Friday, February 27, 2009

Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Cause Unspecified?

Over at the autism blog on Lisa Jo Rudy has written what I feel is the best post she has writtten in some time.  The title of post is :

If It Looks Like Autism and It Acts Like Autism...

The basic of her post is that if there is no real difference between autism and "autism-like" symtoms because "according to the diagnostic manual, unless the symptoms can be better explained by Retts disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder or Schizophrenia - people with autism-like symptoms have an Autism Spectrum Disorder."

I have to say that I completely agree.  But what is really interesting to me are the comments from the post.

There are few from an individual calling himself Joseph (who is from the neurodiverse side of life) who basically is saying that if it was granted that in this specific case that the vacination caused autism that it would be blown way out of proportion by "anti-vaxers" into a general causation statement.  Or to put it in simpiler terms the other side would say "vaccines cause autism" rather than a more specific "in some specialized cases vaccines can cause autism".

I think he is right and wrong at the same time.  It would (and is) being used as a general argument about causation but I am not convinced that it is wrong to do so.  There are likely different sub types of autism that could have their own causes.  And I think it very probable that if it has happened to one kid it happened to others.

Some of the other comments seem to be along the lines that autism is a life long disability whose cause is unknown.  If you can point to a specific cause it ceases to be autism and starts being something else that has similar features to autism.  So if you know that brain damage is the root "cause" of the symptoms of autism then the person in question doesn't really have autism but rather has brain damage.

That sort of argument could be extended to every case of autism out there.  Presumably each case is "caused" by something that is not functioning properly in the bodies.  Are there only certain caused that will make what you have a legitamate case of autism?  So if your disability is caused by a genetic problem you have autism but if it is caused by an environmental event then it isn't?  

This could actually be a good development in the world of autism.  There has long been a disagreement between the various groups fighting to claim "what" autism is and how to "view" it.  Perhaps this is the start of breaking the monolithic spectrum into descrete blocks and acknowledging that there are different sub groups that can and do have quite different underlying causes. 


  1. One robust cause of autism is older paternal age. In every study that has looked for it paternal age over 30 has been found in the population of fathers of autistic offspring. For the abstracts and articles on this subject read the age of the father and the health of the future generations.

  2. It is possible that the age of the father is a factor in some cases of autism. I don't think that it is "the" cause but it could be a factor.

    In the case of my daughters this is not the case as I was was not yet 30 when they were born.

    What is interesting here is the reason that the age of the father matters - what is happening after that age that is causing the problem.

    If it is a simple matter of the genetic material degrading then I would think that could be detected. I don't think the answer is going to be that simple though.

  3. I asked three different docs to validate my statement - because I wasn't 100% sure before writing my blog. All three agreed that "autism-like symptoms" appearing before the prescribed age of 3 "count" as autism, even if the cause is known. That means that brain injury at birth... food allergies... mito disorders... or any other known cause of autism-like symptoms (occuring at a young age) really does CAUSE AUTISM.

    Fascinating to me! It really does suggest a cause for the huge explosion in cases of autism.