Autism Sanity in an Insane World

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Article first published as Autism Sanity in an Insane World on Technorati.

Our world, with constant access to everyone's opinion through the Internet, seems insane. Political arguments abound, religious arguments continue, and social attacks continue. Everyone seems to want to find someone else to blame for their troubles, and those who get blamed are looking to shift that blame elsewhere. And even in the world of autism, this is true. Arguments between genetics and environment rage on, tearing the community apart when it comes to research and focus of those dollars.

So what, as a family with a child on the Spectrum, are you to do? This is a question I have asked myself often. I study the research (one of the benefits of working for a university), and so I get the real data and conclusions based on methods. But not a lot of people have that opportunity, increasing their confusion when this celebrity or that research scientist say one thing, with other contradicting voices out there.

So let me share with you my secret: I step back and ask one critical question, "Does this change the way I'm helping my son learn?" Most often, regardless of the points, the arguments, the research, the answer is no. All research tend to point to the same fact, which is that ABA instruction is the only proven method to significantly improve learning prospects for those with autism. While many talk about preventing autism, or developing a drug/treatment in X number of decades to "cure" autism, nothing is available now beyond the Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy already entrenched in most school districts.

There are, occasionally, some technologies and therapies that stand out as a promising method: using computers to teach kids instead of social situations tends to be more effective for children on the Spectrum. My son, for instance, loves using his apps on his iPod Touch or my iPad to learn his letters, numbers, spelling, writing, etc. He seems to do better than if I stand over him and try to teach him directly. Of course it's just self observing, but nonetheless it seems to be working and I like a working system. Other therapies seem to have shown some benefits as well, such as compression chambers that raise the air pressure slightly that above normal. But none have had the proven success rate that ABA has enjoyed.

So while my hackles may rise at the mention of vaccines/MSG/solar flares causing autism instead of genetics, it's only for a moment. I can explain my position, provide the research material that prove to me, at least, that genetics seem to be the cause, and let it go. Arguing never convinced anyone, and it's not worth the effort. I think of all that time and energy that could instead go toward benefiting my son, and realize the argument is simply a waste.