I read with intrigue last night as I was going to bed this study from Scientists at Washington University in St Louis published in JAMA online, claiming that parents of autistic children seem to exhibit similar traits, be it hyperfocus, or repetitive behaviours.
We’ve been told before in previous studies, the sibling study for example, that autism is predominantly genetic with some environmental factors predisposing the developing brain to be susceptible to certain conditions, autism being one of them. John Constantino, professor of psychiatry and paediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis in the JAMA press release was quoted to say:
“When there was a child with autism in the family, both parents more often scored in the top 20 per cent of the adult population on a survey we use to measure the presence of autistic traits”
The thing that intrigued me the most was that only 246 children were involved in the study and that an on-line questionnaire was used for studying the parents of these children for trait definition. How scientific is this in reality?
I have an issue with labelling people and children. I also know that on-line, when being asked a direct question people tend to overthink, overanalyse and be the exacerbated version of themselves. I recently sat an on-line test for ADHD, answering what I considered to be in an honest and open way at the end of a stressful day (aren’t they all!) I scored 43 on the ADHD scale out of 50, 35 for hyperactivity which is at the top of the scale and 21 for focus, which is around normal level.
If I were to diagnose myself and go down to my GP who has known me for almost 30 years and tell him I have ADHD he would simply laugh at me. My son has hyper-focus, and can be very hyperactive at times, but he has not got ADHD.
I do understand that some traits are passed to children. Some anxieties that the parent has and some quirks will inevitably be passed to the child. Genetically I will never be able to change the simple fact that my son has a high functioning diagnosis, as with all parents what we want to know is what we can do from that day forward to help our child.
Their colleagues at the Havard school of Medicine had conducted SRS or Social Responsiveness Scale . This part of the study made more sense to me, if both parents score high on the SRS scale then their children scored twenty to thirty per cent higher than neuro typical children.
Professor Constantino said:
‘Likes attract. If one person has a high score, he or she is more likely to partner with another person who also scores high.’
Personally, like many other parents of autistic children I feel some form of residual guilt that I made this beautiful child, carried him, gave birth to him and nurtured him to be the bright, articulate young man he is today. But because we have no answers on what causes autism, I always feel like I must have done something wrong. Did my son learn to be hyperactive from me? Or should we just relax and continue to do the best job we possibly can with the gifts we were given? I guess that’s down to the individual.
The research is well worth a read if you have the time, and can be found here. Your thoughts and comments are also welcomed.