"the newly identified gene variants found to boost autism risk are involved in facilitating communication between brain cells -- making more credible the suggestions from other autism experts that autism or ASDs are due to abnormal connections between brain cells early in development."
Dr. Hakonarson also points out that having the genetic variant does not automatically mean that autism will result. Other genetic and environmental factors are also involved.
Dr. Thomas Insel of the NIH was interviewed by WebMD about the studies and also places the new genetic studies results in a genetic and environmental context:
It would be a mistake for people to read this and think this is only about genetics. Almost everybody agrees that autism is a collection of different disorders. Some of them may be heavily genetic. But I think most experts would say the bulk of autism is the result of both genetic and environmental effects that are interacting in some way that we have yet to fully describe.
This begins to fill out the genetic part of the equation."