Autism: Time for Civility

April 3, 2010

“We can talk about treatments, accommodations, services, education, even identifying genetic markers… but a cure? I doubt we will find this. Especially not for people who are already autistic”

Actually, I have much more hope about this than I did a year ago. There’ve been studies coming out where mice with the known Rett Syndrome mutation have grown to adulthood expressing all the typical Rett symptoms and have then had that mutation removed (through a genetically engineered means that would not be possible in humans, unfortunately). Once the mutation was removed, the mice were indistinguishable from their neurotypical kin. I believe a similar thing has been done with FragileX.

I know these are specific types of autism caused by single genes (and yes, it has only been shown in mice, but that’s what animal models are for) but, the bottom line is that it means we can speak in terms of a “cure” rather than just “treatment” or “prevention”. This may not be true in all cases of autism, and will be a challenge to implement, but there is hope.

Also, note that I used the word “disorder”. I just have to say that I withhold judgement for Asperger’s and high-functioning autism (and maybe even lower functioning, based on what I’ve read here) however, in the case of Rett, I’d even be willing to call it a disease. These girls are usually SEVERELY impaired, have a shortened lifespan, and rarely have children. That’s basically the definition of a disease.
More on Barack Obama
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