Autism 'begins long before birth'

Scientists say they have new evidence that autism begins in the womb.

Patchy changes in the developing brain long before birth may cause symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), research suggests.

The study, in the New England Journal of Medicine, raises hopes that better understanding of the brain may improve the lives of children with autism.

This is the beginning of the article. If this is true, that it is something that develops as the brain develops, then... wow. That changes a lot of things about our understanding of autism.

It may also help explain why, when signs of autism are caught early on, therapy (speech, physical, occupational) can help more than when it's caught later in life.

As I'm sure most of you know by now, 2 of my 4 sons have autism. My older boy, who is 12, was 2 1/2 when he was diagnosed (original diagnosis: PDD-NOS[pervasive developmental disorders - not otherwise specified]. current: Aspergers), while my younger son (PDD-NOS), 11, was 18 months. I had noticed differences (different from "normal") in my younger one from birth, while my older one seemed to develop his differences later.

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My younger son responded better to the various therapies, to the point where, unless you know what you are looking for, he's a "normal", if somewhat quirky, 5th grader. My older son still has problems with eye contact, speaking to people he doesn't know well (it was almost a full month before he could manage to say more than "hi" to his teacher this year), and has some peculiar mannerisms that are off-putting to many people.

I'm wondering now what the precise differences in their brains are vs. what they were. Which areas are the same between the two kids, which are different, which are different from neurotypical kids, etc.