The United States of Autism is where acceptance is a cover word for, "Let's do nothing to stem the tide. Let's pretend it's not decimating families. Let's tell everyone it's a good thing." Autism rates have climbed for more than 30 years. But today, chronic illness and disability are all climbing with little worry. Cancer. Heart issues. Diabetes. Mental illness. Up, up and no answers. What's really galling is that for all the new schools and BCBA centers, there's little progress or improvement for children and adults with autism. Walk into a day program. Ask the plethora of un- and under-employed adults on the spectrum, even the old Asperger's diagnosis if they are meeting their potential, Ask men and women who should be approaching retirement what they face as they age and take care of their autistic children. See exactly what 19 years of special education has done to help individuals. Autism is NOT a difference. It's a diagnosis. With consequences for the entire family and ultimately, American society. The puzzle piece STILL matters. Even if autism goes on to infinity and beyond.
By Anne Dachel
ONE IN 36 AND COUNTING
Those of us who have adult children with autism remember a time twenty years ago when people were worried about the condition. It was a new label and people didn’t understand what was wrong with these children who started showing up in greater and greater numbers.
Back in 2004, the official rate was one in every 166 children, one in every 102 boys. Those were concerning numbers at the time. There were numerous congressional hearings looking into the autism increase.
Without exception, every health official who showed up at these hearings denied anything was seriously wrong. Most of all, they debunked the claim that vaccines can cause autism. They had all their pharma-funded population studies showing no link.
Autism was blamed on bad genetics (an updated version of the “refrigerator mom” of the 1950s).
Denying any increase at all was the real focus of health officials.
IF it only looked like more kids were autistic, then there was no problem. Autism has always been here, we just didn’t know what to call it.
The claims of “better diagnosing” and “greater awareness” from doctors have held up well despite the explosion in the autism rate to the current one in 36 children, one in 22 boys.
It worked for one in 166, one in 150, one in 110, one in 88, one in 68, one in 44, so why not one in 36?
(California must have the best, most aware doctors because their official rate is one in 22. )
It is predictable that when the national rate officially becomes one in 25 and one in 20, we’ll see those figures chalked up to no real increase as well.
In 2024 we’re no longer worried about what’s causing autism. No one cares why normally developing children lose learned skills like speech and end up on the spectrum. We’re fine with autism.
In fact, if you were to ask where all these autistic children are coming from, you most likely would be attacked as a bad, uncaring person.
Twenty plus years of no answers from officials and doctors have left us with no choice but to accept what autism is doing to children. In fact, we’ve learned to see it as a natural part of the human condition called neurodiversity. We celebrate it every April with a month-long focus on autism with worldwide displays of blue lights. Our goal now is inclusion.
We have to learn to live with autism, and that’s exactly what we’re doing everywhere.
Below are stories from the past week. These are examples of just how accepting we are in America. Notice that when the media bothers to mention of the autism rate, it is with absolutely no real concern.
And for a condition that’s always been around, there sure are a lot of people who have to be educated about autism.
Some of these stories are about special education, but the driving force in special education is autism and related social-emotional issues.
Notice the places now becoming Certified Autism Centers. It is very good for business, as we’re told in one report. Of course it costs $10,000 to get certified, but it makes sense considering the size of the market.
Two Central Florida representatives have co-sponsored a bill that would put extra safeguards in place for students with special needs at risk of running away from school (referred to as elopement in the bill).
Autistic students are nearly four times as likely as their non-autistic peers to try to leave school unattended. That’s according to the National Autism Association.
Representative Anna Eskamani and Senator Victor Torres’ bill would require schools to have a plan in place to quickly respond when a child with special needs goes missing.
It would also require schools to designate a School Staff Assistance for Emergencies Team or SAFE Team in charge of deploying the plan and carrying out the search for the child. Each team would be made up of the school’s principal, vice principal and at least five other members….
...School board trustees approved an assistant director of special programs position unanimously at the Campbell County School District board meeting Tuesday. The vote followed Deputy Superintendent Kirby Eisenhauer’s outlined need for the position — a position he said school district officials have contemplated for years….
... Needs range from those with speech language difficulties to others with developmental delays or hearing issues….
Eisenhauer said the addition of the assistant director would help support instructors, as well as provide additional guidance for parents and students. He also noted the continued expansion of the special programs area.
