12 thoughts on “Autism”

  1. I’m not an anti-vaxxer and I have an autistic son. That doesn’t really qualify me to pass judgment, but this does seem to me like just more “narrative science: anti-vaxxers with bad genes are the cause of autism.” And of course, the article states they really have no idea which genes are the cause. But the science is settled, right? I wonder if there’s a hockey stick in the data?

    1. I’m curious because the paper is in a psychology journal, which is about like getting published in The National Enquirer (The Enquirer at least gets repeated, independent sightings of Bat Boy and Moth Man).

      JamaNetwork abstract

      The paper itself is behind a paywall.

      The median (95% CI) ASD heritability was 80.8% (73.2%-85.5%) for country-specific point estimates, ranging from 50.9% (25.1%-75.6%) (Finland) to 86.8% (69.8%-100.0%) (Israel). For the Nordic countries combined, heritability estimates ranged from 81.2% (73.9%-85.3%) to 82.7% (79.1%-86.0%).

      Hrm… They don’t seem to rule out the possibility that 74.9% of cases in Finland are not genetic, while also allowing that Israel might not have any non-genetic cases at all. That seems highly unlikely.

      Without access to the paper, I also have no idea how they determine if a child inherited it unless one or both of the child’s parents were also autistic.

    2. Not quite no idea.

      It is not that they have no genes associated with autism. They have so many that they cannot pick a specific genetic causative factor. It is a whole basket of genes that are mixed together in different combinations that will pop up “autism” with a different set of characteristics than seen in the autie next door. There have been around 2 dozen or more genetic anomalies associated with one symptom of autism or another.

      I have a genetic basket that gives me the standard Aspie problems with lack of social nimbleness. Then there is also a slow gut, and the clumsiness/pain in the hands. I don’t have the extreme sensitivity to light that some have, nor the extreme startle response to sharp loud noises, much less the feeling some have that a normal speaking voice is so loud they feel people are always yelling at them.

      It will take time to separate out the different effects of each genetic combo.

      1. It’s like asking “If homosexuality is genetic, how could there be a ‘gay gene.'” Of course there could not. That’s a stupid question from people who don’t understand how evolution and genetics work.

  2. I’ve always thought it was over diagnosis that increases the detection rates. If the medical community weren’t looking for autism until 50 years ago, is it any wonder that the rate of detection went up as more doctors are train to detect?

    1. In fact current definitions were established in Germany by the mid-1930s.

      Unfortunately, the effects of trying to protect patients during the Nazi regime then left lasting marks on diagnosis. By 1940, a Nazi Gauleiter could look at any record in his district, including medical records. It became dangerous to write down anything that could be described as “genetic defective”, for the patient, his siblings, his parents, and even his grandparents, who might be sent to a ‘summer camp’, from which they would never return. Then, someone noticed that some mothers of autistic kids didn’t gush over their children as much as most mothers, and the hopes around the “Refrigerator Mother Theory” of autism causation were born. They were brought to the US after the war, and dominated autistic research and treatment for another 45 years. For that time, associating autism, or *any* human behavioral problem with genetics could lose you you position in pyschiatry or psychology, through accusations of “racism”. Only after their primary proponent died in 1991 did it become a career-safe move to speak publicly in the US about genetic causation of autism. Then, in 1995, the Wakefield fraud began to affect attitudes.

  3. Any time you have a market basket of causes for an effect, or a group of effects that you think are related, you don’t have an answer, much less “the” answer, you just have a basket you’re convinced must contain some subset of correct answers. In my opinion, all that does is raise the probability you’ll get the wrong answer or answers and won’t know it. The study agrues genetics vs. environment, just the way scientists used to argue nature vs. nurture. But next week, someone will propose an epigenetic cause, and the week after that a viral etiology. Soup du jour science is bad science. In my opinion.

    Btw, because of my son’s involvement, I took a battery of tests to see where I fell, if anywhere, on the autism spectrum. It turned out I was much farther down the curve than he was and should have been rocking and tapping my life away, rather than working as a successful software archtect and writing publishable science fiction novels in my spare time. It made them unhappy (I won’t say which children’s psychiatric unit was involved). Then I showed them my Modern Language Aptitude test scores. Turns out I must, by the standards of academia, be some kind of idiot savant. Damn if I know…

  4. While I am not anti-vax either, with respect I maintain concern about the vaccination process in two areas:

    First, I believe an infant’s immune system could be overwhelmed by the number of vaccinations that occur in the initial weeks following birth. I can recall a number of vaccinations I received as a child, and I enjoyed wonderful health as a result, but I received those over a span of years, not a span of weeks. It is not uncommon for infant vaccinations to cover over a dozen immunizations before they leave the hospital, and that might simply be a case of too much at one time for some.

    Second, I have concerns that some compounds included in the vaccination serum may be unhealthy, such as thimerosal and aluminum used to prolong the shelf life of the payloads. It might help for vaccinations to include a comprehensive list of ingredients similar to what is printed on all food labels these days, although my kneejerk assumption is that Big Pharma would be opposed to that kind of transparency.

    I think the passion that anti-vaxxers bring to the table is based on growing distrust of big government and big industry, the growing belief that our federal electorate is bought and paid for and no longer represent anything but monied interests, and they see the vaccination industry as an unholy alliance that is a threat to the well being of their children. I see how they connect the dots, and I truly sympathize with some of it.

  5. My main concern with forced vaccination has to do entirely with the civil rights of the indivdual. I understand the “public health” aspects of the debate, although I think it begins with the questionable case of Typhoid Mary. The government’s behavioral authority should be entirely negative, in my opinion. This seems like a fairly simple issue, made complicated because too many people have accepted socialism as a doctrine. The government doesn’t give you rights. You have them already. Elected representatives place restrictions on those rights, and the Constitution places restrictions on what restrictions they can enact. The courts are there to clear up any misunderstandings.

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