Creating Greater Inclusivity and Continuity of Care for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder

As we begin the Autism Acceptance month of April, I thought that I would review some of the basic facts about Autism. 

  •  Autism is a neurological disorder that impacts social skills, communication skills and may result in repetitive behaviors and restricted interests.  
  • In 2023, the CDC reported that approximately 1 in 36 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to 2020 data. 
  • Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. 
  • Most children were still being diagnosed after age 4, though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 2. 
  • It is a spectrum disorder.  31% of children with ASD have an intellectual disability (intelligence quotient [IQ] <70), 25% are in the borderline range (IQ 71–85), and 44% have IQ scores in the average to above average range (i.e., IQ >85). 
  • Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. 
  • Early intervention/Education affords the best opportunity to support healthy development and deliver benefits across the lifespan. 
  • There is no medical detection for autism. 
  • There is no one cause for autism, but it is believed to be a genetic disorder with many genes involved. 

As I looked back on the Autism month blogs that I have written these past 10 years, I am struck by the fact that the incidence of Autism has increased so dramatically.  I would guess that is in part due to the exponential increase in awareness among parents, physicians, educators and the general public.   No longer, I hope, is there a stigma attached to having a child with a disability.  If 1:44 children have autism, then many if not most people would know a child or adult with Autism.  

So, in 2023, what should our focus be moving forward?  I believe it should be on supporting, including and engaging adults with Autism in all aspects of our lives.  For children with Autism, Early intervention and educational programs are provided from infancy to 18 or 21 years of age.  But the mandate for services ends.  There are programs for adults, but the availability can be based on where you live.  And, of course, as it is a spectrum disorder, some adults are pursuing higher education while others may be looking for vocational training, day programs, supported employment.  

We, as individuals, and as a society need to continue to explore how adults with Autism can find meaningful engagement.  What works for one person may not work for another. 

On a personal note…. My son, Ryan, would tell you that he has 3 jobs. He is employed at Bello’s grocery store and does maintenance work.  His 2 other jobs are “helping the kids at the Barber Center by cleaning their classrooms and reading to the kids every Tuesday.”  He is very proud of his work, which offers him dignity, confidence, and drive.  Vacation is not a word in his vocabulary. He plans to continue working forever as he does not want to ever retire.  Then, when he is 90, he will go to heaven and do the same work there. Of course, we will be going together…. 

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