Why does autism spectrum disorder affect everyone to such varying degrees?



I know there’s a lot we just don’t know about ASD and that this is likely one of those things. It’s that’s true, what are some the theories for this?

In: Biology

In the same way that multiple genetic and environmental factors interacting with each other results in people growing to wildly varying heights, autism is also determined by multiple genetic and environmental factors, thus resulting in wide degree of variability.

It’s just not so simple as yes/no, black/white, on/off.

Most things exist along such a spectrum. Some people are profoundly bad at playing tennis, and some people are extremely good at it. Humans are not all alike, they are all unique with many independent characteristics.

There is a growing field of what experts call “neurodiversity” and the basic hypothesis is that everyone’s brains work differently and that all individuals exist on a spectrum of social and cognitive comforts and abilities. So it’s less that people “have autism” like a specific illness, but rather that all individuals have various qualities and that we term people that fall within the norm “neuronormative” and people that fall outside of that norm “autistic”. So autism isn’t defined by the positive possesion of a specific set of traits, but rather defined as a negative possession, or lack, of certain traits. Since those traits are really broad, there is a really broad definition of autism.

Note – this isn’t, like, a true medical/psychological science (yet) but rather more of a social movement to change our collective view of neurodiverse individuals. The point being that autism is only a “disability” when viewed from the narrow lens of our neuronormative oriented culture. If we are able to change our cultural flexibility to allow better integration people of across the neurodiversity spectrum, the “disability” will disappear.

Autism and related brain functions are basically having the brain “wired” differently to what are regarded as neurotypical people. Since each individual still has their own unique brain they will react to this difference in wiring in different ways and as they grow up and develop those difference may become more pronounced. https://youtu.be/iSJ9tEzgoPg

It seems like brain disorders such as epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar are related to an imbalance between excitatory or inhibitory neurons. Basically things are overexcited and there is a deficiency in the checks and balances to that excitement. The kids just got into the sugar bag and the babysitter went outside to talk on the phone to her boyfriend.

This is a neat read regarding the impact of transcription factor NPAS4, which controls the expression of 270 genes which may help control inhibitory neuronal connections:
[‘Master switch’ molecule keeps overexcited brain in check](https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.spectrumnews.org/news/master-switch-molecule-keeps-overexcited-brain-in-check/amp)

Because it’s not really one disorder, it’s lots of different disorders that share a few similarities and that are individually very difficult to determine a cause of. The term is rooted in the work of a Nazi paediatrician – Asperger – who decided that all of these disorders should be grouped together under the term “autistic psychopathy”. Had this guy not existed, it’s quite likely that we would not have “autism spectrum disorder” in the general manual of psychological diagnoses, but several different disorders instead. Scientists are not infallible, especially not psychologists who work in an incredibly subjective field, and it’s very common for incorrect work done in the past to misinform work done in the present. People approach autism expecting it to behave like one disorder with a scale of intensities, and so they publish their own research with that assumption too even though it hinders the usefulness of their work.

Brain function isn’t a have it/don’t have it thing – it’s a whole bunch of scales. Imagine god existed and had a Skyrim-like character-creation program he used to craft every new human. You’ve got a skin colour scale, a height scale, a hair colour and eye colour scale and so on. But you’ve also got scales for brain function, like lack of cognitive empathy, lack of executive functioning, memory strength, attention to detail and all sorts of other things. Each scale can be adjusted individually. “Autism” is kind of like adding up the number of points you have in each of those scales and then saying “if you have more than 100 points in total you’re autistic”. That has a lot of leeway though. One person might have 50 points in cognitive empathy and 50 points in executive functioning and 0 points everywhere else, whereas another might have 0 points in cognitive empathy and 0 points in executive functioning but a lot of points in several other scales, and another might have 20 points across the board. You can also go well above 100: someone with 300 points is still classed as autistic but has a lot worse problems than someone with 100 points. Anything sufficiently abnormal in a wide range of mental skills is classed as autistic, but this means a huge degree of diversity in what classes as autistic because you can be abnormal in a lot of different ways. Frankly, the diagnosis is most useful as a means of accessing medical services and accommodations within society. Its use as a diagnosis is rather limited outside the social services society has deemed applicable to the diagnosis.

The different doctors and specialists who explained it to me stated that autism is actually a genetic issue (cause currently undetermined) with damage to the same gene as for fetal alcohol syndrome for one part of the gene, Tourette’s disorder to another part of the gene and autism to the third part of the gene. Since fetal alcohol syndrome has been definitively proven to have been caused by alcohol ingestion by the mother while pregnant, they theorize that both Tourette’s and autism may have some chemical source having been ingested by the mother during pregnancy also even though those chemicals theorized have not yet been determined. One theory being currently researched is the ingestion of corn syrup in some form or another during pregnancy since there seems to be a correlation between such ingestion and a higher rate of autism in the children whose mothers ingested corn syrup such as in baked goods or other sweeteners. Severity of autism is greatly variable depending on the individual.

The Wisconsin Early Autism Program (WEAP) uses several criteria in diagnosing young children and test such things as speech, repetitive behaviors (such as rocking and spinning), hyperactivity, distractibility, and several others.

The school systems use interventions in schools for autistic children who are often developmentally delayed, especially in emotional and social skills. These early interventions have lessened the severity of the handicap in many of the students.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is an umbrella term, that’s why there’s a spectrum in there.

It refers to the brain infrastructure being “neurodivergent” due to a host of natural causes (but not an unusual amount of chromosomes or neuron damage), if nerve cells get damaged due to outside influences, it tends to count as different mental conditions not associated with autism.