Spoiler alert! They're in our homes.
By Anne Dachel
Sixteen years ago I wrote a piece called, The Really Big Lie About Autism, which was about how officials always report that they are not sure if any particular increase in the autism rate represents a true increase in the number of affected children.
I updated that piece repeatedly after 2006 because the really big lie about autism has never gone away. (Just search Google for my past stories.) Over the years whenever the autism numbers took another leap upward, there was always someone from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or a uniformed public health official assuring us that that more autism was nothing to worry about because doctors were finally recognizing it in children, something they hadn’t been able to do in the past. Autism has always been around; we just called it something else.
This has been the standard everywhere in the world. No one in charge cares what percentage of kids has autism. No one is worried.
Back in 2009 a report from Britain claimed to have found the same autism rate we see in children among adults. Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen at Cambridge said he found a comparable rate of autism among adults by asking questions using a phone survey, something which would make it impossible to assess who might be on the severe end of the autism spectrum.
I had several exchanges with Baron-Cohen about the results of this “study” and he did tell me that he believed there were “environmental as well as genetic factors” involved in autism and at the same time saying, “We have year by year simply become better at detection.”
I wrote about it on Age of Autism:
Jun 9, 2009 Dear Professor Baron-Cohen
Jun 11, 2009 Thank You Dr. Baron-Cohen for Responding
We can delude ourselves into thinking that autism has always been here; we just didn’t recognize it, which is what health officials keep telling us, OR we can seriously consider that for some reason, we have an ever-increasing number of neurologically impaired children who never used to be here at the rate we see today.
Of course health officials prefer the former explanation. I’ve long called for finding a comparable rate among adults. (And I don’t mean the adults who prefer to sit home and read a book rather than go to a party with friends.)
Where are the non-verbal 40, 50 and 60 year olds who are still in diapers and have to be protected from harming themselves and others? Where are the middle aged/elderly Americans who were normally developing as babies and who inexplicably lost learned skills and regressed into autism?
Still waiting for that science to come out
Meanwhile I’m currently seeing stories that claim adults have autism at the same rate we see in our children.
April 21, 2022, East Setauket, NY TBR News Media: Autism Awareness Month Championed by Small Business
An estimated 5,437,988 or 2.21% of adults and 1 in 44 children in the United States have autism and are somewhere on the spectrum, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
April 22, 2022, KTVH, Helena, MT: Townsend Many Abilities Fun Run is "already a success"
“It's important to raise awareness for Neurodiversity and autism because it's becoming more and more commonplace in society. The latest numbers from the CDC are one in 44 children, ages eight and over, have been diagnosed. In 2020, they released a report that stated 2.21% of American adults are autistic. And that doesn't sound like a lot, but it's actually over 5 million people. So the autism and neurodiversity is here.
April 22, 2022, Pace University: Assemblymember Tom Abinanti Joins Pace University to Discuss Solutions to Educating Neurodiverse Students
About 1 in 44 children have been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and more than 2% of adults in the U.S. are estimated to have ASD, the CDC estimates.
So, according to the CDC, autism is endemic across the population. It’s nothing new. We finally need to accept and accommodate this neurodiverse population.
Back in 2020 the CDC reported that they knew the autism rate among adults. A CNN story had the headline, First US study of autism in adults estimates 2.2% have autism spectrum disorder, which sounded pretty convincing until a person really got into the piece.
…The first US study of autism in adults estimates that 2.2% of Americans adults have an autism spectrum condition.
That adds up to 5.4 million people age 18 and older, or about 1 in 45 people, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
Incredibly, CNN next admitted that the CDC really didn’t have scientific proof, all they did was apply the childhood rate across the adult population.
"This is the first CDC study to provide estimates of the number of U.S. adults with autism and fills a gap in data on adults living with autism spectrum disorder in the United States because there is no existing surveillance system to collect this information," the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities said in a statement. …
"To date, an empirical study of adult ASD prevalence in the U.S. has not been accomplished, perhaps because any single approach to ascertain adult ASD has challenges," the CDC's Patricia Dietz and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
The 2020 CDC “study” is a way to allay fears about the future cost to society when all the autistic kids out there reach adulthood.
IF autism has always been here, then young adults with autism can go where autistic adults have always gone. We would have had established care programs for them even if we didn’t know their disability was really autism in the past.
Of course everything that’s gone on over the past 25 years shows just the opposite. We haven’t been prepared to educate and care for children with autism. We had to learn to accommodate a significant population of affected children we had never seen before in such skyrocketing numbers. And while we still struggle to deal with the children with autism, huge numbers will be aging out of school with nowhere to go.
A paper published in 2021 provides the cold, hard facts about where this is all headed and it’s well worth reading.
Mark Blaxill, Toby Rogers & Cynthia Nevison
The cost of ASD in the U.S. is estimated using a forecast model that for the first time accounts for the true historical increase in ASD. Model inputs include ASD prevalence, census population projections, six cost categories, ten age brackets, inflation projections, and three future prevalence scenarios. Future ASD costs increase dramatically: total base-case costs of $223 (175–271) billion/year are estimated in 2020; $589 billion/year in 2030, $1.36 trillion/year in 2040, and $5.54 (4.29–6.78) trillion/year by 2060, with substantial potential savings through ASD prevention. Rising prevalence, the shift from child to adult-dominated costs, the transfer of costs from parents onto government, and the soaring total costs raise pressing policy questions and demand an urgent focus on prevention strategies.
The eventual autism price tag is one that will overwhelm social services. Maybe when the COST of autism finally shuts down the system, we’ll honestly address the CAUSE of autism. We’ll have to or we won’t have a future. It’s that simple.
Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.