The Centers for Disease Control recently released updated prevalence rates for Autism Spectrum Disorder, provided by the CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. The number of people impacted by the neurological condition which presents with social, behavioral, and communication challenges is now 1 in 59; absolutely staggering considering the fact that just 15 years ago the incidence rate was approximately 1 in 150.
Some theorize that improved diagnostic testing is the reason for the rise in cases of autism, while others look to the possibility of environmental toxins or genetic predispositions as the cause. Despite extensive research being done in all corners of the globe, autism continues to be one of the great mysteries of our time.
What is clear, however, is that as the population of people impacted by autism has grown exponentially, so too has our collective responsibility to this group. As a community and as a society, we must do our part to support programs and services that can help enhance quality of life for these individuals and their families.
There are many ways to get involved. You can speak to your local public officials about the importance of funding programs and services designed to educate, care for, and create vocational opportunities for people with autism. You can work with agencies like Anderson Center for Autism to coordinate Autism Supportive Environment trainings for businesses and organizations in your community who want to become more autism-friendly. You can write letters of support to foundations who are positioned to help bridge the gap between financial needs and resources for nonprofits dedicated to supporting those with autism. You can volunteer in a direct care setting, a fundraising committee, or on a board of trustees. You can provide respite for parents caring for a special needs children by offering to babysit. You can show compassion when you see someone with autism feeling overstimulated out in public. There are countless ways to be of help – if every person in our community got involved in some small way, we could make a sizable impact.
Autism Action Day took place a few weeks ago at the Capitol building in Albany. Legislators, advocacy groups, and families gathered to discuss ways to ensure that New York State is doing its part. Events like this allow people to learn and to weigh in on the challenges and opportunities before us, and it’s encouraging to see so many people recognizing the importance of participating.
With 1 in 59 people now diagnosed, you likely know a child or adult with autism or are connected personally to someone who loves an individual with autism. They need your support. They need our entire community’s support. Join us in our quest to optimize quality of life for all with autism; get involved in whatever capacity you feel most comfortable. In doing so, you can touch someone’s life and inspire others to do the same.
Patrick Paul is the chief executive officer and executive director at Anderson Center for Autism in Staatsburg. Visit andersoncenterforautism.org to learn more.