Culture shocking Autism

I never really knew much about Autism, and I still don’t think I know a lot about it as of now (even though you guys did a really good job on presenting the disorder!). From everything that was presented on Autism on Wednesday, I found myself wondering why there wasn’t any real ties to culture, so I decided to do a little research on this in addition to talking to Hannah B. about it, and apparently culture doesn’t play a big role in the development of the disorder. However when I did do a little research into the subject, I found this paper on family coping and well being and social support of parents with children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It suggests that perhaps autism is influenced by culture in development in terms of how people cope with and support the child with autism throughout their life, and how they are treated as people, as a result of their cultural settings around them.

This paper by Ling-Yi et al. (2010) is titled “Families of adolescents and adults with autism spectrum disorders in taiwan: The role of social support and coping in family adaptation and maternal well-being”. It did a comparison between parents with ASD children between Taiwan and the U.S. which found that Taiwanese mother’s used problem-focused and emotion-focused strategies when dealing with their children than U.S. families, which correlated with lower levels of stress and anxiety in the mother’s of ASD children. However, they also found that in Taiwanese families that had high levels of emotional focus, their families were less cohesive and there was more maternal depression. Both of these focuses influenced the progress of the Autistic children. A cure for autism has not been found, however there are many intervention-like programs and summer camps that deal with facilitating children with Autism and helping them to cope with their disorder to try and live a normal of a life as possible. I think this is definitely a cultural influence, a long with raising awareness, as the prevalence of the disorder has risen drastically in the last 20 years. I think it’s important for us to be able to recognize symptoms of Autism, and to know how to treat people with it, as I am sure we are to come across many people with Autism in the near future if the rate continues to rise.

On a completely different note, as I was looking for a connection between culture and Autism, I found this article that reviewed a whole bunch of other articles suggesting that a gluten/casein free diet could be used as a treatment in ASDs. What they concluded was that in fact there is not enough empirical evidence to actually suggest this as a treatment for Autism, but I just thought it was interesting that there were at least 15 articles (the ones they reviewed) that would suggest that something as simple as a child’s diet could potentially be used as a treatment for Autism. I guess it’s worth looking at, but I personally think that something that is so heavily based as a neurological disorder may need more than a dietary change.

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4 thoughts on “Culture shocking Autism

  1. Tasha,
    What we did not really get into during our talk was how diet is regulated for children with autism. Take for example, choline, we understand that choline is important to have in your diet because it is used to make acetylcholine. In early neural development having choline, as we know from Melissa’s research, has myriad beneficial outcomes. After development acetylcholine is used by the body among other things as an excitatory signal. To turn back to autism, glutamate as we know is an excitatory neurotransmitter. A characteristic of children with autism is that they suffer from seizures, stereotypy behaviors, aggressive self injurious behavior that are linked to excess glutamate. Autistic children appear to be sensitive to certain foods like MSG which is a glutamic acid.
    So treatment of autism or more accurately to treat certain symptoms is to carefully monitor the intake of certain food and avoid glutamic rich foods. Think about diabetics and insulin and how they must monitor their blood sugar level and the food they eat.

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  2. Natasha thanks for sharing this article about cultural influences. I always find culture to be such an interesting contributing factor, because we can learn so much from it! If you are interested in the topic you should look of Unstrange Minds. Its a book that presents a lot of information about the possible cultural impact and how it could be contributing to the rise in diagnosis. Take a look!

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  3. I just wrote about autism interventions/treatments for a final paper, and there are some (in my opinion!) crazy ideas out there… I read about the gluten free/casein free diet as well, and it along with many of the other interventions are mostly recommended in conjunction with another more behaviorally-focused intervention. As in, some alternative treatments help children focus better, so they can make better progress on other behavioral interventions. Neurofeedback is a cool new thing they’re trying- kids learn to recognize when their beta waves are too frequent (they learn to detect it apparently?) and can thus become far less anxious and more relaxed, leading to better results with other interventions. why don’t they teach everyone this skill?!

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  4. Has anyone ever read the Curious Case of the Dog in the Nighttime? I would suggest reading it. It centers around a man with autism, and it really sheds light on this issue i think.

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