Autism & Genetics

Updated on February 09, 2015
O.L. asks from Long Beach, CA
10 answers

This is a question for all of the parents out there who have a child who is on the spectrum. When he/she was diagnosed, were you offered genetic testing to see if the child has a genetic condition that causes behavioral issues? I'm not referring to Downs Syndrome (some people mentioned that before). There are a TON of genetic deletions/duplications that can contribute to behavior (specifically, autism spectrum disorders). It seems, from what i'm hearing, that genetic testing is more common. Look online for details (micro array).

If you were offered the testing, did you decide to do it? What were the results? I find it fascinating (and a bit overwhelming) that geneticists are finding links between behavior and genetics.

Here's an article that discusses genes and behavior:

Please share your experience.

Thanks =)

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So What Happened?

My intention is not to get into a debate about whether genes cause autism. In my opinion, they do. There is a lot of research being done to show that there are many genes that account for mental health issues. I'm grateful for this research because it's opening up doors for my child and my family. So, please refrain from bashing me for bringing up this topic. If you don't want to comment, then don't. I'm asking for real life experience from other parents.

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answers from Columbia on

Autism and "on the spectrum" ASDs aren't genetic duplications or deletions. They are genetic predispositions which have been expressed. I know this seems like semantics, but truly, when you're talking about genetics/heredity, the terms matter.

A test would simply determine a predisposition for autism, in the same way that you can test for a genetic predisposition for other hereditary diseases. This is pretty new, and really a huge statement by the mental health community, leading us away from the long-standing argument that autism arises environmentally or congentially.

Now, as to whether I'd have the testing. My mother has ADHD, I have ADHD, my kids have ADHD. I knew my kids had a pretty good chance of having ADHD, and I paid attention. So such testing was pretty much pointless for us. I honestly wouldn't have bothered. It wouldn't have changed a thing.

If I were a mom of a brand new baby, would I test for autism or other genetic predispositions? Well, there are pros and cons. Some, myself included, believe that a label is harmful and creates learned helplessness that a child would not otherwise experience. That's a huge con. Others believe that knowing would enable them to utilize earlier intervention services and potentially alter the outcome. That would be a pro.

I wouldn't test. I raise my kids with the mindset that there's nothing wrong with them, and that they can overcome anything they encounter. And they have.

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answers from St. Louis on

Links between genetics and behavior? There are no genetic links that determine behavior. I actually find that statement highly insulting and I am not one who falls into the meaning of words trap.

Behavior is learned, autism is not learned you are born with it.

I have ADHD, all four of my kids have ADHD and my younger son also has autism. I assure you they behave just fine, heck some have said they with their normal kids behaved as well as my children do.

So far as genetic testing goes, why? No it isn't offered, why would it be offered? My younger children's psychiatrist is the leading researcher on the subject of autism. Most of the time when you are given an inventory for diagnosis it is his name on top because he designs them all. It is a combination of genes and not worth mapping so no, he has never asked about gene testing. He did do a lot of testing on my kids, asking a lot of questions, he actually finds our family fascinating because the exact same gene pool has produced four very different kids.

Anyway I have tried to stay silent on your barrage of questions on why, genes, everything but not how to deal with your child who is on this earth and isn't likely to go spiderman on you and change his genetic makeup. So why obsess with the why, it won't change the now. You had enough of the genetic markers that causes these disorders, your husband did as well and just as two people with hazel eyes could have a brown eyed child, a blue eyed child and everything in between. You matched enough of these markers up to make a kid with ADHD, it happened, move on.

By the way they are not mutations, I have ADHD, nothing is mutating to make my kids ADHD.

Clearly you are not looking for real life experiences if you take offense to my answer. I am exactly a real life experience and you don't like it because it doesn't back up what you want to hear. Knowing your son has whatever gene doesn't open up any doors that weren't open before. You are under some misguided notion that if they isolate these genes they can tell you exactly how to raise your child and that just isn't going to happen, not now, not ever. You have to find common ground with your child and learn to speak their language, then you can learn to translate the rest of the world for them. Only then do you lose most of the frustration that leads to outbursts.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

What studies are you citing to say that autism is genetic? There has been no autism gene discovered, nor an ADHD gene, nor a bipolar gene, etc.

There is extensive research going on (over the past 15 year) about epigenetics, which has to do not with mutations but with gene expression or improper switching on and off of genes which causes them to behave in an unfavorable way. This is not a genetic mutation though - the DNA is set and unchangeable. But epigenetic changes are absolutely changeable, for better or for worse, due to a variety of causes. They are also heritable,so epigenetic changes in one parents can be transmitted. But they do not show up as DNA mutations and they cannot be test for. However, they can be caused by and influenced by a variety of factors, including environmental factors, disease, aging, stress and more.

