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An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism

August 31, 2012

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By Lisa Ackerman

An article featured in The New York Times on August 25, 2012 titled “An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism” (1) provided a breath of fresh air for families living with autism.

It is important to note that New York Times writer Moises Velasquez-Manoff wrote the article as an opinion piece. Conclusions defined in the article are personal opinions that differ from the study author’s conclusions. I like the New York Times article for attempting to make a very complex topic easier to read. I encourage parents to read the article AND the study to draw their own opinions as it relates to their situation (2). Although I didn’t necessarily share the same conclusion, I do applaud the new autism research!

For decades autism has been described as a hopeless brain disorder. We know that with current science that old belief is in need of an update. There are many examples out there regarding autism and environmental issues. Some of the new science has been featured on this blog (3).

This new immune study shows that autism is not just a genetic psychiatric disorder. For many living with this disorder, it can be a whole body disease where the individual’s autism features are the symptoms of a treatable condition. I’m hopeful that seeing studies like this will drive many families who are not currently testing and in the midst of a treatment plan for treatable co-morbid conditions– to get started. Autism is treatable. This study is a good step forward. As a parent, I want more studies like this to help find answers for families.

But this study is not the final answer.

One could also argue the cause of the immune disorder and where it came from. There are many theories and reported parent observations. I wonder if this immune attack before the baby is born is the key set up for other environmental assaults resulting in an autism diagnosis.

The message for parents is that testing and treatments are available. These treatments may be for kids who are sick and also happen to be diagnosed with autism. For me, this message is a beautiful and hopeful update for many families. There is much to do to drive positive change!

Immune problems in children are sometimes hard to “see” for many parents. Symptoms could include: kid always sick or never sick, persistent coughs, chronic congestion, headaches, cognition problems, concentration issues, irritability, obsessive compulsive behaviors, poor growth issues, dark circles under the eyes, gastrointestinal problems, sensory issues and more. That is a lot of issues! Many TACA families have witnessed several of these symptoms in their own children. It is important for parents to work with a trained physician to test, indentify and treat issues involving immune dysfunction.

The article concluded with “Future doctors will need to correct postmodern tendency towards immune dysregulation.” I would like to revise this sentence to read: “Future doctors will need to correct postmodern tendency towards immune dysregulation AND AUTISM!” At TACA we look forward to many more studies like this featured in the New York Times that will help find treatment and answers for the 1 in 88 families that are living with autism.

References:

1) An Immune Disorder at the Root of #Autism http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/opinion/sunday/immune-disorders-and-autism.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

2) Study (Adobe Acrobat is required http://www.its.caltech.edu/~phplab/pubs/0%20TMM.pdf

3) Other research related TACAnowblog posts:
It’s not just the genes: http://www.tacanow.org/blog/it’s-not-just-the-genes/

4) A Mouse Model for the Immune Dysregulation Subtype of Autism: http://tacanowblog.com/2012/07/23/a-mouse-model-for-the-immune-dysregulation-subtype-of-autism/

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