We look at the possible causes of autism and some thoughts on the concept of a 'cure'.

What causes autism?

The causes of autism are still being investigated. Many experts believe that the pattern of behaviour from which autism is diagnosed may not result from a single cause, and that there are genetic factors. We welcome research into all areas which may further our understanding of autism.

Find academic research articles on causes/aetiology in our library

Is there a 'cure'?

There is no known 'cure' for autism. This does not mean, however, that nothing can be done to help a person who is on the autism spectrum. Our understanding of autism has grown tremendously since it was first identified in the 1940s, and as we learn more about the condition, more evidence-based interventions will undoubtedly become available.

Because autism is a 'spectrum' condition it affects different people in different ways. It is therefore very difficult to generalise about how an autistic person will develop over time. It is particularly important to realise that an intervention which works well with one person may not be appropriate or effective with another, and that there can be much controversy over what an appropriate and effective intervention might entail.

The characteristics of autism can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations. Two people with the same diagnosis can have a very different profile of needs and skills.

Read more about autism, diagnosis, and interventions, including our position statement on therapies and interventions.

Valuing neurodiversity

There is a growing movement among activist adults who are on the autism spectrum who don't think in terms of 'curing' a disorder but instead of celebrating diversity. This is not to suggest that autistic people or those with other diagnoses do not find life challenging, but that they frame autism within a social model of disability. People with a desire to cure autism are sometimes known by autistic adults as 'curebies'. Please take time to read their viewpoints below.

Autism Rights Group Highland, a website with a number of articles and recordings

Autistic Rights Together

Don't mourn for us, an article by Jim Sinclair

Identity-First Autistic, a collection of blogs and articles on identity-first language

Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical, a humorous blog post on treatment for neurotypicals (people who are not on the autism spectrum), born of outrage at attitudes to autistic people

Is autism really a disorder? an article by Luke Beardon

National Autistic People's Organisation

So what exactly are autism interventions intervening with? an article by Damian Milton

So what exactly is autism? an article by Damian Milton

Square talk: the social model


Last reviewed 27 July 2018