Top 10 Autism Spectrum Disorder FAQ

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Your top autism spectrum disorder questions answered:

What is autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?

According to Health Canada “ASD is a neurological disorder that affects how the brain functions.” It affects 3 main areas of development: social communication, social interaction and repetitive or stereotypic behaviours. 

How is ASD diagnosed?

There is no medical tests for autism spectrum disorder, rather a physician will observe your child and do a developmental screening. Some of the areas that the doctor will evaluate are communication, behaviour and development (are they meeting developmental milestones?). If the doctor feels further assessment is warranted they will refer your child to a developmental clinic. This further assessment will include an interview with you or another primary caregiver, observation of your child and a standardized test such as the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule). You will receive a detailed report after the assessment describing how your child fared compared to other same age, typically developing peers.

What causes autism spectrum disorder?

Autism is primarily caused by genetic factors, approximately 80%, while the remaining 20% are caused by environmental factors. This has been demonstrated in twin studies. Vaccinations do not cause autism.

Is there a cure for autism spectrum disorder?

There is no cure.  However, there are treatments that can improve the quality of life for the person.  The goal of treatment should be to teach skills that will allow them to be as independent as possible.

What are the signs of autism spectrum disorder?

The symptoms can be divided into 4 categories: communication, social behaviour, stereotyped behaviour and other behaviour.  For a detailed description of these signs visit Health Canada‘s website.

Do vaccines cause autism spectrum disorder?

Vaccines do not cause autism.  Many people believe that the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine can cause autism. This lie was created by a British physician who was being paid by a vaccine company to create a new measles only vaccine.  There have been hundreds of studies that have shown there is no correlation between vaccines and autism. This doctor had his medical license revoked when his research was disproven. The idea that vaccines cause autism has been carried forward by celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, who have used their celebrity status to perpetuate this fabrication.  

What are the treatments for autism spectrum disorder?

There has been a lot of research in the treatments for autism.  Much of the research has been focused on behavioural interventions (primarily ABA).  Treatments for autism can be broadly divided into three categories: 

  • Behavioural and communication based therapies
  • Nutritional and alternative based therapies 
  • Medical interventions.

What is applied behaviour analysis (ABA)?

ABA is the science of learning and behaviour. Using motivation to teach new skills is a basic idea of ABA. There are many applications of ABA outside of autism. Read more about ABA.

Are there medications to treat autism spectrum disorder?

While there are no medications to treat autism itself, there are medications that can treat some of the symptoms that are often found in children and adults with autism.  You should speak with your doctor for further information about this. 

Will my child learn to speak?

Approximately 60% of children with autism spectrum disorder learn to speak. In the last decade, there have been tremendous advances in augmentative and alternative communication (other ways of communication). Some examples are: picture exchange, voice output devices with communication apps and sign language. Not being able to vocally speak does not mean that you child cannot communicate.

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