Monday, April 2, 2012

The Real X-Men

In a previous post, I discussed the Stoned Ape Hypothesis which attempts to explain the sudden growth of the early human brain. Today, I read another perspective in the article Tracing autism's roots by David Stipp, where he says

Consider a mutation on chromosome 16 recently tied to autism. The glitch is in a DNA region containing so-called "morpheus" genes, which changed very rapidly as evolution produced ever brainier apes. The genes may well help shape cognitive capacities specific to apes and humans, including ones affected by autism.

Since fast mutation goes hand in hand with fast evolution, it's likely that the new autism-linked gene lies in a DNA "hotspot" prone to spontaneous mutation. In short, the same phenomenon that helped to rapidly evolve our braininess may contribute to autism.

Being the skeptic that I am, for some time I have avoided equating autistic kids with indigo children, which is more of a New-Agey construct, and to remain scientific in my research of autism in light of my niece's diagnosis. However, having read the above article where autistic patients are shown to have increased genetic mutations, and based on other information available on the subject, my views are changing and I believe that autistic individuals deserve a more affirming attitude.

I'm beginning to see autism not as a disease but as part of neurodiversity and the discourse around autism should be reframed within the context of human diversity. That is, diversity includes not only learning to tolerate and live with people of different languages, cultures, religions and sexual orientations but it should also involve learning to live with neurodiversity: learning to relate to introverts and extraverts, learning to relate with autistic individuals and having a broader understanding of how people with different brains see the world. I am not alone in this view. There's even an Autism Pride movement!

No comments: