Can Autism Spectrum Disorders Be Inherited?

"Can high functioning autism be inherited? Our son was recently diagnosed, and now I am wondering if my husband has it too ...their behaviors are very similar."

There is strong evidence that ASD Level 1 or High-Functioning Autism (HFA) is, at least in part, an inherited condition. If one twin develops the disorder, there is a 60% likelihood that the other will develop it as well. 
Younger kids born into families with an older child on the autism spectrum have a 5-6% likelihood of also having the disorder.

Even though the incidence of HFA is higher among related family members, no specific gene has been linked to its development. Also, there is currently no way to test for the genetic predisposition towards the disorder.

HFA is a neurobiological disorder in which known areas of the brain are affected in ways scientists do not yet completely understand. The disorder is considered to be inherited in a complex fashion (e.g., more complicated than disorders such as color-blindness or Huntington’s disease).

Researchers are getting closer to finding a genetic basis behind autism spectrum disorders. Rett’s syndrome is an autistic disorder for which the exact genetic cause is believed to have been found. In Aspergers and HFA, studies suggest problems in several chromosomal (genetic) regions, including areas on the chromosomes 2q, 7q and 15q. 
While the 7q region is considered the most promising area of study, research studies involving this chromosome in the disorder have failed to observe its linkage to this region.

For reasons doctors do not completely understand, there are far more boys "diagnosed" than girls (although there may be as many girls with the disorder as boys, males get diagnosed with the disorder more often). 
Scientists have evaluated whether or not  HFA represents an X-linked genetic disorder (i.e., one passed down generally from a mother to a son). Unfortunately, there have been cases of father to son transmission of the condition, which means that the disease can't be X-linked.

In at least one case, two parents with HFA had a child that also had the disorder, but did not have a severe case of the disorder, nor did the child have autism. In another case, identical twins both had HFA, but this is not always the case.

While some scientists support the idea that at least a portion of the disorder isn’t genetic at all, there have been no specific findings associating it with any environmental conditions (e.g., pregnancy complications).

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