Can Parenting Style Cause Autism?

Reviewed on 4/8/2022
Can Parenting Style Cause Autism?
While the cause of autism spectrum disorder is not fully understood, there is no scientific evidence that parenting style causes the disorder.

Autism is a developmental disorder that can affect a person's behavior and make it difficult for them to communicate and interact with others. 

There is no scientific evidence that parenting style causes autism. The cause of autism spectrum disorder is not fully understood, but it is believed that genetics may play a role and the condition tends to run in families. 

Certain environmental factors are also thought to increase the risk of developing autism spectrum disorders, including:

  • Older parental age
  • Exposure to the drug valproate in utero 
  • Low birth weight

What Are Symptoms of Autism?

Autism is often referred to as “autism spectrum disorder” because symptoms vary widely, with some people having a few mild symptoms while others are affected by severe and disabling symptoms. Autism spectrum disorder is classified in levels one through three, ranging from mild to severe impairment and need for support.

The main symptoms of autism spectrum disorder are categorized into two general areas: 

  1. Social communication 
    • Difficulty in social interaction and communication 
    • No displayed interest in communicating
    • Difficulty with or lack of interaction with people who are close to them 
    • Difficulty learning to interact with others
    • Problems using and interpreting nonverbal behaviors such as eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, and body postures
    • Inability to speak or understand 
    • Lack of interest in developing friendships
    • Lack of understanding of social conventions or needs of others
    • Lack of interest in sharing interests, activities, or achievements (impaired joint attention)
    • Playing alone (in children) 
    • Babies may resist cuddling, avoid eye contact, or not spread arms in anticipation of being picked up
  2. Restricted and repetitive behavior, activities, and interests
    • Insistence on specific and rigid routines or rituals 
    • Limited interests
    • Repetitive body movements, such as rocking, swaying, hand or finger flapping or twisting, dipping, or walking on tip-toe
    • Extreme sensitivity to sounds, tastes, or touch

Other characteristics of autism spectrum disorder may include: 

  • Delayed or absent language skills
  • Irregular cognitive skills
  • Abnormally large head

How Is Autism Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder is made with a medical history, physical exam, neurologic exam, and testing of a child's language, social, and cognitive skills. 

Many different types of professionals who are experts in autism may evaluate a child’s signs and symptoms to either diagnose autism spectrum disorder or to rule out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms.

What Is the Treatment for Autism?

Autism spectrum disorder cannot be cured, but a comprehensive treatment plan based upon a child's age, the severity of the symptoms, any underlying medical problems, and other individual factors can be created to help a child reach his or her full potential. 

Treatments for autism spectrum disorder include therapy, school support for children, and medications to treat other conditions that may accompany the disorder.

Treatments may include:

  • Therapy 
    • Speech-language therapy 
    • Physical and occupational therapy for coordination
    • Social skills training to help with conversational skills and understanding of social cues
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety
    • Parent-mediated therapy
    • Joint attention therapy
    • Nutritional therapy
  • School support 
    • Assistance with reading and writing
    • Help with organization
    • Educational and school-based therapies
  • Medications 


Autism is a developmental disability. See Answer

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Reviewed on 4/8/2022
Image Source: iStock Images