Older Dads Cause Autism – Really?

I recently came across a theory that older parents are more likely to pass on autism to their children. But can we give this theory to ALL of the autistic children? My own father was twenty-five at the time of my conception. (My mother was twenty-eight.) I think this theory cannot hold the water in every single case. Perhaps there are younger parents who pass on autism to their children without any so-called “inferior” genes. Regular genetics, whether by chance or design, is a much stronger theory, and autism existed long before it was discovered and named.  

If you don’t believe autism existed before its naming, consider the behavior of the “fairy changeling.” In many changeling legends, there exists behavior similar to autistic meltdowns and stimming. Wikipedia has several examples of this behavior listed in the various cultures of changelings. But I digress. 

Since there is evidence of autism and other conditions in fairy changeling folklore, I propose that autism existed long before its naming, and that its existence is purely due to genetics – not genetic mutation caused by older and therefore “inferior material.”

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Autistic woman in her 40s, bringing attention to issues that affect her and her kind.

One thought on “Older Dads Cause Autism – Really?”

  1. My take on it is that it works the same way as the thing where “older women are more likely to have babies with Downs syndrome”. That is: the chances are increased as maternal age goes up, but it’s still possible (although extremely unlikely) for a kid with Downs to be born to a first time mother aged sixteen, and it’s possible (and still the greater likelihood) for a first time mother aged fifty to give birth to a kid without it. In the same way, if there’s neurodiversity in your family background, and in the background of your reproductive partner, the chances of having a kid who is neurodiverse go up, but there’s still also a chance you’re going to have a neurotypical kid as well.

    (Example in point: I suspect there’s a history of autism on both sides of my family tree. My parents had two children together – I’m on the autism spectrum, my younger brother is entirely neurotypical).

    Until we know the exact nature of autism genetics and heritability we can’t really speculate. It’s worth noting we don’t really know why the chances of Downs syndrome increase in older mothers either – the hypothesis is it’s due to age-induced damage to the egg, but nobody’s actually experimented to find out whether this is truly the case. (Or whether it’s the case in humans rather than in mice).

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