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Potential Ageism Apparent in Autism

In a recent and extensive study into why kids get autism, the age of parents of children with autism was examined. It was a very large study, thousands of parents were interviewed.

The results showed that “older” parents (40’s and 50’s) showed a higher risk for having a child on the autism spectrum. Additionally, the study also showed a higher risk for teenage moms.

The study looked into elevations in diagnosed children relating to parental age. It did not suggest that teen moms or older parents should not have children. It simply indicted a higher risk factor for potentially having a child on the autism spectrum.

Do we fall into that category?

Truthfully, I’m not sure.

I was 36 when I had my son and my husband was 40.

Rates of autism increased if the father was over 50. The risk was 66% higher, according to the study.

There was also a small increased risk in moms over 40 who had kids.

So, even though we are considered “older” parents, our ages don’t fit into the study results.

What factor do I think is important?

I get asked this question a lot and I almost always say genetics. That is the first connection I feel is important when discussing how and/or autism shows up in kids.

I have examined the genetics link(s) in my own family and my husband’s family. I think it’s safe to say that I see some correlations.

Not that any of my relatives or my husband’s relatives are on the autism spectrum, but I see some traits.

I even see some in myself.

What is it about me?

I was “shy” with adults as a child. For years, I explained that it was because I have blue eyes and whenever an adult wanted to see my blue eyes,

I didn’t want to look at them.

When I consider it now, I’m thinking it’s more to do with the fact that I do feel uncomfortable with eye contract. It is a learned behavior in me.


It feels like the person looking into my eyes is taking something from me. That’s just the way it feels to me when my eyes lock onto another pair of eyes.

Is that an autistic trait?

It’s one of them. But, it may not mean that I have autism. But, it’s a correlation for sure. I have a trait.

My brother has also mentions that he rocks. Sometimes, he doesn’t even know he’s doing it.

Again, he doesn’t feel he’s on the autism spectrum, either. But, again, he has a trait.

I believe in a genetic link. I believe a person is born “ready.” And, then they either “get it” or they don’t.

That is my feeling about how autism comes about.

What about this study?

Well, if you consider a 36 and a 40-year-old having a child as older parents, then I guess my husband and I fall into the category of higher risk.

But, not according to this study.

Still, I might consider it a second factor, along with genetics.

In truth, I have always focused more on helping my son than trying to figure out why he got autism. He did. And, he’s always been more important to me than wracking my brain in order to pin blame.

Remember, your child is more important.

More on Kimberly Kaplan:
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