This is how a recent grant to study severe autism was sparked.
According to an October, 2013 article in Science Magazine, after severely-autistic children were admitted for 30 days or longer at Spring Harbor Hospital in Maine, the experience of all involved, inspired child psychiatrist Matthew Siegel, to apply for a million dollar grant.
It’s no secret there is limited research on low-functioning autism.
“There’s a big gap in scientific research,” said Siegel, who is leading a research team to study the most severe autism cases.
“What differences are between an autistic child with high IQ who has communication skills and a kid who doesn’t speak at all and has problems with basic functioning, we don’t know…..I’m so hopeful that with this research we can help the kids who need the most help, the [autistic] children we understand the least.”
Research will take about two years and will be conducted at hospitals in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Baltimore, Pittsburg and Colorado.
“…we are trying to determine whether we can define subgroups within the autism spectrum,” said Siegel. Despite differences among autistics on the spectrum, there are some surprising similarities.
Interestingly, high functioning autistic persons can suffer from bouts of severe self-injurious behavior, indicating neurochemical similarities between persons with autism.
Likewise, a high functioning autistic person can have the same type of seizures as a low-functioning autistic person, indicating epilepsy is not an exclusive co-morbid factor in low- functioning autism.
The fact higher functioning autistics with epilepsy may respond more favorably to anti-seizure medication--and thus have better control over seizures—further indicates differences in excitatory and inhibitory circuitry among people on the autism spectrum.
Autistics across the spectrum also share various degrees of auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory hypersensitivity.
What if another difference between a high functioning and low functioning autism is rooted in varying degrees of dopamine, serotonin, GABA, acetylcholine, etc… dysregulation?
Meanwhile, let’s hope and pray that more funding emerges for researchers with a desire to help children and adults with severe autism.
And that Dr. Matthew Siegel and his staff spark more scientific inquiry into helping those with severe autism.