Monday, April 2, 2012

World Autism Awareness Day

1 in 88

There is an autism epidemic in the United States.  The Center for Disease Control numbers show that 1 in 88 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism.  That means we now have over 1 million children directly affected by autism in the U.S. at a  cost of $126 billion annually. It's true that part of this increase in diagnoses can be explained by a broadening of the diagnosis, improved detection, and more awareness.  Still, over 50% of the increase remains unexplained.

These statistics were presented by Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks, at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta on March 29, 2011.  Behind these statistics are real people who struggle every day.  Some struggle with medical challenges; others struggle with social challenges; while others struggle to find meaningful employment where they can use their skills and abilities to be contributing members of society.  As the representative of the nation's leading science and advocacy organization and in the interest of these million children, adults affected by autism, and their families, Mr. Roithmayr made a call to action for a comprehensive National Strategy to:

*Funds more basic science uncovering the genetic underpinnings of autism.
*Funds more environmental research detecting the causes of autism.
*Accelerates the funding and development of effective medicines and treatments.
*Commits to a strategy where all children with autism from every background are diagnosed no later than 18 months of age.
*Commits to a National Training Corps recruiting more therapists and service providers as well as specially trained teachers and teacher assistants into the field.
*Addresses the growing issue of adults with autism specifically around continuing education, employment, housing/residential living and community integration. Here too, we need a focus on a National Training Corps to recruit and train professionals to work with our adults.

Mr. Roythmayr called for further commitment from President Obama to each of the Republican candidates for President to all Members of Congress... Dr Frieden and the CDC and Dr. Frieden... Secretary Sebelius and the Department of Health and Human Services... and Dr. Francis Collins and the National Institutes of Health.

For it to be "a true public-private partnership," Mr. Roithmayr called on the private sector as well as state and local governments to be part of this National Strategy:

 "*Right now insurance companies and the majority of self-funded plans under ERISA discriminate against families with autism denying reimbursement for the basic, evidenced based services that can often dramatically improve the quality of life for their children with autism.
*There are pharmaceutical companies who can speed the process of effective medicines for people living with autism to improve communication, socialization and behavior, the core symptoms of autism.
*We need companies across all industries to commit to hiring the 74% of adults with autism who believe they have the potential to be employed if just given the opportunity.
*And we need employers of all parents who have children with autism to become much, more family friendly as way too many mothers of children with autism have had to stop out of their careers to be able to care for their loved ones because their work environments could not find a way to accommodate their schedules.
*We need local school systems to deliver individualized and quality driven plans to meet autism's ever growing demand for appropriate special education services.
*We need faith based and community based organizations who can provide respite services for parents and caregivers as well as recreational and community integration opportunities for people with autism."

Today, it is difficult to find someone that is not touched by autism whether within the family or a friend or neighbor.  Why the increase?  We need more research to answer that question and put a stop to this national epidemic.

*To learn more about Autism Speaks:

*To contact Autism Speaks, send emails to

*Follow Mark Roythmayr on Twitter @markroythmayr

*For more on the new autism prevalence numbers released by the CDC, visit our prevalence page:

 *Why I care: 

Our future

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