080210xf's Blog

L'X fragile sera vaincu | Fragile X will be conquered

Hope builds for treating intellectual disabilities

By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times |

Slouched sideways at his desk in the front row of class, a sneakered foot jittering distractedly, Chase Brown could be any 14-year-old in academic captivity.

As the discussion turns to the American history of slavery, the teacher draws Chase back from his apparent reverie. A classmate has said that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves. Does Chase agree or disagree?

Chase locks eyes with his teacher. “I agree,” he says emphatically.

It is a moment of triumph for Chase, one of an estimated 90,000 in the U.S. who live with an inherited form of intellectual disability known as fragile X syndrome. Only a year ago, he would have fled the classroom, thrown something at the teacher or stayed mute. Last year, he tested below first-grade level in all academic domains.

Impulsive, distracted and quick to boil over, he seemed incapable of learning. This year, he can sit in a classroom for half an hour before needing a “sensory break”: a walk around the parking lot to clear his overstimulated brain. He is reading at a fourth-grade level, following class discussions, looking teachers squarely in the eyes and answering questions. On a surprising drug — a workhorse antibiotic used since the 1960s to treat acne, skin infections, strep throat and chlamydia — Chase is learning.

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