Why I hope there is never a genetic test for autism. (Even though I know there one day will be.)
Yes, I know it is a bit of a controversial subject. And, yes I know some people are still on the fence about autism even being genetically inherited. Some people believe it is purely environmental. I believe, along with some new research on the subject, that it is, in some cases, a mix betwixt the two – one part environmental, one part genetic. I believe that some people posses a genetic predisposition to autism; which is aggravated by exposure to certain things during infancy or prenatally (like infections) which help bring it forth.
I do not need to close my eyes to see the genetic trail of autism in my own family history. I have two cousins on my father’s side who, like me, have children with autism. I also have a deceased relative from my mother’s side who, it is believed, had autism. Roger has a paternal cousin with a daughter on the spectrum and an undiagnosed (but recently suggested by a specialist) adult maternal relative. The pattern is there. For me, it is rather obvious.
A positive genetic link. I know it is coming. I know this not least because of the newest form of autism diagnostic tools – the monitoring of infants using simple blood tests to determine if they are at risk. And it is coming, in my mind, like a train running down the tracks at full speed. Haphazardly and following only one path. Whistles. Smoke. Screeching. It will not halt for anything. It will arrive. And its uses, at least in my opinion, will not always be for the best.
Once the gene is determined and the smoke and excitement from the arriving train clears they will find a way to test for autism in fetuses. A prenatal genetic test. A test allowing the parents to tell if the child they are carrying has “the gene”. What then??
It’s a fact that 90% of children with an extra chromosome are aborted simply because of that extra chromosome. Yes, 90% of babies with Down Syndrome are aborted. Their lives forfeit. Terminated. It’s a statistic that speaks volumes. It’s a statistic that keeps me awake at night – baffled and angry. It’s a statistic that I do not want for autism. It is a statistic that autism will eventually follow.
It’s American Eugenics.
But what happens when autism is on the verge of being eradicated by our own most unnatural version of natural selection? I’ll tell you what happens. This is what happens. We lose out on people like this. We will lose out on minds and ideas like these. We lose out on:
Innovation from Temple Grandin – Temple Grandin is an American Doctor of Animal Science and Professor at Colorado State, bestselling author, autism activist, and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior. Her innovative thinking helped to revolutionize the way in which we treat and slaughter animals. She was included in Time Magizine’s list of “The 100 most influential people in the world”, She was placed in the “Heroes” category. Temple Grandin is autistic.
Activism and Change from Ari Ne’eman (a great advocate and acquaintance of mine) - Ari Ne’eman is an American Autism Activist. In 2009 he was appointed by President Barrack Obama to sit on the National Council on Disability. Holding a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome he is the first person with an Autism Spectrum Disorder to serve on the council. In 2006 he co-founded the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and continues to fight in both the political and personal arenas for equal civil rights for the disabled.
The Imaginative world of Satoshi Tajiri – The creator of Pokemon. Tajiri has Asperger’s Syndrome. His lifelong fixation with bugs and video games helped him to imagine the world of Pokemon. Using his creative talents and visual mind he constructed the second-most successful and lucrative video game-based media franchise in the world. With cartoons, trading cards, toys, video games, etc still in production today.
Musical Sounds from Matt Savage – The Autistic Savant Jazz Prodigy. Diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified) at the age of three he taught himself to play the piano overnight. In his early teens he became a professional jazz pianist with his own trio. He currently plays alongside the world’s best adult jazz musicians. The legendary jazz musician Dave Brubeck called Savage the “Mozart of Jazz.” He now attends the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Electronic, Pyrotechnics, and Visual Arts of John Elder Robinson – Diagnosed with Asperger’s as an adult Robinson had already made his mark in the world. He worked for a time in Pink Floyd’s Sound Company but is more widely known and respected for his work with the band Kiss; where he created special effects and rigging pyrotechnics inside the instruments of band members. Often using fire and lights to create stunning visual effects for the band. He is now retired and owns his own business collecting and restoring vintage European Cars. He also wrote the best selling book “Look me in the eye” about his life and travels with Asperger’s.
And what about the yet to be discovered (and already discovered) talents of this little girl?