Well, the news is out… the CDC has announced that 1 in 68 children are now diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  I expected the numbers to increase but this is quite a jump from the statistics two year ago of 1 in 88… or going back to the 1970’s where autism affected 1 in every 10,000 children.  See the numbers for yourself… are you listening now?  That is a 30% increase over two years?!?!  Where are we going to be in 10 years if nothing changes?  This is something that needs to be taken seriously!

In our family, despite a few challenges that my son has, he is a funny, smart, loving young man, that has the determination that pretty much matches mine.  He loves Lego, video games, Pokemon, animals, superheroes… oh, and in honour of his buddy Peter, I can’t forget snakes – as I know he would love to be sitting in a pit of non-venomous snakes right now.  He loves to talk!  I swear, he came out talking… and hasn’t stopped!  His mind never stops and when he allows himself to be creative, he amazes me continuously.  At the age of 9, one of his favourite activities is writing stories.  I couldn’t be more proud!  Yes, my son has autism… but the spectrum is incredibly broad and every individual on the spectrum is affected differently.  Some people will think very differently than I do when I say that my son’s autism is a big part of who he is today. We encourage him to embrace his unique traits and celebrate them (as all individuals should)… rather than be discouraged by them.  Not everyone will feel the same way, and that is OK!

But setting all that aside, I have found myself thinking about the latest statistics a great deal over the past day… 1 in 68 children!!  Are we getting better at diagnosing autism?  Is this the reason that the numbers keep increasing?  I don’t think so!  I don’t think I ever believed that theory. The numbers are on the rise and we seem no further ahead as to figuring out why?

Resources for families that need them are difficult to access and expensive.  Education is failing so many of our children on a daily basis.  I have many friends that have had to switch to homeschooling out of necessity… as we did three years ago.  I think about adults that are on the spectrum and the challenges that many can face finding jobs or even housing.

April is Autism Awareness Month… or as many like to call it, Autism Acceptance Month.  Awareness is the first step, in my opinion, to gaining acceptance, so whichever you choose, I’m right there with you!  I just hope that with these latest statistics, that everyone starts looking at this with the reality of what it is… an epidemic!   Six years ago now, I accepted the reality that I would be in this fight… the fight for acceptance… until I can’t fight anymore.  I look forward to the day that my son will be standing along beside me, advocating and educating, for himself.

Frustrated and a little tired, thinking that even with the incredibly high statistics that we still have to fight as hard as we do for what our children and loved ones deserve… respect, dignity and understanding… but I am not giving up.  I welcome Autism Awareness Month and look forward to World Autism Awareness Day as we will be raising awareness and participating in events wherever we are on April 2nd… but the reality is we do these things as part of every day life.

Here are a few Autism facts from the National Autism Association:

What is Autism?

Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of 3.

Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.

Individuals with autism often suffer from numerous co-morbid medical conditions which may include: allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, feeding disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, and more.

Autism is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls. Its prevalence is not affected by race, region, or socio-economic status. Since autism was first diagnosed in the U.S. the incidence has climbed to an alarming one in 88 children in the U.S.

Autism itself does not affect life expectancy, however research has shown that the mortality risk among individuals with autism is twice as high as the general population, in large part due to drowning and other accidents.

Currently there is no cure for autism, though with early intervention and treatment, the diverse symptoms related to autism can be greatly improved and in some cases completely overcome.

1 in 68 children have autism… my son is one of them… but I sure couldn’t be more proud of who he is!