Sunday, February 24, 2013

Genetics


   I have always believed that autism is genetic and is triggered by something in the environment. Many may agree, while many others may disagree. While I have absolutely no way of proving whether or not I am correct, I still believe with all of my heart that this is true. However, I want to be clear, that this is all based upon my personal experience and observations, rather than scientific knowledge.
    Let me explain. Many families I know,again not all, but many, have more than one case of autism in their extended family. If not autism, they have other neurological issues such as Parkinson's, epilepsy, or MS. They also frequently have family members with ADD, ADHD, behavioral issues or severe anxiety. In our families, there are other children with autism,people with ADD,ADHD,Parkinson's and severe anxiety. While I think that you may find any one of these things in most families, it has been my experience that where there is autism, somewhere along the family lines there are a few of these other things as well.
    Many people who disagree will stand by the argument that if it is genetic, why are we seeing such an increase? Why did we never hear of it years ago? Great questions, and my answer is this....just because we never heard of autism years ago, does not mean it did not exist.Many disabilities,ailments  and diseases obviously existed before we knew what they were.As for the numbers rising? Well, for one thing, we are far better at recognizing the signs today,and the spectrum ,as it were, is quite wide. We see children who are excessively shy, to children who have no verbal skills and will only rock themselves all day.Autism comes in many shapes and forms,therefore possibly increasing the numbers. We also live in a world where our environment has become a great concern ,especially when talking about not only autism, but many other physical ailments that plague our society today.
   Think about this for a moment. Many of us went to school with children who we considered to be different. If asked what we thought their issues were, most of us wouldn't have been able to say, but we just knew something was different about them. Looking back at my own childhood, I knew many children who had difficulty socializing. Many who said whatever came to their mind without giving it a thought. Many who had habits, that back then, we simply considered to be "nervous habits." How many people have you known in your life that would talk to you until they were blue in the face, although it was clear that you were uninterested? Remember anyone who seemed unable to take social cues, ie: not getting the message when you  made a face, or tried to interject, or simply paid no attention to them? Or what about the kids who simply preferred to be left alone...the loners? What about the person that knew every line to every t.v. show or movie, and had to repeat them at all costs?Then there were the extremely studious kids, who were sometimes referred to as "nerds." You know, the ones that went on to become engineers, doctors and scientists(and probably make more than we could dream of)?
    This is not to say that all of the people with these habits,or characteristics have autism, however if evaluated today, I think a large majority of them might be diagnosed with Aspberger's, at the very least.Studies have shown that in fact, many doctors ,engineers and scientists do show characteristics of autism. Obviously, some people with autism are more severe than others, but I am a firm believer that it has always been among us, we just did not know what we were looking at.
   As an adult, I look around(as I have mentioned in prior entries), and I now have a name for what I had seen before in many people. I understand them a bit better. Question is, had I recognized all of these signs among our families, would I have still proceeded to have a family? Most definitely.....I adore my boys, and although one of my boys has autism, I wouldn't trade him for the world. If given the opportunity, Mike and I would do it all over again...the same way. We have been blessed and have learned and continue to learn so much each day. Do I worry for the future of my boys and their children? Most certainly. It is my hope that whatever causes this disability, will be discovered and corrected, so that my children and yours do not have to face the challenges that we do.
   It is important to move forward quickly with research. If you currently do not know someone with autism,you will soon. The numbers are rising at an incredible pace. Unfortunately, at the rate they are moving, chances are in the next generation, you too may have a grandchild or other family member affected by autism. It is my hope every day that those "nerdy" scientists discover what the genetic implications of this are, as well as the environmental factors that are triggering the autism. Whether it be our food supplies, our love of plastics, or pollution, I anxiously await some answers and some progress.Until then, I continue to love the life out of my son, and hope that he will one day be able to tell us his story in his own words.

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