Is Autism Spectrum Disorder Hereditary?

If you are reading this blog, I assume that you know what autism spectrum disorder entails.

“Autism spectrum disorder is a condition related to brain development that impacts how a person perceives and socializes with others, causing problems in social interaction and communication. The disorder also includes limited and repetitive patterns of behavior. The term “spectrum” in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity.”

Mayo Clinic

As a clinician, I get the question, “what causes autism?” a lot.

The content in this blog may be debatable to some, HOWEVER, I am responding to this question out of personal experience. It is not to cause a debate or spark controversy.

Scientists DO NOT KNOW what causes autism specifically, so I can’t give you a research study or scientific answer!

My Experience as a Speech-Language Pathologist 

I am not a scientist or researcher, but I have read TONS of research and seen a large number of children who are diagnosed as having autism spectrum disorder and I can tell you that some common characteristics.

These include:

  • Having a parent or family member that has been diagnosed as being on the spectrum.
  • Boys have a higher incidence of autism. I have seen only a handful of girls being diagnosed in my 12 years experience as compared to boys.
  • Vaccinated versus unvaccinated. This is HUGELY debated and this blog isn’t for that purpose, BUT the kids on my caseload – it didn’t matter if they were vaccinated or not. I’ve had kids who were unvaccinated who had severe autism, as well as kids that were vaccinated who had the same diagnosis.
  • Parents ages – kids whose parents are older, seem to be at an increased risk of being diagnosed with autism.
  • Extremely premature babies. I’m talking babies that have been born before 26 weeks gestation. 

“Despite extensive research, no reliable study has shown a link between autism spectrum disorder and any vaccines. In fact, the original study that ignited the debate years ago has been retracted due to poor design and questionable research methods.”

Mayo Clinic

If you want my professional opinion, it’s a combination between genetics AND environment.

New Jersey has one of the highest diagnosis rates of autism spectrum disorder. Why is that? We don’t know. That is what scientists are trying to figure out.

I lived and practiced in Pennsylvania in the beginning of my career and I occasionally received a child who had been diagnosed. Once I moved to NJ, my caseload ranged from 50%-75% of children who were diagnosed.  That’s a huge jump between two states. 

The Role of Genes in Autism

Several different genes appear to be involved in autism spectrum disorder. For some children, autism spectrum disorder can be associated with a genetic disorder, such as Rett syndrome or fragile X syndrome.

For other children, genetic changes (mutations) may increase the risk of autism spectrum disorder (Mayo Clinic).

Still other genes may affect brain development or the way that brain cells communicate, or they may determine the severity of symptoms. Some genetic mutations seem to be inherited, while others occur spontaneously. It is very possible that Autism is a mainly male gene.


Stacie Bennett, Speech-Language Pathologist, speech therapy

Stacie Bennett has been practicing as a Speech-Language Pathologist for the past ten years. Currently, she works full-time at a vocational high school in New Jersey and have her own private practice. Feel free to contact Stacie if you have any questions!

“My two year old had it for less than a week and he’s already saying more”

Mariah C., Mom

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