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Is Autism a Genetic Disorder?

2013-12-06 10:38
Autism Gene

Autism Spectrum Disorder is considered to be a genetic disorder, based on some evidence an theories that have sprung up over time. Is it true however? We know that the causes of the disorder are unknown for the most part, that each child is born different, and that a whole spectrum exists on which children can function in society at different levels, from those unable to speak with minds forever like a child's to savants who are incredible geniuses in certain subjects and quite awkward or unable to function in social settings. You have high-functioning ASD children who show immense amount of emotion and those who simply cannot understand you frustration and stare blankly, unable to process the data they face.

The 2013 changes in the DSM were rather interesting, grouping all formerly separate syndromes under a single umbrella, changes I have tried to simplify in a previous article.

Life is not easy for a parent of an autistic child and even harder on the little on him or herself. Between employment issues for both parent and child, a desperate need for a good night's rest, rather huge communication issues, terribly disruptive behavior, and explosive meltdowns, life can sometimes because way too exhausting, frustrating, and downright impossible. Parents often seem to blame themselves for their child's autism as well.

See, environmental factors most definitely kick in, particularly living in cities full of pollutants. Drugs taken prenatally or during pregnancy also receive much flame. Yet genetics should not be discarded. After all, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls, which is where Australia's unacceptable new policy comes into play. If it was all your fault that your child is born autistic, that it might have been preventable, the prevalence of the disorder would be equal between the sexes.

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Previous studies on siblings where one was diagnosed on the spectrum have found that the likelihood of a second child being born into the family with ASD as well is as high as 10.9%. 20% more children with brothers or sister on the spectrum showed a prevalence of language problems, half of whom displayed autistic qualities of speech. These numbers are extraordinarily high, enough to point towards genetics as a huge factor in its development.

Over the last year, multiple studies have also made link between genes and autism:

  • A study published early January implicated genetic mutations in 3 different areas as possible suspects. AMT, a gene associated with nonketotic hyperglycinemia and marked by severe seizures as well as infant death, was found to be the first in the list. Second comes PEX7, which when mutated can cause metabolic and bone abnormalities, cataracts, severe epilepsy and early death. Finally, the third genetic mutation was found to possibly be in SYNE1, a gene associated with brain malformation, severe motor and muscle problems, as well as the possibility of bipolar disorder.
  • Serotonin has been linked to the occurrence of autism. Characteristics in children diagnosed on the spectrum that include difficulty communicating and resistance to change may come from a mutation in the CELF6 gene, according to a study which appeared February.
  • Autism was genetically linked to ADHD as well in August's press release by the Massachusetts General Hospital.
  • A rather large-scale study published in September's Journal of Molecular Psychiatry found a genetic link between a mother's antibodies and a child's autism. After studying 2700 mothers of both autistic and non-autistic children, it was found that mothers of a child with autism were four times more likely to have anti-brain antibodies compared to other women of child-bearing age.

As such, Autism Spectrum Disorder is at least partly a genetic disorder, with more research on its way to find final confirmation for this statement.