Autism effects 1 in every 100 children.
Autism effects 1 in every 54 boys.
40% of autistic children do not talk at all.
25% – 30% of autistic children have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them.
The lifetime cost for an individual with autism is estimated to be $3.2 million.
Autism costs the nation over $35 billion per year, a figure expected to increase dramatically in the next decade.
There is currently no cure for autism.
No one knows what causes autism.
In 20 years there has been more than a 600% increase in diagnosed cases of autism.
*These statistics were gathered from a number of sources – CDC, Autism Speaks, The NIH, Time.com, MSNBC.com & Huffington Post.
It is impossible to read these statistics and not feel frightened. And yet, autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases. How is this possible?
When I read articles about autism I am struck by the constant controversy surrounding it. Much like the debate about the environment (does global warming really exist?) the debates serve to dismiss the facts. Instead of trying to find out causes and cures, many people get caught up in rejecting the numbers.
I have spoken to people who insist the rate of autism really hasn’t risen, doctor’s are just better at diagnosing it. And while doctors are certainly better at diagnosing autism today than they were 20 or even 10 years ago, that does not explain its vertiginous rise.
Other people insist autism is purely genetic and yet, is it really possible to have a genetic epidemic? I have had people state their opinion that autism is a psychiatric and behavioral issue and not neurological. (Come take a look at Emma’s brain scans.) All of these thoughts serve to undermine what is most important – finding a way to reverse the rise of autism and finding a cure.
Obviously I have a vested interest in all of this. My nine year old daughter is autistic and I live in constant fear of her future. But even if I didn’t have an autistic child, these numbers would frighten me.
When we are scared, we tend to come up with reasons for things in an attempt to make us feel better. Countless people have said to me in some form the following, “I couldn’t handle it if my child were autistic. I think sometimes we are given things that we can handle.” And I always want to cite the statistics for suicide rates in response. This idea that autistic children are given to people equipped to deal with it, is a privileged mind set. There is a whole world out there filled with people dealing with horrors most of us are incapable of even dreaming of.
The truth is NONE of us can handle having an autistic child. It is heartbreaking. It has lead me to darker places than I ever imagined possible. But having said that, I don’t see many alternatives for me, for Richard, for our son Nic or for that matter, Emma. We have to get up in the morning just like everyone else. We could what – do nothing? Shrug our shoulders and say – Oh well?
My entire family’s lives are informed by Emma’s diagnosis. If Emma were a neuro-typical child I would be feeling so grateful that I had two healthy neurologically intact children. But I don’t have two neurologically intact children. And so I’m faced with a decision.
I have made the decision to do everything in my power to help Emma one day live independently. It doesn’t feel like a choice. It feels like the right thing to do.