How long do autistic people live? The question is difficult to answer for any population. Autism is not classified as a medical condition and it is not completely debilitating. The condition is not life threatening but some circumstances may potentially have a bearing on longevity.
Neurology Versus Physiology
Conditions like autism should not be confused with conditions that are medical in nature. The neurological differences in the autistic brain do not necessarily have an influence on life expectancy. In addition, no scientific studies explore longevity in autistic individuals to date.
Physical Components of Autism
People diagnosed on the autism spectrum do not have obvious physical characteristics, other than large eyes. The eyes are windows into the brain, making this physical distinction one of great importance for understanding the autism spectrum of disorders. The brain of a person with autism functions differently but this seems to have no physical effects on the body.
Neurological Components of Autism
In spite of the recent hype about autism as an over-diagnosed sham, as evidenced by the Michael Savage autism comments there are significant differences in the autistic brain that are not found in neurotypical individuals. These differences are measurable and quite real even though they are not physically apparent.
- Heightened activity in the amygdale found in autistic adults may interfere with the individual's ability to make appropriate social connections with others. The amygdale has specific functions, namely the "fight or flight response" among others:
- Face recognition
- Interpreting emotional states
- Social information
- Evaluating situations
The increased activity in this region of the brain may explain some of the difficulties an individual with autism has with proper social interaction as well as an overwhelming intolerance for changes in routine as well as transitions. The inability to process situational experiences effectively can lead to extreme anxiety and tantrums.Other evidence of difference in the amygdale are apparent in studies by the M.I.N.D. Institute at the University of California.
Brain ImpairmentsBrain research in autism has uncovered other significant differences in mental processing that lead to the unusual behaviors often exhibited by autistic individuals. Research has found faulty brain connections and brain overgrowth in infants. None of these factors have a bearing on life expectancy.
How Long Do Autistic People Live
How long do autistic people live? For now, the answer is the same as it is for any neurotypical individual. Autism is not classified a disease or an illness that directly interferes with a person's health. However, it is present throughout the individual's lifetime. Health problems associated with autism are currently under investigation.
Some assert that autism may derive from an autoimmune problem that stems from environmental factors. Theories include:
- Opioid excess theory suggests that the condition is a biochemical condition that affects the brain. Many individuals embrace [[GFCF Diet for Autism|casein and gluten-free diets] to reduce opiates in the system.
- Leaky gut is another theory that connects autism with immune and digestive problems. This theory is commonly associated with the controversial theory that autism is caused by vaccines.
Problems with immune systems can interfere with an individual's overall health but the theories have yet to be supported by scientific research and these issues do not appear to interfere with the autistic individual's lifespan.
Mitochondrial Disease and Autism
Mitochondria are cellular components that turn sugar into energy. Mitochondrial dysfunction interferes with proper cell functioning within various systems of the body, including the brain. In the Federal court case of Hannah Poling, mitochondrial disease was found the underlying condition that led to autism after she received double doses of the MMR vaccine. Mitochondrial disease may shorten life expectancy in some cases but it is important to note that not every case of mitochondrial dysfunction manifests as autism and not every person with autism has disease in the mitochondria.
Prognosis for Autism
Autism is a complex neurological condition that has no apparent influence on an affected individual's life expectancy. The importance of finding support for autism throughout the lifespan is so significant.