Danforth said that expansion most recently included the addition of an Autism Spectrum Disorder program at Pronghorn Elementary School. The district now has two such programs at the elementary levels — the other is at Lakeview Elementary School. …
“As the number of students in the program has grown it’s just becoming more and more arduous to meet the needs of our kids and our families,” Ochs said Tuesday. ...
North Haven, CT: Police equipped to deal with autistic individuals
“We have a handful of different fidget toys that can be available for the individual to use,” Ashley McClain, of Linked Autism, said.
Out of a small vinyl drawstring backpack, she pulled different types of tools for North Haven police officers responding to calls involving people with autism and special needs.
“We also have a sensory sock. And this you can take out and an individual can kind of cocoon themselves in them to help kind of deescalate in a stressful, high-stress situation," McClain said.
The North Haven police program launched about a month ago in partnership with McClain’s Linked Autism Safety project….
“To get this type of training and to have that bag, the autism bag, is going to be invaluable,” he said.
There are now 10 departments signed up, including Capitol Police along with Madison, East, West and now North Haven Police.
According to the CDC, one in 36 children in the U.S. have autism.
The Texarkana, Ark. Parks and Recreation Department is hosting an event this weekend to help area families learn more about the diagnosis -- and what resources are available to their children.
So far, organizers say they have about 50 people sign-up for the Autism Inclusion Expo. The event is free and open to the public.
"There will be tons of information you can get and find resources, from families, from non-profit organizations and we also have Texarkana Therapy who will be here," said Tendra Washington, Texarkana Parks and Recreation assistant….
…Lunch will be provided.
New Fairfield, CT: Enrollment going down, "continued growth in special education"
Superintendent Kenneth Craw is requesting a 5.25 percent increase in education spending for 2024-25 with the goal of addressing academic and mental health needs, as well as advancing academic progress.
“This is a needs-based budget that is fiscally responsible (and) allows our students to continue to grow and thrive in New Fairfield,” Craw said when he presented a $48.8 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year during Jan. 18's Board of Education meeting.…
Craw’s proposal includes $310,000 in funding for two additional positions — a school psychologist and high school counselor — to address social-emotional needs in the school district, as well as $150,000 for resources to improve reading performance at the kindergarten through fifth grade levels.
The district’s K-12 enrollment is projected to decrease from 2,070 this year to 2,057 in 2024-25, according to Craw’s proposed budget presentation, which also showed continued growth in special education enrollment with the 362 students enrolled this year reflecting a 13-student year-over-year increase.
“That is significant in a sense,” Craw said. “The needs are still there and the significance of those needs are obviously something we are in tune with planning for.”
A celebration of Eatonville School District’s newly remodeled Special Education Support Center took place last week.
Last spring it was determined that the district needed to expand the facility footprint to house the growing special education population. …
It cost the district about $170,000 to relocate the portable from the high school, connect it, and refurbish it for use. The district was able to save $150,000-$200,000 on the project.
Indian Lake (OH) 20% of students have special needs; "an increase from recent years"
In a busy January Board of Education meeting, Indian Lake Board members got an update on the district’s special education services, considered the calendar for the next school year, and appointed a board member to fill a vacant position.
Board members heard from District Director of Special Education Krystal Loy with an update on the services provided.
She told the board that 272 students or 20% of the Indian Lake student population is served by special education services, which is an increase from recent years.
John Sefton, the community services director for the City of Chandler, says there’s been a 600% increase in autism diagnoses in the past several years.
“One in six people have a sensory need,” Sefton told City Council at its Jan. 8 study session.
He appeared before Council to explain why the city is spending about $10,000 to qualify its Parks and Recreation division with a Certified Autism Center designation.
To qualify, Sefton said at least 80% of the parks and recreation staffers who deal with the public must be trained. …
“I think back to some of my early times running camps in the ’90s, when some of the diagnosis in my experience were coming, our parents had no idea what was going on with their children,” Sefton said. …
Council had awarded $10,000 to the Community Services Department to pursue this designation as one of its amendments to the budget.
Palm Desert, CA: City becomes "Autism Certified City"; more cities urged to follow
With the city of Palm Desert becoming an Autism Certified City, they are on the path of ensuring the community is genuinely inclusive based on the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES). A local parent and advocate of making the entire Coachella Valley is championing more cities to do the same.
Richmond, VA: Children’s Museum now autism friendly https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=uBBdLDy9To0
Highlighting businesses dedicated to inclusivity in Virginia.
The Children’s Museum of Richmond is now designated as an Autism Friendly Community by the Autism Society of Central Virginia.
