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Sixty-Eight Reasons for Awareness

In 1988, Barry Levinson directed a movie I’m sure you’ve heard of. That film, entitled Rain Man, was the story of a well-to-do Tom Cruise character who finds out his father passed away and left the family inheritance to Cruise’s brother, played by Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman portrays a character who has autism. At the time of the film’s debut, not much was known about autism and its cause was a mystery.

Fast forward to today, April 2. World Autism Awareness Day. A lot has changed: we have Internet now, Prince is no longer known as Prince, and the word “twerk” has not only made it into our social vocabulary, but our official written record of word.

But some things have not changed.

Still, there is no cure, no definite cause, no answer.

Just last week, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a new report, compiled by the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitory (ADDM) Network, detailing the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) from a 2010 study of 11 sites across the United States. The report found that, among children born in 2002, 1 in 68 identify with ASD. The ratio of those who fall on the spectrum surged from the previous compilation of data by about 30 percent, or 1 in 88.

Reports from the CDC began shedding light on the prevalence of those deemed to be on the spectrum about a decade ago, long after Rain Man’s star had effectively faded. But here we are a decade later still trying to piece the puzzle together to better support those in our community with ASD.

 

autism_data_graphic2012-copy

Data from the past 14 years on the growth of autism prevalence

 

A few interesting points can be drawn from the newly released data. For example, a child born to a more elder parent has a greater chance of having ASD. Same goes for a small percentage of those with premature births or with lower than average birth weights. Amazingly though, almost half of children with ASD have average or higher intellectual abilities.

For some families of people with autism, the burden can be a difficult one. They may find the economic costs and healthcare expenditures difficult to keep up with.  Education alternatives, ASD-related therapy, and caregiver expenses are examples of extra monies that might be needed for an individual with autism. Largely patience is the most, while intangible, demand required by ASD.

To more publicize autism and its validity in our social world, many cities are partaking in Light it Up Blue, a visual part of the United Nation-sanctioned date. World Autism Awareness Day was adopted 10 years ago. The entirety of April is Autism Awareness Month.

The CDC also announced a new initiative last week to promote the importance of screening for autism early. It is clear now, thanks to the new data and implementation of the new CDC campaign, that ASD is a public health issue. The scientific and social community must come together in order to address the issue of ASD and how to better educate the public about the importance of autism awareness.

The reality is, Rain Man was not the most accurate description of ASD. In fact, Hoffman’s character showed savant skills, such as the precise and unnatural ability to calculate on the fly. Autism is not a Hollywood character. There is no script. Autism is a real issue that touches the community. There are still pieces of the puzzle missing, and it is our job to help complete it.

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