By Anne Dachel
Back in 2007 I wrote a piece called,Autism: An Epidemic of Fairly Recent Origin
It was all about the explosion in autism from a relatively rare condition to one affecting one in every 150 (2007).
One of my sources for that story was a 2007 piece from the Boston Globe, With Rise in Autism, Programs Strained.
Globe reporter Carey Goldberg wrote about parents having to wait nine months for an autism diagnosis and as long as five years to get their child into a special school.
Goldberg wrote, “Statewide, the number of schoolchildren diagnosed with autism has nearly doubled over the last five years, from 4,080 to 7,521, according to soon-to-be-published data from the Department of Education.”
Clearly the autism phenomenon was putting huge pressures on the education system and services.
When she wrote the story in 2007, Goldberg did not explain why these numbers were jumping off the page. This seemed odd since anyone reading her autism statistics would logically want to know why this was happening.
Fourteen years ago I used to politely write to reporters when I saw stories like this and ask those logical questions. I’m sure I wrote to Goldberg and most likely she didn’t respond, since reporters covering autism rarely show any real interest.
Now a recent Boston Gobe story on autism has my attention.
On July 16, 2021, Kara Baskin wrote the Globe piece, What happens to autistic children once they become adults?
In the story she interviewed autism parent Cammie McGovern about her soon-to-be-released book “Hard Landings: Looking into the Future for a Child With Autism.”
McGovern is the mother of a 25-year-old son with autism and intellectual disabilities.
The interview covered a number of topics familiar to parents whose autistic children are aging out of school with no services in place for them.
“But more than half of kids with autism remain unemployed or unenrolled in school in the two years after high school. Roughly half of young adults with autism have never held a paying job. Many of these young adults also age out of school-based autism services and also struggle to find health care.”
The part of the story that really got my attention was Baskin’s reference to the rate:
“In the United States, 1 in 54 children has autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirty-one percent of those kids have an intellectual disability, too.”
If Baskin had checked the Boston Globe archives, she would have seen the 2007 Goldberg story on the severe lack of support for school age children with autism. The failure of schools to accommodate the autism epidemic victims fourteen years ago is now being played out in adult services or the lack thereof.
The only difference here is that the adults with autism won’t be aging out of the system in 20 years. They’re going to have to be supported for the rest of their long lives, which could be 40, 50, 60 years after leaving school.
If Baskin had done the research, she might have asked herself why the autism rate was one in 150 in 2007 and now one in every 54 kids fourteen years later. She might have speculated on what the rate will be in another fourteen years and what impact that will have on schools and adult services.
Baskin might also have checked into other more stunning autism numbers, like one in every 36 kids in South Korea (back in 2011), one in every 27 in Hong Kong and one in every 22 in Northern Ireland.
She might have looked into the official numbers from New Jersey, considered the most accurate reporting, one in every 34 children. She would have had to have been alarmed over the one in every 14 in Brick Township, NJ, including one in every eight boys there.
Kara Baskin’s reporting in 2021 is no different from Carey Goldberg’s back in 2007 and pretty much indicative of the press in general.
The truth is members of the media have absolutely no interest in what’s happening to our children. That’s why I have no interest in writing to them anymore. They’re happy to move on to their next subject.
Reporters like Baskin and Goldberg are a big reason that officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been able to cover up the truth about autism increases for the last two decades.
As a teacher I can tell you that based on the numbers and lack of services, any third grader would realistically ask any of the following:
Why are there more kids with autism?
Why can’t young adults with autism go where adults with autism have always gone?
What did they do with autistic adults 10, 20 and 50 years ago?
If there weren’t a lot of autistic adults in the past, why was that?
Each one of these questions would be a great subject line for a news source like the Boston Globe. Sadly, we’ll never see that happen.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.