Blaming Older Fathers for the "Autism Surge" Is Off the Mark

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MaxDavie also urges similar caution in choosing takeaways from "Fathers' Age Responsible for Autism" articles:

The authors want to explain this by saying that the increase in spontaneous mutations could be causing a rise in autism. And such an explanation is consistent with the data, as well as offering a neat way of explaining some of the rise in autism diagnoses.

However, that would be to fall once again into the 'correlation equals causation' trap. Maybe the excess of spontaneous mutations is not causative, but is just a marker of the fact that dads of autistic children tend to be older.

I have two further issues with most articles on this study: targeting genetics and inheritance implies that parents are at fault for causing their children's autism; this focus on causation implies that we want to know autism's cause so we can cure it. Both outlooks stigmatize autism and autistic people like my son.

Yet most readers don't think twice about seeing autism represented in a continuously negative light, because our society and prominent autism organizations condition us to think of autistics as problems rather than people. And our urge is to fix problems, to get to their root and stop them before they become problems, ideally. It's dehumanizing.

It is true that autistic people often need support -- my son needs 1:1 support, all day, every day. This is why I stand behind autism research, especially into understanding makes autistic people tick, so that supports can be better tailored to actual rather than externally-imposed needs. But I resent the perpetual focus on autism cures and causation. There are very few identified causes of autism; the majority of autistic people are here because that's the way the genetic dice rolled. If you choose to be a parent, you need to understand that your child may be autistic. It's time to accept those odds, and your children.

(For the record, Leo was born shortly after his dad turned 31.)

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Shannon Des Roches Rosa grumps about how autism is portrayed by the mainstream media at ThinkingAutismGuide.com, BlogHer.com, and Squidalicious.com.

Background concept of a statistics trend photo by Shutterstock.

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