It’s one of the most controversial subjects when it comes to autism, the idea of curing it. And when you look around the internet, the information you can find about the subject is diverse, especially stating everything in both ways possible. As an example, you will find both the answer of autism being incurable, but also that it is curable. Confusing, I know. So, why is this? And what’s the actual answer to the question? Let’s get into it.

For a full explanation of what autism is, you can check my previously written blog post “A Look Into My Life: Autism Spectrum Disorder”. (Some mistakes in this post are still intended to be rewritten soon.) However, what is important to be added to the information shared in this post is that autism is a syndrome. Now, the term “syndrome” is nothing more than a fancy way to state that it is a condition that is characterized by a certain set of symptoms.

In the case of autism, the symptoms that make it a syndrome are seen in language skills, social skills, self-care skills, bowel and bladder control, play skills, motor function, social interaction, communication, and behavior.

However, just because these symptoms are the same, the cause doesn’t have to be. And when looking at the cause of autism, there has been a lot of controversy through the years. A notable example would be the false claims of vaccinations causing autism, which they don’t. It’s a lot of fear-mongering that is commonly used to achieve political purposes.

At this moment in time, there’s actually only 1 recognized way to develop autism, which is through genetic/chromosomal conditions. And I know the response some are about to give, which is that some forms of autism don’t manifest at birth, so ‘clearly’ it is not always genetics…

This is where we get into the subject of childhood disintegrative disorder (CDD), also commonly known as Heller’s syndrome. This is a condition on the autism spectrum that usually doesn’t manifest at birth, but between the ages of 4 and 10. It’s very similar in symptoms to the regular form of autism, with the main differences among people with CDD being more severe sensory problems and severe anxiety, while less severe problems at a cognitive level. There are also claims that people with CDD respond adversely to stimulants, meaning the medication most commonly prescribed to treat ADHD, while autistic people respond positively, but I have to admit that I don’t know enough in this regard to confirm or deny this claim. I decided to add it regardless due to it coming from reputable sources. It’s important to note that childhood disintegrative disorder is a very rare disorder, unlike the other forms on the autism spectrum.

Now, based on the previously stated claims, autism wouldn’t always be genetic and childhood disintegrative disorder could be an example of this, right? Well, actually, no. Childhood disintegrative disorder is confirmed to be caused by genetics, with some of the genetic mutations being also believed to be responsible for also causing regular autism. The reason why is explained by epigenetics.

You might have heard of this before, conditions being caused by environmental factors. And I hear you thinking, you’re about to lay the connection to air pollution and chemicals, so the previous “false claims” are clearly not so false?! Well, this is where many people make huge mistakes. It’s not directly caused by these factors, but they do attribute to whether a condition shows itself or not. The science behind this is known as epigenetics.
Environmental factors go a lot further than just chemicals, as they also would be far more simple things, such as your diet (what you eat and drink), how you develop, what diseases you get, and quite a lot more. Even the simple fact that we age changes things regarding epigenetics. All of these combined impact how your body works. And depending on these factors, conditions are known to change in whether they even show, as well as severity.
As for those vaccine myths, it might be good to realize that not getting vaccinated and you getting a certain disease could lead to epigenetic changes that leave you vulnerable to even more diseases… If you really fear autism that much, you might want to take a moment to become aware of the fact that among the diseases you open yourself up to are several forms of cancer… Also, factually speaking, getting these diseases opens you up to possibly showing autism, as well as it becoming more severe, so at least I know what I would fear more…

In the case of autism, the most notable impact on your epigenetics and the explanation of childhood disintegrative disorder is likely found in an extremely common condition among autistic people, which is melatonin deprivation.

For those who are not aware, disorders on the autism spectrum are very commonly co-morbid with several other conditions. However, it does very much depend on which disorder on the autism spectrum you have, whether a certain condition is known to be co-morbid. For example, the condition of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) very commonly is seen among those on the spectrum with the condition of Asperger’s. However, is rarely seen among those with regular autism and childhood disintegrative disorder. Regardless, sleeping disorders are very common to those on the autism spectrum, with circadian rhythm disorders being especially notable.

