October 07, 2009

Business is Booming!

Business IS booming - if you're in a field that deals with autism, that is.

A few years ago, US experts in the field of autism said that this severe developmental disorder (oh, it made me feel a bit sick to type that) occurred in 1 of every 166 children - and there was outrage. Then they revised that ratio to 1 in 150, and folks wondered what was responsible for the increase. And now? 1 in 91! WTF?

The big scapegoat for the increase in autism used to be
Thimerosal, a mercury containing preservative in childhood vaccinations. The US government has repeatedly denied the connection (but vaccine makers did remove the preservative from most vaccines after pressure).

I had expected the incidence of autism to decrease after Thimerosal bit the dust. Wrong.

I'm assuming the increase has to be due to environmental causes. In addition, there was a study somewhere that said that children with older parents had an increased chance of having a child with autism (something about old eggs or hinky sperm). There are more couples who are delaying childbirth, so that might account for some of the increase. I was at the ripe old age of 38 (46 for dad) when The Boy was born...can you say OLD?

The article I read also said that clinicians are expanding the definition of what autism is, so that more children are being classified as autistic who would have been below the bar previously.

Support folks who worked with The Boy have toyed with the idea of an autism spectrum disorder since he was five, but he didn't quite meet the criteria. He was definitively diagnosed at age nine - think of the years of therapy and other support he missed out on. Kids getting diagnosed today are most likely a lot younger than nine, they'll have years of intervention under their belts; maybe that will make their challenges a bit easier to tolerate.

Boys are much more likely to be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder - for them, the ratio is 1 to 58.

If I had a college-aged child right now, I'd have them consider one of the following professions:

Child psychiatry
Behavior specialist
Child psychologist
Social worker
Child development specialist
Occupational therapist
Special education teacher
Group home care provider (because many of these children will need lifelong support)

It's a growth industry, I tell ya. Someone's going to have to pay for all of this treatment. Expect higher insurance premiums and increased taxes. They estimate it costs $3.2 million to provide lifetime care for just one autistic person.

I'm sure The Boy will be walking with a spring in his step tomorrow - he was ahead of the trend, he was diagnosed with autism before it was cool.

Damn, we're ahead of the curve...wish I could say it feels good.

Here's the article I read, from autismspeaks.org.


  1. Brilliant post-- I'm feeling especially silly now for my random blather after reading something of substance. And, 38? You were a young, Spring chicken! I know, it probably didn't feel that way when every doctor at every appointment had to remind you that you were of "advanced maternal age). Speaking from experience at 42 when they were testing me for age-related senility at the same time as my pre-natal appointment :-(
    I think the numbers keep changing because they are sweeping all spectrums under the same Autism carpet. We have a mild Aspbergers, and yet if we hadn't been diligent, we might have just thought he was quirky.
    Great post!

  2. When are good things going to multiply? When are bright and shiny statistics going to make their move? When will the positive tide hit the shore? Sometimes it feels like never...

  3. Wow. I don't know much about autism. I appreciate your posts about it so much - very eye opening. Sorry for how hard it is and thanks for the education you are giving many of us.

  4. I have a degree in Psychology, and I work in Insurance....I know, go figure huh? I need to go back to school, and would love to learn more about autism!

  5. I was 29 when my twins were born. No fertility drugs. No learning or developmental disabilities history in neither my husband's or my families. We have an older son who is neurotypical in all that we can see. So we don't seem to fit with the hereditary rationale. Both of my 6 year old twins were diagnosed at 2 with classic/severe autism. The thought of the lifetime costs associated with that on our single income teacher salary is terrifying. You are right-on about the growth industry comment. Glad to have 'met' you via MamaKat.


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