Category Archives: Aspergers Syndrome

Living with Aspergers Syndrome: Opinions, Symptoms, Experiences and Misconceptions.

Genetic Differences – The Autistic Brain

Professor Joseph Buxbaum

Joseph Buxbaum, Phd

A fascinating project conducted be a team of US molecular geneticists based at Mount Sinai and led by professor Joseph Buxbaum have been mapping the genome of autistic people.

The researched involved 810 volunteers – 60% of which had been formally diagnosed with ASD, with the remaining 40% neurotypical.

The research showed that the autistic group tended to have a very specific group of missing genes.

A simple, but important fact about genetics, is that genes can be switched on and off, but they can also be deleted. This isn’t an uncommon occurence, in fact everyone has certain genes which are deleted, that is the reason we all look different, or may look more like one parent, rather than another. Even twins can have deleted genes, leading to one twin being genetically predisposed to an illness or genetic condition that the other is not.

The genes that were noticeably absent in the autistic group were among many genes that control a  biological system called Autophagy; a complicated system which deals with programmed cell death and cell replacement and repair.

It has long been thought that Autophagy is important in brain development. During the early years of our development an almost countless number of synapses are formed, allowing the developing brain to learn, experiment and improve. All of these connections are created and controlled through the process of Autophagy – and as many of these connections prove to be useless, they are destroyed by the same process. Professor Buxbaum’s team suggest that these deleted genes lead to a system were perhaps not enough of these connections are removed, leading to a brain which is essentially “mis-wired”.

Genetics is a very complicated science and has been proven much more so in the last 20 years. I touched on some of these issues, in this Article: Genes, Epigenes and ASD. While Professor Buxbaum’s research is not conclusive, it does seem to be following the pattern that there may not be a single defining cause of Autistic Spectrum Disorders, but rather a much more subtle system at play, were genetics, our environment, and even the environment of our ancestors can have a profound affect on whether autism occurs in a child or not.

Zen X

http://www.mountsinai.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/genetic-analysis-of-individuals-with-autism-finds-gene-deletions

 

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Autism – looking for work: the problems

20121217-015228.jpgA recent study by the UK’s National Autistic Society shows that only 12% of people with high functioning types of autism like Aspergers Syndrome have full time employment.

Ironically, people with autism tend to thrive in environments where routine, consistency and structure are the norm. Logically that description should describe the vast majority of workplaces, but when dealing with a hidden disability like Autism, things become much more complicated.

Firstly, we have the biggest hurdle, the interview. Now modern interviewing techniques are so Autism unfriendly, it is almost absurd. Question with esoteric or philosophical answers, like “What do you think are your best and worst features?” or “Give me an example of a time you lead by example.” These kinds of ridiculous pseudo psychological interrogations are not likely to be well met by someone with ASD.

And then we have the worst interviewing technique of the lot – the role playing exercise. Most people with high functioning ASD will manage fine in a real situation – but put a psychological spot light on them, make them the centre of attention and give them some preposterous scenario they have to pretend to deal with, just sit back and watch them crack.

Secondly, we have the issue of Social Anxiety in a new job. Starting a new job is a big thing for anyone. A new environment, new people and a new role to adapt to. Being open and engaging with new colleagues in a new workplace presents a whole new set of challenges and first impressions tend to count. Coming across as ignorant or rude because of an inability to engage appropriately can be a real concern.

Thirdly, we have continued employment – it is easy for people with ASD’s to fall into a rut. Often times they find themselves in the same monotonous job for years at a time, largely ignored and repeated over looked for promotion, and all to often disposable. When you fail to engage with colleagues, managers, employers ect, you lose any form of career traction. It isn’t uncommon to find Autistic people with years under their belt at a specific job, but no real wider job experience that would encourage an employer to take a chance on them. Obviously, this can become a situation which can contribute toward depression or worse.

Lastly we have the all to common problem of bullying. Perhaps bullying is to narrow a term – because although bullying in the workplace is not uncommon due to differences which become increasingly obvious over time. It is also common for people to take advantage, whether that be taking credit for something or shifting blame. For many people with ASD, confrontation is a real issue and best avoided, so in these types of situation, it can be easy to be taken advantage of.

So what can be done?

Firstly, employers need to rethink interviewing strategies and to adopt a more no nonsense, common sensual approach to interviews. Stick to what is relevant and pertinent when asking questions. Rather than role playing exercises, try written exercises, and if that is too much of a compromise, try a one day on the job evaluation.

