Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Advanced Search

Search for
21 years of the Progress Educational Trust (PET), informing debate on assisted conception and genetics

Print Page Follow BioNews on Twitter BioNews RSS feed

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook



Spectrum
of Opinion

This project is supported by the Wellcome Trust


Genes, Autism and Psychological Spectrum Disorders

Patrick Walsh teaching an A-level Psychology class at Robert Napier School, using the School Resource Pack developed by the Progress Educational Trust as part of its project 'Spectrum of Opinion: Genes, Autism and Psychological Spectrum Disorders'

Patrick Walsh using the Spectrum of Opinion School Resource Pack to teach an A-level Psychology class at Robert Napier School
Photograph by Sarah Norcross
See other photographs related to this project below


Spectrum of Opinion: Genes, Autism and Psychological Spectrum Disorders is a Progress Educational Trust (PET) project devised and overseen by PET Communications Officer Sandy Starr, and supported by the Wellcome Trust. The project was originally conceived as a response to autism expert Simon Baron-Cohen's call for an informed public debate about developments in genetics and our understanding of autism, following a media furore in 2009 about the prospect of genetic testing for autism. This episode highlighted shortcomings not only in public and media understanding of the relationship of genetics to psychology, but also in the divergent interpretations of this relationship promulgated by experts in different fields.


Objectives

The three principal objectives of the Spectrum of Opinion project are:

  • to improve public and professional understanding of the respective genetic and non-genetic aspects of spectrum disorders;

  • to initiate a debate about the very concept of the 'spectrum';

  • to evaluate the issues arising out of this debate, and translate them into a resource for use in the classroom.


Outcomes

The five principal outcomes of the Spectrum of Opinion project have been:


The background

PET believes that the spectrum, and the relationship between genes and psychology that it hinges upon, are ideal subjects for public debate because they exemplify many of the challenges that characterise modern biomedicine and the public's understanding of it. Most notably, they exemplify the tension between different approaches to diagnosis, such as phenomenology and aetiology.

Initially, diagnostic categories tend to be constructed from prognosis and clinical descriptions of a disorder's presenting features. Subsequently, diagnostic categories tend to be constructed from an improved understanding of a disorder's biomedical causes. Categories arrived at via these different routes may coincide, but when they do not, then this may prompt a revision of the original category.

This potential disparity between diagnostic approaches is especially marked in the case of genetics and psychology, and may be further complicated by a number of other factors. The burgeoning field of epigenetics studies the biochemical mechanisms whereby gene expression may be selectively silenced in different tissues of the body and at different points during an individual's development, complicating our understanding of heritability. Then there are the many non-biomedical factors that can contribute to a spectrum of behaviours and impairments, and are the province of disciplines such as sociology.


The future

The School Resource Pack created by PET as part of the Spectrum of Opinion project has been piloted at Robert Napier School in Gillingham, and PET has now made the pack freely available for anyone to read and use. It can be downloaded as a .pdf document (605KB), or alternatively is available in an online version.

We are keen to hear from anyone with feedback or ideas about the pack and its use, and we are especially keen to hear from anyone interested in helping PET to secure funding to develop the pack further. Please contact Sandy Starr at


Sandy Starr outside Robert Napier School, where the the School Resource Pack developed by the Progress Educational Trust as part of its project 'Spectrum of Opinion: Genes, Autism and Psychological Spectrum Disorders' was piloted

Sandy Starr outside Robert Napier School
Photograph by Sarah Norcross


Whiteboard used in an A-level Psychology class at Robert Napier School

Whiteboard used in an A-level Psychology class at Robert Napier School
Photograph by Sarah Norcross


Patrick Walsh teaching an A-level Psychology class at Robert Napier School, using the School Resource Pack developed by the Progress Educational Trust as part of its project 'Spectrum of Opinion: Genes, Autism and Psychological Spectrum Disorders'

Patrick Walsh using the Spectrum of Opinion School Resource Pack to teach an A-level Psychology class at Robert Napier School
Photograph by Sarah Norcross


Contributors to the School Resource Pack developed by the Progress Educational Trust as part of its project 'Spectrum of Opinion: Genes, Autism and Psychological Spectrum Disorders

Contributors to the Spectrum of Opinion School Resource Pack

Top row, left to right: Professor Richard Ashcroft, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, Professor John Dupré

Middle row, left to right: Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, Dr Elisabeth Hill, Helen Keeler

Bottom row, left to right: Sarah Norcross, Fenno Outen, Sandy Starr


FREE EVENT
GENOMIC MEDICINE NEEDS YOU


'Genomic Medicine Needs You - Do You Need Genomic Medicine?', a FREE public event being organised by the Progress Educational Trust in central Oxford on the evening of Thursday 16 October 2014

Oxford, 16 October
Click HERE for details

Datalabel The UK's Leading Supplier Of Medical Labels & Asset Labels

BREAST CANCER POLL

BREAST CANCER POLL - Have your say about breast cancer and genetic testing HERE

Have your say about breast cancer and genetic testing HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation


Advertising & sponsorship
Terms & conditions
Sitemap

Progress Educational Trust, 140 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8AX, UK
Tel: +44 (0)20 7278 7870 Email:
Limited company registered in England and Wales no 07405980
Registered charity no 1139856

Website developed and built by Face to Face
Website designed by Thunder
Website administration

© 1992, 2013
Progress Educational Trust