Sunday, July 13, 2008

ABA Effectiveness and Autism's On Off Switches

The latest explosion in the Autism Knowledge Revolution is the much ballyhoo'd (Scientific American, Washington Post, Times Online, TIME etc.) study in the current issue of Science. The fuss and the hoopla is well deserved. The results suggest possible cures, appear to explain the effectiveness of ABA as an early learning intervention, and demonstrate that both genes and environment are probably involved in causing autism disorders. And as stated in the abstract the study appears to have identified a mechanism common to seemingly diverse autism mutations:

"The largest deletions implicated genes, including PCDH10 (protocadherin 10) and DIA1 (deleted in autism1, or c3orf58), whose level of expression changes in response to neuronal activity, a marker of genes involved in synaptic changes that underlie learning. A subset of genes, including NHE9 (Na+/H+ exchanger 9), showed additional potential mutations in patients with unrelated parents. Our findings highlight the utility of "homozygosity mapping" in heterogeneous disorders like autism but also suggest that defective regulation of gene expression after neural activity may be a mechanism common to seemingly diverse autism mutations."

The study of 88 families in which one or more children had been diagnosed with autism, and the parents of each autistic child were cousins in the Middle East found that some genes involved in early learning are turned off but may be capable of being turned back on, Scientific American reports that:

"We're showing, on the one hand, that autism seems to have a large genetic component," says study co-author Christopher Walsh, chief of genetics at Children's Hospital. "But, the genes that are involved are actually those that are involved in responding to the environment and learning."

The findings, Walsh says, reinforces the importance of early diagnosis of autism and intervention, particularly behavioral therapy and learning in enriched environments through repeated activities. Performing these sorts of tasks may help strengthen cellular connections, compensating for the malfunctioning genes."

This is very bad news for anti-ABA advocates like Michelle Dawson and Dr. Laurent Mottron and the Neurodiversity ideologues at the "Autism" Hub. This study clearly supports the effectiveness of ABA as an early learning intervention as stated in Scientific American by study co-author Christopher Walsh, chief of genetics at Children's Hospital Boston:

"Our work reinforces the importance of early intervention and behavioral therapy," he says. "The more we understand about genetics the more we understand how important the environment is."


Unknown said...

Foresam you asked why would anyone listen to Michelle Dawson?

I rejected your post because it continued with a very derogatory comment.

To answer your question though there are different persons who listen to Ms Dawson.

1) SOME high functioning autistic persons/Aspergers persons who see her as a role model.

2)SOME Parents who do not believe their child's autistic disorders should be cured; who prefer to celebrate their child's disabilities.

3) Politicians who find her anti-ABA, anti-Autism treatment rhetoric helpful in justifying their government's refusal to fund treatment for autism

4)Researchers who receive government grants to study autistic (as in High Functioning Autistic, Aspergers and savant autistic) intelligence and have little to do with ABA or other treatments or cures. Her rhetoric is helpful in ensuring they receive grants for non-treatment focused autism research.

Anonymous said...

Hi Harold,

I am the first to support open debate - sometimes even good comes out of bad (though in the debate against ABA I do not see much good coming out of the bad counter argument). I sincerely hope that with this research the antiABA counter debate can be put in its correct context (i.e.: a footnote of extremely poor judgment like those that argued against the value of DNA evidence).