The Autistic Journalist

Using words to explain the mind

A “yes or no” question

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If British doctors successfully develop a test to detect autism, then the questions about getting the condition would be reduced to a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

Like a pregnancy test, the test would detect the condition from a few drops of urine. The urine test would speed up diagnosis of the condition by removing psychological visits that are currently used to determine if someone is autistic. The test is based on research showing autistic people with different bacteria in their guts than other people. Depending on the success of test trials, the urine test could be widely available by 2015.

Of course, diagnosing autism wouldn’t only become faster, but more accurate. Many issues surrounding autism now, including its causes, are fueled by the lack of an objective way to detect the condition. Assuming that autistic children retain the different bacterial “fingerprint” as they become adults, the urine test could also put a hard number on just how many people are autistic. How diagnosis rates would be affected are unclear, but the test could halt the alarmist hyping of increasing diagnosis rates in mainstream media (1 in 110 for the United States, more than 1 in 100 for Great Britain).

The test would also remove the “gray area” with people who believe they’re autistic, but only possess certain traits of the condition and not enough to make a confident diagnosis.

At this point, I can’t see a risk of an adverse reaction from the public on the urine test. All the test will do is determine if someone is on the spectrum or not, it doesn’t pinpoint a cause for the condition. If we do see the test hitting the market, I doubt we’d see less furor from vaccine skeptics since children are given their first shot almost immediately after birth. Instead of claiming that children developmentally regressed after taking a vaccine, skeptics could claim that a child’s bacterial makeup was normal until a shot was administered. However, there would be no reason for skeptics to refuse a urine test since nothing will be placed inside a child’s body.

What may be limiting coverage of a potential breakthrough is the nature of tests and studies themselves. Developing new technologies is a time-consuming process, which doesn’t fit well in regards to the speed of developed societies. Speaking of speed, the urine test won’t be available to the public for at least five years. While we all say five years go by quickly when the time period is complete, it’s a very long time in communities where instant gratification is demanded and people get upset if problems aren’t fixed instantly (the current political mood is shaped by this mentality. Politics not your thing? Look at head coaches in sports who get called for removal when they barely get time to implement their style). Newscasts won’t likely lead with a story that could take more than five years to develop.

Even if progress goes at a snail’s pace, it’s the first sign that many people in the autism community have been looking for over the last few years. No longer would people have to wait for a child to lose developmental milestones before action is taken to help a child adapt. Quicker intervention is a tactic I’m sure no one would have a problem with.

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Written by TheSportsBrain

June 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

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