As a Behavior Analyst that works directly with children on the Autism spectrum, I am often asked by parents and caregivers what I believe to be the cause of autism. Not too long ago, the answer to this common question would have been “We still don’t know.” But recent studies have shed some light on this topic.

Most cases of autism studied appear to be caused by a combination of gene mutations as well as environmental factors influencing brain development.  Some of these environmental factors that can increase a child’s risk of developing autism are: events before and during birth, such as advanced parental age, maternal illness, and complications during birth.

A recent study at the Autism Center of Excellence at the University of San Diego, California by Professor Eric Courchesne adds on to the current line of research on this topic. Professor Courchesne’s team found that a blood test could detect autism in children as young as 12 months olds. They scanned the brains and analyzed the blood of more than 600 children ages 1-4 and detected the genetic ‘signature’ of autism. “People have been looking at individual genes. What we’ve found is that it is how these genes combine in networks and how these networks disrupt brain growth that is a common pathway in autism,” said Professor Courchesne. He explained that during the second trimester of pregnancy these gene networks disrupt the production of cells in gestating babies’ brains. Therefore, his goal is to develop a blood screening test within the next 2 years that will aid in specifying those children who are at risk of developing autism. If this is so, this simple blood test could lead to early intervention and better treatments at an earlier age.

To read the full article, click here: Blood Test and Autism