Monday, February 19, 2007


Have you ever encountered a moment in your life that is total irony? I can pin-point mine: third year university in abnormal psychology. We were learning about pervasive developmental disorders, and autism was the front-runner. After reading about it, and watching documentaries, I remember going home and telling my husband, "I think I could handle just about anything but a child that was autistic." Low and behold, 3 years later my child is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some may call it tempting fate... I don't know. I have long ceased trying to find an explanation as to why autism even exists; let alone why my daughter has it. In fact, until recently really, most scientists were baffled by it too. So the other day when I was in Yahoo, I caught the headling "Genome Experiment in Autism finds..." you know I had to click on it immediately.

Speculation that it is a hereditary neuropsychiatric disorder seem to be on the right track. Last year I read an article in Time magazine that suggested it was partially due to a protein that deposits itself in babies brain in utero. Just what every mother wants to hear right? In spite of it all, I'm always excited to hear breaking news on the subject. The newest research has identified that autism is probably a defect on the 11th chromosome (that's big by the way), and that neurexin 1 plays a part as well. It amazing that a few years ago they weren't entirely sure. Fears that it was because of immunizations freaked out so many people (FYI it's always been my opinion it's not a correlation at all: it just manifests itself around age 18 months when most people get their kids vaccinated). Others worried it was severe reaction to food allergies (caesin and gluton anyone?). To be honest, it is more reassuring to know that it was probably nothing I ever did, or exposed Kierra to that caused her disorder.

What's even more astounding is that there has been research in the UK on mice with autism. Apparently they have found a sort of immunization that once administered, cured these mice completely of their autistic traits!! Can you imagine that??? The idea that there one day might be an injection that could cure my daughter is unbelievable. Also, since isolating the chromosome, scientists believe they may be able to develop testing both pre-natally and post-natally to diagnose children before it manifests. Instead of the AFP/Triple Screen, they could add autism to the mix as well. For those that know, early diagnosis is key. In fact, most headway against autism is done in the first three years of life, however most kids aren't diagnosed until they are over the age of three (FYI: Kierra was diagnosed just after she turned two). Obviously this is a huge problem. The only reason Kierra was diagnosed is because of my education background, and my recongition of it by the time she was 17 months old. Try fighting your pediatrician that there is something wrong with your toddler when he thinks she's fine. I don't know of any child that talks up a storm and then all of a sudden, loses all her speech and regresses into a non-responsive state.

I have always been forth-coming on having people ask me about autism. Education to me is key, especially when you are your child's advocate in this world. It is amazing that even knowing how wide-spred it really is (1 in 150 children), so many people misunderstand it. Therefore, for any of my blog followers, if you ever have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask me. I don't get offended or upset by it. In fact I welcome it. I do hope you all celebrate with me the wonderful news the scientific community has announced. It is definately a huge breakthrough on a disorder that we still have so much to learn about!!

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Em said...

Yeah, irony is a funny thing. Both my wife and I work with children with special needs. I'm a teacher and she is a speech-language pathologist. And we both had a specialty in working with kids with autism.

That was before. Since our son was diagnosed with Aspergers and three other disorders, my wife has become a SAHM and I've moved from the classroom to working as the tech coordinator in our school. At some point, we just could not do it all day at work and then all the time at home, also.

I get excited about new discoveries. But I'm always a bit cautious, as well. Just like with the vaccines (which I never bought into), causes and cures seem to be almost trendy. One gains popularity and then fades to allow another to surface. I do think they will continue to make progress, but I take each step with a pinch of salt.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I have dealt with many kids along the 'spectrum' it's an amazing thing to see.

I have always had a special place in my heart for those kids. They each have something extraordinarily special about them, whether it was creativity/art, science, memory, reading, acting, what have you...they always shined within their area of expertise...and then some.

Thank you for sharing that.

Maria said...

Bing is a teacher and she likes to use this book called "You're Going to Love This Kid (teaching students with Autism in the inclusive classroom)."

We had Liv (our seven year old) tested for autism because I thought she had many of the symptoms. No clear diagnosis came of it. I did read a book called "Unstrange Minds" that I like a lot.

Great post....