Sudbury family helps in search for autism genes
Researchers hope identification of autism genes will lead to earlier treatment
A Sudbury family is helping researchers at Queen’s University in Kingston in a national study about autism.
Scientists are reviewing the genetics of about 3,000 families to see if there are any genes connected to the condition.
Sudbury resident Trish Kitching and her children — two of whom have autism — have given blood samples as part of the study.
When Kitching started to look into her past, she found a history of some mental illness, so she thought there could be a link to her childrens' disorder and her own genetics.
That’s when she decided to get involved with the autism study.
"A lot of families don’t want to participate for whatever reason, but to me, I think that if they can help the next family," she said.
"There’s no cure for autism. It’s just a matter of finding it, finding maybe the cause, working with it and being able to teach the child at their level."
At her home, Kitching says she has to tie wind chimes to her 11-year-old son Morgan’s door to keep him from escaping the house unexpectedly.
"I beat myself up head to toe," she said. "Guilt, guilt, guilt and I thought 'What the heck did I do wrong?'"
Early diagnosis, early intervention
The study's research is being done by geneticist Xuedong Liu, who said he’s not hoping to find a cure for the condition but, rather, help families integrate their children into society.
"You don’t have to wait for the children to grow to one or two years old," he said.
"Even in the pre-natal stage, you’re able to do the diagnosis with the advance of technology, so the early diagnosis will result in early intervention so we would see the better outcomes."
The goal is to eventually find the autism genes, and that could result in children being diagnosed and treated sooner, he said.
"Especially if you do see the frustrations many families have been having and to deal with their children, especially those autistic children with very severe symptoms," he said.
"So we do believe we needed to do something to help these children to better cope with their daily life."
Liu believes all the genes connected to autism will be identified within the next five years.