Autism: Follow the Science

Finding answers for our children.
By Wendy Fournier, National Autism Association President

For decades, we’ve been told by our federal health agencies that autism is a mystery. They don’t know what causes it, they don’t know how to treat it. They don’t even know if the increase in diagnoses is real.

A new study published by Dr. Dan Rossignol and Dr. Richard Frye in the journal Molecular Psychiatry reviewed the world’s scientific literature to identify studies implicating biochemical abnormalities in ASD.

Here’s what they found:

-437 publications examined immune dysregulation or inflammation in ASD; 416 (95 percent) found an association

-115 publications examined oxidative stress in ASD; all 115 found an association

-153 publications examined mitochondrial dysfunction in ASD; 145 (95 percent) reported an association

-190 publications examined environmental toxicant exposures in ASD; 170 (89 percent) found an association

-62 percent of the publications in these four areas were published in the last five years (2006-2010)

-Genetic studies were the most common type of study in the medical literature concerning ASD; these studies accounted for more studies (1,576) than these four areas combined

When treated, these co-morbid medical conditions can greatly improve many of the symptoms associated with autism. These areas of research are what we refer to as “low-hanging fruit”—they should be explored with great urgency by our federal health agencies, yet they remain relatively ignored.

The autism community worked hard to get federal research funding through the Combating Autism Act. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been appropriated to the National Intitutes of Health (NIH) and the Cenbters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and we are no closer to the answers we need for our children than we were when the legislation first passed in 2006.

This should be a roadmap for the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s Strategic Plan. Follow the science, wherever it may lead. Spend our money responsibly, fund studies that can quickly lead to effective treatment for those already affected, and develop strategies to stop the catastrophic epidemic of neurological disorders in our country’s children.