Friday, October 9, 2009

Autism genetics: Is Temple Grandin keeping a secret?

I have read with interest Mark Blaxill's recent take on some new genetic findings that have been published on autism. I have also read Alan Griswold's brief take on Blaxill's take. Blaxill has written about the problems with genetic research in autism previously as well. Blaxill points out that there have been failures of science to replicate findings in genetic research in autism.

Assuming that Blaxill's arguments are at all valid, this does not really jive with the thinking of Temple Grandin, probably the most prominent of autistic persons. She has said that getting rid of autism genes would hurt society Grandin states:

I would think in an ideal world, you don't want to have people who cant talk, but on the other hand, you definitely don't want to get rid of all of the autism genetics becvause if you did that, there'd be no scientists. After all, who do you think made the first stone spear back in the caves? It wasn't the really social people.

So, in other words, the fact that I have to suffer from an incurable disorder/disease is necessary to society. Dov Shestack and John Belmonte and other completely nonverbal autistics are making a great noble sacrifice for the betterment of society. There may be some problems with this argument. There so far has not been a unifying finding on autism genetics. Blaxill's piece may point that out. A variety of different chromosomes and genes have been implicated in autism. autosomes as well as x chromosomes. Various types of inheritance, both autosomal dominance in the case of autism caused by tuberous sclerosis as well as multiplex genes, given the fact that the rate of concordance among siblings, while higher than in the general population is lower in identical twins. So we have to wonder if autism genes are responsible for all scientific endeavors as Grandin alleges, then which gene or genes is it? Which chromosome are these genes on? Are they autosomal genes or sex genes? Are the genetic mutations the result of duplications, or deletions of amino acids? I have written about the problems with Grandin's logic elsewhere

Perhaps Grandin has some sort of omniscience about the genetics of autism that the rest of us don't have. Pray tell us, Dr. Grandin, what is the genetic etiology of autism that you are keeping a secret from us. Furthermore, since you know what genes contribute to scientific endeavor, perhaps, science can find a way to enhance these genes in ordinary people who might not have the natural stuff to be great scientists. Even more scientific discoveries could be made, a cure for cancer, a way to rid ourselves of dependence on foreign oil, and a way to end pollution.

I wish Temple would let me in on her little secret.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What expertise does Grandin have in human genetics or evolutionary psychology? It does no good to pretend autism (even high functioning) just means being introverted, having a special interest, being a geek/nerd. Most people with true (as opposed to self diagnosed) Aspergers and high functioning autism are so awkward socially, that in adolescence, even the nerds shun them. Most companies want people who can work well in a team, even for computer programming, and other careers Grandin believes are ideal for individuals on the spectrum. Not everyone on the spectrum has Grandin's set of strengths (being a visual learner, "thinking in pictures"); Asperger Syndrome is highly co morbid with non-verbal learning disability.

Having good communication skills does not stifle creativity, many inventions required a team of scientists working together, despite being attributed to only one person: Dr. Banting is credited for insulin, but it would not have been possible if he never communicated with his colleagues, Dr. Best, Dr. MacLoed, and Dr. Collip. The moon landing would not have been possible, if teams of engineers could not effectively communicate. Cavemen would not have survived the ice ages, if they could not effectively communicate; they needed to work together to bring down large game

Autism Mom Rising said...

Not only is Autism a specrum, but Aspergers in and of itself is a spectrum too. There are some whose condition is mild and they can function within job environments, socially to a degree, etc. And some, as anonymous mentioned, have learning disabilities added to the mix and so are on the other end of the Aspergers Spectrum.

We have this is ADHD too. Some people with ADHD become doctors, phds, etc. and others of us ask "how in the world did you do that?" Sometimes questions like these are offensive to those people. Yet, to those of us on the lower function functioning end of the ADHD spectrum, with a lot of comorbid learning disabilities and what not, the idea of someone with ADHD becoming a doctor is impressive.

Adrianna said...

" It does no good to pretend autism (even high functioning) just means being introverted, having a special interest, being a geek/nerd. Most people with true (as opposed to self diagnosed) Aspergers and high functioning autism are so awkward socially, that in adolescence, even the nerds shun them."

Thank you! Having autism is NOT the same as being introverted or having an unusual personality. I'm so tired of people claiming they have Asperger's or autism because, sometimes, they lose their temper and say stupid things. Or that they're good with computers, or they're not the most popular kid in school.

That's not autism, you idiot, that's called having a temper. And stop chewing me out, a more severely autistic person than you, for not denying the basic, obvious reality that autism is a disability. Even if it's a disability that I, personally, am willing to live with and see the bright side of.

