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Googling Autism

Do you know someone who’s autistic?

Chances are that you do.

One out of every sixty-eight Americans is on the autistic spectrum.

It’s true that a general understanding of the spectrum has only very recently hit mainstream awareness.

However, I think that it’s safe to say that some of our most famous artists and scientists of the past few centuries… known for their “eccentric” habits and socially-awkward behavior, as much as for their brilliance and unique genius… probably fell somewhere on the spectrum.

What is Autism?

Autism itself is still a mystery.

Until about a decade ago, most people considered autism a disease.

That prejudice is slowly changing but the origins and causes of “autism spectrum disorders” (autism’s official designation) are still unknown.

Now, Google has teamed up with Autism Speaks, founded by Bob Wright, a former executive with GE and NBC.

Google is making a database of genetic information on autistic people, collected by researchers around the world.

The hope is that understanding more about the biology of autism will greatly help autistic people – and those who love and care for them.

Not a Disease

Julie Bort, writing for Business Insider, notes:

Autism Speaks speaks says that 1 out of 68 people in the U.S. are affected with autism spectrum disorders, with boys more frequently diagnosed, 1 out of 42. Not everyone “on the spectrum” suffers from some of the developmental problems associated with autism, nor views autism as something that needs to be “cured.”

This is a very interesting point.

What difference would it make if autism was determined to be simply a biological condition as opposed to a neurological disease?

It seems to me that one result would be that our definition of “normal,” with regards to perception and behavior, would have to be expanded.

We would have to expect a wider variety of responses in our exchanges with people.

We might even have to become more open-minded and compassionate!

The Bottom Line

From a life insurance point of view, my initial reaction is that – as always – mortality is the bottom line.

What does the actuarial data say about the average lifespan of somebody with a specific biological condition or a specific neurological disease?

Then we could determine what price would be merited.