Last week, the CDC announced that 1 in 68 children have autism. This number is shocking in isolation, but is also amazing because it has increased from the CDC’s 1 in 110 in 2012 and its estimate of 1 in 88 last year.
In response to this, I have heard people say “autism is increasing” and “autism is more and more of an epidemic.” An ABA provider reported on the CDC release by saying “Autism is Spreading.” This is not right. We need to be careful.
The number of children in the spectrum does not change based on the CDC or anyone else: it’s a fact. What does appear to be changing is the fact that we are better at diagnosing it. As we get better, the numbers are going up because we are not missing anything. This is good news because as diagnosis improves, that means more children will get the help they need. Those additional kids who are getting diagnoses this year who did not get diagnosed last year now have a chance to get the services and help they need. I look at diagnoses like the necessary first step in getting assistance, and the increase in diagnoses as proof that more children are getting the help they need.
I also like this report because it increases awareness. It forces us to look at these huge numbers and make sure that we are adequately providing for the many affected children. When we first started in 2007, there were a few companies offering ABA in South Florida. That number has skyrocketed. While I feel there is room for improvement in our industry- something I will go into in this blog as well in the future- there are more companies now, which at least means more options. This is a good thing for parents, who should be able to select an ABA provider that meets their needs. And one that doesn’t make them wait! (To other ABA providers out there- if you have a waiting list, do what you can to attract enough therapists to get rid of that delay…parents deserve immediate service when they receive a diagnosis!)
Finally, this report hopefully encourages funding to research the causes of autism and to develop best-practice guidelines. The federal government and Florida’s state government needs to invest more resources in autism. We need better medicines, more education, more quality of life support. Hopefully, this report is the first step.
What do you think? What does the 1 in 68 CDC report mean to you?