Increasing Autism Rates: Is This a Bad Thing?

by: Jillian Trevarthen

On April 26, 2018, the Center for Disease Control announced its bi-annual incidence rate for autism in the United States. By studying the rate of autism among eight-year-olds in 11 communities within the U.S., the CDC was able to conclude that the incidence rate of autism has increased from 1 in 68 to 1 in 59 individuals.

Information provided by Autism Speaks.

Is this something to worry about?

Absolutely not. Experts say that the primary reason autism rates (and rates for other developmental disabilities like these) are increasing is because of increased awareness, advancements in technology, and therefore, more diagnoses.

More diagnoses is not a bad thing, either. Since awareness has allowed more parents to become educated on developmental disabilities like autism, parents are now more likely to bring their children in for diagnostic testing, thus contributing to the increased number of cases.

So, what’s the real issue?

According to the President and CEO of Autism Society, Scott Badesch, the increased incidence rate for autism is not bad or surprising. What is concerning, however, is that despite the drastic increase of awareness, people with autism still struggle significantly with obtaining the resources they need to live healthy, successful, and fulfilling lives.

When the CDC report came out, Badesch said, “despite the increase in the number of people with an autism diagnosis, our nation appears to continue to accept that 70% of autistic adults are unemployed or underemployed and that as many are forced to live below poverty. We should not accept that over 50% of students with an autism diagnosis do not graduate high school on time or do not graduate at all. Autism remains a have and have not disorder; those with money are often able to get needed services, while those with limited resources are often denied services and put on waiting lists for up to eight or more years for government-supported services.” These institutional issues are the ones we should be focusing on moving forward, and although we have made great progress in normalizing and de-stigmatizing autism, we still have a long way to go.

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