The CDC released new statistics on the prevelance of autism in the United States today with a significant increase in the rate. From 1 in 150 to 1 in 88 (as high as 1 in 54 males). Many dispute why this rise in autism diagnosis is happening; some say more people are getting diagnosed and seeking medical attention because of awareness or because the spectrum has been ‘widened’ (as in kids who would not have gotten an ASD diagnosis in the past now are).
What I know is that our family struggles daily, sometimes hourly, sometimes by the minute, because of autism. Our son does not have a label because it is easy or trendy. It’s not dramatics or raw sentiments to emphasize how truly difficult it is to raise a child with autism, and it’s not ridiculous to cite how truly difficult simple life experiences can be for my son.
We struggle, and we do not know why we do. We have no idea why autism has struck our family, whether it is in our genetics or in the environment or something during pregnancy or birth or something he consumed or experienced or something else. We try to guess, we try to alleviate, we try to be safer in whatever terms we can with out daughter, we try to solve challenges with therapy… we try and try and we make progress little by little. But there needs to be more research because more and more people are being afflicted by autism, whether that means a person is experiencing autism or caring for someone with autism.
Some people perpetuate the argument that autism is simply neurodiversity, that it is something to be celebrated and enjoyed and respected. I celebrate my son. I enjoy him to no end. I respect him and his needs. I do not celebrate and enjoy autism. Autism gets in the way of his ability to enjoy many life experiences, his ability to communicate his needs, his wants… his dreams. He is pained by experiences and endures sensory problems that prohibit his abiltiies in multiple areas of functioning. It makes him no less lovable than if he did not have autism, but the fact is, we have seen him regress, and we have seen him on good days and bad. There’s something that autism does to a person and does do to my son… to me, it’s almost a verb… I think my son thinks uniquely; he is exceptionally bright at just two years of age, but the fact is that my husband and I also come from a line of very intelligent people… I’m not even close to thinking that autism is the blessing that has given him all of his intellectual talents and gifts or his unique way of being.
And he’s not just a quirky little nerd with a label. Autism does truly explain his difficulties, whereas the phrase “awkwardly smart” does not. People like my son and families like us need help. We need research. We need to know there is hope for the next generation of parents and children that they might be able to better understand, serve and even cure– yes, even cure (and no, not in some weird, nonproven and dangerous way)– autism.
That’s how I feel right now. It could change in the future, but at this moment, this is where we are reacting to these numbers.