Saturday, April 26, 2014

1 in 68, or really?

There have been countless news stories as of late, spouting off that "autism is on the rise! Studies have shown that its prevalence is now 1 in 68 children." It's almost as if it's being looked at as an epidemic, like something that needs to be "solved." Personally, I think this is bogus.

The real fact of the matter is that prevalence isn't increasing, but rather awareness. Back 30 years ago, when I was just coming into the world, autism wasn't something that was well-known as of yet, much less diagnosed. Today, there are so many effective tests and evaluations to screen for autism spectrum disorders. The scope of the diagnosis has also widended. Back in the day, autism was thought to be something that only impacted one profoundly. Today, it is known that this isn't always the case, and that the spectrum encompasses a wide range of traits. It is only natural that more kids are being diagnosed today.

What about all of the now adults who would have been diagnosed under today's standards years ago? They exist, and existed as children on the spectrum before the spectrum was really recognized. There are several people who are living undiagnosed because of this. Heck, take me, for example. I didn't even learn of Asperger's until I was 22, and wouldn't be diagnosed until almost 9 years later. It is actually estimated that the prevalence may be even higher than 1 in 68, and is difficult to pinpoint given all of these facts.

The way the media shines a light on autism isn't always the brightest, unfortunately. You take groups like Autism Speaks who treat it as a horrible tragedy to be eradicated, when in actuality, it is something that contributes to the diversity of humanity that should be accepted and embraced. Look at all of the people on the spectrum who have contributed great discoveries to the world. Einstein and Temple Grandin wouldn't be who they are if they weren't on the spectrum, so why is that something that needs to be looked at as a defect? It is not a disease, but a part of neurodiveristy.

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