Saturday, August 10, 2013

OTARC Panel: Dr. Giacomo Vivanti: Does Severe Autism Cause Intellectual Disability?

Excellent panel discussion by the La Trobe University Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) with Dr. Giacomo Vivanti, Dr. Cheryl Dissanjake and Dr. Cynthia Zierhut.  The panel comments on the cultural representation of autism as genius in movies such as Rain Man and television series such as the Big Bang theory. Dr. Vivanti talks about autism research tendency to focus on high functioning autism perceived by many autism researchers to constitute "pure" autism research.  He calls this bias into question as non evidence based,  circular reasoning. There is no legitimate basis to separate autism and intellectual disability as "comorbidity".  

Dr. Vivanti's recent paper, Intellectual development in autism spectrum disorders: new insights from longitudinal studies,  has looked at the possibility that severe autism itself causes intellectual disability an hypothesis which itself is controversial.


Roger Kulp said...

One sentence from his article

All participants were free from other medical conditions, and any visual,hearing,or motor impairment.

Stop right there.This is every bit as much of a research bias as excluding those with intellectual disability.

I don't know when Conor started having seizures,but if he was a toddler now,and was having seizures before he was two years old,he would have been excluded from studies like this.

Medical conditions,hearing,visual,or motor impairments are no more "comorbidities" than intellectual disability is,and are caused by the same thing that is causing the autism.It's all part of the same big picture.Studies like this leave out as big or bigger a portion of the autism population as leaving out intellectual disability does.

There seems to be major disconnect between those researchers who see autism as something that only involves cognitive and behavioral problems,and those researchers who see autism,and autism/ID as just parts of a greater overall condition.I am glad to say that this has been changing in recent years,but to exclude these children is just as outdated a viewpoint as the refrigerator mother theory of autism.

If Dr.Vivanti has only studied children without medical problems that directly impact the brain,it sort of explains how he can ignore those children who have profound cognitive impairment without serious intellectual disability.

Anonymous said...

Please explain the term "comorbidities".
Does this refer to multiple conditions caused by the same illness or separate unrelated conditions happening at the same time?

Unknown said... provides a definition from Stedman's Medical Dictionary


Type: Term

Pronunciation: kō′mōr-bid′i-tē
1. A concomitant but unrelated pathologic or disease process; usually used in epidemiology to indicate the coexistence of two or more disease processes.

The information shown above for comorbidity is provided by Stedman's.

* Stedman's, part of Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, provide a comprehensive line of health-science publications for healthcare professionals and medical students.

Stedman's Medical Dictionary. Copyright © 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. All rights reserved.

The issue discussed by Vivanti and the panel is whether Intellectual Disability is an unrelated comorbidity or whether there is a causal relationship whereby severe autism causes intellectual disability.