Secondly, training! 1 in 88 people are on the autistic spectrum. If your company doesn’t employ any of them, you can be sure you will find them among your clients and customers. Autism awareness training is available from most Autism awareness charities, so there really is no excuse not to be aware of at least some of the issues and challenges faced by autistic people.

Lastly, give them a chance! People on the Autistic Spectrum have a whole wealth of unique and interesting skills and perspectives to bring to a company and can be a vast resource for unique ideas latent talent.

Zen X

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Autism & Violence

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Firstly, Before i begin this post, I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to those affected by the terrible events in Newtown, Connecticut on the 14th December. Such wanton disregard for human life is almost as shocking as it is tragic. The thoughts of people across the world are with those families and their friends whose lives are forever changed.

Over the past couple of days I have received several emails and many tweets regarding Autism and violence and violent tendencies. The subtext of these messages is linked to reports that the gunman in Newtown had been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and quite naturally people have been very curious as to any possible link between his diagnosis and his actions.

Obviously, I know nothing of this young man and his life experiences, his motives or his frame of mind. It would be remiss of me to comment on his mental state or the events that lead up to these appalling events; they are as unfathomable to me as they are to the rest of you and I doubt anyone will ever fully understand what it is that can cause a mind to break in such a way.

Where I do feel comfortable commenting is on the general behaviours of people on the Autistic Spectrum. As oft happens during the turmoil surrounding stories like these, the media, naturally looking for answers and explanations have published some poorly informed articles, which is a source of concern to me. In general people with High Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorders, such as Aspergers Syndrome are no more or less prone to violence than anyone else. More often than not, people with Aspergers Syndrome have a tendency towards justice, a very strong sense of right and wrong and a natural inclination towards fairness.

Developmental Disorders like Aspergers Syndrome can be very difficult to diagnose, and are sometimes misdiagnosed, but much more importantly, they can act like a mask for other problems, like depression or paranoia. Whatever this young mans reasons for carrying out this horrendous attack, I doubt ASD is to blame, but perhaps it did contribute to some warning signs being missed. Perhaps we will never know.

Being on the Autistic Spectrum brings huge challenges every day. We live in a world poorly suited to our needs, among people who struggle to understand us almost as much as we struggle to understand than, and ourselves. I can only hope that these terrible events do not add to the unfounded stigmas already associated with Autism. I would hope that the media and politicians would now focus on the infinitely more pressing issue of gun control in the US, reducing the risk of another tragedy happening again.

Zen X

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Sarah Parsons

Sarah Parsons

Just a quick post.

Sarah Parsons

Sarah Parsons

I recently came across a youtube channel by Sarah Parsons, a twenty something lady with Aspergers Syndrome who has kindly created a channel discussing her experiences and thoughts on being an Aspie. Sarah shares some very interesting insights into the Aspie mind in an honest and very open way. It is well worth a look, especially for those coming to terms with diagnosis, or those who have loved ones who have recently been diagnosed.

You can find Sarah’s youtube channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/sarahparsons87

You can also follow Sarah on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sarahparsons87@sarahparsons87

 

epigene

Genes, Epigenes and ASD.

epigeneWhen you research Autism Spectrum Disorders, you will quickly realise that there are as many theories on causes as there are researchers looking for answers. One fundamental aspect does seem to be undeniable however; there is a link to our genes.

Oddly, it doesn’t always express itself. An Aspie couple seem to stand a reasonable chance of having an NT baby, and similarly, ASD’s can seem to come out of thin air for NT couples, with seemingly no family history of such conditions. So what could possibly explain these discrepancies?

You may remember that back in 2003 that there was a huge buzz around The Human Genome Project. For the first time, scientists had mapped the human genome down to the last chromosome, and some serious work could begin, which would revolutionize out understanding of our selves. Politicians hailed this breakthrough as potentially one of the most important scientific advances since Antibiotics and Scientists received a great deal of funding to carry on this important work. Then everything went quiet.

Genes are quite complicated things. Your average bacterial cell has around 3200 genes. Yeast and other fungi have around 6000. The Fruit Fly, somewhere in the region of 13,000. A plant has around 25,000, while your average fruit has nearly 30,000. The Human Genome Project revealed something quite surprising. Human beings have around 21,000 genes. This simple fact surprised a lot of people, and forced geneticists around the world to rethink a lot of what they took for granted.

