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I asked the moderators to look into this question. Autism is neurotype, like being introverted. Not an illness. Not a disease.

It's likely the anecdotal pattern you're seeing is because, like many minority communities, autistic individuals and families have experienced decades of prejudice, oppression, and misunderstanding. They likely have high ACE scores because of how society treats them poorly for being different.

It's because of what they are that leads to conditions faced that lead to trauma. Trauma doesn't itself "cause" autism and it shows how much society has failed the autism community to have a person even think to ask that.

I highly recommend that your organization, the Upper Great Lakes Family Health Center, bring in a #actuallyautistic trainer to give a presentation on basic Autism 101 facts from the autistic community itself. It's terrifying how little training there is in most social work degree programs. And at least some of that training is deeply controversial within autistic communities themselves.

Maybe you also just phrased this question poorly, but even joking or hedging with a "maybe" about the vaccine myth is poor form. 

In regards to the first comment. UGL has not hosted such a training, but there was one in the community a few years ago that I went to. The speaker who identified as having Aspergers was very informative. One memorable exercise: He had volunteers pair up and look into each others eyes for a minute or two. It was hard to not laugh. The older lady I was paired up said it made her want to give me a kiss. She didn't. I can see it would be way too intimate for some people to look another person in the eye.

In regards to the second comment, the parents don't have autism, thier young children do. I'm wondering whether epigenitically transferred trauma can increase the likelyhood of a child having ASD.

It's incredibly hard, essentially impossible, to prove biological causality for anything we label as a mental condition or experience. Here's an article that, in my mind, correctly questions the limits of attempting to make a hypothesis such as epigenetic inheritance.

Whether intended or not, this post feels like it's implying autism is unwanted. That might be reading my own bias into it, but it nonetheless raises the concern in my mind. And, as a mental health professional, it's important to develop safe space and actively work to normalize and de-stigmatize differing mental experiences whenever possible.

Also, while the cause of eye-gazing discomfort for you was intimacy, that doesn't make it the clear generalized cause of discomfort for everyone. It can and should be enough to believe others when their preferences and discomforts don't match our own, even if it's hard to relate. Glad you gained something from the exercise, and I still recommend that UGL host continuing education training from lived experience trainers (budget and time permitting and we all know social services don't have much access to either of those).

Here's the article with some extracts highlighted...

Excerpt 1
"These are, in fact, extraordinary claims, and they are being advanced on less than ordinary evidence,” said Kevin Mitchell, an associate professor of genetics and neurology at Trinity College, Dublin. β€œThis is a malady in modern science: the more extraordinary and sensational and apparently revolutionary the claim, the lower the bar for the evidence on which it is based, when the opposite should be true.”

Excerpt 2
The critics are far from persuaded. β€œIt’s all very nice work, and yes, there are changes in the testicular cells,” said John M. Greally, a professor of genetics, medicine, and pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. β€œBut as usual, the story that’s often told is overblown relative to the results, and too much causality is claimed.”

And this debate concerns only the animal research. The human studies thus far are much less persuasive, most experts agree, and have identified no plausible mechanism for epigenetic transmission. Some of the studies have focused not on small RNAs but on an altogether different chemical signature, called cytosine methylation, that could very well be added after conception, not before, Dr. Rando said.

The idea that we carry some biological trace of our ancestors’ pain has a strong emotional appeal. It resonates with the feelings that arise when one views images of famine, war or slavery. And it seems to buttress psychodynamic narratives about trauma, and how its legacy can reverberate through families and down the ages. But for now, and for many scientists, the research in epigenetics falls well short of demonstrating that past human cruelties affect our physiology today, in any predictable or consistent way.

Article Link's%20no%20mutation.

Additionally, practices good data analysis skills, the data you have in "my clients with high ACE scores have kids with Autism compared to my more privileged relatives and acquaintances" is only children identified/diagnosed, and we know from the autism community that non-diagnosis or late self-identification of autism is extremely common.

There other issues, like under-diagnosis of autism by gender. So there's good reason to not fully trust data on autism counts, even from non-anecdotal sources.

Put another way, the autistic identifications you "know of" might not be an accurate reflection of the actual count of the individuals involved. It might, it might not, and it's important to know that serious questions exist around such topics.

This occurs all the time in mental health. There's issues with over-diagnosis of borderline personality disorder in women due to misogyny. There's conceptual issues with diagnosis as a concept unto itself.

I stand by what I said. An important an extremely under-utilized source of knowledge in the lived experience on the individuals themselves. If you want to learn more about autism and autism parenting, consider looking at such sources as...

Neuroclastic Resources for Parents

Our Neurodivergent Life (blog and community discussing autism parenting)

And dozens more of other such resources from the #actuallyautism community. Stop reading just the textbooks, start engaging with the community itself. Help empower the community to rewrite the textbooks.

I do think there's room to pose a question such as, do ACEs in parents lead to developmental trauma disorder or other complex trauma expressions that overlap with behaviors that would also be associated with autism?  I know from raising a daughter (now young adult) who came from a very traumatized early beginning (significant neglect, malnutrition and abuse) that her behaviors have often been accredited to autism, but she's rarely met diagnostic criteria.  Yet she has ongoing developmental challenges that do fit DTD.  She actually identifies as both right now and asks professionals if she can have both (and gets a wide variety of answers).  She often tells people she has autism simply because that's more widely understood as a neurodiversity than developmental trauma.  But she does speak very passionately about how her early traumas have impacted her and what has helped to build her resilience.

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