Wednesday, September 06, 2006

In Search of the Cause of Autism: TV? In Search of the Cause of Autism: TV?

Slate article: "In Search of the Cause of Autism" looks into many of the suggested cases of the rise of Autism from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 500 over the last 25 years and discards most of them. It then suggests that maybe the cause is the rise of a lot of TV viewing by kids.

While I don't think that excess TV viewing is the least bit good for kids, I remain unpersuaded. For one thing, autism (and AS) manifests at a fairly young age - most likely too young to have been affected by TV viewing. Also, the biggest growth in the disability has been in such high-tech Meccas as Silicon Valley - where the parents are presumably less likely than average to allow much, if any, TV viewing by their youngest kids. Because of this, it should be fairly easy to test (and most likely disprove) the hypothesis by comparing early childhood TV viewing between communities with high rates of autism and AS, and communities with lower rates of such.

My bet is still on assortive mating, with the increased incidence of these disabilities being the result of two parents with strong "male" systemizing brains meeting at work and marrying, as suggested by Baron-Cohen in his book "The Essential Difference".

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