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Top 10+ Questions Parents Ask About Autism

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

A close-up photo of an autistic kid

How does a child get autism?

This could be answered as ‘the exact cause for autism is not known, and that might be true as well. But several researches have been conducted and are being conducted as you read this, that have at least made a few contributing factors for autism clearer, like-

  • Initially, autism was thought to be a mood disorder, but now it is concluded that autism is a neurological disorder, it occurs due to developmental differences in the brain of the child.

  • Genetic predisposition is an important contributing factor to autism, several researchers have concluded that the risk for autism in twins increases by 90%, and in siblings, it is about 6-20%.

  • Environmental factors can act as triggers for genetically susceptible individuals. Pollution, drugs, and toxic exposure have been proven to increase the chances of autism in a genetically susceptible child.

  • Maternal factors like nutrition, alcohol intake, advanced parent age, and siblings born less than 1 year apart are a few causative factors for autism.

Why is autism increasing? Why is autism more common now?

There can be many reasons for this but a major reason is, increased awareness, availability of extensive screening tools, better diagnostic facilities, and improved data collection methods, have led to an increased number of children diagnosed with autism.

Other factors can be-

  • The increasing age of parents during pregnancy has been observed to be an important cause leading to autism.

  • Better healthcare facilities have led to increased survival of premature or preterm babies who are more susceptible to autism.

  • Increased pollution, drugs, and alcohol intake during pregnancy are predisposing factors for a child to develop autism.

Can parenting style cause autism?

There is no scientific proof suggesting that parents cause autism in a child, however, genetics play an important role in the development of autism in a child, there is scientific proof that there is increasing evidence of autism in genetically related individuals. Pregnancy in later reproductive age groups can also lead to autism.

Parents can make a big difference in the life of an autistic kid through their supportive role, a parent can help the child with autism by altering the parenting style as follows-

  • By being more responsive, it has been proven that maternal responses to various gestures, actions, and interests of the child can be helpful in the development of the social and interactive skills of the child.

  • Directive parental behavior aims at shifting the child's focus of attention. For instance, if a child wants to play with a car, the parent can help the child say ‘want a car’.

  • Exposure to an increased quantity and variety of words can be helpful in the speech development of the child.

Can watching too much TV make a child autistic?

Screen time or watching TV doesn’t really make a child autistic, however, it can have both positive and negative impacts on a child with autism.

The Cons of increased screen time are -

  • As the child with autism has difficulty in social interaction, increased screen time can further hinder the development of social skills in the child.

  • In children with sensory sensitivities, as television can provide multitudes of stimuli, it can irritate the kids.

  • Too much screen time can hinder the physical activity of a child, and physical activities are very important for a child with autism for motor development.

  • Autistic children often present with sleep disturbances, excess screen time can further hamper the sleep patterns of the child.

  • It can lower the attention span of a child.

The pros of screen time are-

  • It can be used as a tool to decrease anxiety in autistics if they watch something calming.

  • It can aid them in social communication, as they can take their time to respond and they can be in an environment they feel safe.

  • It can help them learn new activities by providing audiovisual stimuli.

  • Screen time can also be used as a reward, for instance, if they complete an activity they get to watch TV for a certain duration of time, which can motivate them to learn newer activities.

Can autism be prevented? What should you avoid if your child has autism?

Autism isn’t something you can prevent in a child but yes, you can practice certain things that can help you increase the chances of having a healthy baby. As a baby’s brain develops during pregnancy, taking certain precautions can help in the overall development of the baby.

  • Maternal nutrition is very important for the development of a baby, for instance, timely intake of folic acid supplements during pregnancy is very important for the development of a baby’s brain.

  • Spacing out pregnancies- it is suggested to have a space of 2 to 5 years between two consecutive pregnancies, the risk of autism increases to 50% if the children are conceived within 12 months.

  • Age of parents- the risk of genetic mutations increases as the parental age increases, leading to an increased risk of autism in the child, do consult your doctor before starting a family.

  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, and intake of certain drugs during pregnancy as they can severely affect the development of a child’s brain.

  • Regular checkups- it is of utmost importance to visit your doctor regularly as it will help you keep track of your health and your baby’s health.

  • The association of vaccines to autism has been suggested, as few vaccines contain thimerosal, a derivative of mercury, as a preservative, however, there is no concrete proof for it.

Do autistic kids read early?

Usually, autistic children have delayed language and communication skills development, but sometimes autism can be associated with hyperlexia. Hyperlexia is a condition in which the child reads at an age earlier than expected, without having an understanding of what they are reading.

