The autism spectrum is a continuum, scientists say, and we’re all on it.
A large international study of the genes that predispose people to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) suggests that the same gene variants are also present in the wider population, where they can contribute to a range of behavioural and developmental traits with lesser severity than clinical ASD.
According to the researchers, there’s no real cut-off point on the autism spectrum – rather, it’s a continuum of complex genetic factors that can affect our behaviour. But for a small percentage of the community who have more of certain gene variants than others, this gives them a greater likelihood of demonstrating the social and behavioural traits recognised as clinical ASD.
“This is the first study that specifically shows that [genetic] factors that we have unambiguously associated with autism are also very clearly associated with social communication differences in the general population,” geneticist Elise Robinson from Harvard University told Nicola Davis at The Guardian.