Schizophrenia, Autism and Overlap

I was excited, three weeks ago, to read information about some new studies being conducted in the field of genetics.  Researchers have found overlap in mutations of genes in Schizophrenia and also those connected with mutations in autism and cognitive disabilities.  You can read the article here.

I have always been interested in how many of the traits seemingly reserved for autism affect my oldest with a serious mental illness.  Processing, poverty of speech, affect, executive function issues are all part of his deficits, along with his diagnosis of early onset schizophrenia.  Two of my other sons exhibit nearly the same processing, executive function and working memory deficits.  Their WISC scores are nearly identical all across the board.

Sometimes it is really tough to get others, including professionals, to understand that which we see and experience at home.  This is why it is doubly important that we have access, either through the school system or privately, to affordable testing so that our kids can be identified and accommodated early on to reduce stress, anxiety and hardship.

Studies like these are important in getting the focus off of completely environmental factors that some professionals are so quick to latch onto.  Behaviorists tend to unduly blame parents and environment for what is happening with our children.  I have seen some insist that consequence/reward systems work for EVERY child.  The more we learn and discover about genetic factors and brain function, the more we see that this simply isn’t true.  





It has certainly been a long, long winter here in the Midwest.  Sometimes, I think we take the sun for granted.  The reason I say this today is that so many of my friends who have children with serious mental illnesses are struggling.  They are struggling as parents, they are struggling as families and their children are struggling.  In a conversation with one of these friends, she remarked, “You know how you are just tired?  Just can’t face going out once more with a fake smile on your face?”  Yes.  I know that feeling all too well.  This has been said a number of times, in a great many places, but it bears repeating.  When a child has a serious illness, like cancer, there is a lot of support.  No matter how life threatening or horrible a mental illness is, the support is virtually non existent, for most of us.  I have lived this story and hear it over and over from friends and acquaintances in the same boat. And, in times like these, long winter, dark and dreary times, it goes on and on.  I have another friend whose son is battling repeated hospitalizations because the one medicine that is a go to for Schizophrenia, he can’t take.  How’s that for a kick in the gut?  He can be successful on a medication, live a semblance of a “normal” (I hate that word) life, but he can’t take the medicine because he is one of the population who the side effects are all too real for.  What do you do, then?  What about when the one hospital bed that was available is taken?  Then what?  Or, how about the insurance company has decided that three days is plenty, so now your unstable child is coming home because they are deemed stable enough by said insurance company?  Now what?  Somehow, sorry doesn’t seem enough to say.

Another friend asked me if I had ever experienced feeling scapegoated by the school, therapists, psychiatrists.  I laughed out loud. Umm, how about my oldest son’s entire childhood?  It was a lot of fun being told I was making too much of things, they didn’t see anything like what I was talking about at school, etc., ad nauseum.  Funny how a full psychotic break with suicide attempt will all of a sudden get everyone’s attention.  Suddenly, everything I had said made sense to everyone.  Hmm, that’s interesting.  Needless to say, I no longer care about anyone else’s opinion of what is going on with my son.  Even the apologies didn’t really make that situation better, but it did a little to soften my heart again.

If you are a parent with a child with a serious mental illness, know you are not alone.  Seek out help at NAMI, find a local chapter and join a group.  If you are a single caregiver, get on the internet and seek out a group, there are many.  Don’t do this alone.  It is lonely here; you know it.  I see you.  I’ve been you.  I am you.