Groups Speak Out on Rise in Autism Rates

New estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a 30 percent increase in the number of U.S. 8 year olds with autism spectrum disorder. Responding to the news, several groups called for more action in raising awareness and support for those living with ASD.

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder(ASD)  is on the rise in the United States, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a number of advocacy and awareness groups are calling for more action and awareness around autism.

There must be a national commitment to be more responsive to the daily needs of each person living with ASD.

Among U.S. 8 year-olds, one in 68 had ASD in 2010, an increase of 30 percent from 2008, according to the CDC report, a product of the center’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. Internationally, the current prevalence of autism has increased 20 to 30 times since the earliest epidemiologic studies of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the report stated.

“Although the underlying reasons for the apparent prevalence changes are difficult to study empirically, select studies suggest that much of the recent prevalence increase is likely attributable to extrinsic factors such as improved awareness and recognition and changes in diagnostic practice or service availability,” the report states.

There’s still more work to be done, though, according to several U.S. advocacy groups:

Earlier diagnoses. Diagnosing children earlier could have a transformative impact, said Robert Ring, chief science officer of the nonprofit advocacy group Autism Speaks.

“Though autism can be identified and diagnosed as early as age 2, the average age of initial diagnosis continues to hover around 4 and a half years,” Ring said in a statement. “This means that many individuals are missing out on the transformative outcomes that intensive early interventions can offer. If we’re going to make a direct and meaningful impact in the lives of these children, reducing the average age of diagnosis must be a priority moving forward.”

More assistance for those living with ASD. There is a need for more services and support for individuals living with ASD, especially adults seeking appropriate and affordable housing and employment opportunities, Scott Badesch, president and CEO of the Autism Society of America, said in a statement.

“With the cost of care for a lifetime as high as $3.2 million for one individual with ASD, the challenges in meeting these costs are overwhelming for most families, and the need for equity and increased family services is paramount,” Badesch said. “As a nation, we must continue to close the gaps in autism services, particularly for minority communities. There must be a national commitment to be more responsive to the daily needs of each person living with ASD.”

Greater awareness. The National Autism Association, as part of the Autism Policy Reform Coalition, called on the federal government to help curb ASD-related deaths and injuries.

“Since 2011, 44 U.S. children with autism have died after wandering away from a safe environment,” NAA President Wendy Fournier said in a release.  ”Our federal government must recognize these deaths, and the urgent needs of our most profoundly affected population. They suffer silently in pain from untreated medical issues; they are abused, bullied and may be at increased risk of suicide. Their deaths and injuries are preventable through an appropriate federal response, which our coalition is dedicated to securing.”


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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