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San Diego: Autism Surf Camp Doubles in Size

Surf with sharksBy Anne Dachel

San Diego: Autism Surf Camp doubles in size


A story from KPBS in San Diego caught my attention for two reasons.

First of all, it was about efforts to provide something significant in the lives of autistic young people.

July 8, 2024, KPBS: Why a San Diego surf camp for people with autism doubled in size

On a Monday morning, long lines of surfboards stretched down La Jolla Shores. On them, children practiced — paddle, paddle, paddle! — scooping at the sand, pressing themselves into "seal position," and popping into a crouch.

Outside one blue tent, the boards were taken by a dozen children and young adults somewhere on the wide spectrum of autism, each with their own coach. It was day one of a four-day surf camp. . . .

Parents started this surf camp 22 years ago.

It’s run by the Autism Society of San Diego and supported by state and county funds.

Adults running the program genuinely want these children to succeed, and I can only imagine how grateful parents are for this opportunity.

The other thing that stood out to me was this information:

The demand reflects San Diego’s unique population.

Nationally, 1 in 36 children are diagnosed with autism. Korogi said in San Diego, it’s 1 in 22.

“Almost every single classroom has at least one individual with autism,” she said.

San Diego offers better services for people with autism than many places in the country, Korogi said. Military families request to be stationed here to access those services, driving up the numbers.

Anyone reading this would think that one in 22 for San Diego was just an anomaly, but that’s not really the case.

Actually the one in 22 rate is for all of California. That also means that the rate for boys in California is one in 14.

This is from the CDC:

About 1 in 22 or 4.6% of 4-year-old children were identified with ASD by the CA-ADDM program in 2020.

Florida has a rate of almost five percent as well.

Not really unique

Since the California statistic isn’t really current, it’s anyone’s guess what the numbers are now.

Maybe next April the CDC will get around to updating the autism numbers, which will undoubtedly be much higher.

The problem is that no one in authority cares about autism.

Health officials have watched autism turn into a health care disaster and never once has anyone at the CDC acknowledged a true increase in autism.

These are the official increases. Numbers for boys alone were always four times higher than girls.

In 2002, it was one in every 250 children.

In 2004, it was one in 166 children, one in every 102 boys.

2007, one in 150, one in 92 boys.

2009, one in 110, one in 68 boys.

2012, one in 88, one in 54 boys.

2014, one in 68, one in 42 boys.

2018, one in 59, one in 36 boys.

2020, one in 54, one in 33 boys.

2021, one in 44, one in 27 boys.

2023, one in 36, one in 22 boys.

Dr. Walter Zahorodny at Rutgers in New Jersey, one of the country’s top autism researchers, predicted in an interview in 2022, that we will eventually have at least five percent of the U.S. population disabled with autism.  

He acknowledged that he’s seen this already in New Jersey children’s numbers.

Newark, New Jersey, five percent. 

Toms River, New Jersey, seven percent.

One in five towns in New Jersey, in our region, have a rate of five percent or higher….

In an interview in February, 2024, Zahorodny debunked that idea that these increase are just the result of better diagnosing, expanded definition. He also said that the increases will continue because it’s “still widely under diagnosed.”

He admitted, “We don’t yet understand, and I see no prospect for understanding the autism risk factors or triggers in the near future.”

California is actually in line with a number of other countries about the world

British Columbia: one in 29 children, one in 18 boys.

Australia:: one in 25, one in 15 boys.

Scotland: one in 23, one in 14 boys.  

Ireland: one in 21, one in 13 boys.

Northern Ireland: one in 20, one in 12 boys.

All the numbers I’ve cited here have been published in official press releases and news reports, but they’re universally ignored. If health officials aren’t worried, why should we be alarmed?

Autism seems to be unstoppable at the same time no one cares why it’s happening.

The San Diego Autism Surf Camp will never be able to keep up with the expected increases.

Anne Dachel is Media Editor for Age of Autism.


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Bill, when this first started years ago, "Age of Autism" reported on it. They even had pictures.
It was really bitter sweet.
They had young, healthy surfers, probably college students interested in special ed?

But two of these young people were standing beside each little guy with autism as they straddled a surf board.

So two at least on one kid, would take a lot of dedicated people that wants a disabled child to have a wonderful childhood experience that other wise they would not have.

It is about the same for horses and autism too. That is suppose to be great therapy as well.
Children should have fun days to remember.
Hugs Bill to you, and I hope that in your youth you did have some fun days, and that it was not all pain and misery.


A surf camp for "autism"? What does "autism" even mean these days. I was diagnosed with autism as a child decade ago and now the term is vague and overused. Is surfing safe for anybody disabled or not? No, many people have drowned.

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