- By JULIO MORALES, Staff Writer, Copy Editor
- Imperial Valley Press, April 27, 2012
CALEXICO – A large crowd of parents, educators and medical professionals turned up to hear one of the nation’s leading authorities on autism research speak about the latest developments and challenges involved with understanding the illness.
The highly technical presentation by Dr. David Amaral of theUniversity of California, DavisMind Institute delved into some of the intensive treatment and prevention research being conducted by the institute.
While sharing some of the more favorable findings that researches have discovered in regards to identifying a possible environmental cause of autism, a noticeable excitement could be observed in both the crowd and Amaral.
“If I could eliminate 10 to 12 percent of autism cases I could die a happy man,” Amaral said, referring to recent breakthroughs examining the association between antibodies found in some women that then may pass onto the fetus during pregnancy.
His presentation, titled “Solving the Puzzle of Autism” and held at San Diego State University-Imperial Valley Campus, also chronicled how initial medical hypotheses that tried to explain the phenomenon of autism were ejected in the face of subsequent research.
Gone are the days when autism was viewed as solely having its origins in the mother. Soon, medical professionals will also cast away the different medical terms – such as Asperger’s syndrome -- used to describe various types found within the autism spectrum, Amaral said.
Amaral also shared how his own views of the disease have shifted over the year as both research and interaction with autistic people and family members compelled him to rethink prior beliefs.
Finding a cure for autism also presents some quandaries as much of the “essence” of an autistic person may disappear in the absence of the disease, Amaral said.
“(A cure) may take away some of the bad things as much as some of the good things,” he said.
The idea that a potential cure could deny autistic children of some of the personality traits that have so endeared them to their parents was thought provoking, said El Centro resident Claudia Salazar.
As a parent of an autistic child, said she said she would prefer autism treatment and prevention improve a child’s social shortcomings.
Hearing about the time and resources being made in the search for better treatment and prevention methods also filled her with a sense of “hope,” she said.
After the more than hour-long presentation wrapped up, Amaral fielded many questions from the audience. In response to a question about the incidence rate of parental abuse of autistic children, Amaral said data suggests autistic individuals encounter more harassment from peers and society in general.
Autism is estimated to affect 1 in every 88 births in the United States, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control. It is also more prevalent in boys, where it is expected to affect 1 in every 54 births, Amaral said.
“It is a national emergency,” he said.