The genome is very much more than what we once thought, even just a few years ago. Indeed it turns out that it is a very adaptive system. Think of the genome as a scaffold that tells us roughly what our characteristics should be. That scaffold is a rough guide, and each part of this scaffold has something called an Epigene. An Epigene determines whether a gene expresses itself or not. But that isn’t all, you see Epigenes can change, they can adapt to their environment. They can turn genes on or off temporarily or permanently. When we exercise, for example, certain Epigenes change to allow us to process sugars more efficiently, making muscle fibres more efficient, albeit very temporarily. When we are exposed to toxins and diseases, and our cells are damaged, Epigenes play a roll there too, changing and helping to make repairs. Epigenes can behave like switched too, so for example, you can have two genetically identical twins, with exactly the same genome, but due to one having an Epigene switched on, there may be different characteristics or a different tendency toward a genetic condition.

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Epigenes is that they too can be hereditary. Studies performed in Sweden have found that in a remote and isolated village called Norrbotten, starvation due to instances of famine and crop failure went on to have detrimental health effects on at least two proceeding generations, despite having plenty of food, almost as if these children’s bodies were trying to adapt in the same way as their parents or grandparents bodies had to, despite now having ample food. This kind of quick single generational adaption makes perfect sense in terms of evolution. It allows your children to be prepared for the environment you live in.

The thing that is becoming clear about Epigenes is that lots of things can change them, not just the environment. Toxins, lifestyle and a million other unknowable factors could play a role in whether an Epigene is activated and passed on to a child.

The two things I am most commonly asked are: Where does Autism come from and Why is it on the rise?

Family Genetics ASDI suspect autism related conditions have been around as long as we have. It doesn’t take much research to spot historical figures who certainly appeared to have some of the more common traits. That being the case, there have probably always been many people who have carried some genetic predisposition toward Autistic Spectrum Disorders of one kind or another, but those genes until recently have only occasionally been expressed. Most researchers agree that combinations of genetic & environmental factors are playing a role in this recent rise in people with ASD’s, and it is almost certain that Epigenes are a part of that puzzle. It could be lifestyle, it could be pollution or toxins. It could even be evolution experimenting.

Currently The Human Genome Project is collecting most data, in order to compare the full genetic makeup of as diverse a group of people as possible in order to identify the specific genetic functions. This is research that will certainly be going on for the rest of our lives. Despite the silence in the media, this project is benefiting people already, specifically in the study of cancer. Perhaps in time, the exact nature of developmental disorders such as those on the spectrum will become clear.

empathy

Sympathy or Empathy?

I don’t know what it feels like to watch your child starve. Approximately 1,000,000 adults in central and western Africa this year will experience this very thing. Hopelessness seems like an appropriate word. Perhaps grief and heartbreak? How about rage or anger? Fear maybe? I don’t know.

I look inside myself and I feel angry and outrage, that much is clear. We live in the 21st century we are fighting wars, worrying about the economy, and allowing situations like this are allowed to exist. We are after all a sentient race, and religious & philosophical arguments aside, we are the masters of our own destiny. Our world’s problems are our responsibility.

I feel sorrow too – that there are people will have to endure such cruel circumstances. I can hope that perhaps things this year won’t be so bad – that more people are spared this horror and that perhaps we as a race will make the effort needed to ensure that these miserable circumstance is addressed in a more meaningful way. I can certainly feel compassion for trauma and loss; I can commiserate with someone in a difficult situation I can even share their sorrow – sympathy is easy and something that I feel all the time, but I cannot feel their pain with them because empathy largely outside of my emotional intelligence.

No matter how many moving images I see off starving children and desperate parents. I don’t know what it is to loose a child, or to be unable to feed one. I don’t know what it feels like to look into a child’s eyes and know that I am unable to help. I can’t imagine what it is that I would feel. I can be happy for someone, or my heart can break for them; at the injustice they are going through, their loss. But ultimately I am incapable of feeling with them. As I understand it, empathy is the ability to take on the mantle of another’s emotions, to clothe your self in their emotional world and that is something that I all too often find myself utterly incapable of.

It took a long time for me to realise the difference, as I suspect it does for most Aspies. It is not an easy thing to admit either, but it is all too often a defining part of Aspergers Syndrome. The word heartless is sometimes thrown around, I have even heard Aspies described as Sociopaths, but the truth is much simpler, for the autistic mind, emotions are overwhelming; the ability to cope with and share the emotions of others is a difficult neurological proposition.

