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Can we really cure autism?

Posted by on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:26 PM
  • 26 Replies

Saw this and thought it was interesting. My son was diagnosed at age 3 with high-functioning autism and has had early intervention since that time. I do think the early intervention has helped him to control some of his autistic tendencies, but I don't think it cured them.

 

  

 

Can We Really "Cure" Autism?

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Posted Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, at 12:12 PM ET

 

 
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A magic cure for autism? Sorry Jenny, not likely.

SAEED KHAN/AFP/GettyImages

 

This morning's New York Times points to an intriguing study ostensibly showing that some small percentage of people with autism can "outgrow" their symptoms. The Times story was oddly unsatisfying, claiming in one paragraph that the study, published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, will alter the way parents "think and talk about autism" but also cautioning against false hope. The Times writer seems only dimly aware how this half-hearted message will set off a bomb in the world where Jenny McCarthy lives-that she will turn on that wicked grin and brandish this study to launch another 40 years of vicious debate over whether autism is caused by environmental factors, namely vaccines, and thus can be cured by brave and dedicated parents like her, or whether it's just a condition people are born with.

 

Thankfully, science writer Emily Willingham has parsed through the study in Forbes to show us what it really finds, which is not much that's new and certainly nothing that will change our thinking about the progress of autism or believe in the McCarthy miracle cure. As Willingham points out, the people who seem to have "grown out" of their autism had higher cognitive functioning and milder symptoms in the first place, and "many of them had behavioral interventions in childhood." One measure the researchers used to evaluate progress was "typically developing friends," which people with autism sometimes have anyway. Seven of the 34 had some impairment in "non verbal social interactions" which the researchers decided, somewhat arbitrarily, was due to other factors such as anxiety or depression.

 

Anyone who has read a single memoir by someone with Asperger's or known someone well with the condition can intuit what's going on. At the moment, I happen to be reading Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger's, by John Elder Robison. Over the course of his life, Robison learns to compensate for his social limitations. As a child he teaches himself to say appropriate things to children and not just foist on them his own obsessive interests. As an adult he learns that blurting out the truth-"you look fatter"-is not always the right thing to do. He doesn't "outgrow" his autism, he just learns to work around it. Even later in his life he writes that he wishes his disability were more obvious; when we see someone in a wheelchair we know they can't walk, so we help them across the street. There is no way to "see" Asperger's so people just assume he's a jerk.

 

Willingham makes the comparison to diabetes, which I have. I have learned how to control my blood sugar pretty well, but I still have diabetes. Autism for high-functioning kids works something like that, even more so these days. When Robison was a kid, no one understood him at all. They just thought he was odd and would grow up to be a failure. But now there is a well-developed understanding of Asperger's and its symptoms, and many behavioral therapies that can help people, especially if they are smart enough to absorb them. So it stands to reason that as time goes on, more people with Asperger's or autism will, look, to all the world, as if they are "cured" without actually being so.

 

by on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:26 PM
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Replies (1-10):
romalove
by Roma on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:31 PM

I think there are many different reasons that children are autistic.  It would be like saying we can cure cancer.  Yes, sometimes we can, and some cancers are far more curable than others, but if you have pancreatic cancer, it's likely you'll die within five years.

eema.gray
by on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Like Roma said, I think there are a lot of reasons why children can exhibit autistic behaviors and improve with the therapies and interventions used for autistic children.  Some of those children will "grow out" of their autistic behaviors as they learn and adapt.  Others will not.  When you have interplays of genetics, neuro defects, environment, food, and medication working with and against each other, you cannot possibly hope to assign one distinct explanation to something as varied as autism.

If there are not a multitude of factors in play, why then does a dairy/gluten free diet help some children and not others?  Clearly, there are many underlying factors involved.

LIMom1105
by Bronze Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Personally, I don't think autism is curable. I think some people, especially children who start getting services early, can learn to be highly functional, so much so that the disorder is no longer easily detectable. That doesn't mean it's gone or these individuals don't still need help, but they might lose the actual diagnosis in time.


stormcris
by Christy on Jan. 22, 2013 at 3:02 PM

Depends on how they take to biofeedback and other such help. I do not think any such measures would work for my cousin but there are many autistic children who would not have to climb so far to outgrow this.

MeAndTommyLee
by Gold Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 3:08 PM

I doubt autism is curable, however, I am NOT a doctor.  I do believe that until the medical community at large admits to how and why instead of it can't be this or that....a lot of children would benefit. 

Ms.KitKat
by Platinum Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 3:10 PM

 This article seems to highlight that no- autism can not be cured. It is a wiring of the brain that once it's wired- can not be fixed. The brain can be trained and the chld can be taught. but cure? No.

I too wish sometimes my ds aspergers came with a physical clue or mark. maybe soemthing like Harry Potter's scar? That way, when my son appears aloof or insenstive or just does not grasp the double meaning others will know why.

Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Jan. 22, 2013 at 3:19 PM
I like the comparisons made to Diabetes...

You can manage Autism and kids can learn to adapt and adjust to their diagnosis but can we "cure" it? No. I don't think so
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Mommy_of_Riley
by Jes on Jan. 22, 2013 at 3:21 PM
1 mom liked this
I so Agree... Most just think my son is an out of control brat and I don't want to "explain" him to everyone we meet...

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

 This article seems to highlight that no- autism can not be cured. It is a wiring of the brain that once it's wired- can not be fixed. The brain can be trained and the chld can be taught. but cure? No.


I too wish sometimes my ds aspergers came with a physical clue or mark. maybe soemthing like Harry Potter's scar? That way, when my son appears aloof or insenstive or just does not grasp the double meaning others will know why.

Posted on CafeMom Mobile
Ms.KitKat
by Platinum Member on Jan. 22, 2013 at 3:30 PM

 My ds is 17 years. It does not get easier. Just different. I feel badly for him sometimes. he works so hard to fit in and appear "normal" I really hate that word btw. But, that's what he does. And now that he is preparing for college- he has a whole other set of challenges that non-aspergers kids just don't ever have to deal with.

Quoting Mommy_of_Riley:

I so Agree... Most just think my son is an out of control brat and I don't want to "explain" him to everyone we meet...

Quoting Ms.KitKat:

 This article seems to highlight that no- autism can not be cured. It is a wiring of the brain that once it's wired- can not be fixed. The brain can be trained and the chld can be taught. but cure? No.


I too wish sometimes my ds aspergers came with a physical clue or mark. maybe soemthing like Harry Potter's scar? That way, when my son appears aloof or insenstive or just does not grasp the double meaning others will know why.

 

Euphoric
by Bazinga! on Jan. 22, 2013 at 3:44 PM

 bump

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