Population of people with autism and cost to society continue to skyrocket
Autism Speaks, the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, today called on the nation's elected and appointed leaders to immediately develop a new, coordinated strategy to take on a national public health emergency - the autism epidemic - in the wake of a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finding that autism is now diagnosed in a staggering 1 in every 88 American children.
Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, said, "We have an epidemic on our hands. The costs are staggering and will continue to rise as prevalence continues to increase. We know that early diagnosis and treatment are critical, so it is imperative that the U.S. government steps up its commitment to helping people living with autism today. There is a way to address this. The investment we make now is essential to reducing the immediate and long-term costs of autism to families and society."
Autism Speaks called for the development of a national autism action plan that should include, among other elements:
- Increased funding for basic science uncovering the genetic underpinnings of autism;
- Increased funding for environmental research detecting the causes of autism;
- Accelerated funding and development of effective medicines and treatments;
- Commitment to a strategy where all children with autism from every background are diagnosed no later than18 months of age;
- Commitment to a National Training Corps to recruit more therapists and service providers, as well as specially trained teachers and teacher assistants;
- A strategy to address the growing needs of adults with autism, specifically around continuing education, employment, housing/residential living and community integration.
"Our commitment must meet the challenge," added Wright. "We need the President, the public health agencies and representatives from both sides of the aisle to come together. A national emergency needs a national strategy. Anything less won't be enough."
The CDC report, published in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), states that more than 1 percent, or 1 in every 88 children, is diagnosed with autism today, including 1 in 54 boys. This is a 78% percent increase in 6 years (2002-2008) and a 10-fold (1000%) increase in reported prevalence over the last 40 years. The report uses the same methodology that produced the CDC's 2009 prevalence findings of 1 in 110 children with autism.
"We know early diagnosis matters, but early diagnosis without access to treatment means nothing," said Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Autism Speaks chief science officer. "A majority of children don't get the treatment and services they need and deserve. We have to address all of this as we move forward."