There are officially 4 circadian rhythm disorders:

  1. Delayed sleep phase disorder
    The most common of the 4. Those with this condition have a biological rhythm that is always several hours too late based on the living environment. It more commonly affects young people.
  2. Advanced sleep phase disorder
    The second common one of the 4. Those with this condition have a biological rhythm that is always several hours too early based on the living environment. It more commonly affects older people, especially the elderly.
  3. Non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder
    This one is common among blind people. However, this condition is rare among sighted people.
    Those with this condition have a biological rhythm that shifts each day, either forward or backward. The shifts are usually similar in length in that they move. There’s sometimes also seen non-symptomatic period, meaning that there is no movement in the biological rhythm.
    Among sighted people, current evidence would say this condition only manifests in people with mood disorders, (such as bipolar disorder and depression,) brain injury, and neurodevelopmental disorders (such as autism and ADHD).
  4. Irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder
    This one is very rare. Those with this condition don’t have any true biological rhythm. Due to this, their night-time sleep can move forward one day, and backward another day. Usually, people with this condition also have the condition of hypersomnia, which is a condition typified by the excessive need for sleep, which could show in an excessive amount of naps, but doesn’t have to necessarily. In the worst situations, people with ISWRD can sleep 12 hours or more even during the daytime, or sleep less than even an hour during nighttime. Due to this condition being relatively rare, it can be misdiagnosed as either N24SWD or as the fifth unofficial circadian rhythm disorder. This condition exclusively happens with other mental conditions, including autism spectrum disorders.

The fifth unofficial diagnosis is “circadian rhythm disorder NOS”, with the NOS standing for “not otherwise specified”. If you’re diagnosed with this condition, you are among extremely rare cases where there is no certainty which of these 4 conditions you would have. Generally speaking, this happens when you’re affected with irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder, as some somnologists/neurologists don’t wish to diagnose this disorder when there’s no excessive amount of naps. However, it can also be due to getting care in countries where the field of somnology is lacking, as is the case in Ukraine and the Netherlands, to name 2 of the most notable European examples.

Note: At times, jetlag and shift-work disturbances are called circadian rhythm disorders as well. However, a disorder is based on abnormal functioning, either physically or mentally. Jetlag and shift-work disturbances are based on the normal functioning of your body and shouldn't, therefore, be regarded as circadian rhythm disorders at all. There are many psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, and somnologists that don't regard these conditions as such because of it. Hence I don't regard them as such either and didn't list them. 

The reason behind the high prevalence of circadian rhythm disorders and autism spectrum disorders is due to what I said before, the melatonin deficiency which is seen among those on the autism spectrum. When you lack melatonin, you will not be able to sleep at regular times. Sadly, there’s not enough research in this field to conclusively say much about the connection between melatonin deficiency and circadian disorders. However, what is known is that synthetic melatonin, which is commonly available as a supplement worldwide, does generally have a positive effect on those with a combination of an autism spectrum disorder and a circadian rhythm disorder. This is especially interesting while noting that without the combination of these disorders, synthetic melatonin is only known for its placebo effect.
Regardless, changes in both sleep and your biological rhythm, in general, are known to be among the most important epigenetic changes. The worse you sleep, the more likely you are to show genetic conditions and the more severe they become. As hard as it is to hear, it’s something that is backed by science.

The fact that epigenetics is the cause of conditions showing at later ages is actually also proved by several other mental conditions, such as schizophrenia. When it comes to schizophrenia, it only shows in your late teens to early 30s, while the genetic mutations are known. And similar to autism spectrum disorders, you could have the mutations but not show the condition your entire life.

