The Autism Epidemic continues to rage on…

March 29, 2012


Will the new CDC autism rates make this disease a priority?

By Lisa Ackerman

Back in 1999, I was lost. I didn’t know what autism was. It was a foreign word with a vague reference to the movie Rain Man and a character played by Dustin Hoffman.  Back then, when I started searching for answers for my son, Jeff, the rate of autism was 1 in 1,000.  Earlier in that same decade, the diagnosis rate was 1 in every 10,000 children.

Since then, the once RARE rate has been updated five more times. Today, we have a new updated figure:  1 in 88 U.S. children are being diagnosed with autism. This is a huge increase in the autism prevalence from 1 in 110 or 1 in 91 figures released just a few years ago.

There are many mornings where I have wanted to pull a “Network RANT” (from the 1976 film Network) “I am madder than hell and I am not gonna take this anymore!”  My rant would be:   “What does the autism rate need to be for people to care”?

A recent survey of the TACA membership demonstrates that families spend on average over $29,000 out of pocket annually for each child with autism.  Some of our TACA families are spending over $100,000 through debt accumulation to help their child. That is a $100,000 that they do not have to help their child.  This help comes in variety of forms therapy, schooling, medical intervention and more.  All in an effort to provide a child with a chance to lead a “normal” life. Families living with autism are struggling for their basic needs, only to be met with impossible hurdles, funding cuts, and endless waiting lists.

Families are fighting for the truth. Daily we battle the question: “is autism simply being better diagnosed?”  Ask any long term school district employee and the answer will be NO, immediately followed by – THERE ARE JUST MORE KIDS WITH AUTISM.

Better diagnosing, better recognition and more screening are simply excuses. We should not accept this as it has been disproven by recent research. The UC Davis MIND Institute authored a study that demonstrates autism is on the rise, it is not about better diagnosis. (1)  Recent studies demonstrate environmental factors play an important role in the increase rate of autism. (2)

What will it take for people to ask, WHY is the incidence of autism continuing to increase? When will the help so needed by families living with autism come?  These increased statistics should demonstrate autism is not the new normal. It is a condition on the rise and families are struggling. If I was pregnant, I would be concerned – what if my child could wind up with autism? We need to make help for families living with autism a priority, today as well as provide funding for research to find answers for tomorrow.

With this growing rate, if you don’t know someone with an autism diagnosis, you soon will. This a serious issue that will affect everyone’s life, will take its toll on individuals, families, and society.  The U.S. can no longer afford to ignore this issue.  This matter has become so critical that everyone needs to ask, why is there such a dramatic increase in autism?  Even more importantly we need to ask: what are we going to do about it?


1)       Epidemiology. 2009 Jan; 20(1):84-90. The rise in autism and the role of age at diagnosis. Hertz-Picciotto I, Delwiche L.

Source: Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California, Davis, California 95616, USA.

2)      Autism – it is not just the genes

The new autism rates full report