More and more autistic people are against taking part in genetic studies; there are fears that this type of research will lead to eradication of the condition by allowing termination of pregnancy through detection of potentially autistic babies, for example. Instead, according to Simon Baron-Cohen, autistic people should be accepted and valorised for their neurological differences.

However, this is a misunderstanding. Genetic research can be essential for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with eugenics.

The importance of genetic studies

Research has shown that autism has a strongly genetic component. A better understanding of which genes contribute to autism could both enrich human knowledge in general and allow early detection of autism, giving parents the choice of early intervention for symptoms that cause disability or distress.

In addition to this, early detection could enable better early support for those who could be affected by mental health issues in the future.

Autistic people have a special mix of strengths and challenges. Our aim, as clinicians as well as scientists, is to make the world a more comfortable place for autistic (and all) people to live in.

– Simon Baron-Cohen.

Unfortunately, more and more autistic people today are now refusing to take part in genetics studies, and the risk we are facing is clear – if genetic research is equated to a eugenics agenda, valuable progress in terms of understanding the condition and providing support could slow down.

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