Since May, 2023, the museum has been working with the Autism Society to train its staff and improve resources both online and in the museum, with the goal of better understanding and accommodating the needs of people with autism.
The honor was announced during the museum’s first sensory-friendly night of the year….
Toledo, OH: More places now Certified Autism Centers
Toledo has two more Certified Autism Centers.
Glass City Center and Huntington Center have both recently received their Certified Autism Center (CAC) designation.
Other Toledo organizations that have completed the CAC program include: Destination Toledo, Toledo Express Airport, Valentine Theatre, Sylvania Chamber, Avenues for Autism, Boyd's Retro Candy, Wingate by Wyndham Sylvania/Toledo, Toledo Speedway BMX and Toledo Museum of Art. Other organizations in the area are in the process of completion. No Monroe County locations are on the list….
“Having some of our area’s most beloved and most frequently visited venues become Certified Autism Centers is key to helping us reach our goal of making Toledo a Certified Autism Destination and welcoming an underserved market of individuals and families with sensory needs,” said Lance Woodworth, president and CEO of Destination Toledo. “When we’re mindful of the needs of our guests, we’re not only making memorable and positive memories for them, but we’re also improving the quality of life for everyone who lives, learns, works, and plays in Toledo.”
Traverse City, MI: Museum becomes Certified Autism Center; city to follow
The Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College receives autism training from the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) and becomes a Certified Autism Center (CAC). This designation is awarded to organizations who complete a comprehensive training and certification program to equip their staff with the resources and understanding of the best practices for assisting autistic and sensory-sensitive visitors.
This effort is part of a larger initiative championed by Traverse City Tourism to help the city become a Certified Autism Destination (CAD), which is awarded to cities that offer a variety of trained and certified recreation, entertainment and lodging options.
California: Lots of places now Certified Autism Centers
Traveling with kids can be tricky. Traveling with kids with autism can be downright daunting. And with roughly one in 36 children on the autism spectrum in 2020, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and rates rising significantly — a 318% increase since 2000 — the travel industry is taking notice.
Hotels in Concord began offering free “practice stays” for families with autistic children in December. San Francisco International Airport provides check-in and boarding “rehearsals.”
San Jose’s airport gives sunflower lanyards to visitors who might need additional help from TSA or airline staff. And hotels around the world are changing practices to accommodate guests with autism and other sensory sensitivities and registering as autism-friendly destinations.
…According to an IBCCES and Autism Travel survey, 77% of families grappling with autism are hesitant to travel or visit new locations, 87% don’t take family vacations, and 93% said they would travel more, if there were autism-friendly options available.
Autism-friendly travel not only helps the neurodivergent community, Tekin says, it’s good for the travel industry, boosting visitor numbers, bookings and business overall….
At airports from San Jose to London Heathrow, sunflower lanyards are available for travelers with hidden or less visible disabilities, offering a nonverbal signal to staff that the wearer may need extra help. In San Jose, 2,000 airport lanyards have been distributed since the program launched in 2020. It helps travelers, and airport staff appreciate the visual cue, says Scott Wintner, the airport’s deputy communications director, and the reminder that they may need to adjust their approach to accommodate the guest.
For the travel industry to better meet the needs of the autism community, each side needs to gain familiarity with the other, says Alan Day. There’s no one-sign-fits-all solution, so exposure is critical. Day’s Connecticut-based Autism Double-Checked trains hospitality staff and certifies hotels, resorts and airlines at levels ranging from “autism aware” to “autism ready,” teaching them about environmental triggers, such as food service issues, and teaching resort security what to do when an autistic traveler runs off — or “elopes,” in autism awareness parlance.
Stories from these U.S. cities are just a sample of what’s happening.
It doesn’t matter where you live, we’re all accommodating more and more people with autism and related conditions. While we’re still talking mainly about CHILDREN WITH AUTISM, very soon we’ll have to deal with the ADULTS WITH AUTISM as this huge population ages out of the education system. That’s when the costs will explode. Caring for dependent, disabled adults will dwarf the impact autism is having on our schools.
Once again, no one will ask the obvious: Why can’t autistic young adults go where autistic adults have always gone?
It will be very hard to cling to the fantasy that autism has always been around when we’re facing bankruptcy trying to pay for one in 36 across the population.
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The Wuhan Cover-Up: And the Terrifying Bioweapons Arms Race (Children’s Health Defense)
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