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Autism and Cancer


Article: The Curious Connection Between Autism and Cancer, by Alisa Opar. Retrieved from:

https://spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/the-curious-connection-between-autism-and-cancer/

This article was sent to me by a friend who works in oncology, formerly of UCSF. There's a lot going on in this article, but it references something I have been following for a couple years now-the genetic side of Autism. I think the so-called "cure" for Autism, if there ever is one, will come from this type of research and will be based on interventions either in-utero or immediately after birth (which would mean we would have to have a genetic test for it, wouldn't it?). Currently, there is no cure for Autism, and many people believe Autism is not something to cure. Consequently, this is how I make a living. I help people with Autism be successful in a world that was made by Neuro-typicals, for Neuro-typicals. It is not easy work, but I do love it.

I encourage you to follow the work of Tom Frazier (Thomas Frazier II, Ph.D.) mentioned in this article. Completely by chance, he and I went to undergrad together, and then worked together briefly in grad school on a pediatric Bipolar project. Small world. I have not spoken with him since, but we both end up in the world of Autism. I have read a couple of items by Tom in recent years and one thing that keeps sticking out to me (perhaps because it so resonated with my experience) is that when we talk about Autism, we are likely talking about hundreds, if not thousands of distinct conditions. The child I work with this morning might be diagnosed with "Blue Autism", the teen this afternoon will have "Green Autism", the adult or child tomorrow, a completely unique condition that we call Autism. These conditions resemble each other, but could have completely unique etiologies, courses of progression, and unique challenges for the client. The common phrase, "If you've seen one person with Autism, you've seen one person with Autism" could be explained now by two items. First, the interaction between the biology and chemistry of Autism and the personality is complex, so even if you have the Autism genotype, you are really observing a phenotype (expression of genes in the environment) and thus the result of seeming infinite interactions between the genes and the environment. The other reason we're just seeing "one person with Autism" is that we are likely observing different conditions. I think "thousands" of different Autisms is probably more likely and will be better understood as our genetic testing and general data-crunching gets more efficient.

In the article, both researchers interviewed are clear that they are likely looking for causes (and thus, treatments) of very specific forms of Autism that likely represent a very small percentage of overall cases. They also talk about early intervention, which I think is right on target. Whether you are doing a drug therapy (note: there are currently no drug therapies for the treatment of Autism-that's one of the issues in this article) or ABA (currently the most heavily researched empirically supported technique for treating Autism), the earlier you start, the better the outcome due to the fact that Autism is a Developmental Disability.


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© 2020 by Andrew Schlegelmilch