What Are The Causes Of Autism: Is Autism Genetic?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, is a neurodevelopmental disorder that ranges from mild to severe. It is characterized by repetitive behaviors, impaired social communication, restricted interests, and rigidity.

Autism compromises development in multiple areas, creating additional challenges in life that neurotypical individuals do not have to address.

ASD is a complex disorder that presents differently from person to person. It is most often diagnosed in children, though it can also be identified in adults. Boys are more likely to receive a diagnosis than girls, though this may be due to gender stereotyping. [i]

There is no single agreed-upon genetic cause of autism, but there are several genetic indicators that could make an autism diagnosis more likely. For example, having siblings or other family members with autism or having certain chromosomal conditions like Fragile X Syndrome could suggest autism is a more likely possibility. That means that in some cases, autism may be genetic or hereditary linked to a certain extent. However, genetics may not tell the whole story, as there are also other risk factors involved. [ii]

The Drake Institute uses advanced treatment technologies to create customized treatment protocols for patients with autism. Brain map-guided neurofeedback and neurostimulation help our ASD patients reduce symptoms and lead more functional lives.

For more information regarding our non-drug autism treatment protocols, call us at 800-700-4233 or fill out the contact form. 

What Is Autism?

Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, includes a spectrum of neurodevelopmental disorders. These include the more common autism and Asperger’s, the lesser-known childhood disintegration disorder, and the pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS). [iii] [iv] [v]

Because autism is related to neurodevelopment, it is most notable in early childhood when the developmental milestones are carefully tracked.

According to the CDC, 1 in 68 American children has received an ASD diagnosis.

What Are The Causes Of Autism?

Is autism genetic? Are you born with autism? Is autism hereditary?

Many people have these questions about how autism develops and if autism runs in families.

While no single identified cause of autism exists, certain risk factors are associated with the disorder. How autism develops depends on the individual and their situation. The severity of the condition and its symptoms will also vary from person to person based on these risk factors. 

It is impossible to say why autism occurs, but genetic, environmental, or biological risk factors are likely involved in how autism is caused. Other possible risk factors could include maternal infection or high fevers during pregnancy, as well as difficult labor and delivery.

Genetic Risk Factors

Genetics may play a significant role in the development of ASD. Studies have shown that most people with autism also have some sort of mutation in some of the genes involved in brain development. These mutations may be spontaneous or inherited. Does that mean autism is a genetic disorder? Not necessarily, and there are other potential causes of autism, too.

Environmental Risk Factors

There are also environmental risk factors that could lead to ASD. Pollutants or chemicals that are breathed in or ingested could negatively impact brain development and could potentially lead to autism. For instance, high exposure to traffic-related pollution has been shown to increase the risk of autism development.

Toxic metals, pesticides, and methyl folate deficiency in the mother during pregnancy are also potential risk factors.

Biological Risk Factors

There are other possible biological risk factors outside of genetics that could lead to autism such as infections, issues with the immune system, and inflammation. [vi] [vii] [viii]

How Is Autism Evaluated & Diagnosed?

Autism can be challenging at times to diagnose because of varying degrees of symptoms that may overlap with other disorders. However, getting an early autism diagnosis is optimal for treating the disorder.

Because autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder, closely monitoring your child’s developmental milestones is important. Taking your child to the pediatrician at the recommended ages is essential to monitoring their development as the Doctor knows what to look for at each specific age. Milestones like smiling by six months and mimicking sounds by nine months are just a couple of the early developmental marks to pay attention to.

If a diagnosis of ASD seems likely, your pediatrician may refer you to speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, and ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) therapists for symptom-targeted treatment. [ix]

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Autism?

Signs and symptoms of autism vary from person to person, but there are several common communication- and behavior-based symptoms that could indicate the child is on the autism spectrum. These symptoms range from mild to severe, and not every autistic child will experience every symptom.

Some of the signs and symptoms of autism may coincide or overlap with symptoms of other disorders such as ADHD, anxiety disorders, selective mutism, and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

Below are some of the most common symptoms of autism in children.

Communication Symptoms In Children

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Doesn’t respond to name by 9 months of age
  • Lack of facial expressions (e.g., happy, sad, angry, etc.) by 9 months of age
  • Doesn’t play simple interactive games (e.g., pat-e-cake) by 12 months of age
  • Uses few or no hand gestures (e.g., doesn’t wave hello or goodbye) by 12 months of age
  • Does not share interests with others (e.g., doesn’t show you their favorite toy) by 15 months of age
  • Doesn’t point to show you something interesting by 18 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice when others are hurt or upset by 24 months of age
  • Doesn’t notice other children and play with them by 36 months of age
  • Doesn’t pretend to be someone else (e.g., teacher, superhero, etc.) by 48 months of age
  • Doesn’t sing, act, or dance for you by 60 months of age

Behavioral Symptoms Of Autism In Children

  • Gets upset when the “order” of their toys or other belongings is disturbed
  • Repeats words or phrases
  • Plays with toys the same way every time
  • Focuses on parts of objects (e.g., wheels on a car)
  • Gets upset by minor changes
  • Has obsessive interests
  • Follows specific routines
  • Has unusual reactions to the way things taste, sound, look, or feel[x]

How The Drake Institute Treats Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder can be challenging to treat but can be significantly improved with the correct treatment protocols. The Drake Institute uses advanced treatment technologies like brain map-guided neurofeedback, and neurostimulation to improve the symptoms of autism.

Treatments are non-drug and noninvasive, making them safe for children, teens, and adults. What’s more, these treatments address the underlying dysregulation of the brain linked to symptoms.

Brain Mapping

The Drake Institute uses brain mapping to guide treatment. In this stage, our Medical Director analyzes the patient’s brainwave activity to connect the brain’s dysregulation to what is happening with the patient. To do this, we record brainwave activity from 19 sensors placed around the patient’s scalp. This brainwave activity is then analyzed through a normative FDA-registered database of neurotypical brain activity for same-age individuals to determine if any brain networks are dysregulated and linked to impairment in language, social/emotional processing and repetitive behaviors.


We use the qEEG brain map information to customize neurofeedback treatment protocols for each patient.

The treatment protocols aim to reduce or resolve brain dysregulation by guiding brain activity toward healthier, more functional patterns.

In some patients, biomedical abnormalities may also be addressed to maximize improvement from neurofeedback.


In addition to neurofeedback, we may also use neurostimulation guided by qEEG brain map findings to gently stimulate the brain into healthier functional patterns. In our experience, some patients may benefit even more from neurofeedback if we also use neurostimulation. We have found this to be particularly helpful for lower-functioning children on the Autism Spectrum.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

If you’d like to learn more about how brain mapping and neurofeedback therapy can help reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with autism, please contact the Drake Institute by calling 800-700-4233. Or fill out the free consultation form. 


[i] https://www.chop.edu/news/girls-and-boys-autism-spectrum-tell-stories-differently-could-explain-missed-diagnosis-girls

[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

[iii] https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/mental-health-aspergers-syndrome

[iv] https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/autism-spectrum-disorders

[v] https://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/development-disorder

[vi]  https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html

[vii] https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-causes-autism

[viii] https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/autism/conditioninfo/causes

[ix] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/screening.html

[x] https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/signs.html

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dr david velkoff headshot

“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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