Tuesday February 17, 2015

Autism study finds no two cases are the same, redefining diagnosis

New Canadian research suggests kids with autism are as unique as snowflakes. Even in families where more than one sibling is autistic, the underlying genetics of the condition can be very different.

New Canadian research suggests kids with autism are as unique as snowflakes. Even in families where more than one sibling is autistic, the underlying genetics of the condition can be very different. (Alexey Kljatov)

Listen 25:00

Autism remains a mysterious condition in many ways... even to those who study it closely. Now some surprising new research from here in Canada may have unlocked new clues by focusing on autistic siblings, who manifest the condition in very different ways. 

'"Thomas is much more active. He's into computers, computer games. More animated. Understands receptive language better. He's better at connecting with people. Whereas Cameron is more laid back. He doesn't understand a whole lot of what you say.' - Valerie South, mother of two boys with autism

Valerie South is the mother of three boys, two of whom have autism. So, as you might imagine, life in her house can be hectic. And yet, she agreed to open the door to The Current's Sonya Buyting one morning last week.

Thomas, 14, is Valerie's youngest son. He was diagnosed with low-functioning, developmentally disabled autism. Cameron, Valerie's middle child, is 20-years-old now and has the same autism diagnosis. But despite that, and their shared biology, Valerie says the boys are strikingly different.

Cameron and Thomas are part of a study run by scientists at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. For the first time, those scientists have analyzed the entire genomes of siblings with autism. It's a groundbreaking new study that confirms what Valerie already knows about Cameron and Thomas -- that no two cases of Autism are exactly the same.

And that has some researchers arguing that it's time to revisit the way we talk about Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Do you have more than one child on the autism spectrum and have thoughts to share on this discussion?

Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Or e-mail us through our website. Find us on Facebook. Call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. And as always if you missed anything on The Current, grab a podcast.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sonya Buyting.