HELP FOR PARENTS OF CHILDREN WITH ASPERGER'S & HIGH-FUNCTIONING AUTISM

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

Search MyAspergersChild.com

The Autistic Brain: Malfunction or Human Evolution?

Are you aware that Autism prevalence figures are growing rapidly? According to recent statistics, Autism now affects 1 in 54 male children. More young people will be diagnosed with Autism this year (male and female) than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.

Autism is the fastest-growing “developmental disability” in the U.S. – and the only disorder dramatically on the rise (with mental retardation, Down syndrome, and cystic fibrosis remaining roughly the same). Earlier Autism prevalence figures were much lower, centering at about 0.5 per 1,000 during the 1960s and 1970s, and about 1 per 1,000 in the 1980s.

The reported spike in the prevalence of Autism raises questions about whether this dramatic increase is factual, or a byproduct of greater awareness that has led moms and dads, educators, and professionals to see symptoms of Autism in kids who would not have received the diagnosis 20 years ago.

The increase in Autism prevalence figures suggests several possibilities (here are just a few):
  • some relatively recent changes in the environment may be responsible
  • the diagnosis may be applied more broadly than before as a result of the changing definition of the disorder
  • there may be more complete pickup of autism (i.e., case finding) as a result of increased awareness and funding (e.g., attempts to sue vaccine companies may have increased case-reporting).
  • this is the way the human brain is developing

Human evolution is characterized by a rapid increase in brain size and complexity. Decades of research have made important strides in identifying the unique features of the human brain. But it has become possible only very recently to examine the genetic basis of human brain evolution. Through “genomics” (i.e., the study of the genomes of organisms), tantalizing insights regarding human brain evolution have emerged.

Metabolic changes responsible for the evolution of the human brain’s unique cognitive abilities indicate that it may have been pushed to the limit of its capabilities. Research adds weight to the theory that some neurological disorders are a costly by-product of human brain evolution.

The idea that certain neurological disorders are by-products of increases in metabolic capacity and brain size, which occur during human evolution, has been suggested before, but now researchers have access to new technical approaches to really put the theory to the test.

The human brain is unique among all species in its enormous metabolic demand. If researchers can explain how the human brain sustains such a tremendous metabolic flow, they will have a much better chance to understand how the brain works – and why it sometimes “malfunctions.” But is it truly a “malfunction” (i.e., functions badly)? Or is the human brain on its evolutionary path to “hyper-functioning” (i.e., functioning above and beyond the norm)?

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Often i have wondered if it is evolution?

Anonymous said...

I kind of feel the same way. I was devastated when I was told my son has Aspergers, but watching him and his incredible intellegence and sweet mannorism, I can't help but think he's just more evolved than people like you and me. He's going to grow up to do amazing things with his mind.

Anonymous said...

I feel the exact same way about my son :)

Anonymous said...

Is the above quoted stat, "1 in 54 male children", in reference to USA data or Global?

Anonymous said...

my 8 year old son has only just be diagnosed with aspergers, and we still getting our head around it. i agree with earlier comment and quite often wish i was as evolved as him. he's my little "mad scientist" with the most amazing mind.

Anonymous said...

I have had this thought for years now...I'm so pleased I've seen this link! :))

Anonymous said...

hahaha! ureka! This was one of my theories, I have lots of notes that I keep, on insights etc...and I actually suggested this theory of evolution of the brain to my husband and mother this year! lol...Awesome...

Anonymous said...

in our family more are being diagnosed as they have aspergers,but its always been there its just that now it is recognised,my husband was only diagnosed aftyer our 2 children,as were his brother and sister,we are now convinced it stems from the great grandparents ,who were first cousins,this is the opinion of our clinical psychologist and people who knew them,so now probably 5 generations,and as grandchildren arrive at least 2 out of 3 are presenting as aspergers,my husbands family too,exactly the same,most of the proffessionals are now saying they are getting more and more parents of aspergers children coming forward for diagnosis,

Anonymous said...

