Could Autism Be Cured One Day

Could autism be cured one day?

Could autism be cured one day?

Check out this answer from Consensus:

While a cure for autism remains uncertain, ongoing research and advancements in treatment offer hope for better management and improved outcomes for individuals with autism. The debate on whether autism should be cured continues, highlighting the need for a nuanced understanding of the condition and the diverse perspectives of those affected by it.

 

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition characterized by challenges in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. The question of whether autism can be cured has been a topic of significant debate and research. This article explores the current understanding of autism, the potential for a cure, and the various treatments available.

Understanding Autism

Autism is a heterogeneous disorder with multifactorial origins, including genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors1 7. The core features of autism include impairments in social interaction, communication, and the presence of restricted and repetitive behaviors7. Despite extensive research, no etiology-based treatment has been developed to cure autism7.

Current Treatments and Interventions of Autism

While a definitive cure for autism remains elusive, various treatments and interventions have shown promise in managing symptoms and improving quality of life for individuals with autism. These include:

Behavioral and Educational Programs

Comprehensive behavioral and educational treatment programs, such as applied behavior analysis (ABA), have demonstrated significant developmental gains, particularly in measured IQ6. Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial for better outcomes3.

Pharmacological Treatments

Pharmacological treatments have been used to manage associated symptoms and coexisting neuropsychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)7 8. Medications like fluoxetine, imipramine, and clozapine have shown effectiveness in improving behavioral symptoms9.

Novel Therapeutic Approaches

Recent advancements in individualized medicine, including genome sequencing and the development of animal models, offer new avenues for treatment research1. Intramuscular cerebrolysin has shown potential in curing major autistic features in some cases, although it does not completely normalize the individuals4 5.

The Debate on Curing Autism

The notion of curing autism is controversial. Some advocates argue that efforts to cure autism are misguided and harmful, as they imply that there is something inherently wrong with individuals with autism2. Others believe that finding a cure would be a significant medical breakthrough, alleviating the challenges faced by individuals with autism and their families2.

Potential for Recovery

Evidence suggests that a small percentage of children with autism may lose their diagnosis and achieve normal cognitive, adaptive, and social skills3. Predictors of recovery include high intelligence, receptive language, and early intervention3. However, residual vulnerabilities, such as tics, depression, and phobias, may persist even after recovery3.

 

Could autism be cured one day?

Alexia Ostrolenk has answered Extremely Unlikely

An expert from Université de Montréal in Autism, Psychiatry, Child Development

Autism is not a disease but a condition. Autistic people are born with it although they are not usually diagnosed before the age of 2 or 3. There are structural brain differences at birth, which means it is not something you can “catch” or treat in any way.

Most autistic people consider it a part of their identity, a characteristic like having blue eyes, or being heterosexual. It is how they are. It can affect how they perceive the world or process information, but not necessarily in a negative way (although some autistic features are definitely hard to deal with). In fact, they can be far superior in some skills compared to the neurotypical population.

Of course autistic children can receive intervention, which can help them adapt to our society the way it is and dealing with things often associated with ASD, like ADHD, anxiety, or depression. But it can be perceived as insulting to talk about “curing autism”, because it assumes that these people’s identity, the way they have always been, is not ok and should be eradicated.

 

Could autism be cured one day?

Brandon L Pearson has answered Unlikely

An expert from Columbia University in Neuroscience, Toxicology

The preponderance of evidence suggests that autism derives from genetic and environmental influences impacting the fetal stage of brain development. Since autism is behaviorally diagnosed, the window for intervention at the earliest stages of brain developmental trajectory is lacking. In addition, the factors that appear to contribute most to autism symptoms are a complex mix of synaptic, electrochemical, epigenetic, and inflammatory processes that are not likely to be abrogated by a single treatment. If the question was: “can autism be prevented?”, I would reply that in principle, yes it could be. Since multiple factors contribute to autism, preventing one or more of those modifiable factors could lead to a more typical course of brain development and perhaps a lack of impairment. I encourage interested parties to read the work of Dr. Irva Hertz-Picciotto (from UC-Davis) and other experts in the field. Finally, there is no support for vaccines as causal factors in autism.

