Scientists have made a huge breakthrough in linking GABA neurotransmitters to autism, which could lead to new treatments.
A stunning discovery on autism could lead to tremendous breakthroughs in treatments and diagnosis — a huge boon for the millions of families affected by the disorder, and one that has gotten a lot of attention in recent years as the public becomes more educated about it. But for many people, it is a touchy subject when trying to talk about “curing” the disorder.
We reported on a discovery by researchers at Harvard and MIT that there is a link between the neurotransmitter GABA and symptoms of autism, which an estimated 21.7 million people in the world have.
Autism is a sometimes tough to spot disorder — particularly in the early years — that affects neurodevelopment in the brain, and results in difficulties in social interaction and communication, as well as causing restricted and repetitive behavior. The earliest signs for autism may show up within six months if a child fails to express joy in any way, and other signs can be spotted up to the child’s second birthday when it comes to communication and social skills. But overall, it can be tough to tell until a few years into a child’s life. The new study on GABA neurotransmitters could help scientists find new ways to diagnose it early.
So why is autism such a controversial subject?
There is great disagreement over how autism portrayed overall. One of the most prominent autism organizations is known as Autism Speaks, which was founded in 2005 and tends to have a large voice within the autism community. But some criticize the organization for not showing respect for autistic people, including a video from 2009 portraying autism as a nasty thing that ruins people’s lives, according to a Forbes column.
Some argue that autism is a grave disorder that can mentally and physically tax families. Autism Speaks would point to cases where parents have been up all night with a teenage child having a seizure, or changing the sheets due to bed wetting.
However, others argue that talking about autism in these terms is demeaning to autistic people, and that these things parents do is simply known as “parenting,” a job that is often tough no matter what your child is going through.