Research triggers fears among autistic rights campaigners


Disabled activists have raised serious concerns about new genetic research which could lead to treatments or cures for autism.

Members of the autistic rights movement fear the research could lead to abortion clinics being seen as a “solution” to autism, as they say has happened with Down’s syndrome.

They spoke out after an international consortium of scientists announced they had discovered new genetic triggers for autism.

Scientists with the Autism Genome Project said their discoveries pointed to “new avenues of scientific investigation, as well as potential targets for the development of novel treatments”.

But Roderick Cobley, chair of the London Autistic Rights Movement, said the widespread media coverage of the research had failed to acknowledge that it was the “economic, social and attitudinal barriers in society that are the true disablers of autistic people, and not their condition in itself”.

Cobley said the research could eventually benefit parents if it was used to give them advance notice of their child’s needs.

But he said that much of the discussion in the media had focused instead on the possibilities for “treating and eliminating autism”.

He said: “We are again being bombarded by references to autism in terms of disease, disorder and suffering.

“Worst of all is the raising of the possibility of genetic testing, and perhaps of pre-natal testing.

“Without in any way prejudicing the rights of women to make their own reproductive choices, the abortion clinic should not be seen by society as the solution for autism, as has happened with Down’s syndrome.”

Cobley called for more funding for research into how to “improve autistic people’s lives in the here and now”, rather than “chasing after miracle cures and treatments”.

And he pointed to research in Canada which found that autism often had advantages as well as disadvantages.

14 June 2010

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