There's an old joke in the Northeast, when someone says he is from New Jersey, you ask, "What exit," as if New Jersey is nothing more than the Turnpike. As we used to say as kids, "It's a location joke, you had to be there." Ra ba bump. But the ever rising autism rates in the Garden State are no joke at all.
By Anne Dachel
June 15th headline in the Asbury Park Press announced an autism rate in one school district in New Jersey of one in every 14 kids. This is more bad news for the state which already leads the nation in autism numbers, one in every 32 children.
Notice that researcher and study author Walter Zahoradny once again throws up his arms in confusion, unable to explain what’s going on. Furthermore, he expects things to get even worse.
New Jersey's rate of autism among children has always been high, but some of the largest school districts — including Toms River, Newark, Jersey City and Elizabeth — have rates even higher than the state average.
And in Toms River, the state's largest suburban school district, the autism rate is more than twice the state average, with one in 14 8-year-olds in the district on the autism spectrum, according to the first study to compare a cross-section of districts in the state.
Toms River’s autism rate is likely a harbinger of the rate all New Jersey districts will see soon, the study’s co-author said. In nearly all the 74 districts studied, the research showed a steady increase over time in the rate of students with autism.
“It feels like some kind of science fiction,” said Walter Zahorodny, co-author of the study and an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, of the data he presents to educational and parent groups. To say that 7% of 8-year-olds in one school district — and 5% of 8-year-old boys statewide — have autism is shocking, he added, “but in reality, this is true. And it can’t be explained.” …
As monitoring continues in future years, “It’s very likely we will find even greater numbers of children with autism in what we consider underserved communities,” he said.
New Jersey’s numbers have to be taken seriously because, as we’re often told, they do the best job monitoring the incidence of autism. It seems we’re on a downward trajectory that’s only gaining speed when it comes to what autism is doing to our children. We’ve been warned: ‘It can’t be explained,’ so learn to deal with it. It’s our future.