It wasn’t that long ago, in the grand scheme of things, that researchers blamed “Refrigerator Moms” for causing autistic children. The mom was not loving enough, the researchers said. The moms began with a completely neurotypical child and “damaged it” through lack of love to cause it to change its behavior.
How times have changed.
We now know conclusively that over 100 different genes contribute to the changes in brain development that happen in the womb to the developing child. Most of the key changes happen in the first few months of development. That time period is incredibly critical for the formation of the young brain.
A massive review of data, published on January 23, 2020 by Cell Magazine, looked through over 35,000 individuals’ DNA records. About a third of them were known to be autistic while the others were neurotypical. By comparing these data points, scientists were much more able to see the connections.
Research will get much better the more people who participate in these projects.
Some of these genes were found to be inherited from the parents. In other cases, mutations had occurred in the egg or sperm, or perhaps in the process where the two meet. The child had an unseen mutation that neither parent had. This is called a “de novo” mutation.
This type of research is incredibly important for the autistic community. It allows us to understand more about the way we are. For those who face life-threatening issues related to their autism, it offers a chance of mitigating those challenges without changing who they are as a person.