Could Asperger's be caused by external factors...

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hadapurpura
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26 Feb 2008, 11:10 pm

Could Asperger's be caused by external factors, more present in 1st world countries?

I don't know if it is because Asperger's isn't as well known here (it's almost unknown at all, I'd say), but there aren't as many people diagnosed with AS here, while in the U.S. they're already claiming it's a "fad" disorder, or that there are more aspies than originally thought.

But not only that. Personally, I haven't been diagnosed yet, but I'm self-diagnosed and I fit the criteria, and I haven't even seen, let alone met anyone who may fit the criteria here. Psychiatrists haven't met anyone either, apparently. Also, my teachers and a lot other people have often said this phrase to me (either in a positive, negative or neutral context): "I've never met a person like you in my whole life!! !" ---> they don't know about Asperger's or anything.

I studied in a private, catholice, feminine school, so I understand never meeting anyone like me. But now I'm in college - public college, which means that you have to be a total geek (geekness here is different, too) to get there - and most people I know are males, and there's a lot of diversity of every kind here, yet I've never seen, let alone met, anyone like me.

There is a support group for parents of children with Asperger's syndrome here, with a grand total of 15 members, in a country of 40 million people. I've met all kinds of gifted people (who are all very NT), all kinds of people with socialization issues, sensitivity issues, and noone fits the criteria! everybody seems to change just with a change of environment or a little encouraging or something like that, or they don't have trouble at all and simply are just a little bit shy, or they do fine. It seems like I'm the only one, in a city of 1 million people.

Like I've said before, I know a lot of it is caused by the lack of information and the fact that people here don't like to visit shrinks because "they're not crazy" (even though every other kid who goes to a psychologist is diagnosed with ADD) and all that stuff, but I've seen threads here and a lot of people here talking about how do they spot other aspies or about seeing this guy who is "totally an aspie!" or who "could be an aspie", and that has never happened to me at all.



TLPG
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27 Feb 2008, 5:54 am

The short answer to the question in the title is "No." It's a condition that is genetic in origin.

But - there are situations that are external that can affect the gravity of the condition. And those situations vary a huge amount. Your upbringing could be just one example of many.



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27 Feb 2008, 6:20 am

Maybe it's our improved diet.
J/K

The big question is if there has been a rise in autism or if we're just diagnosing more people, and that is one big can of worms.



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27 Feb 2008, 10:04 am

In the late 70's the view on the causes of autism shifted from psycho-social and/or environmental to genetic because the prevalence of autism was very uniform across different cultures.


With 5:10000 Asperger's Syndrome is the rarer variant on the spectrum and with only 1:4 Aspies being female it is unlikely you'll find someone else with AS in your school.



zendell
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27 Feb 2008, 12:37 pm

Yes. Autism must be caused by external factors in some cases because studies have shown that genetics aren't responsible for some causes of autism.



Last edited by zendell on 27 Feb 2008, 12:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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27 Feb 2008, 12:40 pm

zendell wrote:
Yes. Autism must be caused by external factors because genetics have been disproven as a cause of autism in all cases.


Err...no, actually they haven't.



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27 Feb 2008, 12:50 pm

Wolfpup wrote:
zendell wrote:
Yes. Autism must be caused by external factors because genetics have been disproven as a cause of autism in all cases.


Err...no, actually they haven't.


I concur. I don't know where zendell is getting his/her info. It's obviously genetic in a lot of cases. Just look at families that have a child on the spectrum. Odds are, one of them is pretty weird, too.

I think that it is genetic, with environmental factors aggravating the situation. A traumatic birth has been noted among many children on the spectrum and this is my experience after interviewing lots of families with children on the spectrum.

I think that there is some truth to the idea that our brains are just wired differently. I have read a study that talked about how the autistic brain "forgets" to close down certain sensory inputs. The brain has a normal pruning process around the age that language is acquired. If we are hypersensitive to sensory inputs, wouldn't it make sense that our brains would shut down the affected neurons and keep them from being irritated to protect us? Then, if in the normal pruning process the brain comes around to that neuron, and misses the "temporarily closed" sign, it doesn't go back later to double check. So other pathways are closed and then our brain feels safe to open up those "temporarily closed" paths. Whoa! Instant over sensitivity again, but on a different plane.

I think that this goes a long way to explain why our hypersensitivity continues past when other children are affected by things.


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zendell
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27 Feb 2008, 12:56 pm

Liverbird wrote:
Wolfpup wrote:
zendell wrote:
Yes. Autism must be caused by external factors because genetics have been disproven as a cause of autism in all cases.


Err...no, actually they haven't.


I concur. I don't know where zendell is getting his/her info. It's obviously genetic in a lot of cases. Just look at families that have a child on the spectrum. Odds are, one of them is pretty weird, too.

I think that it is genetic, with environmental factors aggravating the situation. A traumatic birth has been noted among many children on the spectrum and this is my experience after interviewing lots of families with children on the spectrum.

I think that there is some truth to the idea that our brains are just wired differently. I have read a study that talked about how the autistic brain "forgets" to close down certain sensory inputs. The brain has a normal pruning process around the age that language is acquired. If we are hypersensitive to sensory inputs, wouldn't it make sense that our brains would shut down the affected neurons and keep them from being irritated to protect us? Then, if in the normal pruning process the brain comes around to that neuron, and misses the "temporarily closed" sign, it doesn't go back later to double check. So other pathways are closed and then our brain feels safe to open up those "temporarily closed" paths. Whoa! Instant over sensitivity again, but on a different plane.