Emotion is a complicated phenomenon and neurologically it is still very poorly understood. I think it is fair to say that among the general population there are varying degrees of Empathy and Sympathy tempered and honed by experiences and upbringing and naturally some are better or worse than others in coping with these emotions. Perhaps the defining thing about Empathy though, is that it is a Social Emotion – one very highly attuned to relating to those around you; after all people are highly social creatures and the benefits of relating to one another in this way is obvious.

It is an easy to see sympathy and empathy as two sides of the same coin, and for most people I suspect they are interchangeable. The fundamental problem with the autistic mind, that coin is often double sided – sympathy every time. Perhaps on occasion though, this isn’t such a bad thing. It does occasionally allow for a clearer perspective, albeit often a brutally honest one.

Empathy

Autism, Empathy & Theory of Mind

EmpathyPsychology is obviously a very complex business and looking at it under the lens of scientific scrutiny doesn’t make things any simpler. How do you quantify emotion or reason? How do you examine and analyze the inherently unpredictable? Well the answer is you can’t, not directly anyway.

Theory of mind is a term used to describe the understanding that other people other than yourself also have a mind and can experience the world around them in their own way, but more than that, it is the ability to, psychologically speaking, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Most adults have a good degree of “Theory of Mind” – their own mind can attribute desires, emotions and thoughts in others, they can predict other people’s intentions and understand their motives. This is an inherent social skill which is normally learned naturally during childhood.

People on the Autistic Spectrum tend to have a poor “Theory of Mind”. The myriad of social cues, facial expressions, body language and vocal clues that are subconsciously used to determine somebody’s intentions or motives can’t easily be read. Therefore it makes it difficult for someone with ASD to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes. Now if you study Autistic Spectrum Disorders you will read a great deal of literature which will explain that people with Autism are incapable of understanding people’s intentions or motives or understanding that other people have their own plans, needs, thoughts or point of view. This is a very academic view – and as is often the case, nothing is that black and white and nothing to do with complex psychology can be summed up so easily; having said that – typically the more severe the Autism, the poorer the “Theory of Mind”.

I have Aspergers Syndrome and I am perfectly aware that other people have their own needs, their own thoughts and their own points of view. Where my problem lies is in putting these things together in order to work out somebody’s intentions. For example, does someone want to get to know me or are they talking to me because they want something? Most of the time I can work simple things like this out for myself; but there are times where I miss very blatant clues which someone else would immediately understand. I think, looking back at my own experiences, it is fair to say that I look for the most obvious motives and intentions in others and assume I am correct, which would be fine if everyone always told the truth and people acted logically.

I naturally feel more comfortable with people who are on the same “wavelength” as me. I find having to explain things to people face to face a bit uncomfortable, as it is easy to offend. The difference between explaining something to someone and talking to them like they are an idiot isn’t always particularly clear, partly because I have a strange natural assumption that people automatically know pretty much what I know.

Another very common “fact” that you will come across in terms of Autism is that people with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder have no empathy. To some extent this is true in a very technical sense. Empathy is the capacity to recognise and share feelings with others. Recognise and Share – it is the first part that is the major problem. People on the spectrum experience emotion – we are not robots, but we do sometimes struggle to express them. I can’t look at somebody’s face and determine their emotional state – anything beyond assuming a frown is angry, tears are sad and a smile is happy – I get lost. I know things are not that simple, but knowing and having the capacity to do are very different things. For me, empathy isn’t as simple as that. You see the assumption here tends to be that people on the Autistic spectrum are unfeeling, when the truth is often very different.

Approximately 85% of people on the Autistic spectrum have Alexithymia – the inability to express emotion verbally and to some extent physically – difficulty crying for example. When observed by others I suppose it is perfectly reasonable for people to assume that ASD means poor emotional empathy, but inside those emotions are alive and kicking. Indeed it can be common for people on the spectrum to be Oversensitive, to the point where emotions need to be habitually suppressed in order to simply cope and when these emotions do escape – the mental and emotional feedback can be incredibly painful and even psychologically damaging.

Emotion, empathy and relating to others is a huge issue for people on the spectrum, but it is the worst kind of hubris to sum up the emotional abilities of an individual based on the diagnosis of an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. People are complex, and wonderful; they are kind and cruel very brilliant and incredibly stupid and emotionally messy – being on the Autistic spectrum doesn’t change that, in the end, we are just as human.

creativity

Aspergers Syndrome & Creativity

I have Aspergers Syndrome and I am not creative. I can’t paint or draw, I can’t sculpt or carve, and I have no musical talent whatsoever. In fact by the time you have finished reading this post I am quite sure you will agree that writing is a bit of a stretch! My complete lack of artistry makes me the worst example for the post I am about to write.