 

Could autism be cured one day?

David Amaral has answered Uncertain

An expert from University of California, Davis in Autism, Neuroscience

The best available evidence is that autism spectrum disorder (autism) has many causes. There are a number of known genetic risk factors i.e. mutations in certain genes increase the risk of autism. However, the number of genes that are risk factors has grown to over 100 and there are certainly more. Moreover, if there is a mutation in one of these genes, it does not always cause autism.

It is also know that a number of environmental risk factors, such as maternal infection and some environmental chemicals may also increase the risk of autism.

Aside from the core features of autism (impairments of social behavior and repetitive behaviors or restricted interests) there are many co-morbid conditions such as anxiety, epilepsy, gastrointestinal disorders and sleep disorders.

Currently, more effort is going into the treatment of these co-morbid conditions that cause great disability. Whether society should be attempting to “cure” autism completely is a hotly debated issue. Many autism self advocates are strong supporters of the idea of reducing autism disability but not of eliminating autism altogether.

 

Could autism be cured one day?

Ksenia Meyza has answered Unlikely

An expert from Polish Academy of Sciences in Autism, Neuroscience, Behavioural Science

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurodevelopmental condition diagnosed entirely based on behavioural symptoms (which may not all be fully manifested in a given individual). The underlying mechanisms are not uniform, with over a hundred of candidate genes involved and a plethora of epigenetic factors adding complexity on top of all that. The likelihood of finding a single cure for such a heterogeneous disorder is unfortunately quite small. It would require all of the abnormal signalling pathways (both in the brain and in the periphery) to converge and the drug in question to be able to normalize that common part of the pathway. So far we have no evidence of such convergence or of any drug that would reliably and permanently reverse all ASD symptoms.

 

Could autism be cured one day?

J Peter H Burbach has answered Extremely Unlikely

An expert from University Medical Center Utrecht in Neurobiology

Ninety percent of cases of autism is caused by genetic problems. [Ten percent have a environmental cause in the pregnant mother. like taking certain medication against epilepsy]. These cannot be corrected, and therefore, autism cannot be cured (=taking away the cause). I am positive about treatment of the negative symptomes in autistic patients. However, they don’t take away the cause, but can (partly) correct the processes that go wrong due to the genetic problem.

The question if vaccination can cause autism should definitely be answered by ‘NO!’. The first report on this issue was based on scientific fraud, and further scientific evidence is lacking. Moreover, studies have shown that there is no relationship between vaccination and autism.

 

Could autism be cured one day?

Christina Nicolaidis has answered Extremely Unlikely

An expert from Portland State University in Autism, Internal Medicine, Public Health

I feel like this is a trick question, because it implies that autism is a medical illness. There is no doubt that autism can cause very significant disability – and that science and society should do everything possible to improve the lives of people on the autism spectrum. But I prefer to think about autism using a neurodiversity paradigm. The neurodiversity paradigm asks us to think about autism and other neurological differences as a type of diversity, just like we think about diversity in race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and so on. (For more info – see an old essay I wrote about we as physicians can learn from the neurodiversity movement: https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/what-can-physicians-learn-neurodiversity-movement/2012-06)

So back to the question – no, I don’t think that autism can or should be “cured one day” any more than I think that homosexuality can or should be “cured one day”. However, I do believe that one day we can live in a world where people on the autism spectrum are fully respected and where they can have all the the necessary supports, accommodations, education, therapies, technology, and services to lead wonderful, happy, fulfilling lives. Will they be “indistinguishable” from their non-autistic peer? Absolutely not. (There is a growing literature showing that teaching people on the spectrum to camouflage their autistic traits can worsen mental health outcomes, just like gay conversion therapy can harm LGBTQ folks.) But there are many, many advances to be made to help people on the spectrum communicate effectively, manage co-occurring physical and mental health conditions, have successful careers, and live productive, happy, and discrimination-free lives. Some of these advances need to come from the physical and biological sciences and some from the social sciences and humanities; some will involve technological advances, some will involve the provision of services, and some will come from political advocacy and social change.