So epigeneticists are the ones finding links (not just with behavior but with autoimmune diseases, numerous health "weaknesses" or propensities, a variety of allergies and sensitivities, and more). So when people say they have "bad genes" for things like heart disease and cancer and high cholesterol and bowel issues and migraines, to name just a few), these are not anything that show up in any genetic testing. But they do respond to certain things and the epigenome can be altered & repaired. A true genetic condition (such as the Down Syndrome you mentioned) cannot be changed, although some of the medical conditions that result may respond to a variety of treatments and dietary ingredients. For example, we work with a number of Down Syndrome kids who are prone to infections, respiratory problems, and heart problems. Those weaknesses and propensities DO respond but the basic genetic issue is not changeable.

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answers from Portland on

I read the article you posted. They think genetics MAY play a part in causing autism. I wonder why you think autism is caused by genetics when scientists are not ready to say it is.

I recently read anothe article about autism. Several studies have been done concerning the cause of autism. The conclusion is that heredity MAY play a part the results of the tests. The conclusion is that the cause is a combination of factors. Testing will only tell you that he has genes which may or may not be a small part of your son being on the spectrum.

Knowing your son's genetic makeup will not help in his treatment. Science still has not found a definitive answer for the cause of spectrum issues. Unless your son is part of a study knowing has genetic material you still will not know the cause or how to treat him. The article you cited said that they need more subjects to test to know if their current understanding is correct.

I suspect genetic testing is expensive. From reading the other posts I suggest that genetic testing is done for reasons other than curiosity. Do you know if your insurance would cover the cost? Your cited article says they need more subjects. Perhaps your son can be a part of their ongoing research.

My grandson is on the spectrum. His parents were not offered genetic testing. I would only agree to testing if doing so would help with studies.

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answers from Dallas on

Re your SWH:

Sometimes a little bit of knowledge is bad thing.

Like when scientists spend decades doing research looking for answers to disease, disorders, and mental illness, and then one much-too-concisely-written article sums it up for the general public, then the readers of said article feel informed enough to make sweeping statements like "austism is caused by vaccines" or "autism is genetic" or "autism can be controlled by diet" (feel free to substitute any developmental disorder, or mental illness, or the word "cancer" for autism as well). Then those people go on nonsense quests for the right diet or lifestyle or gene therapy or chiropractor or whatever, bypassing their doctor, the pediatrician, or the medical specialist.

You can be "grateful for research", I certainly am as well, but people don't become a geneticists by reading the internet.

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answers from Los Angeles on

O. of my best friends has an Aspie.
I know that when he was in the process of evaluation, the parents were definitely asked about the presence of autism on both sides of the family.
I believe there is a TENDENCY to run in families but I don't think there was any genetic testing involved.

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answers from Dallas on

We has ds testes for fragile X and something else (can't remember what it was ) as that is what the developmental pediatrician recommend, he didn't have either of those.

you link doesn't work - are you talking about the IAN project?

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answers from Chicago on

My son was diagnosed PDD-NOS in 2009. Yes, they offered genetic testing but they didn't really give any explanation about who/what/when/where and why so I figured what's the point? If no one can explain why I'd do it or how it would help I had no reason to do it. I took that time I would have used to educate myself as much as possible about the diagnosis.



answers from Portland on

Our developmental Ped. asked that we have our son screened for Fragile X when he was diagnosed almost 2 years ago. That is the only test asked for, and we will, I am waiting to figure out where, it's been a referral tag game...

I agree that there is a genetic component to Autism for sure. We knew that he was "off" by the age of 12 months. Actually, I knew he was off when I was pregnant.



answers from Los Angeles on

Wow some of these answers are way off, for someone to say there is no genetic link to adhd is wrong and yet not 100 percent proven about autism. But yes adhd kids, adults and kids can be be predisposed to adhd, by genetic makeup but not all people will actually get ADHD, there are many other factors that bring it on besides being genetically predisposed. Talk to a psychiatrist that has studied it and has evidence of research. That's what I've done as I have a close family member that is a clinical psychologist with a son on the spectrum, ( Aspergers)
Get your facts straight about genetically predisposed conditions and what you can do to help prevent, e.g parenting, environment etc.

Behavior is learned, temperant/personality is not maybe you are confusing the two

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