SBS: Insight: Understanding Autism

Well tonight the SBS Insight program “Understanding Autism” was on tonight, and Donna and myself were on talking about how we live with Donna’s autism.

One question I didn’t get to ask was going to be this:

Why, if we hear that people with autism react so very differently to different treatments with one helping one child and then for another child it has no effect (or makes things worse), do we continue to assume that there is just one thing called autism ?

Some children improve on gluten free diets, some don’t. Some improve on cassein free diets, some don’t. Some respond well to ABA, some become phobic because of it. Some are intolerant to salycliates, some have no problem with them. Etc, etc, etc..

To me, as a physicist, it makes sense when you change different variables on the same thing and it reacts differently then it usually is not the same thing!

So, to me, it makes good sense that there are multiple underlying issues (multiple autisms) that are causing symptoms that look similar.

A final plug – Donna mentioned the website we built almost a year ago now for people on the spectrum to advertise their employment skills to the world – it is called – go visit and hire someone with autism!

6 thoughts on “SBS: Insight: Understanding Autism

  1. Not sure I agree with your logic.

    If I feed someone with allergies the wrong food, they might die. If I shoot someone in the heart, they might die. Would they be differently dead?

    Just because there might be multiple trigger factors doesn’t necessarily imply that the result is different, although of course it doesn’t preclude it either.

  2. Jan, that’s exactly the point I’m making, the causes are different but the end result looks the same. To stop the cause leading to the end result you need to take a different approach for each. So for the first you need much more care with the food whilst for the second you need to use a bulletproof vest.

    But the field at the moment gives the impression that they are looking for the cause of autism and the treatment it will need. But what if there are many different causes ?

  3. I agree. I’ve thought for ages that there are many autisms, for the same reasons you mention. Also because the symptoms can vary quite widely. Although diagnosis goes by the “triad of impairments”, it’s never just that. Some people have sensory issues, others have motor issues, attention problems, sleeplessness, a whole host of other things. Then it shades out into ADHD, ODD, DAMP, OCD, I’ve even heard medics say that Tourettes is part of the spectrum. And some children develop symptoms quite suddenly after having developed typically for several years (did you get all the “MMR vaccine causes autism” debate we had over here?) whilst others have recognisable symptoms from birth. I’ve never heard of adult onset autism though – not to say it doesn’t happen just I’ve bever come across it. It doesn’t look at all like one condition. It looks for all the world like a bunch of similar but distinct conditions.

  4. The MMR stuff was still going on in the UK when I was there, it was here too. As for Tourettes, well Donna does have tics too and it does often seem to be comorbid in people with Autism.

    Which brings me to another point – people often put things to autism which could well be comorbid disorders (such as Tourettes) but the person gets treated as if autism gives them some miraculous immunity to anything else and anything they do is part of their autism..


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