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Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs): Other FAQs

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Information common to all health topics, such as "What is it?" and "How many people are affected?," is available in the Condition Informationsection. In addition, health topics frequently have questions that pertain only to that topic. These other FAQs are answered in this section.

Is there a link between ASD and vaccines?

Currently, there is no scientific evidence that vaccines or any material used to make or preserve vaccines causes or contributes to ASD.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), another agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, conducts and supports most of the federal studies on vaccines and autism. The CDC also provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about research on ASD and vaccines, including studies supported by the federal government and those funded independently.

Visit the CDC's website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/topics.html for more specific information.

Are there disorders or conditions associated with ASD?

Many people with ASD also have one or more other disorders. According to the CDC, about 10% of children with an ASD have an identifiable genetic, neurologic, or metabolic disorder.1,2 The new DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for ASD specify that the provider's diagnosis of ASD also indicates whether the person with ASD has any other conditions that are commonly associated with ASD.

Some of these co-occurring disorders can include:

  • Epilepsy or seizure disorder. Up to 39% of people with autism also show signs of epilepsy by adulthood.3In most cases, medication can control and treat epilepsy effectively.
  • Tuberous sclerosis. Between 1% and 4% of people with ASD also have tuberous sclerosis. This is a disorder that causes non-cancerous tumors to grow in the brain, kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and skin.4,5 People with tuberous sclerosis have some of the same symptoms as some people with ASD, including developmental delay, behavior problems, and seizures.
  • Fragile X syndrome. Nearly 2.1% of people with ASD also have Fragile X syndrome , the most common inherited form of intellectual disability.6,7 It is caused by a mutation in the gene called FMR1, located on the X chromosome.
  • Intellectual disability. Many people with ASD have an intellectual disability (problems with thinking, remembering, concentrating, or being creative).8
  • Anxiety. About 29% of children with autism also have an anxiety disorder.9 Each anxiety disorder has different symptoms, but in general, an anxiety disorder causes people to feel excessive and irrational fear and dread. The symptoms usually last longer than 6 months.10The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has information on anxiety disorders on its website.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). About 28% of children with autism also have ADHD.9 ADHD is common in childhood and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. Symptoms include difficulty staying focused and paying attention, difficulty controlling behavior, and hyperactivity (overactivity).11 The NIMH has information about ADHD on its website.

Many people with ASD also have other conditions that are viewed as less serious. Sleep disorders, allergies, and digestive problems are common in people with ASD, just as in people without autism. Many of these problems are treatable. Treatment for these conditions won't cure autism, but it can improve the quality of life for people who have autism and for their families.

Is secretin a cure for autism?

Secretin (pronounced sih-CREE-tin) is a hormone normally made by the small intestine to help digestion.

Currently, the FDA approves a single dose of secretin only to diagnose digestive problems. Secretin is not FDA-approved to diagnose ASD or to treat autism or ASD symptoms.

In the 1990s, news reports described a few people with ASD whose behavior improved after getting secretin during a test for digestive problems.

placebo is a substance that looks like a real drug (such as secretin) but does not actually contain any drug.

However, a series of clinical trials funded by the NICHD and conducted through the Network on the Neurobiology and Genetics of Autism: Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism found no difference in improvement between those taking secretin and those taking placebo.12,13 In fact, of the five case-controlled clinical trials published on secretin, not one showed secretin as any better than placebo, no matter what the dosage or frequency. No study completed since this initial group of studies has shown a different outcome.

My child was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome under the DSM-4. Does he or she still have it?

Health care providers no longer consider Asperger syndrome to be a valid diagnosis for milder symptoms of autism. Under the American Psychiatric Association's new diagnostic criteria for mental disorders, or the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), people with very severe symptoms of autism and people with milder symptoms who were previously diagnosed with Asperger syndrome now are considered to have the same diagnosis of ASD.

However, if your child has already been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, he or she should not have to be re-evaluated by a health care provider to receive a diagnosis of ASD.

Some people with the milder form of autism once known as Asperger syndrome consider the diagnostic label to be a part of their identity. There is nothing wrong with continuing to use this term to describe oneself or to identify with a peer group, even though the official diagnostic term has changed.14


  1. Cohen, D., Pichard, N., Tordjman, S., Baumann, C., Burglen, L., Excoffier, E., et al. (2005). Specific genetic disorders and autism: Clinical contribution towards their identification. Journal of Autism Developmental Disorders, 35(1), 103–116. [top]
  2. Kumar, R. A., & Christian, S. L. (2009). Genetics of autism spectrum disorders. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, 9(3), 188–197. [top]
  3. Tuchman, R., & Rapin, I. (2002). Epilepsy in autism. Lancet Neurology, 1, 352–358. [top]
  4. Smalley, S. L. (1998). Autism and tuberous sclerosis. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 28(5), 407–414. [top]
  5. Wiznitzer, M. (2004). Autism and tuberous sclerosis. Journal of Child Neurology, 19(9), 675–679. [top]
  6. Kielinen, M., Rantala, H., Timonen, E., Linna, S. L., & Moilanen, I. (2004). Associated medical disorders and disabilities in children with autistic disorder: A population-based study. Autism, 8(1), 49–60. [top]
  7. Goodlin-Jones, B. L, Tassone, F., Gane, L. W., & Hagerman, R. J. (2004). Autistic spectrum disorder and the fragile X premutation. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, 25(6), 392–398. [top]
  8. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. (2013). American Psychiatric Association: Washington, DC. [top]
  9. Simonoff, E., Pickles, A., Charman, T., Chandler, S., Loucas, T., & Baird, G. (2008). Psychiatric disorders in children with autism spectrum disorders: Prevalence, comorbidity, and associated factors in a population-derived sample. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 47(8), 921–929. [top]
  10. National Institute of Mental Health. (2010). Anxiety disorders. Retrieved May 31, 2012, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml [top]
  11. National Institute of Mental Health. (2012). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Retrieved May 31, 2012, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/index.shtml [top]
  12. Owley, T., McMahon, W., Cook, E. H., Laulhere, T., South, M., Mays, L. Z., et al. (2001). Multisite, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of porcine secretin in autism. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(11), 1293–1299. [top]
  13. Owley, T., Steele, E., Corsello, C., Risi, S., McKaig, K., Lord, C., et al. (1999). Double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of secretin for the treatment of autistic disorder. Medscape General Medicine, Oct 6, E2. [top]
  14. Autism Speaks. (2013). Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about DSM-5. Retrieved October 11, 2013, from http://www.autismspeaks.org/dsm-5/faq External Web Site Policy [top]

Last Updated Date: 01/16/2014
Last Reviewed Date: 12/18/2013
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