In recent years, autism has become an ever present term in the landscape of our lives.
Since 1975, autism spectrum disorder has risen in prevalence from 1 in 5000 children to 1 in 36 children in 2016. Over the last decade in the US, the rate has been doubling every 3-4 years, and we are on target to experience 1 in 3 children with ASD by 2035. There is no economy in the world that can withstand this level of disability.
If autism was the only disease we faced as a nation, we would become bankrupt through the support of this condition by 2035. Coupled with today’s rates in cancer, mood disorders, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and all the other neurological conditions of our geriatric population, it is clear we are on the brink of collapse as a nation from this overwhelming cost and loss of productivity.
Improved diagnosis or increase in prevalence?
To diffuse this stunning reality, one of the most common things I hear is the proposition that we are becoming better at diagnosing autism or perhaps even over diagnosing it. While this argument might hold up in relation to the clinical diagnosis of an emerging condition, in my experience, it is nearly impossible that so many mothers and elementary school teachers over the last decades somehow missed this extraordinary prevalence of disordered speech, learning, and social development we see today.
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