All throughout my years in school, I had my own table in the cafeteria that no one else dared approach. While the girls were hanging out in circles gossipping and the boys were playing football, I was off at the edge of the playground, feeling trees and playing in the sand. In class, no one wanted to be my partner and would openly complain about having to be paired up with me. And teachers would daccuse me of not putting enough effort into group projects because they always got stuck with pairing me up with someone.

I also love these people that claim they have autism and say that the social difficulties are not that bad because theirs disappeared in college. I've got news for you, if your social problems disappeared in college, you didn't have autism. Try again.

Foresam said...

I wrote the unifying piece on autism genetics. Of course, none of the liars from Age of Autism, like Blaxill, will mention the APO-E4 protein.
If they did, it would be too easy for people to see the truth and then nobody would listen to their propaganda.

JediKnight2 said...

"We have this is ADHD too. Some people with ADHD become doctors, phds, etc. and others of us ask "how in the world did you do that?" Sometimes questions like these are offensive to those people. Yet, to those of us on the lower function functioning end of the ADHD spectrum, with a lot of comorbid learning disabilities and what not, the idea of someone with ADHD becoming a doctor is impressive."

I'm one of those people on the "autism spectrum" who's high functioning enough to drive a car and was able to earn a bachelor's degree with the aid of accomodations from the University's disabilties office, but am not on the highest end of the spectrum due to having co-morbid problems to the point where my executive functioning skills suck and cannot live through an entire day without ever making a mistake due to my processing problems.

Imagine if you went out to a restaurant with your best friend, and she said you and her should ask the waiter/waitress for one bill, and whoever had the larger meal portion would have to pay slightly more along with the tip and/or tax with the divided price(depending on the scenario). Then you had to try to not confuse the difference between the tax and tip even though you know the difference between the two words in reality, only you got mixed up because there were other factors in the scenario that you experienced (i.e.- the menu said the tax is included as part of the total price but the waiter/waitress "accidently" used the word "tip" instead of "tax" in your mind, so you take a couple bucks out of your wallet and are interjected by your friend, "What are you doing? You don't need to pay a tip!", and then you try to defend yourself and explain why you got confused.)

Every freaking day is like this for me! I hate my disabilities with a passion! It's things like this that I'm working on with my speech-language pathologist, and it's horrible to suffer from such problems when you know you're intelligent. I don't know any people on the "autistic spectrum", particularly those who have Asperger's Syndrome since Asperger's is actually different compared to autism, who share and despise the same difficulties I have to endure the rest of my life.

If Temple Grandin really is aware of her own limitations, you'd think she was keeping everything a secret.

Anonymous said...

How can she know for sure the first spear was not made by a social person?

The person could've very well been motivated by a desire to become the best hunter to impress a girl and show off to his guy friends for all we know.

It almost seems like HFAs equate being social with being dumb as though intelligence and sociality are incapable of cooccuring.

Having experienced it myself, I can understand how a person might be able to become highly intelligent especially at some topic of interest as "compensation" the same way blind people have better hearing but that does not mean it is necessary to have bad social skills in order to be intelligent.

I understand the whole "I wouldn't be the same person" argument. I wouldn't go back in time and gene therapy away my Asperger's Syndrome if it was an option. I don't know how I would've wound up.

But I would not suffer future generations to go through what I have had to deal with if it's possible to prevent that.

Some people falsely equate wanting to cure Autism with wanting to cure introversion. This is silly. Introversion is a personal preference, one I WISH I had. But by luck of the draw I have atrocious social skills along with a very intense desire to socialize(which was paradoxically coupled with a fear/aversion to socializing, fear things would as they often did go wrong). So I'm stuck wanting the very things that are difficult for me to get. And it's not a false desire based on some idealized imagination of socializing. I have socialized. When all goes well it's the best feeling in the world. Unfortunately it's hard to make it so "all goes well". I'm desperate enough that if I became rich and didn't have enough people to socialize with I'd consider hiring servants to socialize with me, including partying. I wouldn't be surprised if some very well to do people on the spectrum have actually done that. But my social life is improving tremendously so I doubt I'll have to do that, but socializing is that important to me that I would.

It's telling that my interests pretty much revolve around the social sciences. Even though I wasn't explicitly thinking about it when I developed this fascination. I've thought about it and realize the reason these particular interests developed is precisely because I have a great need for socializing. I couldn't figure it out the "normal" way so I studied it! I haven't been completely unsuccessful but I wish I was more successful. Sometimes I get depressed over experiences I haven't had or haven't had enough of. I don't feel like I have had my fair share of partying. I don't see myself as being "satiated" by the age where it's considered normal to be satiated with that stuff. I hope I wind up rich so I can get plastic surgery, fake being younger, and keep clubbing and partying well into old age. I feel like once I've mastered this I will only have a few years left where this is considered "socially acceptable". Am I going to care if people think I'm being immature? NO. But I will still need to be able to pretend to be younger so people will party with me.