Nerds Breed Autism

January 30th, 2006 | researchmaterial

Highly analytical couples, such as scientists, may be more likely to produce children with autism, an expert has argued.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, of the University of Cambridge, said the phenomenon may help explain the recent rise in diagnoses. He believes the genes which make some analytical may also impair their social and communication skills. A weakness in these areas is the key characteristic of autism.

It is thought that around one child in every 100 has a form of autism – the vast majority of those affected are boys. The number of diagnoses seems to be on the increase, but some argue this is simply because of a greater awareness of the condition…


14 Responses to “Nerds Breed Autism”

  1. in other breaking news, the sun will come up tomorrow morning. As one half of a high
    risk couple (PhD is Chemistry and Physics, readers of science fiction, possessors of highly
    useless knowledge, readers of comics) we were half expecting one of our kids to be at least
    on the autistic spectrum. Mild aspergers is somewhere between expected and highly valued
    in research scientists. Not that we are research scientists anymore. We had too many social
    skills and so went into business.

  2. Well, research does suggest that Autism is the most genetically heritable of all known mental disorders. Interestingly enough, original theories earlier in the 20th century thought the correlation occurred due to an assumed deficit in analytical parents’ ability to teach social skills.

  3. We’ve known about this for a while.
    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers_pr.html

    Asperger’s is an interesting case of very mild autism. Often its seen as a general social awkwardness and lack of people-skills.
    Can you say: ‘Classic Geek’?
    So in silicon valley, you end up with these very smart, but socially stunted people, who fit with these folks who are slightly autistic, but are unaware of their problem.
    This genetic deviance becomes normalized, really.
    And suddenly there’s children being born.
    its been interesting.

  4. One of the largest centers for research on Asperger’s is located in Silicon Valley. The area has one of the larges populations of kids with Asbergers. Guess this kind of news just qualifies it a bit more.

  5. Baron-Cohen also has some interesting (and by “interesting”, I mean “spectacularly primitive”) notions about how gender interacts with mind, and thus autism is an extreme expression of what he calls “the male brain”, a theory that relies on notions of gender differences so reductive that they aren’t much better than comparing snips and snails and puppy-dog tails to sugar and spice and everything nice.

    And yeah, this is old news – in the US, the largest concentrations of tech industry have been producing higher numbers of children with autism spectrum disorders for some time.

  6. re: Baron-Cohen
    interesting idea from a metaphorical perspective.

  7. Simon Baron-Cohen is the cousin of Sasha Baron-Cohen, aka AliG!

  8. there’s a ‘Simon Bar Sinister’ joke to be made here…

  9. http://tinyurl.com/75xa5

  10. Indeed, I double-taked reading that, wondering if it was a joke until I saw it was Simon and not Sasha.

    Small world, ’tis…

  11. I remember when everyone who has AssBurger’s now was just tragically maladjusted.

  12. My wife and I had three kids, all boys. Two were nonverbal autistic…never learned to say a word, although smart in other ways. (Can put together huge puzzles, for instance, quicker than I can.) The middle one talked for all three and then some. I know my wife’s pretty bright (although not an academic) and my IQ was above 140 to qualify for a special class I was sent to after taking an IQ test in middle school. (Not bragging; it’s just germane to the discussion.) So there may be something to it….

  13. Out of curiosity, Al, were there any Early Behavioural Intervention programs like TEACCH, IBI, or CBI available in your area?

  14. Yes indeed. We live in Nashville, and my oldest went to Preschool at the Susan Gray Center (associated with Vanderbilt university) as well as having Speech Therapy by the Wilkinson Center. (When speech didn’t work, they went to sign language. It worked with my oldest until he discovered the word for “candy” in sign language. Then, anything he wanted became “candy”.)And Nashville’s public schools have one of the best autism programs in the country—people move INTO our county to take advantage of it, due to the various universities here aiding them. (We won’t move out of the county, though rent would be cheaper at surrounding counties, due to that.)

    Nothing really worked. We did NOT go the facillitation route, because of various reservations we have about that method (which has been since upheld by studies) but they were tested for brain allergies, tried various methodologies, etc. Nothing worked. It’s like two of my kids were communication-blind, the way some people are color-blind or tonedeaf.