Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Autism Research, Treatment and Cure

My son Conor is 13 and has a diagnosis of Autistic Disorder. He is assessed with profound developmental delays. His initial diagnosis of PDD-NOS at age 2 was changed to Autistic Disorder a short time later. In the 11 years since his diagnosis there have been significant changes in autism service delivery for children here in New Brunswick and elsewhere in Canada and the United States. But there has been almost no effort made at all to find new treatments or cures for autism disorders.

The latest mainstream media discourse on autism treatment and cure arrives courtesy of the Chicago Tribune which has published a series of articles beginning with criticism of the Autism One conference and continuing this past week with a generalized attack on alternative treatments, particularly those advanced by DAN practitioners. While the Tribune has spilled much ink attacking what it calls alternative autism treatments, and DAN practitioners, it has not printed a single period, comma or question mark asking why there has been no serious research seeking autism treatments or cures by establishment medical authorities.

In the eleven years since my son's autism diagnosis autism researchers have continued their obsession with genetic autism research. While there had been some hints of a new Autism Research Paradigm Shift that would explore the interaction of genetic and environmental research it has not matured into a prevailing mindset. Genetic research is still out funded by as much as 20 to 1 over environmental research. There is not so much as a hint of a possible new, evidence based, treatment or cure for autism on the research horizon. And there are few signs of research aimed at providing treatment or cure.

The Chicago Tribune is outraged at parents and professionals seeking and providing alternative treatments for autism. Yet it does not even dawn on the Tribune journalists to ask why this situation exists. The answer is simple. For decades health authorities and researchers have abandoned parents to their own devices to find help for their autistic children. They have failed to spend significant resources searching for possible causes, treatments or cures for autism and now parents who don't have the luxury of ignoring the realities of their child's autism disorders, who don't want to abandon the field are under attack.

The journalists who chronicle current events fail to ask why treatments are not available and they will not ask why. Environmental research whether it arises from vaccines, power plants, plastics, children's toys or pesticides could have a negative impact on economic interests. The health interests of children particularly if they are not properly explored and proven will always be trumped by major financial interests.

Whether the Chicago Tribune likes it or not though parents will not quit on their children. While the health establishment and researchers dawdle in genetic past times parents of children with autism disorders will continue to try and help their children with the resources available whether the Tribune and health establishment like those resources or not.


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