By Lisa Ackerman
Just about a year ago the CDC raised the autism prevalence from 1 in 110 to 1 in 88 (1.) Coincidentally this announcement occurred just before April – which is autism awareness month.
A new study from the CDC points to a new increase – autism now affects 1 in 50 U.S. school children (2.) Whenever a new rate of autism is released, I am always overwhelmed with sadness. This number represents so many kids and families and yet, it feels like no one is concerned.
I appreciate that Dr. Bob Sears continues to write about this important topic. His efforts to draw attention to autism and a call for action are appreciated. You can read his blogs here (3.)
The author of Age of Autism, Mark Blaxill broke down the numbers in a way that should easily translate to “we have an emergency”:
“Another government health survey shows that 1 in 50 American children (or 2% of children between the ages of 6-17 when surveyed in 2011/12) have an autism diagnosis. Over 3.2% of boys (that’s 1 in 31 boys!!!). This survey includes more later diagnoses of milder forms of autism (arguably the only group where there might be some impact of increased awareness and “better diagnosing”), but it also seems to find increases in the rate of more severe cases. The spin of the report is to emphasize the timing of the diagnoses and the increases in the older age groups. But when are people going to stop making excuses for these numbers and start facing up to the reality of the autism epidemic as a national emergency?”
It saddens me that whenever the new autism numbers are released, the press response is always the same: “The experts are better at diagnosing autism. We are just more aware.” I am not an expert, but I take offense at this type of comment. So let me get this straight: all the experts suddenly went from dumb to smart? Any expert would tell you that it is hard to miss a person diagnosed with autism as these individuals usually stand out.
We realize some of the higher functioning kids that were missed could be now captured by awareness, but that in itself cannot explain the rapid increase. When Jeff was diagnosed with autism in 1998 the number was 1 in 2,500 kids. We are now at 1 in 50. My opinion and what the numbers demonstrate: There is just more autism.
I am going to draw a parallel from one disease that went from awareness, to positive action. Please note that before I make that comparison, I want to state one important fact: I am well aware that AIDS is different than autism.
Here is the comparison: There is an impactful scene in a movie: AND THE BAND PLAYED ON with Matthew Modine that captures my feelings as a parent. (I get chills every time I watch it.) We need this scene to play out in real life for autism. WHAT DOES THE NUMBER NEED TO BE FOR AUTISM TO COUNT? If you missed it or need a reminder, please check it out:
We need to rally the community to increase the public’s awareness and support about autism. I dream about achieving the same level of support other conditions have been able to achieve. We need not only awareness, but action. Ultimately, we need to be smarter about addressing the needs of an epidemic before the costs are more than this society can bear.
We know what is needed for families; we have been talking about needs for many years (4.) Since its inception in 2006, we have hoped the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) would help. Over more than six years later, autism rates have increased, services and support have decreased and we are nowhere further along with answers and support for 1 in 50 children and their families.
We need to do more. Autism Action Month is almost here, so let’s make a difference! (5.) Will you help? The 1 in 50 are counting on you.
And oh by the way, the title of this article is wrong. Instead we all need to worry.
3) Dr. Bob Sears blogs: https://tacanowblog.com/2013/01/02/top-2012-tacanow-blogs/ and