When discussing autism, what we are actually discussing is a series of diagnostic options which fit within the Autism Spectrum Disorder [ASD]. These various levels of the disorder can be very mild and almost unnoticeable. They can also be a profound disorder that interferes with a child’s life.
1 in 68 children in the US are diagnosed with ASD.
In the United States, ASD occurs in all demographics and socioeconomic groups at roughly the same rate. Compared to global statistics, however, ASD is closer to 1% of the population of children under the age of 18. South Korea has the highest levels of autism, with one study pointing to a prevalence rate of 2.6%.
The Characteristics of Autism
- Boys are 5x more likely to be diagnosed with ASD [1 in 42] when compared to girls [1 in 189].
- When combined with other developmental disabilities, 1 out of every 6 children in the US has a serious impairment to their learning potential.
- Parents who have a child with ASD have a 2%–18% chance of having a second child who is also affected.
- Having a chromosomal condition as a parent increases the chances of having a child diagnosed with ASD by up to 10%.
- 46%. That’s the percentage of children who have been diagnosed with autism who have an above-average intelligence quotient.
- 83% of children who are diagnosed with autism will also be diagnosed with a second co-occurring disorder that is other developmental, psychiatric, genetic, or neurological in nature.
- Risk factors for ASD include having older parents, being born prematurely, or being born with a low birth weight.
There isn’t really a known way to prevent autism development in children, but there are some risk factors that can be identified. When present, this can lead to a child’s diagnosis of ASD as early as the age of 2. This allows for early intervention techniques to be implemented so that the child can have a better chance to overcome their disorder as they grow older.
The Costs of Autism
- Up to $60 billion is spent in the United States every year to treat and care for those with autism.
- The average family with just one child diagnosed with ASD in the US will spend up to $6,200 per year on medical costs.
- When a child with ASD requires behavioral interventions, the median cost of this treatment is $50,000 annually.
- Compared with children not diagnosed with ASD, medical expenses every year are an average of 6x higher for the group diagnosed with ASD.
- For adults with an ASD diagnosis, the costs of treatment are 3x greater.
This is just the monetary costs of autism. When children with ASD struggle with behavioral issues, the parents often find themselves remaining at home to prevent societal disruption. More than 3.5 million US citizens are living with an ASD diagnosis right now, but because there is such a stigma against disruptive behavior in public, many of them stay isolated. This is the fastest growing disability in the US and in other parts of the world – maybe it is time we change our perspectives on it with facts like these.
The Future of Autism
- 35% of those who have been diagnosed with ASD have never been employed or received any college/university classes after graduating from high school.
- The unemployment rate for those with some sort of disability, including ASD, consistently hovers around 80% in the US.
- With more effective diagnostic criteria and better early recognition, there has been up to a 15% annual increase in autism rates in the US since 2002.
- The need for long-term care can be reduced by two-thirds if early intervention options are utilized early on.
- Only 0.55% of the National Institutes of Health budget is dedicated to researching autism.
Right now there is no cure for autism. There is no medical test that can help doctors and parents determine if their child has autism. Some shifts in the ASD diagnostic protocols have caused autism rates to rise, but that is only part of the story. We must learn the signs of autism that can begin as early as 6 months of age. Babies may stop offering positive emotional expressions. They may not speak or repeat back phrases. Any loss of speech or lack of babbling can be a red flag. When it comes to autism, this disorder speaks to all of us. We must learn to listen.