As Autism prevalence increases, so must awareness

HOUGHTON — April is Autism Awareness Month. The importance of that is because the number of children diagnosed with autism continues to increase. Learning more about the disorder and raising awareness becomes increasingly important.

According to the South Louisiana Medical Associates, the rate of autism is rising, and it is more important than ever that individuals and families affected by autism receive sufficient support and services. While it is unclear what exactly has caused the uptick in official autism diagnoses, the Autism Society of America is committed to using all available scientific knowledge to address the growing needs of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The Autism Society of America reports that the prevalence of autism in the United States has risen from 1 in 125 children in 2010 to 1 in 54 in 2020. In 2000, the prevalence was 1 in 150. According to the most recent data collected by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), autism affects one in 59 individuals, is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, and is more commonly diagnosed in boys.

In a Dec. 2, 2021, press release the CDC updated their earlier statistical statement, saying:

One in 44 (2.3%) 8-year-old children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder according to an analysis of 2018 data published in CDC’s (December, 2018, weekly) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) Surveillance Summaries. This is higher than the previous estimate published in March 2020, which found a prevalence of 1 in 54 (1.9%) 8-year-old children. The 2018 data come from 11 communities in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) network.

“The substantial progress in early identification is good news because the earlier that children are identified with autism, the sooner they can be connected to services and support,” said Karen Remley, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. “Accessing these services at younger ages can help children do better in school and have a better quality of life.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex neurological and developmental disorder. It impacts a person’s verbal and non-verbal communication skills and social interactions, the Autism Society of America (stated. It typically appears before three years of age and is lifelong but non-progressive, so it doesn’t get worse as the person ages. Autism is a spectrum disorder, states the SLMA site. Its characteristics and symptoms display in many combinations and range from mild to severe.

The Autism Society states that there is no single known cause of autism, nor is there a scientific conclusion as to why the incidence of autism is increasing. However, scientists report that there are likely many causes for multiple types of ASD, as well as many different factors that make a child more likely to have autism, including environmental, biologic and genetic factors.

Most scientists agree that genes are also one of the risk factors that can make a person more likely to develop ASD. Other risk factors identified include:

– Children who have a sibling with ASD are at a higher risk of also having ASD.

– ASD tends to occur more often in people who have certain genetic or chromosomal conditions, such as fragile X syndrome or tuberous sclerosis.

– When taken during pregnancy, the prescription drugs, Valproic Acid and Thalidomide, have been linked with a higher risk of ASD.

– There is some evidence that the critical period for developing ASD occurs before, during, and immediately after birth.

– Children born to older parents are at greater risk of having ASD.

The Autism Society of America, the nation’s oldest leading grassroots autism organization, was founded in 1965 by Dr. Bernard Rimland, Dr. Ruth Sullivan and many other parents of children with autism.

In Michigan, The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) established the Michigan Autism Program in 2013 as part of the Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration to support the:

– Medicaid coverage of Behavioral Health Treatment, including Applied Behavior Analysis, services to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder,

– Michigan Autism Spectrum Disorders State Plan,

– Autism Council,

– Autism services provided throughout Michigan.

The Michigan Autism Spectrum Disorder State Plan was developed in 2012, to build the state infrastructure for comprehensive, lifespan support to individuals with ASD and their families through access to information and resources, coordination of services, and implementation of evidence based practices.

The Executive Summary of the plan describes the major findings and recommendations “for a plan to enhance the Michigan system of care for supporting individuals with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in their homes, schools, and communities.

The findings and recommendations represent a synthesis and prioritization of goals with a primary focus on evidence-based practices and system and service coordination that brings together governmental agencies and private organizations. Expanding capacity to address the challenges presented by a rapidly growing ASD population does not mean the creation of a separate system of care specific to ASD but rather increasing the knowledge, coordination, and capacity of current systems in concert with focused attention on the specific needs of individuals with ASD.


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