The Autism Knowledge Revolution is taking shape before our eyes on the inter-net with reports on a regular basis of new breakthroughs in autism research. At the University of Minnesota it is hoped that a new autism research center will be accompanied by a paradigm shift in how autism is viewed. In an opinion article, TwinCities.com reviews the shift from Bettelheim's"refrigerator mom" theory which viewed autism as arising from personal interaction, or lack thereof, between mother and infant child to a genetic model which viewed autism as irreversible with the only viable treatment being behavior therapy promising only the possibility of limited improvements. The new paradigm views autism as both preventable and treatable by a combination of behavioral and biomedical approaches and autistic children as recoverable:
Autism research is poised for another paradigm shift, from an irreversible condition to a treatable disease. In the revolutionary paradigm, autism is not a rare disorder with a constant rate but frequent condition with a rising incidence. It is a combination of environmental influence and genetic vulnerabilities. It is both preventable and treatable, not by any one method but by a combination of behavioral and biomedical approaches. Autistic kids are not defective, they are sick but otherwise normal kids, and thus, recoverable.
Creating a premier center for effective treatment of autism is not as simple as adding a new wing on a hospital, purchasing the latest medical technology or creating another diagnostic center.
What is needed is a revolutionary clinical effort premised on the paradigm that autism may well be a treatable and preventable disease.
I believe the University of Minnesota's proposed paradigm shift is in fact amongst the forefront of a shift that is already taking place in the Autism Knowledge Revolution; one that is happening in front of our eyes. With the inter-net's ability to make scientific research quickly and readily available and understandable by the unwashed masses, and with parents' desperately seeking to help their autistic children, all eyes will be upon the University of Minnesota and other research centers that have embraced the paradigm shift. Of course there will be those who will cling to older paradigms, including some high functioning autistic persons, some parents who have surrendered to the sweet appeal of defeat dressed as acceptance, and researchers who simply will not be able to let go of old paradigms which have served as the foundations on which their careers have been built.