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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke December 20, 2021

Most scientists believe genetic factors play a role in autism

If Your Time is short

  • There are still a lot of theories about what causes autism, and we don’t know all of the causes.  Most scientists believe that genetic factors play a role, and studies have shown there’s no link between autism and vaccines. 

An image of a tweet that’s being shared on social media casts doubt on the origins of autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disability that can affect how people communicate, interact, behave and learn. 

"How have so many people been tricked into believing autism is genetic," the tweet says, "when neither parent has it, and it isn’t in the medical histories of either parents’ families?" 

One Facebook account sharing the tweet wrongly suggested that only younger generations have autism as a result of receiving vaccines as a child. (Vaccines do not cause autism.) 

"If autism is genetic, where are all the autistic 40-50 year olds?" 

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Featured Fact-check

Most scientists agree that genes are one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s one of several factors that may contribute to a child having autism, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors. Children who have a sibling who has autism are at a higher risk of also having it. And people with certain genetic conditions can have a greater chance of having it. 

Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with autism, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

"Studies strongly suggest that some people have a genetic predisposition to autism," according to the institute. 

Research into autism is ongoing. Since launching in 2016, SPARK, the largest genetic study of autism, has discovere more than 100 genes linked to autism.

As for the claim that no adults in their 40s or 50s have autism? That data isn’t collected in any comprehensive way. The first estimates of adults living with autism weren’t released by the CDC until April 2020. A study estimated that, in 2017, an estimated 2.2% of adults in the United States have autism. 

We rate this post False.


Our Sources

Facebook post, Dec. 15, 2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?, last reviewed March 25, 2020

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Key Findings: CDC Releases First Estimates of the Number of Adults Living with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States, last reviewed April 27, 2020

Spark for Autism, Autism research, visited Dec. 17, 2021

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Autism Spectrum Disorder Fact Sheet, visited Dec. 17, 2021


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Most scientists believe genetic factors play a role in autism

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