Did you know that autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in America, more than doubling in the past 10 years (from one in every 125 children in 2010, to one in every 59 kids in 2020?) In recognition of “National Autism Awareness Month,” Family HealthCare Associates wants to help improve the quality of life for our patients living with autism by spreading awareness about the disorder.

Until 100 years ago, autism was not commonly diagnosed like it is today, but many notable people have thrived living on the autism spectrum, like Temple Grandin, Emily Dickenson, and Dan Aykroyd (to name a few). People often assume Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is extremely rare, but five million Americans are presently living with it.

What is causing the rise in cases in the U.S.? 

Despite what some celebrities on social media may tell you, there is no evidence that vaccines cause autism. Most experts believe that genetics, more testing, and changes to the diagnostic criteria (like classifying Asperger syndrome on the milder end of the spectrum) could be spurring the uptick in cases.

What is it exactly?

Autism is a complex bio-neurological developmental disability that appears in early childhood and impacts brain development, which can affect a child’s cognitive function, communication, relationships, social skills, and emotional regulation. ASD is defined by certain behaviors that often appear in childhood but may not become a problem until adulthood when a person’s capacity to manage them is tested. Behaviors include trouble stopping certain activities and emotional outbursts if they cannot perform tasks their own way. Some people with ASD repeat sounds, movements, or words, while having a rigid preference for routines, and extreme sensitivity to external stimulus.  

ASD can affect people quite differently. Sometimes, people with ASD speak normally, but their thinking and behavior are rigid. Some on the spectrum struggle greatly with verbal and non-verbal communication and social interactions, while others earn college degrees, have families, and successful careers.

Boys are nearly 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than girls. Autism does not affect life expectancy, but mortality risk from accidents is double that of the average citizen. Although autism impacts people, regardless of race, culture, gender, or class, studies have shown there are disparities in ASD diagnosis. Studies have shown white children are more often diagnosed with ASD than children of color, mainly because their parents lack of access to healthcare, which keeps them from being tested. This is especially true among non-English speaking children.

We hope sharing this information leads to more social acceptance of ASD in the Metroplex. Our physicians at Family Healthcare Associates are committed to serving all of our patients who are touched by autism, and helping their families get the support they need. To learn more, visit www.autismawarenessmonth.org.