April 2020: Injured Kids, Society Costs

By Anne Dachel, CHD Contributing Writer, Age of Autism Editor, LossofBrainTrust.com


The COVID-19 crisis is a godsend for those who want us all to believe that ever-increasing numbers of children with autism are merely the result of neverending better diagnosing by doctors and greater awareness by everyone else.

Coronavirus coverage dominates the news currently. The only stories about disabled children involve how they’re dealing with the coronavirus chaos.

Lost in the current crisis was the all but unnoticed update of the autism numbers at the end of March. Diagnoses are up from one in every 59 children to one in every 54 (one in 32, up from one in 34 in New Jersey) which was, as expected, attributed to spot-on recognition and possibly to an as yet unknown environmental factor, most likely older parents.

There were several disturbing reports that should have warranted at least a fraction of the coverage that the current virus receives because long term, what’s happening to children will have an immense economic impact as well.

Instead, when it comes to autism, we continue to be lulled into believing that the phenomenon only requires awareness and acceptance.

Leading autism researcher Dr. Walter Zahorodny received the most minimal coverage (only the Rutgers University student newspaper) warning everyone that autism is indeed a crisis with looming consequences.

Rutgers Daily Targum: Rutgers expert discusses prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in NJ

Rutgers researchers said in a federal report on March 26 that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) continues to be more prevalent in New Jersey among 8-year-old children than in other states, according to a Rutgers Today article.

Researchers monitored ASD prevalence of 11 states participating in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Autism and Developmental Monitoring (ADDM) Network in 2016, the report said. The autism prevalence rate for New Jersey was approximately 1 in 32, or 3.1 percent, compared to the ADDM average, approximately 1 in 54, or 1.85 percent. ASD prevalence across states increased 10 percent since 2014, the report said.

“Since 2000, when the ADDM Network was started, overall autism estimates increased 175 percent,” said Walter Zahorodny, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School who directed the New Jersey autism-monitoring site. “Since 2000, New Jersey ASD estimates have been consistently higher than in all other participating states. From 2000 to 2016, autism prevalence in New Jersey increased from 1 percent to 3 percent, a 200 percent increase.”

He said it is ultimately not known why autism prevalence has increased, but better awareness and an increase in underlying environmental risk factors are likely at play.

“Autism is a significant lifelong developmental disability, and so a large and broad increase that is not understood represents an urgent public health phenomenon,” Zahorodny said.

Meanwhile, the mainstream press called for celebration, awareness and services when it comes to what to do about autism.

Lewes, DE, Cape Gazette: Continued services needed for families affected by autism

[T]he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated autism prevalence reports estimating that the number of 8-year-olds diagnosed with autism has increased from one in 59 to one in 54.

The estimates are based on data collected from health and special education records of children living in 11 communities across the United States during 2016.

Delaware’s autism prevalence numbers have generally been consistent with the network’s findings, but Autism Delaware organizers suspect that the state’s numbers are higher, given the advances in diagnosis since 2016.

“We have been watching demand for our services grow in the last several years, and these updated numbers from the CDC really bring home the urgency of the situation,” said Brian Hall, Autism Delaware executive director.

Columbus, TX, Colorado County Citizen: Turtle Wing still celebrating Autism Awareness Month

As the world faces the challenge of COVID 19, we all have to step back, prioritize, and respectfully regroup. Like most non-profits serving our communities, Turtle Wing Foundation has had to determine what is necessary activity and get real when considering how to address planned events and fundraisers.

However, Turtle Wing will still have a very active awareness campaign.  

Each year the foundation makes an effort to educate the community it serves about autism and the families who love people with autism. Autism statistics in 2018 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identify that approximately 1 in 59 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences.

WTHI-TV, Terre Haute, IN: Local Organization Promotes National Autism Awareness Month

This year, the CDC reported that 1 in 54 children in the United States are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. April is National Autism Awareness month. One local organization is doing their part to still bring awareness to these statistics despite everything that’s going on.  

In Terre Haute specially, Pingleton says they are trying their best to still show autism awareness during this month even though they can’t really do anything publicly with everything that’s going on.

Last week was World Autism Awareness Day. All staff and clients wore blue to show awareness.

Olympia, WA, Thurston Talk: Boggs Inspection Services Reminds You That April is Autism Awareness Month

Odds are, someone you know is affected by autism. The CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network states that about 1 in 54 children are identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a complex neurological disorder that usually manifests in early childhood.  

Fortunately, great strides have been made in understanding ASD. “There is much more acceptance and autism awareness in most communities,” says Arzu Forough, president and chief executive officer of Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy (WAAA).

Researchers now know that the causes of ASD are as complex and unique as the individual. There is no one cause of autism, rather many different conditions, both genetic and environmental, that influence the likelihood that a person will display symptoms that place them on the autism spectrum.

TribLive.com, Greensburg and Tarentum, PA: Highlands considering operating autism classroom at high school

Highlands School District is considering operating its own autism classroom at its high school next school year in a move that would save the district $231,000.

The district signed a contract for autism services with the nonprofit Merakey Innovative Care and Education Solutions six years ago. Merakey spokeswoman Trish Pisauro said its departure from Highlands is a “planned exit.”

“There was a particular student that was entering middle school (when the original contract was signed). They weren’t sure how to handle his specific needs,” Pisauro said.  

Pisauro said a few more students came into the classroom over the years, and Merakey worked with the district’s staff to train them to care for the other students.

Fifty-nine of Highlands’ 549 special education students, or 11%, have autism spectrum disorder, according to Anne Rose, the district’s co-director of student services. The district operates autistic support classrooms at its elementary and middle schools.

In the 2019-20 school year, Merakey served five students at the high school at a cost of about $186,000, according to Rose. The projected cost for a potential 11 students in the 2020-21 school year is expected to be about $351,000.

At the meeting, the board also is expected to vote to approve a contract with KeySolution Staffing for additional school psychology services in the 2020-21 school year. According to the proposed contract, KeySolution would evaluate students being considered for special education services at a cost of $500 per evaluation.


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