It is often associated with type 2 autism- the children are often interested in words, numbers, and letter toys when compared to other toys. They also have good memory for numbers and dates.

However, these children present with other characteristic signs of autism-like avoiding eye contact and having delayed development of social skills.

Can a speech delay look like autism?

Yes, speech delay can be confused with autism as in both cases the child has a developmental delay, that can affect the language and speech development in the child.

However, there are a few differences in both conditions.

  • Even though in both conditions the child presents delayed speech, in speech delay the child will try communicating in nonverbal ways, and in autism, the child also has delayed social development, hence they will avoid communication.

  • A child with a speech delay is driven by social interests and seeks approval and appreciation, whereas, a child with autism will follow his/her own interest only.

  • A child with autism will not establish eye contact, and it's the opposite in the case of speech delay, the child will have no difficulty maintaining eye contact.

  • A child with speech delay will respond to their name being called in a verb or nonverbal manner, but a child with autism will seldom respond to their name being called.

When do autistic children start to talk?

On average, a child speaks his first words by 12 to 18. In ASD the communication and language skills of the child are affected. Some children with ASD may not communicate via a speech at all and some may have a very limited vocabulary. Others may have rich vocabulary and they would talk about the topics of their interests for long durations. Girls often develop speech better than boys.

Several researchers have suggested the importance of language acquisition as an important predictor for cognitive development in an autistic child, and the autistic children that start speaking by age 5-6 years are more prone to be high functioning and have comparatively better social skills as adults.

Will my 3-year-old autistic child ever talk?

Yes, a child with autism might have delayed speech, but they do speak. Even a child with nonverbal autism does speak a little, however, they may not be able to use language in a meaningful manner.

Scientists at the Center for Autism and Related Disorders, in Baltimore, conducted research to counter the view that autistic children don't develop speech after the age of 4 years. The research focused on 8 to 17-year-old children who had significant speech delay (ranging from not speaking at all, to using only single words or phrases) at the age of 4 years. They found that most of the children did develop speech skills, about half the children could speak fluently, and around 70% of children could use simple phrases. Speech therapy has been proven to show significant improvement in speech development in children with autism.

Can a child be nonverbal and not autistic?

Most often the first thought that pops into our heads when we hear a child being nonverbal is, it might be due to autism. But apart from autism, there is a wide range of factors that cause a child to be nonverbal, like-

  • Hearing loss.

  • Cerebral palsy.

  • Learning disability.

  • Phonological disorder.

  • Difficulty in using muscles involved in speech.

Hence, it’s always a better idea to visit an expert and have the condition of the child assessed before jumping onto complications.

Do autistic kids point?

Due to delayed social and interactive development, children with ASD may be unable to use gestures such as pointing at objects.

Heymann et al. (2018) found that ASD children were less likely to integrate joint attention behaviors (including gestures and eye gaze) and vocalization than typically developed children.

You can help the child learn gestures by incorporating them into the conversation, for instance, if the child is looking at a toy and crying, point to the toy and name it or if the child points at something in a book, do the same point at the object with them and name it. Several studies have suggested that the use of gestures is closely related to the development of language skills.

Can autistic children talk early?

When I came across this question I had trouble finding much information regarding early speech in autism, and then I found this post ‘Actually It’s Crooked by By C.L. Bridge’, turns out there are many autistic individuals who developed speech early, and, were misdiagnosed or their diagnosis was delayed.

In some cases a child with autism may use speech earlier, the better term for it is precocious speech, it is often not a symptom under the list of characteristic symptoms of autism. Parents and teachers presume that a child with precocious speech will be interested in the things that challenge his brain, meaning things that are better suited as per his speech and language development. A big vocabulary doesn’t mean that the child is emotionally mature, the child still faces the same social challenges as other autistic kids, and they still have difficulty in putting their words together to form sentences to express themselves.

Therefore it is always best to motivate the child to use speech as much as possible, for instance, you can keep their favorite toy out of their reach, so they will have to ask for it, the goal here is to give the child a reason to use language to communicate.

How long do people with autism live?

The oldest person with autism alive is Donald Triplett, age 89 years. So the answer seems pretty clear here that there is no specific age till which autistic people will live. The person with autism can live a healthy and independent life, depending on the severity, and timely diagnosis and intervention of ASD.

Sounderic provides online speech therapy sessions for children with various communication disorders. We would love to help you. Get in touch with us on WhatsApp at +919644466635 or schedule a consultation with us at

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