I often read various interpretations of the diagnostic criteria of Aspergers Syndrome, and one that is commonly listed is “A Lack of Imagination” or something very similar. Firstly, and let me state this categorically, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) does not mention imagination, artistic talent, creativity, inventiveness or ingenuity. We have symptoms which are sometimes referred to as “The Impairment of Imagination”, but this a poor description which actually describes rigidity of thought processes, which I will come to in a moment.

Over the years I have encountered numerous people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders who have been incredibly talented individuals, and many of those where specifically diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

creativityBeing imaginative is one thing, being truly creative, truly original is quite different. I think if pressed most people would say they were inspired by this or that, but true originality is really quite rare, but no rarer on the spectrum – quite the contrary in fact. There are many types of imagination and creativity and some don’t come easy to the Autistic Mind, but there are some, for which the Autistic mind is uniquely suited. Perhaps one of the few benefits of ASD is the ability to see the world around you in a different way and to make connections which would otherwise be missed. I am not saying that every Aspie is a potential prodigy, because that isn’t the case, but we can be every bit as imaginative as anyone else and in some cases far more so.

So where does this idea come from? I think it is numerous factors. Perhaps the main issue here is that there are many types of imagination. “Impairment of Imagination”, as mentioned earlier refers to poor “Social Imagination”, meaning that we usually find it difficult to put ourselves in someone else’s place, which is also where the misnomer comes from that we don’t experience empathy. We are capable of empathy; we simply sometimes lack the ability to appreciate someone else’s situation. In more serious cases of Autism, things can be taken very literally, which leads to yet another misnomer – no appreciation of humour (I will write more on this in the near future – it is a fascinating subject). Artistic or creative imagination is different again and although “Impairment of Imagination” may affect creative imagination, it doesn’t lessen it, but rather it alters it’s perspective.

Where creativity and imagination come from is a mystery. Perhaps it is one part nature one part nurture, who can tell? The brain chemistry involved with Autistic Spectrum Disorders often allows individuals to absorb almost everything they see & here. Senses can be heightened and largely unfiltered. Adopting these aspects of their condition into their special interests can be a way of coping with all this stimuli. If those interests involve art, music, science or mathematics, then truly astonishing things can emerge out of this turbulent mix.

There is plenty of speculation on which notable historic figures had an ASD and many seem to match the specific criteria for Aspergers Syndrome, but I am not interested in speculation. What I do know is that the Autistic mind has plenty to offer the world and it is time that we, as a society learned to embrace those possibilities.

Before I leave this post, I can’t resist putting in a link to one of my favourite Autistic Artists – Stephen Wiltshire, who draws much of his work from memory. I think his drawing style is simply amazing and I can look at his work for hours. Check out his Online Gallery:

Stephen Wiltshire – Online Gallery

ZenEmu X

depression & asd

ASD & Depression

depression & asdI have been writing this blog for sometime now and to be perfectly honest I think I have subconsciously avoided touching on the darker side of Autism, but a few days ago it occurred to me that I had been ignoring the elephant in the room: Depression.

There are no hard and fast statistics on depression related to Autism. I have spent the past few days looking online, scanning research and medical journals. I contacted every contact and no-one is aware of any substantive research on the subject, yet all agree on one thing – Depression and Autistic Spectrum Disorders are very common bedfellows. It seems that diagnosis of depression in people of all ages is substantially increased in ASD’s.

Not all people on the spectrum are depressed by any means. We are as unique and varied as anyone else. We come with our own hopes, quirks, desires, problems and eccentricities that have little to do with our condition. However, the unique challenges we face create an environment where depression can easily germinate.

For me as an adult Aspie, perhaps the greatest issue is just how aware I am of my own limitations and problems. I suppose the irony is that as you learn to come to terms with your own limitations, by necessity you need to explore those limits and learn where your problems lie and you become increasingly aware of the effort required to fit in or to try to comply with societies expectations of you, which is a taxing process, and one that doesn’t necessarily become easier with age and increased responsibility. I’m sure most Aspies have experienced more than there share of guilt, shame and regret over past meltdowns or misunderstandings or have been overwhelmed by strong emotions or thoughts. Feeling constantly like an outsider can be draining in its own right.

