'Scary' Jump in Autism Rates May Not Be All Bad News

This Just In 7

autismAs if the mystery that shrouds the autism diagnosis process wasn't scary enough, there's some fresh news on the autism front that will scare the pants off of you. The CDC has issued a new report, and the numbers of kids on the spectrum just jumped. Again. Big time!

We've gone from 1 in every 110 kids falling somewhere on the autism spectrum to 1 in 88 8-year-olds with an autism diagnosis. That's a 23 percent jump, people! And we still have no real clue what is doing this to our kids!? And yet ... there's good news for parents, if you know where to look.

I know that doesn't seem true right now. We have an epidemic on our hands. Go ahead and call me an alarmist, but numbers don't lie.

There are now more children being diagnosed with autism than there are babies being born with a congenital heart defect -- the number one birth defect in America. There are more kids with autism than there are kids with cancer! And all gets scarier when you consider the total jump in the number of 8-year-olds on the spectrum is up 78 percent in the past decade (in 2000 and 2002, the CDC estimated there were just 1 in 150 kids on the spectrum).

So how can we parents sleep at night? We can cling to the good news right there in that report. First, and foremost, this isn't necessarily a rise in kids developing autism so much as it is better diagnosis. That means kids who were falling through the cracks before are getting the services that can make a major difference for kids on the autism spectrum.

And just as important: the more people who have a certain disease, the more attention it gets. Today's report has already elicited demands from some major organizations with influence in Washington -- including the Environmental Working Group -- to push Congress to pour more money into research to help parents find answers. Because these kids, and their parents, need our help. And the more they get, the better our kids will be. 

How many kids do you know on the autism spectrum?

 

Image via Horia Varlan/Flickr

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