Somewhere Over the Rainbow - The Search for an Autism Cure
The "cure" part isn't the problem - it's the "a" part.
You see, like cancer, autism is not a single disorder. Genetic studies point to several disorders, with linkages on several different chromosomes. Even a casual reading of case histories and parental anecdotes shows an amazing range of severity, types of disabilities, progression, and accompanying signs and symptoms.
If I wrote up ten or twelve case histories of autism today and tried to conclude that they were all suffering from the same disorder, I would be laughed at. Yet there are people - the autism-mercury cabal foremost among them - that insist ("demand" would be more like it) that autism is a single disorder.
Think about cancer. If we were to lump all cancers together, we would have the same sort of mess that is currently seen in autism. There would be no consistent presentation, no consistent progression of the disease and there would certainly be no treatment that would work on all (or even most) "cancer".
Yet, in a startling parallel, there are people in the world who claim to have found a cause for all cancer and even a cure for all cancer. Like the people who have found the cause for all autism and its cure, they are all - at the very least - terribly mistaken.
So, before we all run off like headless chickens looking for an autism cure, perhaps we ought to spend at least a few minutes making sure we know what autism is. After all, except for the autism-mercury experts, nobody knows what causes autism.
That's right, we don't know what the pathology in autism is. We don't even know, for sure, what part of the brain is involved (we are pretty confident that it is a brain disorder, rather than, say, a liver problem). There are those who feel that it is probably a disorder of the amygdala, but nobody has found any consistent abnormalities in the amygdala of autistic people. In fact, no physical abnormality - genetic, biochemical, radiological or other - has been consistently found in all autistic people.
This, of course, is just more evidence that autism is not a single disorder. To extend the cancer analogy, that would be like trying to find a consistent biopsy in all cancer patients - doing, for example, a lung biopsy in everyone. It would come as no surprise to us that a lung biopsy would fail to show cancer in someone with basal cell carcinoma, just as a skin biopsy would be highly unlikely to reveal lung cancer. So why is it that otherwise intelligent people can't see the reason there is no consistent pathology in autism?
And since we aren't even sure if we're dealing with a single disorder (except that some of us, myself included, are very sure that we aren't), it would seem extremely foolish to start looking for causes and treatments. Going back to the cancer analogy, looking at UV exposure as a cause for all cancers would fail to show a relationship, since pancreatic, lung, liver and kidney cancer are not correlated wth UV exposure - and would miss the cancers that are UV-caused, like basal cell and melanoma because of the "background" of non-UV-related cancers.
Likewise, treatments that might help a sub-set of cancers would not show any benefit when tested against all cancers because of the large number of non-responding cancers included in the subject mix. So too, a treatment that might be effective for a certain sub-type of autism will have its benefits "drowned out" by all the other disorders that don't respond to it.
In the final analysis, it does little good - and probably a good deal of harm - to go chasing off after various hypothetical causes and cures of autism at this point. First, we need to find out what the abnormalities (that's right, plural) in autism are and then sort the patients into their proper diagnostic groups. Otherwise, we're going down the rabbit hole after the "cure for all autism", which - like chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow - is very engaging but never profitable.