As a student of Biology, I would LOVE to believe that this is a result of evolution. I am, however, not fully convinced due to the fact that many older generations are just now realizing that they have the diagnosis. It was simply not recognized years ago. Compare it to the "Earth is round" theory... for hundreds of years people believed that the Earth was flat. Finding out that it was round was simply an advancement in scientific knowledge. The Earth was ALWAYS round. Begs the question... Has Autism ALWAYS existed??

Anonymous said...

There are no instances where there has been documentation of an evolution such that new information was actually added to DNA from one generation to the next. Different combinations of genes do make different characteristics show up in successive generations, but evolution as such has not occurred.

Anonymous said...

Two genes involved in determining the size of the human brain have undergone substantial evolution in the last 60,000 years, researchers say, suggesting that the brain is still undergoing rapid evolution.

The discovery adds further weight to the view that human evolution is still a work in progress, since previous instances of recent genetic change have come to light in genes that defend against disease and confer the ability to digest milk in adulthood.

Anonymous said...

The individuals in our family who either have Aspergers (or who seem like they had it before they passed away) do not seem to value family. While my 8 yo son is often sweet and funny, he has never liked doing much with us as a family, has never hugged us willingly, has never displayed excitement to see us even as a small child, says he wishes we would get divorced, and wishes he could be adopted by another family(when mad), etc. His symptoms of autism seem so much more intense than previous generations. I still think there is an environmental factor that aggravates the symptoms. Some days are so good and some days are so bad. If this is evolution, it really makes me wonder what are we evolving to? Highly scientific but disconnected individuals?

Anonymous said...

I have often looked at the mental capabilities of my 8 year old son and contemplated the "chicken or egg first" scenario. Did Asperger's Syndrome bestow these amazing gifts upon my child or is the syndrome a result of his inherent intelligence?

Anonymous said...

Four of my immediate neighbors have children that have been recently diagnosed with Aspergers, not including my own son. We're seeing rates that are approaching 1 in 10.

Anonymous said...

I don't think too many people would argue the possibility that autism may have always been in existence, but if 1 in 54 males have had autism all along, don't you think we would have picked up on that 2-3 generations ago?

Anonymous said...

A number of factors likely contribute to the increase of Autism. We know that some of it is due to how children with autism are identified and served in their local communities. We do feel doctors are getting better at diagnosing autism. But we don't know how much is due to better identification and diagnosis, how much is due to availability of services, and how much is a true rise in prevalence. There's a critical need to answer this question.

The increase in prevalence is only partly explained by the broadening of the diagnosis, improved detection and more awareness. A large proportion of autism, some 50%, remains unexplained. One hint comes from data showing that autism prevalence is higher in areas where doctors are better at diagnosing autism in kids with relatively high intellectual ability. It's known that autism results from a complex interaction between genetic and environmental influences. But it's not known which types of autism are most closely linked to which factors.

Jeannie said...

My oldest son has most of the traits of high functioning Aspergers, but is not diagnosed at this point. Now looking at the family I finally understand what is going on with my husband and his Dad. I used to be so angry with these men and exasperated with my son. I also blamed myself for giving my son the full compliment of immunizations thinking this caused his symptoms. The guilt is gone as is the anger. This has been going on for more generations than any of us realize. In the old days people just dealt with it, they didn't go to pychologists and label themselves as disabled. While I appreciate knowing, I try to avoid labling my son. Yet, I see he needs help learning how to be his best gifted self without alientating those who love him the most as well as those he walks beside either in school work or every day life. Not all his behavior is evolved unless acting like Spock, devoid of signs of compassion and emotion is considered evolved! He is learning to show this, I am learning not to be hurt at my husband's and son's seeming lack of love and care. They show this much differently than most.

Anonymous said...

My personal belief is that there is a perfect storm of circumstances triggering an autoimmune response, which in this case, causes the body to attack brain cells. There is a huge increase in autoimmune conditions of all kinds and I believe this may be one of them.

Anonymous said...

My son was just diagnosed with AS, at 6 years+10 months. My close friend's response: He's so smart they had to rewire his brain to fit all of that in.

We're not quite there on getting services--the school is testing--but we're finding some things out by changing the way we communicate.

