FlickrIf you're not already completely freaked out by the number of kids diagnosed with autism, get ready -- the latest numbers are out today and one in 50 school-aged children have autism.

Last year, it was one in 88. People. What is going on?

I really don't understand why the general public is not absolutely up in arms over these rising numbers. One. In. Fifty. This is not okay!

According to USA Today, the numbers are higher because of different counting methods:

The study looked at children ages 6-17 and was based on parent reports, while last year's study looked at 8-year-olds whose diagnosis was noted in school district or other official records.

But experts also say that this study proves we're going to need a lot more autism services for kids than we thought.

Another interesting aspect of the survey is that boys are four times as likely as girls to have autism.

And some experts say that autism in kids hasn't actually increased. What's really changed is that we've gotten better at diagnosing it.

I'm tired of hearing this line, though. Look around you. Is it not COMPLETELY OBVIOUS that autism is on the rise? I have so many friends who have kids with autism -- I think back to when I was a child and I can't remember knowing many children at all with autism, or even kids who had symptoms that would possibly indicate autism. Even more telling to me anecdotally is the fact that my mother was a special education teacher when I was growing up and had hardly any kids with autism or symptoms that might now be indicators of autism. A few years ago, she volunteered in her church nursery and was astounded at the number of children with autism. The church even had a special volunteer effort so that each child with autism would have his/her own helper during the service. This is just one small example of what I'm sure many of you are seeing around you.

People don't like the use of the word "epidemic," but that's exactly what I'm calling it. Autism is an epidemic, and it needs to be treated like one. We need more funding for research and treatment and services -- and we need to figure out what's causing it. Like, NOW.

What do you think about these new numbers? Are you as bothered by them as I am?

 

Image via Beverly & Pack/Flickr