I have recently become Editor-in-Chief of a new peer-reviewed journal that focuses on Autism in Adulthood (www.liebertpub.com/aut). I am looking forward to publishing exactly the type of high-quality research that can help adults on the spectrum to lead happy, fulfilling lives.

 

Could autism be cured one day?

Patricia A Prelock has answered Extremely Unlikely

An expert from University of Vermont in Autism

Since autism spectrum disorder is a neurobiological disorder with pervasive impairments in social communication and social interaction as well as restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, it is highly unlikely that there is a ‘cure’ let alone a ‘one day cure.’ Further, the increased incidence of the disorder in siblings supports a genetic basis and advances in genetic testing continue to identify specific gene locations linked to autism. In fact, family studies that compare the rate of autism in first degree relatives of affected probands versus the general population, and studies that focus on rare genetic syndromes with a comorbid autism diagnosis, have provided significant evidence that there is a strong genetic contribution to the etiology of ASD (Geschwind, 2011). This would suggest The severity of the disorder is impacted by the number of symptoms expressed and the existence of co-morbid impairments in language and intellectual development. With early diagnosis and early intervention, symptom expression can be tempered (Zander & Bolte, 2016; Zwaigenbaum et al., 2017) Yet, increased expectations for academic, social and adaptive function across developmental periods suggest there will be periods of increased symptom expression especially around periods of transition.

 

Could autism be cured one day?

Christopher Badcock has answered Near Certain

An expert from London School of Economics in Neuropsychology

All real mental illnesses have a basis in the brain, which is built by genes to make real-time decisions for which DNA could not legislate in advance. In mammals, but humans especially, maternal and paternal genes are in conflict over growth and development since the mother pays the entire price in gestation and lactation. But in humans these conflicts continue after birth, with a bias in paternal gene expression increasing birth weight and risk of autism and a bias in maternal gene expression reducing birth weight but with risk of psychosis. See my posts on Psychology Today for corroborating details.

 

Could autism be cured one day?

Shilpi Sharma has answered Likely

An expert from O.P. Jindal Global University in Autism, Child Development, Psychology, Quantitative Psychology

Autism is a complex disorder so there is unfortunately, not a simple answer to this question. It is a spectrum of disorders usually caused due to the presence of certain genetic glitches in the body. Such genetic defects, when exposed to specific types of environmental toxins, may trigger the onset of a constellation of symptoms, some expressed early and others much later in life. Another important fact about this multifaceted condition is that the level of ability or difficulty the same diagnosis may present, will vary across individuals and ages. No two individuals with autism will ever have the same symptoms.

 

The term ‘cure’ is defined as ‘relieving of symptoms’ in the Oxford dictionary, while the Cambridge or Merriam dictionaries may define it as complete elimination of an illness or its symptoms. The extent to which an individual’s symptoms can be relived will be dependent on a host of factors, such as level of difficulty, co-morbid conditions, age of onset, age at which intervention was first started and the consistency in delivering/ receiving that treatment. In case of autism, it is important to understand that it is a spectrum of disorders that has multiple causes, thus there is no single/ specific cure for autism. However, the hope lies in knowing that a range of medical, nutritional, biochemical, cognitive and behavioural interventions are known to be effective in alleviating the symptoms associated with autism. Customised, assessment based treatment, adapted to the specific symptoms of an individual have been known to lead to significant improvements to the level, where the need for a diagnosis was eliminated. This is the farthest the scientific community has reached in curing autism, which may be satisfactory for many. Our focus should be on improvement, not cure, as the term itself is arguable.

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