Autism Spectrum Disorders

Working papers Viewpoint on the brain disorder(2003) (View in 2000)
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Conrad Simon Memorial Research Initiative
Date posted:  April 24, 2000 08:01 PM
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© Copyright 1999-2003
Eileen Nicole Simon
picture of
Conrad and Matthew
Conrad kisses his baby brother

At a recent conference on autism, one researcher described investigations of families of autistic children that indicate autistic tendencies in siblings and parents of children with autism. The data seemed to show that quite a few fathers of autistic children may even have been cases of Asperger's syndrome (social isolation without developmental language disorder).

One father in the audience immediately spoke up and asked how this data had been gathered; the response was through structured psychiatric interviews with the mothers - mothers more often make themselves accessible to researchers than busy work-strapped fathers.

Needless to say a heated discussion followed culminating in the statement of one mother that she might rather offer up her pedantic domineering mother-in-law as an Asperger's case than her emotionally numbed husband. Statements like these are only the tip of the iceberg in indicating the dissension that occurs in families of children with autism.


The consensus was that much of the research on autism is highly stigmatizing. Categorizing parents of autistic children as part of a broader autism phenotype (or BAP) doesn't promote any genuinely deeper insight into the nature of the brain disorder.

Clearly there is a spectrum of severity. This spectrum may even include people with anti-social personality, but research into this disorder more and more implicates head trauma, prenatal exposure to alcohol and drugs, or encephalitic illnesses. The focus needs to be maintained on factors that impair the brain.


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