Latest numbers show that 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum.
That’s higher than previous estimates of 1 in 88 children in 2012, according to the CDC.
“Perspectives of Autism” is a panel discussion being held at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester Tuesday night. It will focus on the symptoms of autism and support that is available.
Brian Huckins is chair of the New Hampshire Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders.
He’s on tonight’s panel and joins Morning Edition.
We’ve mentioned some of the numbers. What do you make of that? What are we seeing there?
We think a lot of it has to do with the DSM5, which now categorizes everything under the autism spectrum disorder, where pervasive development disorder may have been separate, or Asperger disorder may have been separate. So now it’s all under one large category. And we see that there’s also better diagnosis earlier and earlier by physicians. They’re getting better at catching this. Child care centers, schools are getting better at catching this, seeing the signs.
There are interventions that are great that if you catch the diagnosis of autism earlier and earlier, you can get great early interventions which can lead to significant decreases in the amount of supports that a child or young adult needs over their lifetime.
Now, when we talk about those numbers, those are children identified on the autism spectrum disorder. How wide is that spectrum?
A lot of autism is a communication issue; folks who are unable to get a grasp of how to communicate with what the normal society rules are around communication.
We have some children and some young adults who appear to have severe developmental disability autism who can’t communicate well and can’t do personal care skills and things like that. But in some of those cases, we just haven’t figured out how to communicate with them, how to interact. There are some situations where people can facilitate communication and you realize they actually to understand what's going on.
And then all the way up to the range of folks who have what used to be called Asperger’s disorder, who are incredible with numbers and things like that. There’s such an enormous range.
Catching these disorders early on is key in minimizing the effects as children grow up and grow older. What’s the research out there showing how some of these early interventions work?
Early interventions from the ages of 2 to 5 are where you’re going to see the most growth for a person. I can say for instance for my son alone who was diagnosed at 24 months, when he was first diagnosed, he wasn’t speaking or talking. We were told at that time that your child will probably never speak. After receiving incredible and intense interventions, the kid wouldn’t stop talking and he made up for that very quickly for that lost time, I swear.
How are public schools doing responding to the needs of autistic students?
You hate to say it, but it’s a little bit of a funding thing for each community. Some families unfortunately have to fight for what they need in certain communities, and other communities they offer more right up front and are more proactive in their supports than reactive. We always hope that people will be proactive which will lead to less support in the long term. That’s what we’re trying to teach the state legislators right now around the budget.
What’s the biggest misconception about autism you often hear?
I think people, once they get over the diagnosis and understanding what autism really is, I think they can move on and really understand that their child is a tremendous child, no matter who they are.
It’s a change for a family for sure, but you can support the child, get the supports you need to move on, but it’s not a devastating, long-term thing. Your child is your child, no matter who your child is and I know for instance I wouldn’t want to cure autism for my child. That would be a completely different person than I know. I wouldn’t even know how to react if there was a cure someday. That would be quite a dilemma, actually. I just look at is that’s who he is.