Hello, and welcome to this week’s Community Newsletter! I’m your host, Chelsey B. Coombs, Spectrum’s engagement editor.
Autism Twitter tackled some difficult ethical questions this week around biomarkers and early interventions. The discussion kicked off when Arianna Manzini, a research associate in the ethics of autonomous systems at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, tweeted about her new review.
New @TheJCPP paper out on the #ethics of identifying #neurodevelopmental markers for #autism. Many thanks to my co-authors @EmilyDevNeuro @TonyASDorAFC #MayadaElsabbagh #MarkJohnson and #IlinaSingh???? Open access at https://t.co/5kMD9vdvQV @NEUROSEC_Ox @BristolEthics pic.twitter.com/9C6yPF6fzw
— Arianna Manzini (@Arianna_Manzini) August 21, 2021
After reviewing the current research and analyzing its ethical implications, Manzini and her colleagues considered whether early interventions are as beneficial as many people think.
“If autism ‘symptoms’ are in fact the result of necessary adjustments or responses to an atypical starting state, intervening early on these ‘symptoms’ might have negative implications on other functions they compensate for,” they wrote.
That section resonated with a pseudonymous autistic anesthetist on Twitter — and other autistic people and autism researchers alike.
This paper brought me to tears. Hopeful tears. Hope for our kids, for future generations of autistic people.
“This raises the question whether we should intervene early in the development of autism in the first place,https://t.co/RyBuJtEJjQ
— The Autistic Doctor (@AutisticDoctor) August 23, 2021
Manzini and her colleagues gave various recommendations, including making sure there is dialogue among autistic researchers, ethicists, autistic people and their families and that research into early interventions is cross-disciplinary, integrating methodologies from the humanities and social sciences.
Autism researchers such as Elizabeth Shephard, assistant professor at the University of Nottingham in the U.K., and Sue Fletcher-Watson, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Edinburgh in the U.K., hailed the review as “excellent.”
Excellent new review on ethical aspects of infant sibling longitudinal studies by @TonyASDorAFC @EmilyDevNeuro & colleagues
In-depth considerations of how this work could best be used to help babies and their families with developmental difficulties. https://t.co/2nYx42Bu9Y
— Dr Lizzie Shephard (@lizzieshephard) August 19, 2021
Another excellent piece and one which I hope will be influential.
On the ethics of early autism research. https://t.co/IPJ1m1YjNd
— Sue Fletcher-Watson (@SueReviews) August 19, 2021
The field also remembered autistic autism researcher Dinah Murray on Twitter this week, following up on a tribute in Autism by Wenn B. Lawson, teaching fellow at the University of Birmingham in the U.K.. Murray was a visiting lecturer and tutor at the University of Birmingham, co-founder of the nonprofit Autism & Computing and co-developer of the theory of monotropism, which describes autistic people’s hyperfocus on and draw to restricted interests.
“I hope this letter draws attention to the breadth and depth of Dinah Murray’s transformational work and inspires more autism researchers to take up her legacy,” Lawson wrote.
A number of autism researchers tweeted about the letter and Murray’s contributions to the field.
Really delighted to share this tribute to Dr Dinah Murray
Dinah’s work as a campaigner & innovator is essential
But most important I think is her contribution to autism theory, monotropism.
I hope this helps draw academic attention to her work
— Sue Fletcher-Watson (@SueReviews) August 20, 2021
Thank you @WennLawson for sharing your memories and evoking ours. Dinah was such a force (for good) and always a pleasure to talk with and learn from. Very kind and funny too ????! https://t.co/XRzKD6cw9c
— Tony Charman (@TonyASDorAFC) August 22, 2021
Wenn’s tribute highlights just how far reaching Dinah was and her legacy remains through autism research and beyond.
Read on to hear the reflections from a friend about such a passionate individual who continues to inspire others. https://t.co/6ErwIqnCQ3
— sarah o’brien (@Sarahmarieob) August 20, 2021
Fascinating letter by Dr Wenn Lawson in tribute to his great friend and associate, Dr Murray. I hope that, in years to come, there will be less of ‘Kanner and Asperger’ and more of ‘Murray and Lawson’. @WennLawson https://t.co/3HuKAvqPJF
— Dr Becky Wood ???? (@thewoodbug) August 20, 2021
And finally, we have a great ‘tweet of the week’ from Kristen Bottema-Beutel, associate professor at Boston College in Massachusetts, about leveling up in academia.
Finally feel like a real researcher- just received a peer review telling me I’m misinterpreting research by Bottema-Beutel and colleagues.
— Kristen Bottema-Beutel (@KristenBott) August 23, 2021
Noah Sasson, associate professor of behavioral and brain sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas, gave Bottema-Beutel the perfect response for the reviewer.
“In response to reviewer 2 who claims we misinterpreted research by Bottema-Beutel: I actually spoke with her this morning and it’s clear that we did no such thing. My children, however, did wonder why mommy was talking to herself”.
— Noah Sasson (@Noahsasson) August 23, 2021
Don’t forget to register for our 31 August webinar with Laurent Mottron, professor of psychiatry at the University of Montreal in Canada, who plans to discuss “a radical change in our autism research strategy.”
You can also register now for a 28 September webinar featuring Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who will speak about goals for developing new drugs for autism — and the barriers researchers may encounter.
That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter from Spectrum! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to me at [email protected] See you next week!
Cite this article: https://doi.org/10.53053/AHVD3142