The 2010 IACC Strategic Plan statement that environmentally focused autism research has been under funded and largely ignored could properly be characterized as a long overdue confession by the autism research establishment. Autism research has been focused overwhelmingly on genetic causes of autism to the near exclusion of environmentally focused research. for well over a decade with potentially serious consequences for our current understanding of possible autism causes and treatments. Given that imbalance it is perfectly understandable that few potential environmental causes of autism have been identified or confirmed through research. If we don't open our eyes and look, if we don't do the research, then we will not find environmental causes of autism.
The overwhelming imbalance in favor of genetically based autism research was identified over a decade ago by researcher Teresa Binstock in her 1999 description of the "It's gotta be genetic" autism research paradigm. Binstock pointed to the culprit - the old guard network that insisted that autism research be genetically focused in order to have any hope of receiving public funded research dollars:
My own hunch is that the NIH and NIMH will not change from within; the senior practitioners of the "it's gotta be genetic" model have too much influence. Just as Semmelweiss and his data were suppressed, so too will the NIH/NIMH autism-research insiders continue to act against the the growing body of new data in autism; the NIH's pro-genetic old-timers will cling to their paradigm and its funding. As a result, change within the NIH and NIMH will have to be initiated from outside those tax-supported corporations.
The imbalance in favor of genetic over environmental focused autism research has resulted in a call for more balance from many sources and hopefully that call will result in more than lip service. There have been signs of an autism research paradigm shift over the past few years from the purely genetic model of autism to one which looks at autism as the result of a genetic and environmental interaction but the pace of change has been far slower than first hoped as pointed out by the 2010 IACC Strategic Plan above , by Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto and by Dr. Jon Poling.
Too much time has been wasted on the irrational insistence that autism research must be genetically focused. We have lost the knowledge that years of more balanced autism research, with greater attention to potential environmental factors, might have given us. We must find that balance as we move forward or more knowledge, and possibly treatments and cures, will continue to be lost.
Environmentally focused autism research must receive more attention and funding. Even the IACC has recognized the imbalance in favor of genetic over environmentally focused research.
It is now time to redress the imbalance.