There are other factors too which are less obvious:

Many people on the spectrum have a truly excellent long term memory and can be obsessive. These two traits combined mean that often every mistake, argument, meltdown, embarrassing moment or social faux pas can be etched into memory ready to be relived at any given moment.

ASD often comes with a strong need for order, a sense of completeness, the comfort of predictability and the joy of patterns. It may seem obvious to say the world around us rarely, if ever works this way, it doesn’t change that inherent need, nor does it lessen the anxiety when that need is not met.

Just like everyone else, we have a need to communicate. Unfortunately, most of the time, we can communicate only with varying degrees of success and failure; especially when we need to convey emotions or emotional needs. We simply don’t have those social tools that allow us to easily express ourselves emotionally and when we do, it can be without filters and can seem disproportionate.  Renowned 19th century author, Christian Nevell Bovee once said “Tearless grief bleeds inwardly”. All human beings need an emotional outlet, but with ASD barriers are a natural defence against that which we are poorly equipped to regulate.

People on the spectrum tend to have one very unpopular characteristic: they are extremely poor at following the crowd. They often have unusual world views and differing paradigms which are inherited from seeing the world in a different way. These world views, although different aren’t necessarily wrong, indeed they can often be brilliant, but equally are rarely easily embraced by society. When you have a minority view and you are not adept at socialising or communicating, it is extremely likely your interpretation of the world around you will remain unknown and widely ignored regardless of its advantages or insights. Indeed it is often this aspect of autism which when acknowledged can occasionally change the world.

The autistic mind more than any other has an inherent need to analyze their environment, to rationalise and to make judgements based on coherent understanding of their circumstances. One of the cruellest things about depression is that it distorts the ability to reason and this above anything else is the most difficult obstacle to overcome.

Overcoming depression is a whole book in and of itself and much better minds than mine have written chapter and verse on the subject, most of which, unfortunately, is meaningless when you actually have depression. Depression on the spectrum means more hurdles to jump, but that doesn’t mean it is insurmountable, merely difficult, as is so much of life.

To strive against depression requires an immense amount of effort and for those who have over overcome depression, whether on the spectrum or not, you have my respect. For those who are facing that challenge, good luck, you have my best wishes. I am sure there are many people out there who have been through this experience and I am sure your insights would be valuable to those still going through this struggle, so please, if you have a few moments, share your story with us.

Thanks,

ZenEmu X

In Vitro Fertilization

Rumour of Autism Link to IVF Facts

In Vitro FertilizationJust a brief post today. I’ve had a couple of emails this week concerning a couple of news articles referring to research being undertaken to investigate possible links between In vitro fertilisation and Autism. I think they originatate from here: Quebec doctor probes possible autism, in-vitro fertilization link.

Obviously I am by no means an expert in this field, nor am I medically qualified to give an opinion, but I can shed a little light on the history, which has prompted the current investigation being undertaken in Canada at McGill University, Montreal.

Between 2009 – 2010, Sackler School of Medicine (University of Tel Aviv, Israel) undertook a study on 461 children who were born as a result of IVF. Of these children 10.5% were diagnosed as being on the Autistic Spectrum, with varying degrees of severity. Typically, the expected rate of Autism in Israel is thought to be somewhere around 3.5%.

Around the same time as the Israeli study, another more general study was being conducted in the US by the Harvard School of Public Health. At the time, a more general Health study was being conducted concerning women. During this study 111 women who had Autistic children were questioned about their fertility history, specifically concerning the use of drugs which induce ovulation. Of these 111 women, 34% had used these kinds of fertility treatment. As an interesting side note – 43% of the women questioned in this study had a history of some form of fertility problem.

Obviously these are very limited research groups, as is often the case, and although they raise some interesting questions, from a purely mathematical point of view they are hardly conclusive and require much more comprehensive investigation before any firm conclusions can be made. It is in this vein that the McGill University, in Montreal, Canada, is taking the lead in a national study involving 43 of Canada’s leading fertility experts.

So, there we are, those are the facts as they stand at the moment. If you are reading this with concerns about IVF treatment, discuss it with your Doctor, but I really must reiterate that there isn’t any concrete evidence one way or the other at the moment.

I will be monitoring the latest research as and when it is published, so please feel free to contact me for any updates. I will be posting any significant findings as and when they come up.