On April 4, 2013, I found a news report from WZZM 13, a TV station in Grand Rapids, MI. The title of the story was "Autism by the Numbers." And the numbers are stunning in Michigan. I read, "More than 15,000 children in Michigan are currently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
"Michigan actually has the fourth largest autistic population in the United States."
Although the report didn't have the rate update of one in every 50 children, there was no real concern over one in 88.
"Nationwide, one out of every 88 children has autism. The Centers for Disease Control closely tracks the condition and says the number of cases has gone up 78 percent in the last five years.
"A couple of reasons for that are better screening processes and screening at earlier ages."
There was a video from WZZM on the story that made it clear no one really cares what autism is doing to our children.
The reporter started by telling us that the Mackinac Bridge, which connects upper and lower Michigan, is lit up in blue for April autism awareness. She defined autism as something that "affects people's ability to communicate and socialize."
Dr. Michael Wolff was interviewed about autism and sadly, he pretty much typifies the attitude of the medical profession when it comes to autism.
Wolff: "Pediatricians do a good job at asking parents and looking at developmental progression."
Wolff told parents what signs to look for. He went on to talk about the loss of skills as if it's a normal and acceptable part of childhood.
Reporter: "Is it true that in some cases children can be very interactive and have language skills, and then they just shut down?"
Wolff: "That is seen sometimes. We'll see normal development coming through that two year mark, and all of a sudden, everything that was normal seems to change, like they regress a little bit. When they used to be interacting and communicating, now they're not anymore. And that is a very big risk factor to be watching for. But we'll also see that in other children, for many other reasons, whether it's seizure onset or some other types of medical factors."
Then the talk turned to treatment.
What was missing was any sense that this is a crisis and that health officials have no answers. Dr. Wolff was smiling and casual as he discussed children regressing into autism or seizures. The reporter didn't ask about the cause and Wolff didn't offered any explanation. He didn't tell us just how badly children can be affected or what autism costs families. If I were an outsider viewing this report, I'd have to conclude that autism's not really so bad. What are parents complaining about? Aren't we doing enough with a whole month of awareness? The doctor isn't worried. Everything seems to be under control. Obviously, autism's no big deal.