So, let’s take a few steps back to the subject this blog post is about, which is whether curing autism is even possible. As I said, there’s an answer to it and we are getting close to it. And for the last part of it, we will need to look at a genetic condition that we could possibly cure, but we generally choose not to. We’re talking about cystic fibrosis.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic condition, or better to say would even be a genetic disease. It’s one of the conditions I know a lot about due to my eldest son. People with CF have generally a shortened lifespan, caused by the condition affecting most of their bodies. Due to how personal this is, I will use a video for the explanation of the condition, as I know it will impact me too much while attempting to write this out myself:

Now, as I said, it’s actually possible to cure cystic fibrosis based on the current knowledge we have, even though this cure is still regarded as experimental in most countries and depends on some specific factors still. However, the question is whether you would want to cure it. In the case of cystic fibrosis, a cure wouldn’t change how your body has already been affected by the condition. It won’t turn back time and we don’t currently have ways to completely treat the body back to its original state. This would mean you would still experience certain effects of your altered body. The reason why the cure for cystic fibrosis is still being developed regardless is the probability that the cure for cystic fibrosis would extend the lives of people after being cured of cystic fibrosis. It wouldn’t mean a life free of further treatment, but that doesn’t matter for many of the people with this condition, as adding years to their lives is also important. Even more so while noting that about half of the people with cystic fibrosis won’t even become 40 years of age. And that age used to be even lower in the past. It’s truly meaningful to find a cure, regardless of there being massive opposition as well.

Which is where we get to the point of the post.
Is it possible to cure autism? The answer is in fact “maybe”, with it being more likely to be yes than no. However, the greater question behind it is, is whether we should want to. The reality is that this isn’t a condition like cystic fibrosis, in which the condition shows effects on the body. Autism is a mental condition and this causes a lot of problems when it comes to any sort of cure. Even if we could take away the genetic part, we wouldn’t know what happened to the state of the brain. As the reality is, changes to the brain happened when we show the effects of autism. We would basically already be too late by the time we know someone is autistic. Beyond that, we would come into the territory of why we have switched to the name of autism spectrum disorders, which is the belief that Hans Asperger would have sent children to N*** Germany for experimentation… That’s what would happen once more if we would choose to attempt to cure autism. It’s extremely likely we would destroy children mentally in a search for something to cure autism. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be part of that.

Beyond that, there’s also the question of whether autistic people would want this themselves. Being autistic myself, I can understand the hardships of autism. And being a parent of several autistic children, I can even understand how as a parent it hurts to see your children struggle with their condition. But at the same time, I have to admit, I wouldn’t want to cure autism. The reality is that while my children have struggles, they are also really amazing due to it. My children have never bullied anyone as they know how it is to be bullied. My children spent time with the socially unaccepted due to understanding how it is to not be accepted by society. And most important of all, my children show such much care due to their understanding of how it is to struggle and fight to achieve what they want. The reality is that autistic people are among the strongest people in society due to their struggles.

And even then, there’s also how I simply asked my children. I know that this is hard for a lot of parents of autistic children due to the severity of their children’s condition. As I have previously shared, my son Anton is both intellectually disabled and hardly verbal. However, all of them, including Anton, didn’t want their autism to be gone if they had the choice.

To use the words of my son Aleks:
“Autism is like a superpower. I think more logically than others and I do things differently. Because of it, I am able to understand and do things that others can not. Which is not always good. Do I get bullied? Of course, I do, everyone who is seen as different gets bullied. Do I hate school? Of course, I do, as I have trouble with the sound and movement in the classrooms and my mind goes into overdrive if a teacher says anything to me in front of my classmates. There are many hard parts of being autistic. But I also am better at robotics than most others because of my different thinking. I win dance competitions as I am closer to my dance partner than most others as I don’t need many other friends. And my friends like me better because they know what they can expect of me, like being brutally honest even while it is not always nice to hear certain things. I would never let them get hurt by being PC (politically correct). When they need me, I’m there as I don’t have 50 other friends I need to be with. The problem with today’s society is that the weird has become normal, and the normal has become weird. And the worst is that they are not even aware of it. Being autistic is a lot more normal than many suppose. Many of us survived the COVID measures so easily as we didn’t need to adjust, the situation was already normal. And the reality of the COVID measures is that these kinds of things should have been regular already. That’s why I also think parents of children like myself, those who are autistic, should be glad to be blessed with us being autistic. Even when some of us don’t speak, smile or look you in the eyes, we will always love you with our entire hearts for being our amazing parents. And when we are in our own world, we aren’t lonely or sad, we are just doing what is most comfortable for us. Maybe it’s not what is socially acceptable, but it is how we are. The most important thing to us is that we know that you love us. Please, don’t take this away by saying our autism is bad…”