Article first published as Groundbreaking Autism Research: Biological Identifications on Technorati.
The West.com.au reported a groundbreaking Autism study as announced at the 3-day Asia Pacific Autism Conference. The University of California's MIND Institute has performed the most comprehensive medical examination of children on the Spectrum, finding that there are clear subsets of Autism that can almost be documented. Essentially, this is like breaking down cancer into it's various strains as opposed to treating all cancers the same. And, once you can isolate a type of Autism, you can start to treat it, or even prevent it.
This is huge, this is bigger than huge. This places Autism as a specific medical disorder linked closely with the amygdala, a small mass of nuclei found in the temporal lobe of the brain. It, interestingly enough, controls a person's emotional and mental state. Small wonder, when you look at the behavior that is caused by Autism. And how did they arrive at this conclusion? Genome research and MRI scans of over 300 children on the Spectrum. It's a huge step forward in identifying types of Autism based on biological and medical research, as opposed to just behavior observances.
So what does this mean for parents short-term? Not a lot, other than the knowledge that Autism is not the result of bad parenting but rather a biological disorder. In the near-term, it will mean diagnosis of Autism will start to come from identifying first the type of Autism one has, and then a treatment method that best addresses that type of Autism. I don't imagine it will be anything other than ABA, but I can definitely see differences in focus with modifications being made to address specific types of Autism directly. And the long-term result? Insurance companies can no longer claim that Autism is not a biological condition, and therefore refuse to cover diagnosis and treatment. I consider this long-term because it will take some time for the results to be confirmed and generally adopted by the medical profession, and even then it will take longer for the Insurance industry to recognize Autism as a medical condition and therefore requiring them to shell out cash for diagnosis, testing, and treatment. But it will be coming, and that's very important.
Another side-effect that should come from this news is the slow but steady weeding out of "Autism-like" conditions from the Autism spectrum, and getting them treated properly. An example would be various allergies to food that can cause swelling in the brain, causing Autism-like symptoms. Some rare individuals are unable to process cassein and gluten properly, resulting in a toxin that gets into the brain and causes Autism-like symptoms. They go away when cassein and gluten are removed from the diet, but those with Autism do not experience the same clarity. Removing or reclassifying these disorders away from the Autism Spectrum will give Autism a stronger foundation to work it's way into the covered disorders by Insurance companies.
Frankly, the results presented by the University of California's MIND Institute could be the turning point in Autism research. I'm excited.. are you?