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Autism: Nature or Nurture?

Accent Music Therapy


Whether it’s a debate about physical traits, talents or personality, the nature vs nurture arguments will persist with no ultimate victor of the debate. There is no right. There is no wrong. There are only opinions and beliefs. Today, AMT looks at the controversial debate of what causes Austism.

Autism is one of a group of complex developmental problems called Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) that may appear in early childhood (Mayo Clinic). ASD is a neurological disorder that affects a child’s ability to communicate and interact. One in 88 children is affected by Autism (Autism Speaks Canada).

Though statistics on the prevalence of Autism are not readily available, researchers and practitioners agree that the number of ASD diagnoses are increasing. Researchers and scientists speculate that ASD is linked to genetics and/or environmental factors. A recent presentation at the Geneva Centre for Autism International Symposium in Toronto two weeks ago has revitalized discussions.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, University of California Professor of Epidemiology, presented some of her research at the symposium.

Hertz-Picciotto’s 10-year research project entailed following 1,600 Californian families who have autistic children.  One finding of the study showed that mothers of children with Autism were less likely to have taken folic acid in the months before they conceived. “Children whose genes don’t take up folic acid efficiently, and whose mothers didn’t take folic acid at all during early pregnancy, were seven times more likely to have Autism than kids who had good genes and whose mothers took folic acid.” (The Toronto Star).

On the other hand, some believe that Autism is an inherited disorder. Family studies on twins and siblings conclude that the neurological condition could have a genetic predisposition. This viewpoint is supported by the understanding that our DNA codes who we are and what we do.

Accent Music Therapy wants to hear from you. Do you think that Autism is a cause of genetic vulnerability or environmental triggers?

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  4. Jenni Reply

    The most recent thinking in medicine suggests that both approaches are ‘right’. In fact, with any health problem, the answer you get depends on which specialist you ask, and they will all be able to provide valid evidence that links the markers of their specialty (nutrition, genetics, psychosocial etc) to the problem. More controversially, perhaps, it even seems that DNA is not fixed, but can be altered through interaction with other factors. This realisation may not immediately bring us closer to solutions for autism, but it could help us to stop wasting energy on ‘either,or’ debates.

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    • Bill Reply

      Thanks for the interest and for reaching out! – AMT Team

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