Poor parenting does not cause autistic disorders

Autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), also known as pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), are complex neurobehavioral conditions. There are a number of conditions included within the classification and, although in some cases the reason for the development of the condition can be determined, the cause for the conditions still is under investigation.

However, we do know with certainty that poor parenting is not associated with the development of ASD.

The core features of ASD include impaired communication (i.e., language delays), social interaction and behavioral disturbance.

The seemingly most debilitating aspect of the communication difficulties is the difficulties with non-verbal communication, including the ability to understand facial expressions, body language and tone of speech.

Associated with the communication difficulties, a person with ASD may be anxious, insist on sameness or routine, seem inattentive or rude, prefer objects instead of people and have trouble fitting in socially. Sensory integration issues including difficulty tolerating loud noises, tight clothes or certain textures are commonly associated.

As a result of these difficulties, symptoms often include frequent tantrums, disruptive behavior and/or aggression.

ASD is such a complex set of conditions because, aside from the debilitating features described, in most cases, a person also has symptoms of other conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disability, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette’s syndrome, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and/or central auditory processing disorder (CAPD).

Therefore, ASD is more like a syndrome of presenting issues and each issue often exacerbates another issue.

And, at the heart of all of these symptoms, is a child with feelings, hopes and dreams with parents who love them very much. Parents often find themselves paralyzed and lost in a sea of abbreviations, hoping to help their child but not knowing how, who or where to turn.

The good news is that, more recently, there has been a push to understand and treat the syndrome. What is generally accepted is that treatment needs to be comprehensive and introduced as early as possible.

It is no longer acceptable to take a “wait and see” approach to diagnosis or treatment. Evaluation and interventions also will encompass a wide range of specialties including, among many, psychology, psychiatry, neurology, speech and occupational therapy.

Often, getting to the core of issues is like peeling an onion. You start with the most obvious or most debilitating issue and, when that one is managed, another will surface.

Once at the core of the onion, then the child’s issues will be managed optimally.

The early years with a child with ASD or suspected ASD will be challenging for all involved, but especially the parents.

Education is key to maximizing your child’s chances for developing into a happy, healthy, functioning adult. Because of the recent push for better understanding ASD, new and more comprehensive treatments are available.

We will devote the next few monthly columns to providing information on the different treatment options for ASD.

For more information, visit the website,

Seiler is a licensed psychologist and neuropsychologist and sees clients through Associates in Neuropsychology and Collaborative Healthcare, PC.