Specifically, the emotional attachments. I had felt that my son didn't have empathy. What I've learned is that he doesn't know how to read our non-verbal emotional signals. So he doesn't know to express empathy because I "look" sad. I have to tell him I'm sad. He doesn't stop making a noise that hurts my ears because I sound really upset when I say "Please stop that!" But if I say "That noise is making me feel very stressed and upset. Could you please stop?" he usually will.

Anonymous said...

I've often wondered, too, about the increased prevalence of Autism being evidence of brain evolution, but if that's true, then why is it seem to greatly favor male brains?

Anonymous said...

Some of you may be interested in reading The Indigo Children by Lee Carrol and Jan Tober. It talks about exactly this. That there is a new group of children being born. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Indigo or NewAge Children or Highly Sensitive Children. I have seen many similarities in the 'symptomes' and wonder if HSK is the spiritual/alternative answer to the Medical view of Asperger. And if it is the NewAge view has a really possitive explenation;
these kids are very sensitive and once they learn to deal with this extra sensitivity it becomes a talent that will help the world evolute into a new age where High Sensitivity will become the norm. Imagine the wonderfull changes it migt have on society as a whole!
Saying what you mean, creativity, no more lying/cheating/corruption and financial crisis due to greed!!
Sounds great to me.

Anonymous said...

Autism: The Eusocial Hominid Hypothesis

ASDs (autism spectrum disorders) are hypothesized as one of many adaptive human cognitive variations that have been maintained in modern populations via multiple genetic and epigenetic mechanisms. Introgression from "archaic" hominids (adapted for less demanding social environments) is conjectured as the source of initial intraspecific heterogeneity because strict inclusive fitness does not adequately model the evolution of distinct, copy-number sensitive phenotypes within a freely reproducing population.

Evidence is given of divergent encephalization and brain organization in the Neanderthal (including a ~1520 cc cranial capacity, larger than that of modern humans) to explain the origin of the autism subgroup characterized by abnormal brain growth.

Autism and immune dysfunction are frequently comorbid. This supports an admixture model in light of the recent discovery that MHC alleles (genes linked to immune function, mate selection, neuronal "pruning," etc.) found in most modern human populations come from "archaic" hominids.

Mitochondrial dysfunction, differential fetal androgen exposure, lung abnormalities, and hypomethylation/CNV due to hybridization are also presented as evidence.

A short video introduction

The full 2-hour video presentation

Berthajane Vandegrift said...

Autism is said to have increased dramatically in recent years. Some people speculate that autism is an aspect of evolution, a response to our change in lifestyle. We used to call inheritance of acquired characteristics Lamarckism. We now call it epigenetics and acknowledge that lifestyle can influence biology over multiple generations. Some species may have achieved stasis and stopped evolving, but humans appear to be in the process of dynamic change. The way children spend their childhoods has changed profoundly. What could be a more dramatic change than children spending hours a day looking at symbols on paper and transcribing them into abstract thoughts? Maybe our persistent emphasis upon reading and learning is eroding some of our intuitive abilities, and we are all becoming less conforming. Some autistic children have savant abilities, and appear overwhelmed by super-sensitivities, such as sight or hearing. Like all creative processes, Nature’s ability to devise adaptive change is tentative and imperfect - sometimes producing partial results. Not all of Nature’s innovations are successful; just some of them. Are we labeling Natures incomplete adaptations mental illness?
Berthajane Vandegrift
A Few Autistic Questions about Freud, Marx and Darwin
http://30145.myauthorsite

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers and HFA can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Living with an Aspergers Spouse/Partner

Research reveals that the divorce rate for people with Aspergers is around 80%. Why so high!? The answer may be found in how the symptoms of Aspergers affect intimate relationships. People with Aspergers often find it difficult to understand others and express themselves. They may seem to lose interest in people over time, appear aloof, and are often mistaken as self-centered, vain individuals.

Click here to read the full article…

Online Parent Coaching for Parents of Asperger's Children

If you’re the parent of a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know it can be a struggle from time to time. Your child may be experiencing: obsessive routines; problems coping in social situations; intense tantrums and meltdowns; over-sensitivity to sounds, tastes, smells and sights; preoccupation with one subject of interest; and being overwhelmed by even the smallest of changes. The hardest part is you feel like you’ll never actually get to know your child and how he/she views the world.

Click here to read the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content