Several years ago it appeared that a new paradigm for understanding autism disorders was emerging, one which would allow greater understanding of the cause, or causes, of autism. Historically, as was noted by Teresa Binstock, researchers, and those who fund autism research, took the view that autism has "gotta be genetic". By 2010 there was hope that finally the autism researchers' obsessive belief that autism is entirely genetic was giving way to the GxE (Gene Environment Interaction) model. With the CATS study it appeared that GxE was actually being reflected in autism studies. Since the CATS study though it appears that autism researchers and those that fund such research, including Autism Speaks, have fallen back into their old, unproven belief that autism is entirely genetic.
Autism Speaks reported on its MSSNG web site page the results of the recent autism genome research project:
Surprising finding makes cover of Nature Medicine; study data becomes part of historic first upload to Autism Speaks MSSNG portal for open-access research
January 26, 2015
The largest-ever autism genome study reveals that the disorder’s genetic underpinnings are even more complex than previously thought: Most siblings who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have different autism-linked genes."
The MSSNG project and page reflect Autism Speak's deep embrace of the unsubstantiated belief that autism is entirely genetic. There is no mention of the possibility that autism arises from gene environment interaction. Although there are now more and more genetic components speculated to give rise to autism disorders there is no mention of the word or concept of environmental factors or gene environment interaction as possible components of autism causation. Instead the gene researchers having failed to identify a specific cause of autism turn to an explanation that many parents, including me, have suspected for some time ... that autism is in fact a complex group of varied disorders or symptoms; that autism is extremely heterogenous in nature and that autism should more properly be referred to as autism(s) or autism disorders. What the gene researchers and their funding backers at autism speaks do not seem to acknowledge is that with the varied autisms, autism disorders or symptoms being recognized and with no specific causal bases for these mulitude of genetic factors it might also be time to re-xamine or at least consider the possibility that autism might result from GxE, gene environment interaction.
Maybe someday the "it's gotta be genetic" obsession will receive more critical analysis from autism "experts". For now though GxE is still MSSNG in the mind sets and articles of faith of autism's most prominent researchers and funding authorities for autism research.