Autism: How Does It Really Develop?


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I don't know about any of you, but I was fascinated after hearing Andrew speak about people thinking they cured their child of autism. Think about it, all of our lives we've thought this disease was incurable; yet there are parents who have no medical history claiming they've done the impossible. So, since I couldn't seem to understand how parents could believe such a thing, I decided to do some more research on it. In an article I found, it focuses around one family who believes they've rehabilitated their son from autism. Notice the key word "rehabilitated." This family understands that autism can't be cured, and they believe that if a parent was to think their child was cured, then they never really had autism in the first place. So right off the bat, it seems this family is a little more legitimate than the examples we talked about in class. The family paid for a program called Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA. This program helps teach the kids how to learn and how behave in a positive manner. The program uses rewards and repetition to help the kids learn. Through this, the family believes their son improved greatly.

Not only did they use ABA, but they also had their son tested for levels of mercury.  As we had also discussed in class, mercury in vaccines were found to potentially cause autism. Jamie, the son in the article, had six times the amount of mercury in his body. The doctors gave him medicine to reduce the mercury levels, and Jamie's parents claim it made a huge difference. This story kinda reminded me of the girl in the video we watched in class who suffered from a neuro disease after a flu shot. Definitely a powerful story, but I'm not entirely sure how realistic it is. So despite the fact that this family knows they can't cure autism, their story still isn't completely reliable.

I'm one of those people who will only believe it once I see it, so I tried to look up some more on whether or not mercury caused autism. I came across a study found on Forbes. They took an island around Madagascar and studied the women there for years. They chose this area because it has a much larger fish intake than most of the world, and fish contains mercury. Like all studies, there are confounding variables and other circumstances, but what the study found was that there is no negative developmental effects despite the huge mercury levels. This is just one study, done in one area of the world, on one large group of pregnant women, but I already am more convinced by this than the stories we heard in class or by Jamie's story. It's definitely a topic that will always be highly discussed, but do you believe the power of anecdotes, or do you need science to be there to back up your beliefs?

Photo courtesy of http://www.topnews.in

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1 Comment

This discussion in class also sparked my interest. It made me wonder if these claims made by parents that they have "cured" their children are reputable or not. From what I have heard and seen I do not believe it i currently possible to cure someone of autism, so why are these parents so convinced they have done the impossible? There are multiple reasons of why this could have occured, but I think there's one that could be the leading cause. These claims could be invalid simply because their children could have been wrongfully diagnosed in the first place. Accordin to this article, http://www.salon.com/2013/09/21/thats_not_autism_its_simply_a_brainy_introverted_boy/, wrongfully diagnosing children with autism is not that uncommon. I also thought the study done on the women on the island near Madagascar was very interesting. Is it possible that these women are less likely to birth a child with autism because of their genes, or maybe there is something on the island that may contribute to preventing their children from having autism.

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