Ten weirdest things linked to autism

Emily Willingham


I write about auI write about autism a lot. Much of what I write has to do with autism-related research, and I keep tabs on what comes down the pipeline every day–because a new autism finding turns up every day. Some of it seems pretty reasonable, but a few things I’ve seen linked to autism–always a mathematical relationship, never a causative one–just leave a reader thinking, “Eh?,” possibly with a little stereotypical head-scratching added in. Or maybe the occasional throwing of items within reach.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated quite a list. Here are the 10 weirdest–and in some cases, most dangerous–factors I’ve seen linked to autism.

1. No worms. Without question, my all-time favorite autism-linked factor has to be “an absence of worms.” It’s a wriggly hypothesis that lacks even a correlation to drive it, but it sure did get a lot of attention. I can confirm anecdatally that I’ve never heard of an autistic person who had worms, but I also haven’t known non-autistic people who have, either.

2. Lyme disease. This idea, also lacking a correlation as a hypothetical springboard, fails in any number of ways, most of which consist of having no evidence base. It first hit the radar via a local Fox news channel, and it’s got a lot of die-hard fans who periodically pop up to defend it. [Disclosure: I am a volunteer editor at the linked site.]

3. Relative finger length. According to my own relative finger lengths, I am either male or a lesbian. I am neither. Of course, at the link, we’re promised that our finger lengths will also predict our tendency to develop cancer. Cancer, autism, homosexuality–hey, there, one of the 10 signs of pseudoscience!

4. Too much money. Counts us out. Of course, what the study really indicates is that having resources–like money–means readier access to services and diagnostic testing.

5. An amino acid. I think. I’ll quote myself on this one: “You know that modern art that you stare at, trying to figure out why it’s supposed to be art? This is the science version of that.”

Click here to read the rest of the weird top 10 list


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