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Special Note: Please note that this scenario is meant to be read as entertainment, not as an accurate prediction of the future. Also note that the viewpoints and opinions that may come across in this scenario are not necessarily the viewpoints and opinions of the author.
There is some speculation that nanorobotics could lead to a cure for autism by the year 2023 when governments and the private sector (mainly Google) will pump in funding into autism research in order to reduce unemployment rates amongst skilled workers. Dr. Scherer and his team recently discovered a link between the behavior of certain sets of genes and developmental problems that mirror what they’ve seen in autism. With “large-scale genome sequencing,” researchers hope to come closer to a cure. This $50 million project could change how illnesses are approached in this century. A genome contains almost 25,000 genes. That’s a wealth of information to decode, but it comes at a cost—of space, each genome taking up “about 100 gigabytes of storage.”
Once people using the Google cloud network find out what's causing autism, genes could be suppressed and working copies could be inserted into the patient's cells. There are several major practical issues. There is the risk of the body experiencing an autoimmune response and rejecting the "new" cells if only some were altered. After admitting to doping up athletes like A-Rod full of steroids, the Bio Genesis Research Institute begins researching a cure for autism with the help of doctors in Lucerne, Switzerland sometime in February 2016. A prototype autism cure will appear before the "safe" cure. However, this "dangerous" cure has a 50% chance of killing the autistic person taking the cure and cost over 9000 Euro on the black market. The "safe cure" will come in the year 2023 after the scientists and doctors have had a chance to perfect the process. Threats to make it illegal forces non-profit organizations to boost funding for the safety of the autism cure.
Curing the Autistic Individual
Furthermore, identifying the genes responsible for autism is not easy. While many genes have been identified which are associated with autism, there have been many examples of such genes being identified in the past for other charecteristics which have turned out to just be coincidentally present in the population. No causal link has yet been proven between autism and any specific gene.
Additionally, it is likely that autism is not caused by a single, simple gene. Rather, it is likely to be caused by several genes working in tandem, or epigenetic factors, or both of those. There may be several different genetic causes of autism.
In the event that a relatively straightforward genetic cause for autism is identified, fixing it may not be as simple as fixing the DNA in the patient's cells, even if that in itself was not an immensly complicated and risky procedure. The genetic differences may have caused neurological differences before birth, and the autistic individual will have lived with this alternative neurological configuration. The autistic person will also have a lifetime of experience of living as an autistic person. Changing the DNA may not change their neurological make-up to that of a neurotypical immediately, let alone their behaviours. If the neurological changes happen gradually, improperly or incompletely, then this could cause profound difficulties for the patient. The procedure would be immensly risky.
Consequently, a cure for autism is very much in the realm of science fiction. Any claims made about the imminent arrival of a cure are highly speculative and should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
It is more realistic to expect that, in the event of a genetic test for autism being successfully developed, it will be used pre-natally and mothers will consider using abortion on their unborn autistic fetuses. Parallels can here be drawn with Down Syndrome and Fragile X. In both cases, a genetic cause has been identified, and particularly with Down syndrome and prenatal screening is widely practised.
Life after autism
Adults who have been cured of their autism will be able to learn how to do things easily and more well that other people thought it was hard for them to do. They will be able easily cook their own meals and learn them faster, work with other adults in a more social way, and other useful or not useful things.
The "formerly autistic people" will spend more time with their friends and less time with their family. Their parents will accept this without the ever-constant threat of sending their former dependents to a group home. Once the autistic adult is cured of his or her autism, all of this could be taught to the formerly autistic adult at the same pace as a normal person (like if he or she was never autistic in the first place), whether is makes it slower or faster. The "formerly autistic" people will be able to go to loud nightclubs and sports arenas and their social life will no longer suffer.
In the end, nearly all of the world's autistic population will be successfully cured and integrated into a healthy independent lifestyle. Never again would they need a legal guardian or a disability pension to avoid ending up in a group home, hospital, or institution. Some of the factors of autism were also non-genetic; carbonated soft drinks in addition to junk food, sugary breakfast foods and cable television were to blame from time to time.
How governments will adapt to a country without autism
Governments will have to adapt to this massive demographic change (there are 70,000 autistic children and 880,000 autistic adults in the Canadian province of Ontario alone) and provide free re-educational programs to help the "formerly autistic" adjust to society's expectations for them. As of 2014, 1 in 94 children are diagnosed with autism; limiting their influence in corporate, political, vocational, medical and personal affairs. All means of curing autism are almost as speculative as letting autistic people serve in political office, serve in jury duty, become special education teachers and serve in all aspects of the military.
Acute labor shortages faced starting in the "Roaring 2020s" will slowly vanish as autistic people with high levels of vocational and life skills knowledge are "conscripted" into the mainstream workforce; being able to afford the same "status symbols" as their parents due to the frequent raises in pay that employees get from the government and/or their employers. Once the formerly autistic people have jobs, they can acquire driver's licenses, credit cards and own their own vehicle easier than if they were stuck with a monthly disability pension. By 2030, most vehicles (autonomous vehicles, semi-autonomous vehicles and conventional vehicles) will run on either hydrogen, electric fuels, biofuels, ethanol or a combination of all three.
Special education classes would be filled mostly with people with Fragile X and Down Syndrome; as nanotechnology is unable to properly cure these birth defects. Famous people who have either autism and Aspergers syndrome may not lose their current level of fame after becoming neurotypical. It depends on what they do for a living.
The fate of group homes
Group homes will eventually become obsolete like the mental hospitals they have replaced during the 1970s; those places were like concentration camps for low-functioning autistic people combining elements of the Apartheid of South Africa and the Holocaust of the Second World War era. People in group homes were isolated and marginalized from the general population. Government propaganda laced in their special education classes and through social workers have discouraged them from getting married and becoming parents in the past; forcing them to rely on parents or the group home for support. During the Great Recession, doctor shortages and funding shortages have turned high-functioning autistic people into second-class citizens.
In the event of a cure for autism being developed, government-formed organizations will develop a mandate to help those people who used to be severely autistic to find independent housing (after years and even decades of being locked up in a "house"), employment (as they will automatically be cut off from their disability pension), and counselling (for those who were sexually abused in group homes). Eventually, the government will force the group homes to be cleared of their "formerly autistic" residents through the rule of progressive law. If society goes post-capitalist and re-introduces cheap education for all, then the formerly autistic people could be top priority for post-secondary education; particulary for training in nanotechnology.
A housing market slump, however, may force the newly neurotypical people to seek open-concept marriages in the hope of getting into a normal housing scenario. No social safety network is currently in place to get these people out of the group homes. However, a network similar in function to the 19th century Underground Railroad could be set up if the government refuses to help people who become neurotypical.
- Common Sense Approach to Autism/Finding a Non-Invasive Cure for Autism
- Cutting Synapses to Cure Autism
- Autism Cause Identification Gives Rise to Potential Cure (Video)