I think that this goes a long way to explain why our hypersensitivity continues past when other children are affected by things.


I worded it wrong. What I meant was that genetics don't cause autism 100% of the time. I was referring to genetic twin studies. Studies on identical twins have found out that when one twin is autistic, the other identical twin is only autistic about 60% of the time. If two people have the exact same genes and one is autistic and the other is neurotypical, I don't see how genetics could have been the cause.



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27 Feb 2008, 1:00 pm

Oh, okay. I think that's the same thing we're saying too then :)

There's obviously some connection though. I'm remembering some study too that showed the likelihood of siblings having an ASD if another one does being a lot higher (and also one with identical twins where one has full blown autism and one has Asperger's).



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27 Feb 2008, 1:09 pm

Wolfpup wrote:
Oh, okay. I think that's the same thing we're saying too then :)

There's obviously some connection though. I'm remembering some study too that showed the likelihood of siblings having an ASD if another one does being a lot higher (and also one with identical twins where one has full blown autism and one has Asperger's).


I got my info. from Wikipedia. One study I looked at was 60%. Some early twin studies found it in 90%. The identical twin studies ranged from 36% to 96%. The article states that "a condition that is completely genetic in origin would theoretically yield a concordance of 100%" I never thought that genetics aren't involved. I used to think I was autistic due to genetics. My view changed after I tried biomedical treatments (gfcf diet, probiotics) and they helped. The evidence seems to state that environmental factors are a cause at least some of the time. I also wonder whether there is a genetic predisposition to a common environmental exposure such as wheat, milk, or vaccines. They would all result in high rates among identical twins.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heritability_of_autism



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27 Feb 2008, 1:11 pm

Yes, but technically given the way that gene pools work, it's completely possible in the case of twin studies, don't you think, that for one twin the life guard didn't see a problem and let the altered gene through, but for the other twin, say the life guard drank a 6 pack of energy drink that day, thus he saw a huge problem, and didn't let it through at all. Using this same example, it's possible that even with the energy drink, the lifeguard thought there might be a problem, but just didn't react quick enough because the energy drink hadn't hit yet, or they lost the battle of keeping out the altered gene.

I know it's a silly example, but it's concrete.


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27 Feb 2008, 1:14 pm

Also, identical twins diverge more and more as they get older, so that could account for some of the differences too, hypothetically.



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27 Feb 2008, 3:29 pm

IMO Autism is caused by a mix of genetics and environmental influences on the nervous system of the developing fetus.


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27 Feb 2008, 4:27 pm

Wikipedia???

Now I've heard everything.

The reason why identical twins can be 1 Autistic and 1 NT is because the gene needs a trigger to be active. It is entirely possible that it can activate in one child and not the other. There are more potential Autistics around than you think, Zendell. And besides, the NT child in that case was likely born Autistic but responded to a different diet for whatever the reason. There are way too many factors involved to give an all round single answer. Wolfpup's post above backs that up.

Autism is genetic at it's root. And there is such a thing as an NT carrier (of the gene).



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27 Feb 2008, 5:20 pm

Triggers to activate? Would that not mean that, because it is triggered, because it happens because of that trigger, that it's caused by that? They're not going to become autistic without the trigger going off, so in essence, someone with the genes is not autistic until they're triggered.

And considering that there are so many people who believe that it's a vaccination that's causing it, it may very well be that it's a vaccination, or an effect thereof, that triggers it.

Wait, back up. You're saying that there aren't any NT carriers of those genes? Do you know the theories and sciences of genetics? Saying that would be like saying that there aren't any blondes who carry genes for black hair. There's too little evidence to make such a statement.

If there were no carriers of the gene among NTs, there'd be no autistics born to NT parents, and the existence of these parents and their children disprove that there are no NT carriers.


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Zonder
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27 Feb 2008, 10:49 pm

I'd have to weigh in more heavily for nature (genetics) over nurture (environment). My family had it's own monozygotic twin study: My father and uncle were identical twins. My dad was the much more well adjusted of the two, and a lot of our family thought of my dad as the good twin and my uncle as the bad twin. They both had an emotional development deficit, no close friends, and an interest in music. Whether they had AS I can't say, but they seemed to have some traits. My dad was sweet-natured and my uncle was cruel and contemptuous. My own theory is that due to their inborn emotional deficit, compounded by some severe childhood trauma, in outward appearance and temperament their decisions (whether conscious or subconscious) made them look to be the opposite of each other. They had a twin to observe and react to in an emotionally immature, black and white way (I'm not going to be like him! I'll do the opposite!). But if you looked past the surface, they were still incredibly similar.

Part of the difficulty in AS evaluation is that it is so subjective and depending on age, individual experience, temperament, and even stress levels while being evaluated, identical twins can appear to be very different. It also makes me think of Temple Grandin who as a child was labeled a Kanner's autistic but is now considered to have AS. The individual, for some reason, can fight to compensate for developmental deficits. That internal drive to struggle to change seems to me to be a more compelling question than if one twin reacts more strongly to a mercury-containing vaccine preservative than another.

The question of why there might (appear to) be more autistic spectrum disorders in 1st world countries is one I'd personally rather leave to the scientists. My armchair isn't big enough for that one.

Do we get extra points for long posts? Special interest alert! My apologies.

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