, either by themselves or combined with the MMR vaccine, caused autism.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said...

my husband,2 daughters,2 grandchildren all aspergers,and we think husbands late grandfather /his mother/his uncle and cousins all present as aspergers,in original article it say often the a/s child will not have an aspergers parent,well in my experiance of being married to an aspergers man for 46 years ,the parent is aspergers but not diagnosed,it was just not possible to get people diagnosed till recently,these family members were classed as odd/eccentric,but realy a/s,my husband was not diagnosed till he was 65,only after my adult daughters were diagnosed,so in my husbands maternal side of family it seems 100%genetic,some more affected than others,but all so aspie,some are also o,c,d and some are also a,d,h,d.some outgoing agressive aspergers some very passive aspergers,very few escape the gene,out of our 3 grandchildren,only one seems clear,my views are secondedby the authorTONY ATTWOOD,in his view most a/s children have an undiagnosed parent who is a/s too,i work with a/s children also ,and do notice most have one parent who presents as a/s.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with that... Genetic weakness + all the crap we eat breath and get injected with can cause autism!!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting.... my partner has Asperger's.... my son didn't show signs till her was about 4. I'm still not convinced his vaccinations didn't play a part in his Asperger's - maybe triggering it? I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Personally, there are more potential triggers in genes and the typical American dietary intake, and stress level that I would not go picking on vaccines. People who are wary of vaccines like to blame them for ANY problem their child might have. the chemicals people put onto their bodies and breathe in

Anonymous said...

I have more than one child on the spectrum... we did everything right when i was pregnant and beyond... it still happened it is totally the gene makeup. it use to be years ago they would be considered eccentric and odd not handicapped.

Unknown said...

I have twin boys, identical, only one with Aspergers. I suspect a difficult birth ( cord round the neck, oxygen starvation,may have had an effect. Also, there was slight TTTS which was only apparent when they were born, my aspire son being the one who was very pale. Would be interested to see studies on identical twins that are not both Aspies.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

Click here
to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...